1945 Mk XVI Supermarine Spitfire

A Battle of Britain Spitfire Mk I or Mk II would sell for two or three times this sum, and if it had a confirmed combat record, the price could be much higher

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The old engineering adage, “If it looks right, it most probably is right,” describes the Spitfire to perfection.

It still looks gorgeous from any angle, even though it was designed as a war machine. Later models became more aggressive but always in classic proportion.

The 1935 Spitfire prototype was based on the Schneider Trophy-winning Supermarine seaplane-which was handicapped by huge floats. The British won the trophy three times, keeping it for good in 1931
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Reginald Mitchell took the seaplane’s monocoque construction and developed it into the Spitfire, which first flew in 1936. Mitchell died of cancer in 1937 at age 42, but his design evolved into the plane that would remain in production throughout WWII.

The Mk I of 1939 was powered by a 27-liter Rolls-Royce Merlin engine developing 1,000 hp and spinning a two-bladed prop. By 1946, the Seafire Mk 47 had a 36.7-liter Rolls-Royce Griffon engine with 2,350 hp and two contra-rotating three-blade propellers. In all, about 23,000 Spitfires were manufactured. Around 200 Spitfires remain, with 55 flying and another 50 being restored to flight status.

The defining moment for the Spitfire and its homely sister the Hawker Hurricane was the Battle of Britain, in the summer of 1940. Outnumbered and alone against the Nazi hordes, 286 front-line Spitfires and 463 Hurricanes defeated the waves of bombers devastating London, leading Winston Churchill to say, “Never in the field of human conflict has so much been owed by so many to so few.”
Spitfire Mk XVI, number TE330, was built in 1945, entering service on June 12, just after the war in Europe had ended. It went straight into storage and wasn’t issued to 601 Squadron until February 1947. It went back to storage in 1950, was later used for gun calibration training and “struck off” active service in 1956.

TE330 was revived for a 1957 Battle of Britain flypast over London, then given to the USAF and put on display at the USAF Museum in Dayton, Ohio, where it stayed until 1996, when it was sold.

Though this aircraft post-dates the familiar Battle of Britain profile, having a bubble canopy and lower tail, it is still unmistakably a Spitfire and a remarkably original aircraft with complete provenance. It must be considered the ultimate aviation collectible.

David K. Brunn

David teaches photography and design at the Art Institute of Portland. As an aviation historian, he has worked for the Evergreen Aviation Museum, Seattle’s Museum of Flight, and Pearson Field in Vancouver, Washington. In 1992, he published a collection of aviation photography and videos in the CD-ROM “Jets and Props.” Brunn has flown in dozens of warbirds, including a Boeing B-17, Ford Trimotor, Stinson Gullwing, and a German WWII Ju-52 transport. He has visited the major aviation battlefields of World Wars I and II, including the crash site of the Red Baron in France, and while exploring the islands of Palau, he found a Japanese Zero in the jungle, still standing on its landing gear.

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