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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed Speedster is all in the family

By RANDY DUFAULT
Rearwin Speedster
Eric Rearwin, owner of this extremely rare Rearwin Speedster 6000C is the great grandson of the airplane type's creater, Rae Rearwin. Photo by Mariano Rosales

Upon close inspection, the prop card affixed to the slick little tandem-seat taildragger parked out in front of the Vintage Red Barn reveals something completely unexpected for an 80-year old airplane: the space for aircraft manufacturer reads Rearwin, the exact same name in the space reserved for identifying the owner.

Newly restored and extremely rare, the Speedster came back to life through the efforts of Eric Rearwin, great-grandson to Raymond Andrew (“Rae”) Rearwin who, in 1928, founded Rearwin Airplanes.

“Around 2004 I found this in a barn in Washington, and I figured I wanted to bring it back as a family heritage,” Rearwin said.

He went on to say, “There were not any Speedsters flying at the time, and this is a really rare one. This is a Cirrus-powered one, a 6000C.

“They only made two 6000Cs before they switched to [a 125-hp] Menasco. The first one basically was a prototype and was destroyed during testing, so this is the only one with a Cirrus, the only 6000C.

“So it is pretty amazing, really.”

A rarity among a rare breed
Of the 14 Speedsters built by the company, Rearwin is aware of only four in existence today. The other three are Menasco-powered variants, including one residing here at EAA’s AirVenture Museum.

His is the only one known to be in flying condition.

“I’m really not sure why there are so few left today,” Rearwin said. “I guess when you start with 14 you end up with not too many 80 years later.

“You still see articles appearing about it. Considering how rare it is, it sure seems to bring back a lot of memories for a lot of people. And a lot of them tell me they didn’t think they would ever be able to see one.

“We are really glad we had an opportunity to bring it here this year.”

With extremely clean lines and an appearance Rearwin describes as “slick,” one would have expected a production run of more than 14 Speedsters.

Originally conceived during the Great Depression, certification troubles and a shift in market preferences probably doomed the design.

“The CAA at the time had really strict spin-testing requirements,” Rearwin said. “It actually had a smaller tail fin at the beginning, and it wouldn’t pass the spin tests. They started working on this in 1934, and it took them almost four years to get it certified. By then there were a lot of other competing models that made this outdated….

“That’s probably why they only made 14.”

By the time the short production run began, the 95-hp Cirrus engine was no longer available, prompting a switch to the more powerful Menasco.

According to Rearwin the new engine was roughly the same cost, and it fit the airframe with little modification.

Ultimately, the company was much more successful with the Sportster and the Cloudster models debuting shortly after the Speedster.

A point of pride
Rearwin never knew his great-grandfather and is not a pilot, but he was able to learn much of the family’s history from his grandfather, Ken.

Ken worked for his father as a salesman, apparently with great success and remained active in aviation helping with restorations at the San Diego Air & Space Museum and at the Airpower Museum in Blakesburg, Iowa.

After acquiring the project Rearwin turned to Tim Talen of Springfield, Oregon, for the restoration.

“Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about restoring airplanes; all I know is that I had the right person to bring it back to life,” Rearwin said.

“He and his crew have done an amazing job.”

Now that the restoration is complete, Rearwin plans to sell the historic craft.

“Even though they didn’t make very many, this is the most famous example of a Rearwin airplane,” he said.

“They built a lot of [scale] models of the Speedster—they still do today…so having it restored to this condition, and having people see it, was my goal.

“I hope it goes to a good home.”

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