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Thread: Fabric Life and Recover- So confused.

  1. #1

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    Fabric Life and Recover- So confused.

    I saw another post recently about fabric- but question was about whether original cotton fabric on a particular plane would still be good. Rather than hijack I thought I would start my own thread. I also searched threads but couldn't find what I was looking for.

    I'm a first time buyer: I've been looking (from afar via exchange of pictures, texts, phone calls, paperwork) at a plane that is checking all (most) of my boxes. I realize checking all your boxes on an 75 year old piece of equipment may be a dream if I ever want to actual own something and fly it. It would say it is priced on the high end of what would be reasonable for that plane.

    Paperwork all looks good. STC's, 337's etc. Lot's of nice, legal upgrades.

    Owner seems meticulous and honest.

    I have an expert I can have check it out if I get that far.

    The only rub for me is it was recovered 35 years ago (Stitts Polyfiber.) It's been hangared.

    How big of a deal is this? I know a recover is going to be $30k. Any chance 35 year old covering could still have alot of life left?

    I will of course get an expert to look it over prior to handing over any money- but don't want waste the buyers time or my own if I need to plan on dumping another $30k into it soon. If I add $30k to asking it would be the most expensive of this model I have seen (If I subtract it from asking it would be the least expensive I've ever seen.)

    So my question is- is there any chance that 35 year old fabric could be in such good condition that it would be reasonable to pay top dollar for the plane if it checks every other box for me? Is there any chance I could get another 10 years out of it- or is that not realistic.

  2. #2

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    Another way to ask- Is there any way that 35 year old fabric could still have alot of life in it? Assume hangared.

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    UV kills fabric, not necessarily time. If it has been taken care of and hangared like you say it could be just fine.
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    Quote Originally Posted by MZ18 View Post
    UV kills fabric, not necessarily time. If it has been taken care of and hangared like you say it could be just fine.
    Ahhh. That's good to know.

    So if you covered it, and put it in a hangar somewhere dry it would be good as new 10, 20, 30 years later?

    If hangared- would total time since recover be a be a consideration (as that would relate to sun time.)

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    The only way sun time during flight could or would be a consideration is if the plane were out and flown most every day and only hangared at night.

    If flown weekly or intermittently and inside most all the rest of the time it would have little solar exposure.

    If the hangar has a soil floor and/or not vented well then moisture could rear it's head.
    Many of the 35+ YO coatings are not as good as what is now in use, although there were very good ones back then as well. This all depends on the mastery of who did the work.

    Either way it needs a good look at. It might be a superb aircraft, or it might have nice cover but the lower longerons are rusted near the tail or elsewhere.
    Regards, Charlie
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    With cotton, you could expect anywhere between 5 and 15 years. At that time, the fabric would come off and all the underlying structure would be inspected before the new cover was installed.

    The wonders of synthetic fabric came to aviation in the early 1960s, and Ceconite was advertised as a “lifetime” fabric at that time. The fabric will last indefinitely as long as it isn’t subjected to UV. Poor installation techniques resulted in film failure. Dope would peel off in sheets due to lack of adhesion leaving exposed fabric. People would elect to paint the aircraft with automotive paints and the film would crack along any rigid structure, again leaving raw fabric exposed. Stitts (Polyfiber) was developed to try and eliminate the adhesion issue, and the newer Stewart’s System was developed to reduce VOC and hazardous chemicals used in either the dope process or the Polyfiber process.

    Long story short, fabric is now staying on airplanes long after the intended life of the underlying structure, so the real question shouldn’t be if 30 year old fabric is still good, but is the structure under 30 year old fabric still good? You may have airworthy fabric, but there may be significant corrosion issues in the tubing or the aluminum wing structure that would require fabric removal to correct.


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    Quote Originally Posted by dgapilot View Post
    With cotton, you could expect anywhere between 5 and 15 years. At that time, the fabric would come off and all the underlying structure would be inspected before the new cover was installed.

    The wonders of synthetic fabric came to aviation in the early 1960s, and Ceconite was advertised as a “lifetime” fabric at that time. The fabric will last indefinitely as long as it isn’t subjected to UV. Poor installation techniques resulted in film failure. Dope would peel off in sheets due to lack of adhesion leaving exposed fabric. People would elect to paint the aircraft with automotive paints and the film would crack along any rigid structure, again leaving raw fabric exposed. Stitts (Polyfiber) was developed to try and eliminate the adhesion issue, and the newer Stewart’s System was developed to reduce VOC and hazardous chemicals used in either the dope process or the Polyfiber process.

    Long story short, fabric is now staying on airplanes long after the intended life of the underlying structure, so the real question shouldn’t be if 30 year old fabric is still good, but is the structure under 30 year old fabric still good? You may have airworthy fabric, but there may be significant corrosion issues in the tubing or the aluminum wing structure that would require fabric removal to correct.


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    And this potential underlying corrosion would be seen by a competent inspector?

    What I'm gathering is it may be close to a top dollar plane even with the 35 year old covering.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cardiff Kook View Post
    And this potential underlying corrosion would be seen by a competent inspector?

    What I'm gathering is it may be close to a top dollar plane even with the 35 year old covering.

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    A good inspector should be able to give you an idea of overall condition, but there are areas that you cant see without removing the fabric. I would never give top dollar for an airplane with 35 year old fabric. Top dollar would be one with less than 10 year old fabric and a fresh overhaul on the engine, with good workmanship on both, and perhaps recent avionics! Something like that, maybe in the 40 to 50k range. A nice looking airplane with mid time engine (but run regularly), average avionics, and 30 year old fabric, maybe in the 20 to 30k range. 3 years ago, that would have been maybe 15k tops, but prices are going up quick! Just my opinion. Every deal involves a willing buyer and a willing seller. I know a nice PA-22 tailwheel conversion was on FB recently for the high 30s. The ad wasn’t up 2 hours and it was sold.


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    X2, x3 ,4...the underlying gremlins will need the closest look. My dad's cub was covered about '99. May have spent 14 to 30 days outside since then. The paint and cover(ceconite, polytone) is immaculate. Compare his plane to mine which may have spent 14 days inside with virtually the same age recover and its enough to make a guy tear up. UV is a blood thirsty plane hater. Even if the cover is great, it doesnt warrant top dollar due to age.
    "Always looking up"
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    The cover on my plane is 29 years old and 7k hours. It looks like hell. Plasticizers in the chemicals evaporate out and the fabric drums and then the finish cracks. The structure is a concern but can be inspected for the most part. I wouldn't pay top dollar for 35 year old fabric. $30k for a recover is way light in my opinion. $45-50K for a good shop, throw in the surprises and the "while we are here we might as well do this" and you are in even more. It is a snowball.
    Steve Pierce

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    If a recover is $30k-$50k wouldn't math mean many of these birds are worth zero if at or near recover? That makes no sense to me.

    Let's say it is very nice/well maintained etc. The cost of the recover is more than the value of the plane.

    Generally when I buy something I subtract major repairs needed from the asking price.

    Is that just some funny aviation math I need to become familiar with?




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    If you’re going to try to justify the cost of aircraft ownership you will certainly never buy one, or shouldn’t. Some would say the prices discussed here are a bargain compared to the $300,000 plus for a new Cub type airplane which will also eventually require recovering. Not being flippant, but those are the facts.

    I reread my post and wanted to clarify that my point is that if you sat down with a CPA or financial advisor and gave him all the costs associated with buying, maintaining and insuring a Cub, he’d advise you not to do it. It makes zero financial sense. But you do it because you love it and you determine the cost divided over the hours and years of enjoyment add up to you. And in my opinion an airplane, like anything, is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
    Last edited by mam90; 06-13-2021 at 09:42 AM.

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    One shouldn't forget years ago it was "standard procedure" to raise the tail up and " prick punch" test about every foot of the lower longeron's , especially around gear fittings. No one would have bought without it years ago, in fear of a rust bucket hiding under good looking fabric. Nowadays new generation mechanics,unfirmilar with these techniques, will automatically cry wolf and say it will leave marks
    On bottom of the tubing, it will "as big as the head of
    A pin!!! It will do no harm what ever to the plane, but they will claim it will.
    One thing is for sure, a ten minute test, could save you $30,000 of unseen repair's after you sign the check!
    In the 9 aircraft I have owned that has saved me 'Three' times. TWICE on planes with "fresh annuals".
    BOTH mechanics pretty red faced when shown the punch going right thru tubing they had just so called inspected.
    Check it or Wreck your check book .
    Your call
    E
    Last edited by TurboBeaver; 06-13-2021 at 09:56 AM.

  14. #14
    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cardiff Kook View Post
    If a recover is $30k-$50k wouldn't math mean many of these birds are worth zero if at or near recover? That makes no sense to me.

    Let's say it is very nice/well maintained etc. The cost of the recover is more than the value of the plane.

    Generally when I buy something I subtract major repairs needed from the asking price.

    Is that just some funny aviation math I need to become familiar with?




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    It is like installing a new engine, you are upside down right off the bat. You have to fly the value out of it. You haven't mention what you are looking at Soni am assuming it is t a Super Cub. Look at the airplane and picture just new fabric and that is probably what your $30k will get you. Forget the buggers on the cowling, failings, struts and interior. All the recovers I have done have been restorations. I see very few airplanes that you can just recover. There are always surprises. Labor cost money as well as parts and materials. I can't discount my labor dependant on the value of your airplane. This is why there are a lot of projects around.
    Steve Pierce

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    Quote Originally Posted by mam90 View Post
    If you’re going to try to justify the cost of aircraft ownership you will certainly never buy one, or shouldn’t. Some would say the prices discussed here are a bargain compared to the $300,000 plus for a new Cub type airplane which will also eventually require recovering. Not being flippant, but those are the facts.

    I reread my post and wanted to clarify that my point is that if you sat down with a CPA or financial advisor and gave him all the costs associated with buying, maintaining and insuring a Cub, he’d advise you not to do it. It makes zero financial sense. But you do it because you love it and you determine the cost divided over the hours and years of enjoyment add up to you. And in my opinion an airplane, like anything, is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.
    Yes. I understand, but certainly there are prices at which to buy and prices at which to pass. Same as any purchase.



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    Quote Originally Posted by Cardiff Kook View Post
    Yes. I understand, but certainly there are prices at which to buy and prices at which to pass. Same as any purchase.



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    I'm not looking for a deal. Just want to make sure it's reasonable.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Cardiff Kook View Post
    Yes. I understand, but certainly there are prices at which to buy and prices at which to pass. Same as any purchase.

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    Yep, and I’m sure with all the info you’re collecting you will find an airplane that works for you. No doubt you’ll get many years of enjoyment and hopefully few surprises.
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  18. #18
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    Cardiff

    If I may offer an opinion. The fabric, if always hangared might be good. But in 10 years when you sell it that fabric will be 45 years old and will significantly affect the value. At that point you are selling a flying project. Its only value will be as a project for a total rebuild. If you were buying 10 year old fabric, and sold it in 10 years, with 20 year old fabric you would see little to no loss of value based on the age of the fabric.

    Engines are similar. Buy a plane with a 200 hour engine, put 200 hours on it and there will be little to no loss of value. But buy a 1600 hour engine and put 200 hours on it, and when you go to sell everyone will say that engine is run out and it will significantly lower the value.

    There is a sweet spot where you can buy a plane, fly it a few years, and sell with little to no loss of value. The fabric on the plane you are looking at is on the outside edge of that sweet spot.

    How long do you expect to own this Cub? Do you see it as a long term family member that you would want to rebuild .......(there is no such thing, as Steve Pierce has pointed out, as a recover job). When you take the fabric off it becomes a total restoration. Or, do you expect to just own it for a couple of years, then sell and move on to something else?

    Just some thoughts to consider

    Hope this helps

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Rusk View Post
    Cardiff

    If I may offer an opinion. The fabric, if always hangared might be good. But in 10 years when you sell it that fabric will be 45 years old and will significantly affect the value. At that point you are selling a flying project. Its only value will be as a project for a total rebuild. If you were buying 10 year old fabric, and sold it in 10 years, with 20 year old fabric you would see little to no loss of value based on the age of the fabric.

    Engines are similar. Buy a plane with a 200 hour engine, put 200 hours on it and there will be little to no loss of value. But buy a 1600 hour engine and put 200 hours on it, and when you go to sell everyone will say that engine is run out and it will significantly lower the value.

    There is a sweet spot where you can buy a plane, fly it a few years, and sell with little to no loss of value. The fabric on the plane you are looking at is on the outside edge of that sweet spot.

    How long do you expect to own this Cub? Do you see it as a long term family member that you would want to rebuild .......(there is no such thing, as Steve Pierce has pointed out, as a recover job). When you take the fabric off it becomes a total restoration. Or, do you expect to just own it for a couple of years, then sell and move on to something else?

    Just some thoughts to consider

    Hope this helps

    Bill
    Thanks. Very helpful.

    All good questions.

    As far as how long to keep it- I'm unsure. 3+ years and assess then?

    A restoration is not something I'm interested in tackling. I'm just trying to learn how to fly and be the most competent pilot I can be. I am just starting out in aviation.

    None of this- no matter which way it goes will put me financial straights. Time is the limiting factor here- I want to use my time and brainpower to fly not figure out a restoration.


    Time is also a factor because I want a plane sooner than later because who knows what tomorrow holds.

    I have a preference for a pa-11- but could go for a j3 as well.



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    Fabric Life and Recover- So confused.

    Think about buying a car, the day it leaves the dealers lot, it takes a huge depreciation hit, then the value declines much more slowly as it is used. At some point that car has a number of major cost issues coming up, tires, brakes, exhaust, who knows what else, so the value takes another huge hit.

    Airplanes aren’t much different. If we are talking SuperCubs, maybe a fresh restoration with overhauled engine, throw in nice avionics and that airplane may have a value of maybe $150k (I’m just throwing numbers here) in the first year, that value may decline 10 to 20%, but then for the next 10 years may only decline 1 or2% a year.by the time you get to 15 years out, that value may start dropping 5 to 7% a year. 20 years out, the value will likely be about 15 to 20% of what the original restored value was and by that time you should be looking at another overhaul and restoration. $30 to $50k for the restoration and another $30k for engine overhaul. Throw in another $20 to $30k for updated avionics, and you just sunk in another $100k easy.

    That airplane with 30 year old fabric has a realistic value of less that $50k, maybe less than $20k depending on other issues. Looks can be deceiving.

    With all transactions, it takes a willing buyer and a willing seller. Don’t be afraid to “walk away”. If you find yourself always walking away, maybe it’s time to re-evaluate and re-calibrate. If you let your buying decision be based on emotion, you are likely to get burned every time. On the other hand, recognize that the “perfect airplane” simply doesn’t exist. One of the best airplanes I ever owned was the most ugly faded red (pink) metalized TriPacer. God it was ugly, but for the $4500 I paid for it, it was a great airplane!


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    Paid $1200 for my J3. Just saw it in the hangar, asked how much, and wrote the check.
    They laughed at me - at first probably behind my back, but told me later - probably when they gave me a shot of whiskey and told me I was a Private Pilot. Had no idea I was taking a checkride.

    I have purchased two more Cubs, two Stinsons, and a Mooney like that. Sometimes I have to fix the paperwork - the first Stinson cost $2 grand and needed an airworthiness certificate. FSDO said " we are just replacing your old beat-up certificate." That Stinson created two more Private Pilots, flew maybe 800 hours, and swallowed a valve somewhere south of Ensenada. Got my money's worth!

    Both recent Cubs had bogus wing tanks. Field approvals fixed that.
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    Agree with B.R. with a caveat... Buy what you want. If all you want is to fly, buy the nicest airplane you can afford and pump the fuel through it and **don't try to justify any of this.** This is entertainment. People do stupid stuff to keep entertained. This is what we do and it isn't right for everybody. Example. I'm currently building a J3. There has been a J3 on the family farm since the 50's and I want to keep this tradition alive with a really nice one; so I'm building it. In doing most of the work myself, and not factoring in the value of my time, I'll be well into 6 figures by the time i'm done. You ask how that is possible? I assure you, it is. Financially smart? Nope. Damn dumb, but it's what I want for the farm's history. I'll do other things that are smart to counter this decision that I knowingly made.

    Sikorsky

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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    As a child of two I can recall my dad's plane that was a J-3. Smelled like planes with nitrate dope and gas do. Never forgot that imprinting and it cost me 9 airplanes since plus several others flown. Nasty habit. Buy and fly just ignore why.

    Gary

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    cubdriver2's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BC12D-4-85 View Post

    Buy and fly just ignore why.

    Gary
    SJ, I hope you already started printing the bumper stickers an embroidering the hats?

    Glenn
    "Optimism is going after Moby Dick in a rowboat and taking the tartar sauce with you!"
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    Cardiff,

    The major issue facing an inexperienced pilot who wants to own his own airplane is he doesn’t know how to distinguish defects that affect airworthiness from those that don’t. Consequently you’ll be at the mercy of mechanics and your own paranoia. You’ll end up fixing everything and go broke on the learning curve.

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    Experience is not getting what you want… Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. And WHEN you make one try to repeat it less than 5 more times!

    Sik
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  27. #27

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    Quote Originally Posted by bob turner View Post
    Paid $1200 for my J3. Just saw it in the hangar, asked how much, and wrote the check.
    They laughed at me - at first probably behind my back, but told me later - probably when they gave me a shot of whiskey and told me I was a Private Pilot. Had no idea I was taking a checkride.

    I have purchased two more Cubs, two Stinsons, and a Mooney like that. Sometimes I have to fix the paperwork - the first Stinson cost $2 grand and needed an airworthiness certificate. FSDO said " we are just replacing your old beat-up certificate." That Stinson created two more Private Pilots, flew maybe 800 hours, and swallowed a valve somewhere south of Ensenada. Got my money's worth!

    Both recent Cubs had bogus wing tanks. Field approvals fixed that.
    Thanks, Bob.

    So is your advice "just don't think about it so much- it will work out fine" or "buy an inexpensive first airplane- if is worth nothing in a few years you got your money's worth out just by flying it." Or something else.

  28. #28
    algonquin's Avatar
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    I know of a SC for sale for $169,000, rebuilt like new. Buy a nice plane not a project and don’t look back.

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    There is always the truth to the saying “ it doesn’t matter if you are talking antique cars, boats, trucks, motorcycles or airplanes, buy the very best you can afford (or not afford). Otherwise if you buy one that needs work, you will be investing more $ in the project that if you bought the very best and paid full price.”


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  30. #30
    Steve Pierce's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by algonquin View Post
    I know of a SC for sale for $169,000, rebuilt like new. Buy a nice plane not a project and don’t look back.
    I have a feeling that might be out of his price range. I was working in a warbird restoration shop making $11 an hour. Bout a $12K Clipper with 2 friends, first one bailed the day the first payment came due. Traded my instructor work on his Cessna 140 for instruction. Long story short I finally ended up with a 12K hour $48K Super Cub that looks like hell but flies great. I have moded it up over the years but it is getting long in the tooth. Luckily I can do all the work but time is my issue. I have never had a pretty airplane or a new car but they have all served their purpose. I have put sweat equity into all of them.
    Steve Pierce

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    Bought a 1948 ragwing 170 when I was 19 years old for $4500 which was more money than I’d ever seen before. Helped a friend build a lodge for a few gifts he bought me.. Last flight with the Goodyear brakes, landed on what was runway 33 at Merrill, and the right brake was so bad I had to do a left 270 to exit the runway.. Tower though that was pretty funny! Last flight before we finally overhauled the engine, had to use the primer to keep it running on takeoff from the gravel bar by the lodge. Can’t remember the name of the guy that ran the shop at Sea Airmotive, but when I dropped the accessories off for overhaul he looked the carb over for about 30 seconds, looked at me and threw it in a garbage can! But god I loved that airplane!

  32. #32
    Crash, Jr.'s Avatar
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    I'd say go for it. Take a long and hard look at the covering and the rest of the plane and determine if it's safe to fly in. Just because the covering is old doesn't mean it's bad. Besides the materials used, the workmanship and storage plays a huge part like others have said and this one sounds well hangared and taken care of. One thing to think about is future appreciation of the aircraft over the long term if you plan to keep it that long. The plane sounds like a J3 (the best Piper imo) which are a collectors aircraft and hold their value very well. Those same planes were going for $20k less than a decade ago and are now in the $40k range. With inflation and prices all going up you can plan on a good bit of appreciation from inflation as well as simply appreciation based on a limited number being produced and fewer on the registry every year. Even if you have to recover/rebuild the plane in 5-10 years time you've gotten a lot of use out of it and when you get on the other side of the rebuild you will have learned a lot about small plane maintenance and also have a beautiful little showpiece plane that will be worth quite a bit of money.

    But that's just my opinion based on having bought a pretty ratty J3 and going down this road. It's great fun putting the work and time into getting your own plane "just so" and being that owner that really took care of your plane. Old aircraft are a long story of good and bad ownership and you get to put your name in the logbooks as one of the good guys that was a loving caretaker of a vintage aircraft. The best part is climbing out of your little yellow bird at the end of a flight and just standing there admiring such a dandy little plane. You'll always find a way to make the money work with a plane like that.
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