Wings and Wheels — Lyon Air Museum

  • story by David M. Brown
  • posted on 12/2012
  • posted in: Great Garages

If you can’t get there by land, lift off and enjoy the sky.

Comprising cars, motorcycles and planes, Lyon Air Museum, a 30,000-square-foot hangar at John Wayne Airport, 19300 Ike Jones Road in Santa Ana, Calif., fulfills the dream of its founder, General William Lyon, chief of the U.S. Air Force Reserve, 1975 to 1979, and today chairman of the board and CEO of William Lyon Homes, Inc., Newport Beach, Calif.

“My passion for aviation history and youth education is the driving force behind Lyon Air Museum,” General Lyon says.

The museum has on exhibit some of the world’s rarest, and most inspiring, operational aircraft and vehicles. General Lyon recently invited us to see his planes and famous cars, which he described for us:

B-17G Flying Fortress — “The B-17 Flying Fortress, ‘Fuddy Duddy,’ was used as a VIP transport in the Pacific at the end of World War II. The great plane once carried General Dwight D. Eisenhower, later the 33rd president of the United States.”

In civilian life, it worked as a fire bomber and was occasionally used for motion picture filming, flying on screen in movies such as the 1962 Steve McQueen movie, The War Lover and the 1970 blockbuster, Tora Tora Tora.

The plane (Army Air Corps Serial: 44-83563) was designed by the Boeing Company and built under license by the Douglas Aircraft Company. The prototype flight was July 28, 1935 (as Model 299). The total number of B-17s was 12,731, with production of the “G” Model by Boeing, Douglas and Lockheed reaching 8,680. The “G” could read speeds of 300 mph at 30,000 feet.

This B-17G was delivered April 7, 1945. Power comes from four 1,200-horsepower Wright Cyclone R-1820, nine-cylinder radial-piston engines driving 11 feet, 7 inches in diameter with Hamilton Standard propellers.

Carrying the colors of the 447th Bomb Group, the plane was designed for a crew of 10: a pilot, co-pilot, navigator, bombardier, flight engineer/top turret gunner, radio operator, two waist gunners, tail gunner and a ball turret gunner.

The empty weight is 34,000 pounds, and the wartime gross weight 65,500 pounds. The fuel capacity is 1,700 gallons, and the range 1,850 miles, but this could be extended when equipped with “Tokyo Tanks,” which provided a capacity of 3,630 gallons.

Additional specs: wing span, 103 feet, 9 inches; length, 74 feet, 4 inches; height, 19 feet, 1 inches; service ceiling, 35,600 feet.

Armament was usually 13 Browning M-2 .50-caliber machine guns, firing 13 rounds per second, per gun. Bomb load maxed at 8,000 pounds. With the special external racks, maximum normal short-range bomb load was 17,600 pounds.

• DC-3 Flagship Orange County — “The DC-3 airliner was not only comfortable and reliable, it also made air transportation profitable. American Airlines’ C.R. Smith said the DC-3 was the first airplane that could make money just by hauling passengers, without relying on government subsidies for transporting U.S. mail. As a result, by 1939, more than 90 percent of the nation’s airline passengers were flying on DC-2s and DC-3s built by the Douglas Aircraft Company. The prototype first flight was Dec.17, 1935, for the DC-2.

“‘Flagship Orange County,’ our own DC-3 in American Airlines livery, started life as a C-47A (An aircraft also included in the Lyon collection) built during World War II. Prior to its conversion to airliner configuration, it flew with the USAAF’s famed 440th Troop Carrier Group, guided by a two-man crew.”

Just before midnight on June 5, 1944, this aircraft was positioned at Exeter Field in England, ready to fly across the Channel with hundreds of other Dakotas. Its assigned mission: Drop members of the 101st Airborne, the Screaming Eagles, over Drop Zone DELTA, to support the D-Day invasion in Normandy at 1:40 a.m., on the morning of June 6, 1944.

This DC-3 carries Army Air Corps Serial Number 42-100931. The plane carried 21–28 passengers, depending on configuration. Power for the DC-2s and 3s comes from two 1,200-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1830 “Twin Wasp” 14-cylinder or Wright Cyclone R-1820 nine-cylinder radial piston engines. Basic empty weight is 18,300 pounds, and the gross weight, 28,000 pounds.

The fuel capacity is 1,700 gallons; the range is 1,025 miles. Wing span is 95 feet length, 64 feet, 5 inches and height, 16 feet, 4 inches. The service ceiling is 24,000 feet. The total number of DC-3s built was 10,629 (including military C-47 version). This plane could reach 237 mph but it generally cruised at 150 mph.

• Hitler’s Mercedes G4 — The G4 touring wagon was developed for the German army and produced from 1934 to 1939 and is one of just 57 built. In outstanding original condition, it has only been restored as needed and features original upholstery on the front seats. This G4, Chassis #440875, Engine #440868, was delivered to Adolph Hitler in late 1939 and was used by him in Obersalzberg, Berlin and Poland until seized by the French Army at Berchtesgaden.

Daimler Benz Aktiengesellschaft, Werk Stuttgart-Unterturkheim, Germany built the chassis and drivetrain of this Special Touring Car, while Sindelfingen was the coachbuilder. It’s powered by a single-overhead-cam 5401 ccm eight-cylinder, producing 110 horses. A four-speed transmission, with shaft-driven tandem rear axles, kept it going.

Options ordered were a bullet-proof windshield and side windows, a folding front passenger seat to facilitate standing for greeting crowds and pistol holsters and compartments.

• 1941 Cadillac Series 62 Convertible Sedan — The last four-door convertible produced by the Cadillac Motor Car Co., the Series 62 convertible sedan boasted a look of power but with graceful styling. This model was the most expensive the brand offered, fetching $1,965 when first offered. Only 400 were produced, with this particular vehicle (VIN # 8352551) being originally purchased by New York socialite, Princess Diane Eristavi, in Stockbridge, Mass., on April 10, 1941.

Fleetwood built the coach for this 126-inch wheelbase car, which is equipped with a 346-cubic-inch V-8, valves in block, with a bore and stroke of 3.5 X 4.5 inches, outputting 150 horses at 3,400 rpm. A shaft-drive three-speed transmission delivered the power.

The fuel system is a mechanical fuel pump carburetor, and the ignition system comprises a battery, distributor and coil. The frame is pressed steel with a sturdy “X” member. The suspension is independent front coils with rear semi-elliptic springs. Brakes are four-wheel, vacuum-assisted hydraulics.

• 1945 Indian Motorcycle “Chief” — America’s oldest motorcycle brand, the Indian Motorcycle Manufacturing Company was founded as the Hendee Manufacturing Company by George M. Hendee and Carl Oscar Hedstrom in Springfield, Mass., in 1901, two years before the Harley-Davidson Company. During World War II, Chiefs served as military couriers and scout transports.

This model is the 345 “Chief,” Chassis #345806, Engine #CDA387. A 74-cubic-inch flathead V-Twin provides the power, and a hand-shifted three-speed, with foot-operated clutch, gets this to the wheels. The company built 33,000 during World War II, all Indian models.

Lyon Air Museum is open daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. General admission is $12; seniors and veterans, $9; ages 5–17, $6 and children under 5 are free. Groups of 10 or more receive $1 off each visitor. Pre-arranged school groups are free.

For more information on the museum, call 714.210.4585, e-mail,

or see the Web,, www. and

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