TRUTH IS, ONCE HE had seen his first model of Art Chester’s
1930s racer, Jeep, Lon Dienst, EAA 104891, couldn’t not build
a replica of the airplane. Although it took a decade or two to
get the project underway, it was going to happen. The
aircraft of the so-called Golden Age of air racing seem to
have that effect on a lot of people.
For slightly more than a decade, beginning just as the
’20s were ending, America reverberated to the beat of piston
engines straining to pull tiny airframes at ever-increasing
speeds around air race pylons. Every one of those machines
was a shining example (okay, some weren’t so shiny) of the
homebuilder’s art. As the ’30s began and racing literally
took off, amateur-built airplanes kept getting better until
the military stopped competing in the races altogether
because backyard builders were blowing its socks off. It was
an exciting era in which pilots saw races like those in
Cleveland as the equivalent of the fabled Western shootout.
May the fastest win.