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.
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