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Vancouver Island group taps rare engine to rebuild war-time fighter bomber

Comox Valley group reverse engineering a Hawker Typhoon basically from a few parts
Typhoon Legacy team member Rob Roy is pictured with the rebuilt Rolls Royce Merlin engine. Photo supplied

A Comox Valley group is in the process of restoring and rebuilding a Second World War fighter bomber that has a local connection.

The team at Typhoon Legacy has already spent three years restoring a pre-war Rolls Royce Merlin engine from Alberta, which was part of a trade to bring a rare wartime Napier Sabre engine from New Zealand to Canada.

The goal is use the rebuilt Sabre — which the team expects to be even more challenging than the Merlin rebuild — to fly the Hawker Typhoon JP843.

“The Typhoon is quite a rare breed. There’s one left in the world out of over 3,300 built,” project lead Ian Slater said. “Unfortunately, most of the drawings and surviving components were also scrapped, so we’re reverse engineering an aircraft basically from a few parts…There’s an incredible amount of research and conversions required.”

The Sabre, a 24-cylinder sleeve valve engine, is as rare as the Hawker Typhoon. Fewer than 40 of the engines are known to exist, largely recovered from crash sites, but only a handful worldwide can be rebuilt.

Some say the engine ‘won the war.’

As for the Hawker Typhoon, many were flown by young Canadians during the war.

The British-designed aircraft excelled at ground attack, and was instrumental in the Normandy campaign and the Allied advance through Europe.

Hawker Typhoon JP843 served with different squadrons between September 1943 and July 1944. She was lost, along with pilot Peter March Price of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, on July 27, 1944 in the battlefields of France.

Canadian James Donald Inches, whose family lives on Vancouver Island, had once flown JP843 in July 1944.

For more information about the project, visit and

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