Steve Wittman's Bonzo
Flight Reinactment

Steve Wittman's Bonzo

The photos are of the sixth model airplane racer that I have built from the pre WW 2 Golden Age Of Air Racing. The model is an exact 1/12 (1in. per 1ft.) scale replica of Steve Wittman's "Bonzo." I had no plans, but developed the plans myself from a one page three view drawing obtained from the Internet. I used Photoshop to enlarge the drawing. Another challenge was the registration and racing numbers. I had no decals and my hand is not steady enough to paint them on. (send me an E mail and I will explain)

Now, for some aviation history. Steve Wittman first brought the "Bonzo" to the National Air Races in 1935. It caused a lot of winks and raised eye brows. It had already been nicknamed "the flying barn door." This was before Steve qualified the airplane for the Thompson Trophy race right up there with "the big dogs." The Bonzo was strictly "home built." Most of the racers being built then were with the aid of financial backing and more modern construction methods. The Bonzo was built using a year 1920 Curtiss D12 engine, that Steve purchased for a hundred dollars. The D12 was a twelve cylinder liquid cooled engine that had no supercharger. It was heavy for the 435 HP it delivered. However, the Bonso had a top speed of 325 MPH.

Steve raced the Bonzo until 1939, when air racing was curtailed because of the situation in Europe. Steve and the Bonzo were a hard luck team, never finishing first in any Thompson Trophy races. However, he managed to win enough prize money to make racing profitable. In 1936 the Bonzo caught fire while on the ground and was modified extensively. In 1937, Steve led the Thompson race until he hit a bird, causing engine vibration, and finished fifth. Steve qualified for the Thompson race in 1937 at 275 MPH. This was faster than any other airplane entered.

Steve raced the Bonzo in the 1938 and 1939 races, with the same string of bad luck. The original Bonso has been restored and is on display at the EAA Museum in Oshkosh, Wis..

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Bonzo Airplane


Bonzo Restoration


Bonzo Model

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