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Seversky P-35's

unexpected metamorphosis

by Luc Fournier

4: A media-famed aircraft.

Between 1937 and 1940, Seversky produced seven single-seat airplanes which were derived from the P-35. These were in addition to the prototype SEV-1XP, also converted into a racer under the registration  S1 and which was Major de Seversky's personal plane.

The story of the Seversky racers is linked with famous names of the "world of flying" in the Thirties. One of them, Franck Fuller Jr, a wealthy heir of the Fuller Paint Company. In 1937, he purchased the S2 a civilian P-35 fitted with a 100 HP Pratt and Whitney radial engine, and showing some aerodynamic refinements with a lowered cockpit. The  S2  ranked first at the 1937  Bendix Trophy  race between Burbank California and Cleveland Ohio (3300 km). The distance was covered in 7 hours 54 minutes with an average speed of 415 km/h (258 mph). In January 1938, at the  Pacific Air Races , Fuller won the Oakland California to Seattle Washington race, in 3 hours, 8 minutes and 4 seconds. As property of the paint firm, the S2 got a blue paint scheme with yellow arrows, emblematic of the  roaring Thirties . During the summer of 1938, the S2  went to Hollywood, rented by  Metro Goldwyn Mayer for the making of the film  "Test Pilot" . It was returned to its  natural metal finish  and bearing the inscription " Drake Bullet " on each side of the fuselage, the plane opened the film, with Clark Gable at the controls. With the production of this film, the  S2  was probably the aircraft that most contributed in establishing the reputation of Major de Seversky's firm.

But the saga of the Seversky racers was above all, linked to the name of Jacqueline Cochran. The famous woman pilot flew the firm's AP7 and AP9, both fitted with 1200 HP engines. Flying the AP 7, she won the 1938 Bendix Trophy, leaving the second place to Franck Fuller's  S2 . In 1940, Jacqueline Cochran flying the AP9 entered a feminine challenge on a flight from California to New Mexico, completing the distance in 3 hours, 4 minutes and 47 seconds, at an average speed of 535 km/h (332 mph), a noteworthy achievement for that time.

Races, movies...The Seversky racers moved with their time, the era of an America who tried to forget the Great Depression, wanting to believe in the progress of a peaceful world, having fun with Jazz, swing, and marvelling at the first coloured movies of the Hollywood studios...

© Luc Fournier, Aerostories 2000.

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The Seversky " S2 ". It remained the most famous racer coming from the P 35 and took part in the MGM movie " Test Pilot ".
"Planes of Fame" Document

Jacqueline Cochran in front of her AP 7 in 1938. Note the fully retractable undercarriage.
"Air Enthousiast" Document