Steve Hamilton is obviously proud of his immaculately restored 1947 Grumman Mallard.
And he should be. Shortly after completing an extensive restoration, the massive twin radial-powered amphibious airplane won the 2001 Grand Champion-Classic award here at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
"Everything I did to it was to make it original," Hamilton said. "So the airplane is just the way it was when it was delivered to a guy named Lord Beaverbrook."
Of the 59 Mallards produced, Hamilton's is likely the best example today of the market segment Grumman was trying to reach with the airplane: executive transportation. The interior is plush, trimmed in teak, and includes nearly all of the amenities today's tycoon might ask for in a business jet.
"What is interesting is that all the teak in the airplane is what they call book-matched," Hamilton explained. "They did it in Rolls-Royces, and they did it in Bentleys. What it means is that the grain on the left side of the plane exactly mirrors the grain on the right side. If you were sitting in the back with the cockpit door closed you would see [a mirror image] grain pattern.
The restoration also includes white covers for the seat head rests. Commonly known at the time as antimacassars, the covers prevented permanent staining of the upholstery from the macassar oil used primarily by gentlemen of the day. The covers required frequent replacement and could be ordered directly from Grumman.
Hamilton had some challenges finding parts for the interior, but ultimately located an unusual source.
"It's funny, a lot of these airplanes [were converted to turbine power], but they didn't throw anything out," he said. "I went to all the turbine operators and asked what do you have?
"I was able to get this entire interior."
His purchases included wood parts that, for all practical purposes, were trash. But in many cases those parts included latches and other rare hardware.
"So it was all real valuable even if it was just junk," Hamilton added.
The airplane ended up in a number of exotic far-away places once Lord Beaverbrook was finished using it for his travel needs. Its first stop was New Zealand where, for a time, it supported construction of the Manapouri hydroelectric dam project. After that it moved to Australia, received a high-density seating interior, and served as an island-hopping airliner.
Tahiti was the next stop. After the failure of an engine, it sat for a time until traveling to Wisconsin. Ultimately it ended up in the Caribbean and was retired to an area of the Miami airport known as "corrosion corner."
Corrosion is a common problem for all seaplanes, particularly ones operating in saltwater, and Hamilton had to address the problem as part of his restoration. A key repair was complete replacement of the wing center section.
"Mallards have a number of [airworthiness directives] for center section corrosion," he said. "The FAA gave me 5,000 hours before I will have to comply with them ... it's all-new metal.
Hamilton plans to continue using it much like he has since completing the restoration.
"This is my yacht," he said.
"What I like most about it, unlike other aircraft, is that it is just grand. It's something like the old China Clippers. They were done to a very high standard with teak interiors and, when Leroy Grumman built this, and they put the teak in, it was reminiscent of that era. This was to be that kind of machine."