Deciphering Spartan Aircraft Designations for the 7 Series and Related Aircraft

by Jim Savage

From the mid 1930’s through the mid 1940’s, Spartan Aircraft Company produced a number of different low wing cabin monoplanes.  In addition, the company also produced brochures and marketing documents for several derivatives of production aircraft that were never actually built. The various forms of these monoplanes and monoplane concepts were sometimes referred to using official designations and sometimes with descriptive designations.  The following is an attempt to clarify the myriad of designations used to identify the various models.

7X – This is the official designation for the first of the monoplanes built by Spartan that are now generally referred to as Spartan Executives.  The 7 represented the seventh series of airplanes built by Spartan and the X was the designation for “Experimental.”   This experimental had the word “Executive” painted on the cowling soon after it was built and was the first to be referred to as a Spartan Executive. The serial number for this airplane was 7X-0.

Standard Seven – This was a short-lived marketing title that originated in 1936.  When the 7X was first flown, it was powered by a 260 HP Jacobs engine and subsequently upgraded to a 285 HP Jacobs engine.   The company envisioned a more powerful model with a 450 HP Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine.  To differentiate the two models, the Jacobs model would be referred to as the Standard Seven.

Super Seven – During the time when two models were envisioned, the more powerful model with the 450 HP Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior engine was referred to as the Super Seven for marketing purposes.

7J – This is an unofficial designation used to describe the Jacobs powered 7X.  If Spartan had actually followed through with their plan for producing a “Standard Seven” powered by a Jacobs engine, 7J would likely have become the official designation.  

7W – This is the official designation for the 34 production aircraft built in accordance with the provisions of Type Certificate 628.  The serial numbers for these airplanes ran from 7W-1 through 7W-34.  In this designation, the 7 again refers to the seventh series of airplanes built by Spartan and the W signifies the Wasp Junior engine.

7WF – This is another marketing concept and not an actual airplane.  The designation represents a basic 7W, modified with armament to a “Fighter” configuration.  Although a marketing brochure was prepared, the airplane shown was an artist’s rendering and not a photograph of an actual modified airframe.  

7WP – The second 7 series airframe built was a transition from the 7X to the 7W.  It initially incorporated features from the 7X such as a fixed pitch propeller, 24 inch wheels and an unusual landing gear design with the external structure and Pratt & Whitney engine that would ultimately be used in the production 7W’s. Although initially completed in September 1936, prior to the completion of the first production 7W, the airplane was then modified into a unique arrangement.  The wheels, landing gear and propeller were modified to the 7W specifications.  The center section of the airplane was further modified for photoreconnaissance duties.  The extent of the modifications required the issuance of a new Type Certificate, number 646.  Only one example was built and the serial number was 7WP-1

7P – This is an unofficial designation that is sometimes used to describe the 7WP.

8W – This is the official designation for an experimental two seat tandem military trainer. The airframe is essentially the same as was used for the 7W, but with the center section modified from a five seat to a two seat configuration.  In addition, the engine used was a 550/600 HP Pratt & Whitney Wasp versus the Wasp Junior used in the 7W.  Since this was a new series of aircraft, it was designated with an 8 in the identifier and they chose the W for the Wasp engine.  With hindsight, use of a W for both the Wasp and Wasp Junior engines for the 8W and 7W airplanes probably wasn’t the best choice. Only one 8W was built with serial number 8W-1

Zeus – This was the marketing name given to the 8W.  

FBW-1 – This is a marketing concept that is a derivative of the 8W Zeus.  The intended role of the airplane was Fighter-Bomber.  None were built. 

12W – This was a post war model with a nose wheel versus the tail wheel configuration of earlier models. Although bearing a resemblance to the earlier 7W’s, it is clearly a different model.  The engine was the same Pratt & Whitney Wasp Junior used on the 7W’s .

Spartan Executive – This is the name used to describe many of the above airplanes for their anticipated role in transporting executives.  Clearly the 7X fits that role as do the thirty-four 7W’s produced. The 12W also seems to fit the criteria. While the 7WP looks exactly like a 7W, referring to it as an “Executive” seems to be a bit of a stretch due to its photoreconnaissance modifications.