Middle of the Road, Not-Dirt-Cheap-but-Short-of-Expensive
The more we studied the lower tier prices the more we realized
that $15,000 was a watershed price. We saw a reasonable number
of airplanes in the $10-15,000 bracket but many of them were
questionable because of either condition or engine time. As
soon as we hit $15,000 and edged our way up to $20,000 the
quality of the lower airplanes improved drastically and the
availability of other types became much more pronounced. (Note
from 2007: the foregoing numbers shold be $17,000-$22,000.
They haven't changed much).
Naturally, as you move up in any kind of tiered situation
like this, you simultaneously get the better of the lower
tier airplane and the lower-quality airplanes from the next
higher tier. In the $15-$20,000 tier, every airplane weve
mentioned before is represented, but most of them have been
recovered and/or have low time engines. Conversely the new
airplanes that dropped down from the upper tier are higher
time and lower quality.
You dont find many of Cessnas famous precursor
to the C-150 below $15,000, but there are bunches of good
examples of the type just above $15,000. $16-$18,000 seems
to be a magic bracket but there are lots of them well into
the mid-to-high $20,000s.
The 120/140 is a great little, all metal (fabric wings)
flyer that is just a little slower and stodgier than the
C-152, but is loads more fun. The 140A has the tapered,
single-strut, all-metal wing of the 150, but the flaps
are hinged, not Fowler flaps. Sometimes you can actually
tell you have the flaps down: they arent very effective.
The old Tri-Pacer is a good bang for the buck. The airplanes
down in the $15,000 category are usually the smaller
engine versions (125/135hp) or slightly ragged versions
of the 150/160 hp models. The small engine airplanes
dont like big loads on hot days, but the later
airplanes are great with two people and okay with four.
The PA-20 is the tailwheel version of the same airplane
although there are probably more Tri-Pacers modified
to tailwheel than there are original Pacers left. The
original Pacers had 125 hp and then went to 135. Youll
find a surprising number of small engine Pacers a thousand
bucks either side of $15,000.
||Piper Clipper (PA-16)
The Clipper was only produced in one year, 1949, and led
the way for Pipers entry into the more modern four-place
market. It has the back door and back seat of the Tri-pacer,
but it only has a 0-235 Lycoming in the nose, so it isnt
great as a four-place airplane. However, it has sticks,
rather than wheels, which for many is a much more natural
way to fly. You see them for sale regularly and except
for the refurbished ones, they seem to like the $16-$18,000
range with a few dipping under the $15,000 barrier.
||Piper Vagabond (PA-15/17)
The little Vagabond is as close to a big model airplane
as you can get and has a stubby look that is pure short-wing
Piper. The original gear was stiff, with no shocks and
it trundled around with only 65 mph. The later PA-17
is the same airplane with sprung gear and marginally
more power. This is a restorers favorite, so the
cheap ones are beginning to disappear.
The earliest of the Grumman AA-1 series are a good buy
at $15-$18K. For that amount of money, youll be
getting one of the zippiest108/115 hp airplanes available.
For some people, its a little too zippy, which
is why the price is sometimes so low. The controls are
extremely light and fighter-like and with the power back
it comes down faster than some people like. However,
dont believe the oldwives tales about having to
fly it fast to be safe. Its just like every other
airplane but it does everything more quickly
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