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Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Hawker Hurricane MK IIA P3351 Offered by Bonhams & Goodman, September 26, 2009
As one of only 11 examples of the legendary Hawker Hurricane remaining in airworthy condition today, this spectacular MK IIA occupies a truly rarefied place in the hearts and minds of warbird enthusiasts everywhere. As the first monoplane fighter in the RAF inventory, the Hurricane was first flown in November 1935, entering squadron service in 1937. At the onset of war in late 1939, the Hurricane was also the RAF's most numerous single-seat fighter.
Powered by the Rolls-Royce "Merlin" liquid-cooled V12 engine, the Hurricane offered high performance for the era, strong firepower from its battery of eight 0.303 machine guns, excellent maneuverability and gun-aiming stability, as well as rugged durability. In 1940, the Hurricane was significantly used during the Battle of France, the Dunkirk evacuation and at Narvik during the final stages of the Norwegian Campaign. However, the Hurricane will forever be remembered as the backbone of RAF Fighter Command during the Battle of Britain, where it was particularly effective against Luftwaffe bombers and the Messerschmitt BF110 "Zerstorer" heavy fighter. Later in the war, the rugged Hurricane served as a fighter-bomber and when equipped with dual underwing 40-millimeter cannons, it was particularly effective in both the anti-tank and anti-shipping roles in North Africa, the Mediterranean and the Far East.
This particular Hurricane, P3351, was offered by Bonham's & Goodman in Australia on September 26, where bidding reached levels of approximately AU $2.1 million, which was just shy of the seller's reserve. However, Catherine Davison, Bonhams Motor Car Specialist, advises that post-auction interest in this historic aircraft predictably remains very high and an eventual post-auction sale is anticipated.
Originally built in 1940 by Hawkers at Brooklands and assigned to 73 Squadron of the RAF, P3351 survived the Battle of France and was one of just 18 RAF Hurricanes to escape from Dunkirk. It also served in the Battle of Britain, prior to being provided to the USSR following the German invasion. Damaged in combat and repaired several times, the Hurricane was finally brought down by anti-aircraft fire during the winter of 1943 in the Murmansk region of Russia. Remarkably, it remained there undisturbed until 1991, when it was recovered from the remote tundra. In 1992, it was purchased by Sir Tim Wallis and in 1994, the aircraft was shipped to New Zealand for a complete restoration to airworthy condition.
Restoration was particularly difficult, given the Hurricane's combination of metal, fabric and wooden construction, which was clearly not conducive to high-volume production. Nonetheless, the Hurricane was beloved by its pilots and maintenance crews for its ability to withstand extreme punishment in combat and bring its pilot back to base. This trait was greatly valued, of course, during the Battle of Britain, when there were precious few available fighters at the disposal of Fighter Command.
Once completed, P3351 formed part of the renowned Alpine Fighter Collection in Wanaka, New Zealand and was displayed at the New Zealand Fighter Pilots Museum when not being flown in air displays. Offered today with approximately 60 hours of total time since restoration, this incredibly rare warbird patiently awaits its next caretaker. We will provide updates as news develops.
Editor's Note: Many thanks to Catherine Davison, Bonhams & Goodman, for her kindness in providing information and images for this post.