Jill Tallman

The $50 Cherokee

November 21, 2012 by Jill W. Tallman, Associate Editor

Darrin Carlson took a 1964 Cherokee 140 from this…

One of the great joys of writing for AOPA Pilot is when I hear from members after an article is published (no, really!). They often write to remark on some aspect of my article, and then let slip some fascinating detail about their airplane or themselves.

In Darrin Carlson’s case, he asked a specific question about the seatbelt installation I described in the December 2012 issue of AOPA Pilot (“Ownership: Buckle Up). In a follow-up email, he added, “When I purchased my 50-dollar Cherokee, it was abandoned and in very poor shape. I started on small simple projects and worked my way up to overhauling the engine. This allowed me to get the experience to get my A&P/IA, then once it was airworthy it helped with my private and IFR rating now I am working on my commercial and CFI ratings.”

It turns out Darrin wasn’t joking about that $50 airplane. He really did buy a $50 Cherokee and rebuild it himself, step by painstaking step. He attached photos (which you see here) and a copy of an article that originally ran in the Nov.  27, 2007, issue of the Clay Center Dispatch. (Clay Center is in Kansas, which is where Darrin lives.) He bought the ’64 Cherokee 140 in 1993 after noticing it sitting in a scrap area near the Air Museum at Forbes Field in Topeka. He wrote the owner (who at the time was working in El Salvador) with an offer to buy it and sent him a check for $50 to cover the cost of processing the paperwork. The owner sent him a sales receipt, and a $50 airplane was his.

…to this. He replaced practically everything over four years.

It took four years, but he redid everything–not just the engine and the avionics but also the wiring. He even did the paint job, and it’s prettyspectacular. Don’t you agree?

Well, but an airplane owner is always looking ahead to that next project, and Darren’s considering installing shoulder harnesses. Not knowing the story behind his extra-special Cherokee, I told him I didn’t think he’d have a problem doing it himself. Turns out I was more than right!—Jill W. Tallman

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8 Responses to “The $50 Cherokee”

  1. John MacLean Says:

    I have been reading lately on Aopa news about having shoulder harness kits installed in Piper cherokees. Several years ago I wanted to install the harness in my 1967 Cherokee 180C. I contacted Piper and they did not have the kit,.but they pointed to several aircraft parts suppliers who did. I was able to purchase the shoulder harness kits along with an FAA approved STC and installed it in my aircraft. I am sure that these kits are still available from aircraft parts suppliers across the U.S.

    Thank you for continuing to provide interesting aircraft stories.

  2. Cary Alburn Says:

    Jill, I was pleased to see that you’d followed my advice, which I’d sent to you right after you bought your Cherokee. On the other hand, shame on you for waiting so darned long!!!!

    When I had the BAS harnesses installed in my P172D, I agonized for maybe 2 seconds on whether to use the “seaplane” buckle like you chose, where each harness strap has to be attached separately, or the standard buckle where each harness strap is already attached to the corresponding seat belt strap, which I chose. There are advantages and disadvantages to each, but I’m happy with my choice.

    You’re much safer now than when you were with just the lap belt–but don’t test it out! :)


  3. Don Elliott Says:

    I learned to fly in these early Cherokees back in the mid-60s. What a great story. Thanks Ms. Tallman. Keep up the good writing!

    Don Elliott

  4. Bob Tinnell Says:

    The $50 Cherokee represents a slightly more involved but equally satisfying alternative to building a kit or plansbuilt airplane. Kits are probably much more readily available and do not require attending an A&P school but that is also a valuable item on your resume. This could become an inspiration for other potential builders to join the ranks of aircraft owners who might otherwise not feel they can afford to own a personal aircraft. Great story.

  5. Captain Locatory Says:

    Good old stuff.

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