A Flying Museum
One of the great challenges facing the Unlimited class is that the number of people willing to pay the millions required to prepare an airplane for competition is dwindling. In the column of people who have helped the class survive, inscribe the name of Rod Lewis, the Texas oilman whose collection of 26 perfectly restored warbirds includes the world-famous P-38 Lightning Glacier Girl, pulled up in pieces from an icy Greenland grave; the world’s only airworthy F4F-3 Wildcat; a Mustang; a Corsair; a B-25 bomber; and four F6F Bearcats, the formidable Rare Bear among them. Last year, Lewis fielded three raceplanes in the Unlimited races: Rare Bear, the Hawker Sea Fury 232, and the Grumman F7F Tigercat Here, Kitty, Kitty, which Lewis himself flew in the 2012 qualifying heats. (Sanders brothers Brian and Dennis also fielded three Unlimiteds last year.)
In last year’s Silver Unlimited race, pilot Stewart Dawson held Here, Kitty, Kitty at 359.2 mph, finishing fourth of seven. No one expects a Tigercat to claw its way to a trophy, but what a gift Lewis gives race fans: As expensive as it is to simply parade that big, twin-engine beauty, gleaming in Navy blue, around the race course, the sight of it in the air helps fans justify the price of admission.