Today – Planes of Fame Museum Annex – Valle, AZ
I was on my way to the Grand Canyon when I passed this – and of course had to do a quick U-Turn and visit it.
I can remember back in the 70s being on a sales trip and stopping at the original Planes of Fame in Chino, CA.
As I recall they didn’t even have a museum-hanger to display the planes – many among the last 1-2 survivors. You just walked on the tarmac. I believe they really got their start renting these out to movie production companies.
Of course, things have changed with Mustangs going for way over $1 million these days.
There was one plane there that made the entire visit worthwhile. With the original engine – a DB605 designed by Daimler-Benz – I doubt there there are a dozen in the world. To my knowledge there are only 2 original Me109s flying – one in Canada (which was for sale – parts should be no problem 😉 ) and the other was a restoration by EADS – the Airbus consortium – which absorbed Messerschmidt.
There was a 3rd that was painstakingly restored over some 10-15 years by volunteers at the Duxford Museum, and during one flight had to crash land. To my knowledge it is a static display now.
Virtually all of the 109s you see in the movies – well all that I know of, are the Merlin-powered Buchons, built under license in Spain until 1955 or so.
How do you tell the difference?
Look at the location of the exhaust stacks. The DB605 V12 engine was designed to be inverted – for better CG and servicing. The crankshaft actually sits right under the top of the cowling. So the exhaust stacks are near the bottom of the cowling. (I’d be interested to know how they solved the lubrication problem).
You look at a picture from WW2 of the mechanics servicing a Mustang and they are all on step ladders craned over the top of the cowling. The German mechanics had it all right there without the use of step ladders.
This is the first plane I saw once I entered the museum.
My car club’s magazine had an interesting article on this engine awhile back. Author Graham Robson made an interesting point – that many of the engineers assigned to this were veterans of the great GP wars between Auto Union and Mercedes-Benz in the 1930s. They were developing 600 hp cars back when chassis and tires weren’t keeping pace. Imagine racing these on skinny bias-ply tires – at close to 200 mph – with no rollbar. No seat belts – the F1 drivers of today are rather spoiled.
On the left side below look at the size of the supercharger on this! (towards the back)
The Daimler-Benz engine had several advantages – one was mechanical fuel injection – developed with Bosch – that eliminated the pilot having to make constant mixture changes with altitude changes and was impervious to negative-G maneuvers – the carburated Merlin would briefly cut out for a second or 2. The Bosch unit – with a few modifications – powered Mercedes-Benz cars through the 1960s. The DB605 had a very different sound from the Merlin – the nickname among the German pilots was “the stone crusher”. They both sound pretty cool; just different voices!
But the Merlin had an advantage over the DB engine – at least the early ones. Starters were deemed so heavy and bulky that in at least the early versions – there was no electric starter. A crewman would stand on the wing – on the left side – insert a crank and start turning a centrifugal clutch. When it was going fast enough he would remove the crank and the pilot would engage the clutch to turn over the engine.
The Merlin, of course, has proven to be a timeless design. By just adding more boost and strengthening the pistons and crankshaft, they are producing over double the original HP- 3,500-at the Reno Air Races.
But it is a shame that the allies had virtually every Daimler-Benz engine destroyed. It would have been an interesting comparison today!
A beautiful Merlin, complete with step ladder – at the Reno Air Races. 4 valves/cylinder, DOHC – other than electronics today an enduring design of 80 years.
I like nose art – what can I say?
One other thing – the docent told me that every plane in there – except the Me109 – is airworthy. Pretty amazing!
I assume you have all seen pictures of the Grand Canyon so I’ll skip that…
Tomorrow: A few scenes crossing Death Valley and the site of the Manzanar internment camp.
Part 1 is here
Part 2 is here
Part 3 is here
Part 4 is here
Part 5 is here
Part 6 is here
Part 7 is here