Taylorcraft 20 Ranchwagon / Zephyr 400
The Taylorcraft 20 Ranch Wagon, later dubbed the Zephyr 400, covered with Fiberglas that was intended to be the best seller. The use of Fiberglas shells over the steel fuselage was considered a technological breakthrough, and Taylorcraft dubbed it "The bulletproof vest with wings." In all, there was nearly 40 Model 20s made.
Each one was made on demand, and therefore, each was slightly different. Some of those differences would appear around the windows or doors or other nonstructural areas, former Taylorcraft engineer Jack Gilberti said. A fourth door was optional with the 15A and 20.
The model 20 was based on the 15A, but was different in three ways: It had a 225-horsepower Continental O-470 engine and the maximum gross weight jumped from 2,200 pounds to 2,750 pounds. It also had Fiberglas wing skins, gas tanks, and seats, and was among the first airplanes ever to make such extensive use of Fiberglas.
They needed something to stimulate sales, Gilberti said, and thought up the Fiberglas idea. He said it was the first use of Fiberglas covering on an aircraft. The company sought help from a man across town who made Fiberglas boats. Workers took the bare steel-tube frame, wrapped it with chicken wire, and slathered it with plaster of paris to make a mold for the Fiberglas. The aircraft was then touted in Taylorcraft ads in 1956 as the "new Fiberglas Taylorcraft, the most advanced design for safer flying." During demonstrations journalists were invited to hit the airplane with a hammer to demonstrate the aircraft's toughness, and it was no lie. Photos of two Model 20s that crashed in wooded areas show the fuselage intact; the passengers were unharmed. "It was a tank," Gilberti said.