The Battle of Britain film of 1968 was the watershed for private Spitfire ownership. It did for Spitfires what the James Bond films did for silver Aston Martin DB5s. Aircraft that had changed hands before the film for £6000 instantly doubled in price, then doubled again within another year. Prices peaked around 1990, as with classic cars, but did not fall away as heavily. Today an airworthy Spitfire of a desirable Mark, in fine condition, would be valued in the region of £650,000. In terms of the thousands of man-hours of certified application to meet the rigorous demands of CAA flying approval, some would say they are substantially undervalued.
As with classic cars, a whole industry of specialist restoration services has grown up to support the 48 currently airworthy examples, and a similar number worldwide that are in the restoration process.
Propellers do not come cheap at £50,000 per unit from Hoffman Propeller Werke in Germany. Engines in the main are rebuilt in the USA, where the thriving P-S1 Mustang market utilises the license built Packard Merlin engine. The supply of ‘starter kits’ comprising untouched and basically original complete aircraft has just about dried up. Composite kits based on the provenance of a fuselage monocoque, mated to parts gathered from all around the world, are the norrn now and are quite accepted.
All those countries that re-equipped with surplus RAF Spitfires have become the rich hunting ground for today’s collector. A good many of the Spitfires today, both airworthy and under restoration, were recovered from the likes of children’s playgrounds at Israeli kibbutzim, Indian Air Force locations where they had been target decoys and scrap yards in South Africa. Statistically Russia, which received well over a thousand Spitfires, is the most likely source of uncharted projects. Rumours abound of MK Vs still in their original crates, in Russia. An exciting prospect.