All about the immortal J-3 Piper Cub and L-4 Grasshopper, built by William Piper at Lock Haven, which evolved into the PA-11 Cub Special, PA-18 Super Cub, and the Legend Cub and other lookalikes of today

Cowboy: interpreter, warlord, one more casualty


Six One Zero ready for covering
Mark Rhodes reports that his J-3 Cub is ready for covering. It's shown above in the hangar of Cajun Air in Jean Lafitte, Louisiana. "Mr. Lane Panepinto Sr and his family have built a business of primarily restoring Cessna seaplanes," Mark says. "And without his guidance, patience, expertise, and contributions, I would not have enjoyed these three and a half years of working in his shop on my dream project."

NC-21610 was completed in Lock Haven, Pennsylvania, in August 1938. The buyer was Ed Brockenbrough, who began a life in aviation by assembling a Curtiss JN-4 "Jenny," the famous First World War trainer, from junkyard parts. After barnstorming and working as a flight instructor, "Brock" opened the Charlotte NC Flying School in November 1938, so buying Six One Zero was no doubt his first step toward independence. Starting a flying school during the Great Depression was an act of considerable courage -- it wasn't for another two years that the US began to hum again, thanks in large part to European orders for warplanes and other weaponry. The flying school soon had a hundred students and four instructors. The instructors were all men, of course, and they all wore ties.

1938 was the year when the iconic J-3 Cub replaced the J-2 built by the Taylor company before William Piper took over. The Piper company continued to build J-2s through the spring of 1938, and indeed two of the early J-3s were actually converted from the earlier design. Altogether, sixteen J-3s were produced before the first production run began, with serial numbers starting with 2001. So Six One Zero, with s/n 2467, is presumably the 483rd Piper J-3 to venture out into the world.

I used to think that it was odd that some early J-3s were equipped with "J-2 ailerons," meaning they lacked the extended nose of the aileron devised by engineer George Frise. When deflected upward, the Frise aileron added a bit of drag to that side, reducing the force the pilot needed for the stick and helping counteract the aileron drag from the other wing, thus reducing yaw in the turn. But Six One Zero -- built more than three-quarters of the way through that 1938 production run -- has the old-style ailerons, so most or all of that year's J-3 Cubs must have been thus equipped.

Bill of sale for NC-21610
And here's Brock's bill of sale. Note the "and things of value," which must have included his cash, check, or note for close to a thousand dollars. Like Henry Ford, William Piper ran an assembly line, and that apparently extended to the bill of sale, mimeographed in quantity. The salesman presumably filled out in the details on the spot. The average price of an early J-3 was about $995.

Though it went out the door with a 50-horsepower Continental, Six One Zero was upgraded postwar with the then-customary 65-hp engine. Perhaps at the same time, it got a new tailwheel, a Firestone boldly stamped MILITARY, no doubt manufactured for the L-4 Cub used by the US military. Mark Rhodes plans to use that historic bit of rubber, but the main wheels will be equipped with all-new tires and tubes. The brakes are original, however. He consulted with Clyde Smith Jr., the "Cub Doctor," about the barn-door ailerons, and plans to glue fabric along the hinge line to increase control and lessen yaw at slow speeds. Blue skies! — Daniel Ford

Classic Cubs, from Taylor and Piper:

What's a Cub? (from the E-2 to the PA-18 Top Cub)
Production figures (from Taylor to Zlin Aviation)
Assembling Cubs at San Benito on the Gulf of Mexico
Restoring Marion Carl's J-2
Piper Cubs of the Luftwaffe
Four One Victor, all new, all over again :)
Meet Leah Jones, one of the original Piper crew
Liberty Girl: around the world in an L-4 Grasshopper
A Sentimental Journey to Lock Haven
San Diego to Lock Haven, 2003 (Len Buckel)

Cub wannabes of a later time:

The Legend Cub: a J-3 for the 21st century
The Tiger Cub Ultralight
The Savage, a lookalike with a Rotax engine
The Wall Street Journal salutes the Top Cub (Lynn Lunsford)
The Aviat Husky, another more-or-less Super Cub

Flying Tigers

Some highly practical stuff:

Everything up to date: adding an ELT, handheld radio, and GPS to the Cub
The story of Cub Yellow
Inspection Reports for Classic Cubs and the Super Cub
Choosing the engine for a J-3 (John Renwick)
Getting Cub records and Airworthiness Directives
The case for a wood prop (Tim Kern)
A wind generator for a Piper Cub
Removing the gas tank on a Piper J-3 (Len Buckel)
Fixing the brakes on a J-3 Cub (Len Buckel)
That Marvel-ous Mystery Oil (Robert Parker)
Piper Cub instrument panel (Stu Bright)
Hand propping a Cub (Lynn Towns)
Recovering a Piper Cub (John Scott)
J-3 Weight & balance table; specs for the C3-65 engine
Pre-flighting a J-3
Clearing up the paperwork on a J-3 Cub

Books and suchlike:

A Piper Cub bibliography
Subscribe to Cub Clues newsletter
Taildragger Tales (Daniel Ford)
The Compleat Taildragger Pilot (Harvey Plourde)
Janey: A Little Plane in a Big War (Alfred Schultz)
L-Birds and the Brodie Device (Terry Love)

Piper Cub Forum Warbird's Forum

Question? Comment? Newsletter? Send me an email. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford

Flying Tigers

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