In association with Classic Wings Magazine


USD $575,000
Regrettably, there are fewer than 10 of these presently flying worldwide. While most survivors have found their place in museums, it is quite rare to witness them grace the skies during airshows. The captivating allure of their unique design is immeasurable, making it even more extraordinary to stumble upon an opportunity to purchase a fully restored Lightning. The reality is that there are very few restoration shops with both the willingness and the capacity to take one on. One shop however, in Australia, has already proved its mettle by taking on three of these complex aircraft, the first of which is to be delivered to its museum customer shortly.


This package is on offer by one of the few adventurers who have had sufficient drive and commitment to go into remote parts of difficult and at times dangerous countries to rescue aircraft that would otherwise be swallowed up by nature or scrapped, as has already happened to so many. No one has salvaged more P-38 wrecks and this necessary component has allowed for the rebuilding of these important aircraft, even though some of the wrecks were very challenged and in some cases, could only provide limited materials for inclusion in the completed aircraft.


With the passage of time, warbird restorations are requiring more and more new metal replacement as the few remaining wrecks have endured longer periods in remote and harsh environments, so less and less of the original airframe structure can be reused.  The P-38 is a large and complex aircraft and for this reason, very few workshops have attempted a complete ground-up restoration to include substantial sheet metal replacement. But even if that capacity is available in-house, the only way it is possible to pursue the restoration of a P-38 is if access can be found to a significant source of Lockheed parts for the P-38 such as undercarriage legs, cockpit equipment and so forth. Thankfully, this organisation made the purchase over a decade ago of the world's last major holding of P-38 parts that had represented a lifetime of gathering for P-38 enthusiast Bruce Pruitt. The inventory included a number of new and used undercarriage sets among other things. It was a treasure trove that has allowed for the restoration of P-38s that would otherwise have been lost to time.

Forward fuselage 'cockpit pod', starting to be assembled in the stout fixture.


There are very few restoration shops worldwide willing to take on the rebuild of a P-38. As stated, they are large and complicated aircraft. A few years ago, this facility set up an extensive capability to rebuild three P-38s both as flyers and museum static examples. The learning curve was huge, but one by one, the challenges were overcome. Setting up to use advanced CAD systems to digitise the entire aircraft, coupled with sheet metal manufacturing processes has meant that by the time the last aircraft was completed, this team could build Lightnings blind-folded, well almost.

Two centre sections being assembled, the spar for the third behind.

The most complicated part of the P-38, as with many multi engine aircraft, is the wing centre-section. In these photos you can see three centre-sections being built all at once, as the crew maintained their rhythm throughout the builds. These highly involved sections have come down to a fine art for this now experienced crew.

The first in the batch of three is seen having the tail group installed. There'll now be a fourth, and it could be yours.

Fuselage and centre-section assembled, the first of the trio.

The workmanship is of the highest level.

An outer wing, well advanced for a previous customer.

An outer wing, well advanced for a previous customer.

The first P-38 is approaching completion. The fourth project will likely be the very last one carried out by this company.
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  • Wingspan: 15.84 m (52 ft)
  • Length: 11.53 m (37 ft 10 in)
  • Height: 3.91 m (12 ft 10 in)
  • Wing area: 30.42 m² (327.5 sq ft)
  • Power Plant: [P-38F] Two 914 kw (1,225 hp) Allison V-1710-49 or –53 twelve-cylinder VEE turbocharged liquid-cooled engines
  • Max speed at 1,525 m (5,000 ft): 547 km/h (340 mph)
  • Max speed at 4,575 m (15,000 ft): 587 km/h (365 mph)
  • Max speed at 7,625 m (25,000 ft): 628 km/h (390 mph)
  • Economical cruising speed: 322 km/h (200 mph)
  • Landing speed: 137 km/h (85 mph)
  • Initial rate of climb: 914 m/min (3,000 ft/min)
  • Climb to 7,625 m (25,000 ft): 11 mins
  • Service ceiling: 11,887 m (39,000 ft)
  • Range at max cruising speed: 1,126 km (700 miles)
  • Empty weight: 5,902 kg (13,000 lb)
  • Combat loaded weight: 6,946 kg (15,300 lb)
  • Max loaded weight: 7,173 kg (15,800 lb)