Better than New
One of the nicest examples of a custom restored Stinson you’ll find anywhere occupies a row hangar at Sussex Airport (KFWN) in northern New Jersey. Here, a 1947 Model 108-3 “Flying Station Wagon” (so called because of its Woody-style wood-paneled interior and reinforced floor) proudly displays its window sticker signifying the airplane’s status as “Outstanding Stinson” at Oshkosh last summer. The immaculately refurbished taildragger has been drawing admiring crowds wherever it goes ever since.
Listing everything that’s been done to N702C would be a difficult task because there’s almost nothing that wasn’t touched during the extensive restoration of this highly customized and modified post-war classic, which owner Robert Potter cautions “isn’t your granddad’s old Stinson.”
“I have $50,000 invested from the firewall forward, and $185,000 in the full restoration,” Potter confides.
That’s a significant outlay of cash for an airplane that cost $3,000 to buy new when it rolled off the Stinson factory floor in Wayne, Michigan, 64 years ago. The downside to that lopsided economic equation, Potter says, is that his insurance company will only offer coverage on the airplane up to $47,000.
“So they’d basically cover almost the cost of the engine,” he says with a laugh.
But what an engine it is. A few years ago Potter located a 220 hp Franklin six-cylinder crate motor in Arizona that was manufactured sometime in the 1970s but had never before been run. He spent more than a year rebuilding it and, for good measure, had just about everything made of steel or aluminum chrome polished by a custom motorcycle shop.
“Even the oil pan is chromed,” Potter says. “Totally unnecessary, I know, but I love it.”
While the polish job might strike some as superfluous, the extra 60 hp mated to N702C’s Hartzell constant-speed propeller has transformed this airplane into one of the hottest performing Stinsons you’re likely to run across as well.
“The tail comes up in less than 400 feet and I see climb rates of 1,400 to 1,700 feet per minute,” Potter says. “It’s a real rocket ship and, best of all, handles like a dream.”
Centennial Aircraft Services in Battle Creek, Michigan, performed the restoration, pulling everything apart and taking the fuselage frame and wing down to bare metal before recovering the airplane in Stits poly-fiber fabric and applying several generous coats of PPG paint — the same as Centennial uses on the new Waco biplanes it builds and sells through its Waco Classic Aircraft subsidiary.
Inside, the leather seats were redone in a rich burgundy to match the attractive exterior striping. Wood panels crafted by hand match the originals perfectly. Adding several additional modern touches to his classic Stinson, Potter had the shop install LED landing lights, a Whellen 360-degree strobe package, Garmin SL40 radio and GTX 327 transponder, and a PS Engineering four-place intercom. Additional soundproofing and four-point safety harness complete the package.
The restoration took more than two years to complete, Potter says, but the time and money spent were well worth it.
“I’d never think of selling this airplane,” he says. “To me, it’s just about perfect.”