We are delighted to share with you this video of a Bearcat restoration project’s first engine start. But before you do anything else, be sure to set the sound on for this video! This snippet, courtesy of Kevin Eldridge, shows the engine start of the big fighter with Steve Hinton at the controls. The restoration project has been 12 years in the making, so this is a big deal.
The plane itself hasn’t had an engine run since the last one went kaput as the late Elmer Ward was taking off in it from Oshkosh in 1993. With the gear down for the emergency, off-field landing, the fully fueled plane dug in and flipped on its back, but somehow it didn’t catch fire and Ward got banged up good but survived, in fact without breaking a bone. He passed away in 2007 at the age of 86. It’s hard to imagine that he’s not looking down and smiling at this.
For those of you not familiar with it, the Grumman Bearcat was one of the fastest piston-powered planes ever back when it was produced toward the end of World War II and slightly beyond. Powered by a double-row Pratt & Whitney R-2800 putting out around 2,250 hp, the sheer power of the machine is something to behold. And if you’re wondering how fast it was, well, the production variant was slightly faster than 450 mph, and highly modified racing versions, including Rare Bear, have pushed that to nearly 530 mph. Wicked fast.
There’s no announced timetable for the return of this beauty—there are only around 15 airworthy Bearcats in the world. Of that number, there are only two of the civil version, the G-58, making them all rare Bears indeed.
The in-progress restoration by Chino, California’s Fighter Rebuilders is their 41st warbird restoration since they got started in 1980.