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Thread: What's a reasonably modded beater 135 worth?

  1. #1

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    What's a reasonably modded beater 135 worth?

    Or when to stop putting money in the hole in the water!

    The advice I got was "Get a beater PA18 and fly the sh*t out of it." So I got a 1952 PA-18-135. Flys great, and of course now I want to make it better. I've got a friend with his A&P who's willing to help with work and oversight. Yes, I've read the advice that the cheapest way to mod a SC is to buy one that already has the mods you want, but a few thousand here and there is more likely to pass the finance committee than a $75k one time event. That said, I don't want to get too upside down on this thing.


    Airframe Hrs: 5400hrs, (4000hrs as a duster, then reburbed and put out to pasture as toy.) Damage history to wings, but repaired and 1000hrs since. Engine has 1200Hrs SFOH, 60hrs SMOH


    What do you'all think the value of such a PA-18-135 with the following is today?
    - 1700# GW upgrade mod
    - 26" Goodyears
    - Radio and ADS-B out
    - Lightweight Generator, Starter and Battery under seat
    - MicroAero VGs


    Would you eventually replace the 0290 with a O320? I've read advice that upgrading a PA-18-95 to the bigger engine is sort of a waste as they are rare. Is the same true of the 135s? With this one being an old sprayer and having damage history, I imagine it's not a candidate to be an Oskosh winner.


    I know variations of this question comes up repeatedly but the value of SCs seems to have changed significantly in the past few years. (Damm YouTubers!) There's quite a bit of info on the 1970ish -150s and -180s but what about a dang old -135? Thanks!
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  2. #2

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    I'll tell you what.... That thing doesn't sound like it's worth the gas it takes to make it fly. I'll do you a favor, only because I'm a nice guy, and give you 25k for the old bird. Think about how much you'll save on hanger rent, fuel, insurance, etc..
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  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1934A View Post
    I'll tell you what.... That thing doesn't sound like it's worth the gas it takes to make it fly. I'll do you a favor, only because I'm a nice guy, and give you 25k for the old bird. Think about how much you'll save on hanger rent, fuel, insurance, etc..
    LOL! Not a chance, I love it! And have you seen how tough it is to get a SC under $50k!

  4. #4

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    Haha, had to give it a shot!
    On a serious note, what makes it a beater? The times aren't all that high on it. How's the fabric? What mods are you wanting to make?

  5. #5

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    Beater Cubs seem to go around $40-$50K. A really good PA-18-95 without mods probably brings $55K. Messing one of those up is a crime against nature, except for sealed struts, X-brace, shoulder straps, and disc brakes.

    A good 150/160 Cub with radio, ADS-B goes for north of 100 grand. Converting an earlier Cub might approach that, assuming shop rates. If you can do it yourself it might be closer to 30-40 grand.

    Opinion, of course. I don't buy and sell, although we would have bought a 95 in November if it had been a dash 12 engine.

    I would sell your beater and buy a light 160 Cub with the mods you want.
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  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by 1934A View Post
    Haha, had to give it a shot!
    On a serious note, what makes it a beater? The times aren't all that high on it. How's the fabric? What mods are you wanting to make?
    4000 hrs of spraying and a crash makes it a beater? The last time the tubes where epoxied was 40 yrs ago. The fabric is in good shape, Ceconite but 40 yrs old. Always been hangered. Mods, the ones I listed above is what I would do, plus if had extra $ put in some digital instruments (oil/press, CHT/EGT, G5)

  7. #7
    aktango58's Avatar
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    old fabric, but young engine.

    If you are going to upgrade gross weight, go to the 2,000# kit and find yourself the larger engine... 150 or above.

    Sounds like your engine is very low time since overhaul. Are you flying it for commercial, or just your own fun? If for fun- fly the engine and enjoy it!

    Fabric sounds like it is getting older, and tubes have not seen daylight in years- but been hangared. Maybe you get five years until it needs recovered? Fabric work will take time and $$ to do yourself, or lots of $$ to hire out. Maybe do it in stages- take a winter for wings, next winter for frame? Or buy a new frame with the gross weight tubes installed and build it up, then tear down your cub and move the expensive parts over.

    Guys flying private for fun love the lighter cubs. Enjoy what you have for what it is, and you will have lots more fun!
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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  8. #8
    Steve's Aircraft (Brian)'s Avatar
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    What's a reasonably modded beater 135 worth?

    We own the same Cub..1953 PA-18A-135... ours has an 0320 conversion though..

    If yours was used for AG work and the fabric is that old, check the lower longerons in the tail section for corrosion... We recovered our airframe for the 4th time in 2006.. replaced three feet of the tail section and numerous tubes around the original hopper opening... not to scare you but AG airframes when used for Ag work get all sorts of chemicals in them that can cause corrosion issues so keep an eye on that frame...

    I would not replace that frame either. Ag frames are hard to find and are well known for flying different than non Ag frames due to the flat back. They have a bigger baggage compartment with the hopper removed also..

    Do everything you can to keep it light, ours weighs 1080 and is an absolute joy to fly..

    I would not sell ours for under 90K... Wings are still 1978 fabric so that de values it a bit... But, this was my grandfather’s Cub that he bought in 1964... So it’s not going anywhere...

    Brian


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    Last edited by Steve's Aircraft (Brian); 01-04-2021 at 12:34 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve's Aircraft (Brian) View Post
    If yours was used for AG work and the fabric is that old, check the lower longerons in the tail section for corrosion... We recovered our airframe for the 4th time in 2006.. replaced three feet of the tail section and numerous tubes around the original hopper opening... not to scare you but AG airframes when used for Ag work get all sorts of chemicals in them that can cause corrosion issues so keep an eye on that frame...
    Yea, that's one of the big things I'm worried about. I guess when we go to weld in the tubes for the GW upgrade we'll get a good look at them. Thank you! (need a gascolator too, right?!?)

  10. #10
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    What's a reasonably modded beater 135 worth?

    Quote Originally Posted by m24tom View Post
    Or when to stop putting money in the hole in the water!
    I would ask: "How long do you plan on keeping it?"
    Was it just used as a duster or did it do spraying as well? The chemicals love to get inside and cake up between the tubing and the fabric, then they start eating tubing.
    Was the fuselage recovered after the ag equipment was removed?
    As Brian says in post #8, the chemicals used in ag work are tough on steel tubing. It doesn't take many years of this type of use to eat out (primarily the lower) steel tubes.
    How many years ago did it stop doing the ag work? If it was a lot of years (20 or 30+), most any bad tubing should have been found by now. Since it is a 135 hp, I would guess it was longer ago than that. When was the fuselage last recovered? Recent enough to be certain about the tubing condition?
    Do you have the abilities and desire to do the work (welding etc) under the supervision of your mechanic friend?

    If you can comfortably answer those questions and you feel comfortable keeping the plane for a long period of time (I've had one for 45 years), just keep it and do things as time and money permit. What it's worth has no bearing on the matter. What does matter is your pleasure, comfort and happiness.

    Another thing, if it is too nice you may not want to use it as a beater would be used. Then you would be missing out on a lot of fun. Look at what Steve Pearce does with his many thousands of hours beater. The Cub is for fun, not a museum piece.
    N1PA
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  11. #11

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    Where are you located? Dry, or humid climate? From what you've described, your plane really isn't in too bad of shape. 40 year old ceconite that's been hangared might last another 20 years. If you're worried about the fabric, do like Mike said and do the wings over the winter, then when time and money allow, do the fuselage.
    Last edited by 1934A; 01-04-2021 at 09:48 AM.

  12. #12
    Bill Rusk's Avatar
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    I guess I will be the bad guy.

    If you pull the 40 year old fabric off it will be a total rebuild. That will cost mucho money. You said it was an Ag plane for 4000 hours then refurb (which means minimum work to make it flyable) ie no tubes were welded on the fuselage it was just recovered, and painted. Ag planes (and often Ag mechanics) see aircraft as a disposable tool. Minimum money, and time, on repairs to get it airborne. Often less than entirely legal. It is a tough..... scrape out a living...... business for most.

    How old is the engine OH and who did it? 95 hours since MOH. Done by a Ag mechanic? I would be very suspect about the quality of the rebuild. I don't mean to come down on Ag guys, I tried to be one for a while. Love the flying, love the business, but most Ag guys are not millionaires and they do what they have to to make a meager living. That means reusing parts that are marginal, parts from Nat'l Acft Parts Assoc (NAPA) etc. They (out of necessity) see an aircraft as just a tool. It is not something to be lovingly restored, doted on, waxed, polished, or anything but used to put money on the table. When it is worn out it is sold for parts and another beater found for minimum dollars and used up. Most Ag pilots love aviation and are excellent pilots......but there is a difference in how they view that Travel Air Biplane sitting in the corner of the hangar and the Ag plane parked outside.
    That is the harsh reality. If you view your new baby in that light you are less likely to be disappointed. I might be wrong, I certainly have been before.

    I would fly it as long as it will pass an annual, and save money as much as possible. At rebuild time you will probably need a new fuselage, the engine will be junk, and the repair on the wings will probably not pass inspection.

    Debbie downer (sometimes known as Bill)
    Very Blessed.
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  13. #13
    hotrod180's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    ......Was it just used as a duster or did it do spraying as well?....
    Having never been around ag ops, I'm curious as to the difference--
    I assume dusting is dry chemicals vs spraying being wet chemicals.
    Cessna Skywagon-- accept no substitute!
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  14. #14

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    Gents, super helpful feedback! Thank you, please keep it coming including the downside!

    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    Was it just used as a duster or did it do spraying as well?
    Was the fuselage recovered after the ag equipment was removed?
    How many years ago did it stop doing the ag work? When was the fuselage last recovered? Recent enough to be certain about the tubing condition?
    It started as a sprayer, looks like it worked for a year or two (400hrs) maybe in Georgia, then they put seats in it in at the factory. Flew it for two years, then put dust hopper in it and flew in Nebraska for 20 years (200hrs per year) Then the FBO/Ag guy in Cambrige, NE (Behnke) refurbed it and sent it out to pasture. Some low time pilot crashed it in Elko and it was rebuilt again. I think they replaced lower longerons (will reread that 337 more closely) Then over next 40 years flew not much (1000hrs) Passed through a couple of owners and mx guys hands. Latest engine rebuild was done by Signature Flight Support in Williston, ND.

    Quote Originally Posted by skywagon8a View Post
    The Cub is for fun, not a museum piece.
    Amen! For me, it's a tool for fun. Fixing and flying is fun.
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  15. #15
    Steve's Aircraft (Brian)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotrod180 View Post
    Having never been around ag ops, I'm curious as to the difference--
    I assume dusting is dry chemicals vs spraying being wet chemicals.
    Exactly... My grandfather crop dusted for 28 years out of Grant Nebraska... Used our cub for one season of low volume dusting then parked it in a barn... Dad took ownership of it a couple years later and removed the hopper equipment and re-installed a back seat...

    Brian
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  16. #16
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotrod180 View Post
    Having never been around ag ops, I'm curious as to the difference--
    I assume dusting is dry chemicals vs spraying being wet chemicals.
    Yes.
    N1PA

  17. #17
    skywagon8a's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by m24tom View Post
    I think they replaced lower longerons (will reread that 337 more closely)
    If this is correct, chances are you are good to go for a while.
    N1PA

  18. #18
    Utah-Jay's Avatar
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    How about pics of the plane

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    i second that! Bring on some pics
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    Quote Originally Posted by farm_boy252 View Post
    i second that! Bring on some pics
    Just restating what I said in my OP, the current value of my cub is not what I want to know, but what is the reasonable range of values. I once bought a 1970 Uniflite from a guy for $25k. He had put over $100k into it with new engines etc. He was all pissed off, but at the end of the day, he had a 1970 Uniflite. (Which he loved and used the sh*t out of before he decided to sell it.) I was all stoked to fix it up more and one of my good friends slapped me and said "Dude...it's a 1970 Uniflite. It's never going be worth more than $35k no matter what you do to it."


    What I've gleaned thus far is that the absolute spread is $20-150k, more likely is $45-90k, so maybe $70k is not unreasonable for something that is in good shape, good fabric, good small engine and marketable mods. That upgrading a 135 to a 150/160 isn't a crime against humanity. That Ag models have good attributes, but must be seriously looked and re-looked at with a hairy eyeball. That I need to learn more about where Ag models fail. That before embarking on a recovering project, I might open up a huge can of worms and the more I can figure out about the structure before doing so would be prudent.


    I got a lot of great information! Thank you! More is welcome!

  21. #21

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    The best way to make sure you do not fly for 6 -24 months is to just do simple fabric job with a few upgrades. Save money as you fly this one, when you have enough for the upgrade sell current plane and add savings.
    DENNY

  22. #22
    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    It is worth what someone is willing to pay. I am not sure what you are wanting? You want to know what it is worth. Do you want to sell it? I have seen deals and I have seen people pay way more than what I think a Super Cub is worth. I bought a beater 1972 model Super Cub with 12K hours on the airframe and 1800 on a factory reman engine for $48K. It was pretty stock except for VGs and Dakota Cub brakes with Clevelands. I have added a Borer prop, Thrustline mod, 4 new flow matched cylinders, Sutton exhaust, B&C alternator, Sky-Tec starter, light weight oil cooler, 3" extended gear, 31" Bushwheels, safety cables, Baby Bushwheel tailwheel, AK Bushwheel tail spring, Trig radio/intercom, Hawker battery in the stock location with new cable and Performance STOL flaps. What is it worth? No telling, not as much to someone else as it is to me. It looks like hell, patches all over, paint flaking off etc. I insured it for $85K so I could replace it if something were to happen. I probably couldn't replace what I have but am good at sweat equity. I would love to have a nice, new, freshly restored Super Cub. My problem is I am not willing to put the effort into it. I don't want to take this one down and do without for the time it will take to redo it. If I am at the airport I usually work on other peoples stuff because it pays where my own does not. I have dreams of building up the new Piper fuselage I have and then building a set of wings out of all the parts I have rat holed away but for now I let to many other things get in the way so I just fly it and have fun. What is it worth? To me it is worth a mint, my sanity, my pleasure, my tool to fun and a reason not to spend every day working.
    Steve Pierce

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  23. #23

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    What do you lose in useful load by upgrading to a 150 hp?
    Do they still OH those 135hp?


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  24. #24
    WhiskeyMike's Avatar
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    My 2 cents. I had a 135 A model and it flew like a dream. If yours was well rebuilt, it still has lots of life in it. Sealed struts for safety, and working brakes. Maintain the engine like you love it, and fly the heck out of it. Other planes don't always get better, just different. If you want different, fly it on a long cross country. An iPad with Foreflight does everything you need, as does and oil pressure/temp gauge. Please post pix.

  25. #25
    sjohnson's Avatar
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    I have an L21B that started out with a 135hp O290D2. It spent a couple of thousand hours doing flight training, tailwheel checkouts, and backcountry checkouts (Italy, Colorado, Idaho) with 8.50 tires and no VGs. The O290 did great. It pukes oil out the breather, but otherwise is a tough engine. We did spins in it, which covered the left fuselage in oil.

    Unfortunately, O290 cylinders are rare and expensive. When it came time to overhaul, it was much cheaper to replace it with a low time O-320 and sell the O-290 into the homebuilt market. The O-320 weighs approximately the same as the O-290, less oil consumption, more horsepower. There is no downside to upgrading the engine. You can even reuse the engine baffling if you're willing to fill a lot of holes.

    Whether will be better to renovate your plane, keep patching/maintaining as required, or selling it and buying a nicer plane, depends more on you than the plane. It is generally cheaper to buy a cherry plane than it is to buy a beater and renovate to cherry. I renovated mine because I have a strong connection to the plane and it has some history. Renovation also gave me a chance to configure it the way I like it.

    Offhand, I'd say fly it until something breaks and you have to make a decision.
    The modern equivalent of the phrase "lions led by donkeys" is "innovation led by lawyers".
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  26. #26

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    I bought a 1952 with 0-290/125 with a 10 year old recover and 900 hours for mid $40’s
    1000 hours later I rebuilt a 0-320 which I was hoping I could do for 10 grand.... one thing led to another and $25K later I have a fresh engine and a simple light cub that looks just ok
    If your passion is flying, fly it. If you want something pretty, throw money at it.
    Best of luck with whatever you decide
    Steve


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