Harry Crosby designed the all-metal CR-4 racer while recuperating from serious back injuries sustained in the crash of its predecessor, the CR-3. The CR-4 incorporated butt joints, flush riveting, and stress skin construction, and was designed to carry a 420 hp ranger V-12 engine. When plans for procuring that engine fell through, Crosby used the Menasco Super Buccaneer from the CR-3.
The airplane first flew in April 1938, but, dogged by engine and gear problems, it didn’t race until 1939. At the 1939 Greve, Crosby was awarded third place despite being flagged down in the 13th lap. He took fourth in the Thompson that year, with an average speed of 244.522 mph. After the race, Crosby and his crew kept the plane in Cleveland to be filmed for the movie Tailspin before trailering it back to California. There the CR-4 spent a few days in a sound stage for engine noise recording and cockpit close-ups for the film.
Before being stored in Crosby’s shop in Burbank, the plane was unofficially clocked at 386 mph, a speed that would have made it faster than Howard Hughes’ racer. Crosby went on to test planes for Northrop, and was ultimately killed testing the XP-79B.
Shortly after the end of World War II, an Air Force pilot named Harry Austell purchased the CR-4 from Crosby’s widow. He intended to restore and race the plane, but Austell apparently never completed that restoration, and the CR-4 itself disappeared. That is until Morton Lester, following up a tip from a friend, discovered the plane’s fuselage on a farm outside Norlina, NC. More searching through the farm’s outbuildings turned up nothing, until Lester looked inside a disused school bus parked in the woods. There he found the plane’s wing panels, landing gear doors, flaps, and other smaller pieces.
Restoration of the plane was begun by Lester and completed by the EAA staff after the aircraft was donated to the museum.
Engine: Menasco C6S-4 Super Buccaneer, 260 hp
Length: 21 ft. 6 in.
Wingspan: 16 ft.
Tailspan: 6 ft. 1 in.
Empty weight: 1540 lbs.
Propeller diameter: 6 ft.
Top recorded speed: 244.52 mph