Famous American Racers

By Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aviation Artist/Historian

This Air Racer won the 1949 First Place Tinnerman Trophy and the 1949 Third Place Thompson Trophy.

Tinnerman Trophy Winner 1949

There are 600 limited edition prints in this series. Print Size, 12x18"

Limited Edition, Signed by Cook Cleland and the Artist. $60.00

$6.00 Shipping anywhere in the world.

Poster Print $14.95 Signed by the Artist only.

This is my painting of Cook's #57. The size is 2x4 feet and has been autographed by Cook Cleland. This painting is available for sale.

The 1949 Thompson Trophy Race #57

The most powerful Corsair ever built was the Goodyear F2G powered by the Pratt & Whitney R-4360-4 Wasp Major engine. Impressed with the brute strength of the Goodyear F2G, the primary test pilot Don Armstrong dubbed the Corsair "Homesick Angel". “All it wanted to do was climb!”

Cook purchased his fourth and final Corsair F2G-1 illustrated above from Navy surplus. Cook intended to use the Corsair for spare parts to service his other two racers #74 and #94 in the 1949 National Air Races in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleland however gave teammate Ben McKillen Jr. the honor of flying this aircraft in both the Thompson Trophy in which he won 3rd place and in the Tinnerman air race taking 1st place that year.

Cleland's #57 Corsair BUNO 88458, Civil Race #N5588N was Goodyear's last production series of the F2G-1. The Corsair was stricken from naval records at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland on December 31, 1947. On January 7, 1948, the Corsair was flown to Bush Field in Augusta, Georgia for temporary storage before it was available for sale and conversion to a first class racer.

Cleland's engineer was Lenny DeFranco. The number 57 was assigned to the racer, which ironically was the same number that was used by the famous three-time Thompson Trophy winner Roscoe Turner in the 1930's. Respectfully DeFranco wanted to do something different with the number to make it totally different from the style used by Roscoe Turner.

DeFranco recalled that late one night at 2:30AM, he and Art Barker were eating hotdogs at Cleland's Air Services. Before them sat a bottle of Heinz 57 ketchup. While chewing on their hotdogs the thought "That's it!" came to DeFranco and the number 57 was painted like the 57 on the ketchup bottle.

1949 proved to be the last year of the Cleveland National Air Races. Cook Cleland flew #57 one more time in 1950 in an air show over his own airfield in Willoughby, Ohio. Cook preformed marvelous aerial maneuvers for the spectators before landing and parking the aircraft for his last time. Cook's air racing came to an end as the Korean War drew him back into flying Corsairs in combat for the United States Navy.

Over the years the records of #57 were misplaced and its origin became a mystery. Sean Dedolph, Cook Cleland's grandson discovered Cook's U.S. Navy logbook, which authenticates the origin of this Corsair.

By 1995, #57 had changed hands a half-dozen times until Bob Odegaard purchased it. Odegaard spent over 12,000 hours to restore the Corsair as it is today. Corsair #57 won Odegaard the prestigious Rolls Royce Aviation Heritage Trophy in 1999 at the Reno National Championship Air Races.

Corsair #57 has been described as the most beautiful of the post war racers. This Goodyear F2G-1, #57, has been reborn to its past glory to relive today. Odegaard flies this Corsair at many national air shows and millions have had the unique opportunity to hear the roar of the huge Pratt & Whitney as Bob flies for the spectators. Its beauty and grace, along with its brute strength will inspire all and hopefully inspire a young man or woman to follow aviation and carry on the inspiration that Cook Cleland beheld and lived in his rich life as an American Naval Aviator and a famous air racer.

This is a rare color photo showing all three of Cook’s racers.

Here is #57 as it is taxied.

Cleland and a copy of the Thompson Trophy at the Pensacola Navy Museum.

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All research, writings and artwork are by Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette.

No one is permitted to republish any part of this story with out my personal permission.

Please call or e-mail me for any use of this story.

I do not mind sharing, just call or e-mail and ask for permission.

Sir Ernie Hamilton Boyette

Aviation Artist/Historian

107 Arthur Moore Drive

Green Cove Springs, Florida 32043

E-Mail Address: aviationartstore@peoplepc.com