Rudy Kling, the son of a German immigrant and the sixth of 11 children, grew up on a farm west of Lemont.

Despite his skill with automobiles, his real love was airplanes. Kling attended night classes at Joliet Township High School to learn navigation. There he befriended a man who would have a major impact on his life: Art Chester, a Downers Grove racer who designed his own planes and co-creator of the P-51 Mustang, one of the top fighters of World War II.

Kling became fascinated with high-performance racing planes. In 1933, he bought Miss San Francisco I, a racer damaged after its gas tank exploded during the Chicago Air Races earlier that year. The plane, a Keith Rider R-1, had won a slew of races over the prior three years. He finally had his own racing plane. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find anywhere to fly it competitively. The plane was raced throughout 1934 and 1935 with Roger Don Rae at the controls. Kling modified the plane again in 1936 and painted it blue with cream trim and rechristened it Suzy. The plane was wrecked following a race in Los Angeles later that year. Kling, though bruised and bloodied, escaped with minor injuries. Next time he would not be so lucky.

In 1937, racing in his new plane, Jupiter, Pride of Lemont, Kling broke speed records across the country while winning three major competitions: the Thompson, the Henderson and the Greve trophy races. On December 3, 1937, his 29th birthday, Kling was turning Jupiter around the first pylon of a race in Miami when it was forced down by atmospheric conditions. Jupiter hit the ground at more than 200 miles per hour, killing Kling.

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