Automotive legend Bob Lutz is creating an aviation legacy too, one 1:36 model at a time

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Bob Lutz with DC-3 model
Bob Lutz and the 1:36-scale DC-3 model that he built from scratch. EAA Museum

Bob Lutz is more than a car guy. He’s also a former U.S. Marine Corps aviator, collector, and talented model builder—one very talented model builder.

Lutz, who led Ford Motor Company, Chrysler Corporation, and General Motors during a long and illustrious automotive career, recently donated one of his recent from-scratch model builds to the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The amazingly accurate 1:36-scale DC-3 will hang alongside a 1:36-scale D-LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin near the entrance. The D-LZ 130 was built by Lutz’s friend and fellow modeling enthusiast John Mellberg, an EAA Aviation Museum docent.

The 89-year-old Lutz has been building aircraft models since he was a child during World War II. He began by building paper models from books, then progressed to plastic models. He switched to scratch-built paper models—actually created from card stock—and estimates that he has created 50 or so in recent years.

Bob Lutz - DC-3 model
EAA Museum

It took Lutz about a month to build the DC-3 model. It represents American Airlines’ Flagship Virginia, which shuttled passengers back and forth from New York to Lakehurst Naval Air Station in New Jersey. Lutz used aluminum-coated paper, which he says is difficult to work with but makes the model appear true to life.

“It exfoliates very easily, so the metal delaminates,” Lutz told the EAA. “It’s an absolute nightmare to work with, but if you can wrestle it to the ground it does make for a realistic (appearance).”

Lutz, a member of the Automotive Hall of Fame, says his model and Mellberg’s are directly connected because the actual LZ 129 Hindenburg Zeppelin would dock at Lakehurst Naval Air Station when on the East Coast. Lutz says Mellberg suggested he create a DC-3 model so the two could be displayed together at the EEA Museum.

Bob Lutz - DC-3 model (Zeppelin model)
The 1:36-scale D-LZ 130 Graf Zeppelin built by John Mellberg. Notice the much smaller DC-3 model sitting on the glass case below it. EAA Museum

“John said, ‘Well, if you’d ever really like to have a model displayed at EAA, we could really use a 1:36 model of a DC-3 to go with the Graf Zeppelin,” Lutz explains. “I kind of resisted it for a long time because I didn’t feel like making a DC-3, but I finally did. It will be an interesting contrast … To make a DC-3 look tiny (compared to the Graf Zeppelin) is unbelievable.”

The EAA says Lutz is already working on his next scale model, a P-51D Mustang Paul I. He took dozens of photographs of the museum’s P-51D Mustang Paul I for reference.

The automotive legend is creating a legacy in aviation, too.

Bob Lutz - DC-3 model close-up
EAA Museum

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