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'Out of Africa' Gipsy Moth goes under the hammer

A piece of Hollywood history can be yours

The 1929 de Havilland DH60M Gipsy Moth flown by Robert Redford’s character Denys Finch Hatton in the award-winning 1985 movie Out of Africa is being offered for auction by RM Sotheby’s in Miami on March 2.

Photo courtesy of RM Sotheby's.

Lot 225, as the Gipsy Moth is listed, is a U.S.-built model with an all-metal frame (earlier models had a wooden frame). It flew in the United Kingdom under its original N585M registration, until it was registered in 1980 as G-AAMY, honoring Amy Johnson, the first woman to fly from England to Australia in a Gipsy Moth.

For Out of Africa, the aircraft was temporarily relettered G-AAMT. According to the lot’s detailed description on RM Sotheby’s website, the owner at the time, Cliff Lovell, made the Gipsy Moth available for filming, rebuilding the engine before dismantling the aircraft and shipping it to Nairobi, Kenya, where it was reassembled and appeared in many shots. The movie won seven Academy Awards, including one for best cinematography, which was greatly attributed to scenes showcasing the Gipsy Moth, including a four-minute sequence featuring the iconic shot of the aircraft flying over a flock of flamingos.

Subsequent owners include Moth pilot Roger Fiennes and Dutch car collector Evert Louwman, both of whom maintained and flew the aircraft. In 2013, it was sold at auction in Paris for the equivalent of about $280,000 at the time to a bidder from Kenya who continued to fly it until recently in Segera, Kenya.

RM Sotheby’s website states that “G-AAMY is sold today on behalf of the owner to raise awareness and funds for the creation of a vast new rhinoceros sanctuary in Central Kenya.” Proceeds will go entirely to the ZEITZ foundation, a nonprofit organization registered in Germany and Kenya and founded by the current owner of the Gipsy Moth, Jochen Zeitz. According to the annual report on the foundation’s website, the group plans to “advance plans to establish The Laikipia Rhino Sanctuary on Segera through strengthening the capacity of the Anti-Poaching Ranger Unit, establishing the suitable infrastructure, acquiring the required equipment—including a modified drone to support operations—and continued fundraising to partially cover the first phase of the project.”

It stands to reason that Finch Hatton would have approved. No one will ever know. However, Redford, who played the character in Out of Africa, endorses the sale and the project. He wrote in a signed letter (included with the auction listing), “This important initiative will not only help secure the survival of a critically endangered species but will conserve vital biodiversity and pristine wilderness for future generations and create significant positive socio-economic impact for local communities. The larger plan for interconnectivity with other conservation land will create a vast protected wilderness area and even more positive impact for the people and planet.” The letter continues, “I couldn’t think of a better way to raise funds for this ground-breaking project than through the auction of one of the most iconic airplanes in history, G-AAMY, the 1929 Gipsy Moth biplane featured in the film Out of Africa, in which I starred as Denys Finch Hatton.”

The Gipsy Moth will be on site at the Biltmore Hotel in Miami, where the auction will take place. Asked about how it would get there, de Havilland Moth specialist Henry Labouchere, who has cared for the aircraft for decades, told AOPA in an email that it was flown from Segera to Nanyuki, Kenya, where it was derigged, and was meant to be shipped directly to Miami. However, due to the unstable situation in the Red Sea, it ended up in New York instead and was trucked to Miami, where Labouchere is assembling it to be ready for the auction.

“A vintage aircraft of unusual historical significance and with a rich history, this is among the finest surviving Gipsy Moths, as well as an icon of modern Hollywood filmmaking familiar to any moviegoer—and one that can still be enjoyed by its new owner!” concludes the final sentence on RM Sotheby’s website. It can be yours. The estimated auction price ranges between $140,000 and $220,000. Register to bid.

Sylvia Schneider Horne
Digital Media Editor
Sylvia Schneider Horne is a digital media editor for AOPA's eMedia division.
Topics: Vintage

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