Bonhams to auction Spitfire

The London-based Bonhams auction house is to offer for sale on April 20 an airworthy, two-seat Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire with an estimated value £1.5 million. The auction will be held at the Royal Air Force Museum, Hendon, near London. The Spitfire is offered for sale “from a private source,” Bonhams said, and is “not the property of, or any part of, the collection of, the RAF Museum Hendon.”

This is the second Spitfire offered by Bonhams within the past seven months. Last September, the auction house sold a non-airworthy Spitfire for a record price of more than $3 million NZ (£1.1 million Sterling), and it was a bubble canopy MK XVI, usually considered less desirable than other marks by collectors.

The Spitfire currently being offered is the first two-seater to reach public auction for more than 20 years. Painstakingly restored to airworthiness over a five-year period, the Vickers-Supermarine Spitfire TR Mark IX is civilian-registered as G-ILDA. It is being offered as a freshly-completed, zero-hours, ground-up restoration to perfect two-seat TR Mark IX specification, Bonhams said; an historic Warbird ready to fly and in “truly sparkling flightline condition.” Originally, it was a single-seat Mark IX but it now offers “the attractive extra accommodation and flexibility of the two-seat trainer variant,” Bonhams pointed out.

This particular Spitfire, although designed by Supermarine, was built by Vickers-Armstrong in 1944. It was delivered to the Royal Air Force’s No 33 Maintenance Unit at Lyneham in Wiltshire, where it was prepared to operational standard for service delivery. Its original serial number was SM520.

“This magnificent and charismatic aircraft was subsequently sold in 1948 to the South African Air Force, in whose service its operational history presently remains unknown,” the auction announcement stated. “Many years later, in the 1970s, it was rediscovered in a Cape Town scrap yard, from which it was rescued by the late aviation enthusiast Charles Church, who initiated the inevitably long process of restoration. Old SM520 was then sold in 1989 to Alan Dunkerley, who eventually resold it to the late Paul Portelli in June 2002.”

The history added that Portelli commissioned Classic Aero Engineering to restore the machine to the TR Mark IX two-seat trainer specification. “As work progressed upon the historic airframe at CAE’s facility in Hampshire, the mighty, supercharged V12 Rolls-Royce Merlin 266 engine was overhauled and returned to airworthy standard by the specialist Retro Track & Air concern at Dursley, Gloucestershire, and fitted with a four-blade Hoffman propeller,” the airplane’s history concluded.

James Knight, managing director of Bonhams Collector’s Motoring Department, which is managing the sale of G-ILDA, commented: “We are greatly honored to be entrusted with the sale of such a distinguished and historic aircraft. As Bonhams is the last of the great international fine art auction houses to remain under British management, the sale of an aircraft so linked to the history and very survival of our nation has enormous significance for us here.” Bonhams Chairman, Robert Brooks, added: “The sale of this Spitfire touches me personally, as an enthusiastic amateur pilot and a keen student of military history. For Bonhams to be associated with this aircraft gives me particular pleasure and not a little sincere pride.”

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  1. Colin Barfoot says

    As the Merlin engine in this a/c is a Packard 266 should the a/c not be described as a Spitfire Tr XVI?

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