What Our Members Are Building/Restoring: Arkansas Piper J-3 Cub

By James Terry Steed, EAA 83905

This story started in
August 1938 on a 40-acre cotton field near the Hempstead County line in
Southwest Arkansas. My dad was 12 years old and saw a J-3 Cub that was flying
on a cross-country trip. Dad made a promise to himself that one day he would
own one of those yellow Cubs.

In the period of time
until 1952 when I was born, my dad bought five different Cub projects. But, in
every case, he had to go back and cancel the deal because my mother was so mad
at him for spending their money that way. He simply had the dream and would not
let it die. One night in 1965, the whole family was at the dinner table having
supper. I asked my dad if it was okay for me to buy a scooter. I told him that
I wanted to pay for it by getting a paper route and learning to manage money.

“You don’t want or need
one of those motorcycles, but if you leave that idea alone, we will together
find a J-3 Cub project that we can rebuild,” he said.

Dad went to work and
found NC70935 in Chicago. The gentleman who sold it to us told my dad it was
ready to re-cover with fabric and he would deliver it to Arkansas for $650. The
money was sent, and the project was delivered with two damaged spars. The seller
took those wing panels back to his shop in Chicago to fix them, but we never
heard from him again. Dad was just sick and was about to give up and take the
project to the dump when he asked a friend to come over to the house and look
at the project. With his friend’s help, it took four years to complete the

A few years later, in
1973, while I was in college, my dad and my uncle, Lloyd Toll, redid the
fuselage. In November of that year, my father died without warning. He was 47
when it happened. I was totally lost. I knew that one day I simply had to
finish the second restoration in honor of him. I kept saying, “Just give me six
more months and I can start.” Then it happened: The love of my life walked by
me in the student union at college. This long-haired blonde in a black leather miniskirt
and heels looked back over her shoulder and winked at me. We celebrated our
42nd wedding anniversary this last June, and it has really been a glorious
ride. Beverly has blessed me with three daughters who have made my life really

One day about six years
ago, my bride said to me, “Why don’t you finish the restoration of your dad’s
Cub?” That was all that was needed to be said. I found a shop in 2008 and spent
thousands of dollars on the restoration, but the work was substandard. I
removed all the work that I paid for from the airframe and started over. This
was the best choice for the restoration.

I was lucky enough to get
Robbie and Brian Staton at Central Arkansas Aircraft Repair to help me finish
the second restoration of my dad’s Cub. The results of our J-3 when it rolled
out of the shop were breathtaking. My daughter Shelly told me just after the
first flight in 45 years, “Dad, you have been trying to finish Grandpa’s Cub my
entire life. Just look, there it is.” I totally lost it.

Robbie wanted the Cub at their booth at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2018. I got Dane Pruitt to fly with me on the trip. On Thursday, July 19, at 9:12 a.m., I hit the blue dot on Runway 18 dead center and then taxied into the grass at center stage. The feelings were overwhelming! I had flown Dad’s J-3 Cub to the big show. The week of activity just flew by. On Friday of the show, a golf cart full of judges pulled up in front of the Cub. All of them had grins on their faces, and I was informed that NC70935 was an award-winning vintage airplane.

What a journey it has been to get this memorial to my dad. I am truly blessed beyond belief. I called Beverly and totally lost it. Some of my family was present on Saturday night at the awards presentation. It was humbling to stand in front of my peers and my family and accept a Bronze Lindy for the Best Classic Class l (0-85 hp) aircraft at Oshkosh. For those who helped this miracle to happen, I am so thankful. How do I truly say thanks to everyone for an honor such as this? All I can say is thank you, Lord, for EAA, the Vintage Aircraft Association, my wife, Beverly, and all our family and friends! What a wonderful ride my life has been.

Share your craftsmanship with EAA Sport Aviation readers
worldwide! Send us a
photo and description of your project
 and we’ll consider using
it in the What Our Members Are Building/Restoring section of the magazine.
Please include your name, address, and EAA number. 

Post Comments