Last summer I met up with some friends for a hot rod cruise out to Marengo, Illinois to check out an amazing project underway at Marengo Metal Works -- the restoration of B-17E 41-2595, a/k/a "The Desert Rat."
This warbird has quite a history. There are only 43 B-17 "Flying Fortresses" left in the world and the Desert Rat is believed to be one of only 3 remaining B-17E's (the other two are reportedly buried in Canadian ice). The rarity of the E is due to the fact it was a mostly pre-WWII model, and was largely supplanted by the more common B-17F and B-17G as the war dragged on.
The Desert Rat was converted to a cargo carrier and spent much of its wartime service in India. Here it is in its salad days...
In October 1944 it was shipped by ferry back to Dow Field in Maine, and after the war was sold to a local salvage yard for scrap. The salvage yard owner cut it into 8 big chunks but for reasons unknown never got around to crushing it. It languished in a Maine grove for more than 35 years. In the mid-80s, Chicagolander Mike Kellner discovered it and brought it back to the midwest. Here's a picture of what was left of the Desert Rat at that point:
Around 15 years ago Kellner began restoring the Desert Rat, a "hobby" project that necessitated a complete lifestyle change. It's now in a large building specially constructed for the restoration, flanked by a few other warbirds awaiting their own restos. It's an arduous, long-term effort, assisted by volunteer team of warbird fanatics who meet every week at Kellner's "garage" to chip in. Kind makes a hot rod project seem like a Lego kit.
Here's a Flickr slideshow of the afternoon. You can read more about the Desert Rat here.