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A Brief History

General Motors / Eastern Aircraft produced 5,280 FM variants of the Wildcat. Grumman's Wildcat production ceased in early 1943 but General Motors continued producing Wildcats for both U.S. Navy and Fleet Air Arm use. Late in the war, the Wildcat was obsolescent as a front line fighter. However, they were adequate for small escort carriers against submarine and shore threats. These relatively modest ships carried only two types of aircraft. The Wildcat's lower landing speed and ability to take off without a catapult made it more suitable for shorter flight decks. At first, GM produced the FM-1, identical to the F4F-4, but reduced the number of guns to four, and added wing racks for two 250 lb (110 kg) bombs or six rockets. Production later switched to the improved FM-2 optimized for small-carrier operations, with a more powerful engine (the 1,350 hp Wright R-1820-56), and a taller tail to cope with the torque.

434th Fighter Squadron
Tasked with supporting ground forces off Leyte, sorely under-armed aircraft from escort carriers such as Gambier Bay in the "Taffy" task groups found themselves up against a major surface fleet, which they helped turn back in the Battle off Samar. Four FM-2 Wildcats from Shamrock Bay's Composite Squadron 94 (VC-94) helped shoot down a number of kamikaze aircraft attacking the USS Laffey off Okinawa before running out of ammunition.

The FM-2 Wildcat BuNo. 86774 was built in the General motors factory in Trenton, New Jersey, on August 17, 1945. This Wildcat was one of the few warbirds that did not get scrapped, but went into civilian use. It spent it’s early years as a Hollywood prop, until it was purchased in 1957 to be added to the Air Museum of Route 66. The Museum partially restored the FM-2. Eventually, it was aquired by Wild Warbirds Inc. for complete restoration.



One Wright R-1820-56A

1350hp on Take-Off

5,448 lbs. Empty
8,271 lbs. Gross

Wingspan: 28 '
Length: 28' 11"
Height: 11' 5"

4 x .5-in. Machine Guns
2 x 150 lb bombs or six 5-in. rockets

Maximum speed: 332 mph
Cruising speed: 164 mph
Range: 900 miles
Ceiling: 34,700 feet