An airworthy Spitfire that shot down a Luftwaffe fighter during the Second World War has failed to sell at auction.
Auctioneer Bonhams/Cars had estimated the iconic Royal Air Force fighter as being worth between £3.5m and £4.5m.
The 1943 Supermarine Spitfire Mark IX, chassis number MH415, starred in epic 1960s war films Battle of Britain and The Longest Day, and is understood to still be composed of more than 95% original parts.
It spent more than 35 years languishing on a ranch in Texas before being restored to airworthiness over a period of six years.
MH415 was delivered to 129 Squadron at RAF Hornchurch in August 1943 and claimed a victory just a month later, shooting down a Luftwaffe Focke-Wulf 190 over France.
The Spitfire was being flown by Flying Officer Desmond F Ruchwaldy during Ramrod 242, a mission to escort 12 Mitchell bombers that were attacking railway marshalling yards in Amiens.
MH415 has only flown 30 hours since its 21st Century restoration.
Famous for dogfights with its Axis counterparts and rumoured to have tipped V-1 flying bombs out of the sky using its wings, the iconic Spitfire - of which more than 20,000 were built - is much-loved by aviation enthusiasts around the world.
Introduced in 1942, the Mark IX derivative was a response to the constant evolution of German fighter technology.
MH415 was ordered from Vickers-Armstrong on 28 May 1942 and built in the summer of 1943 at the Castle Bromwich Aircraft Factory as a low-altitude LF IXB with a Rolls-Royce Merlin 66 engine as part of batch MH413-456.
Once in Hornchurch, MH415 became the personal aircraft of Squadron Leader Henri Gonay, a Belgian RAF pilot who had flown in the Battle of Britain.
MH415 was then transferred to 222 Squadron in October 1943 and flew 18 missions with the squadron, predominantly bomber escort duties over northern France.
The Spitfire was transferred to several other RAF units during the Second World War and underwent repairs and modifications due to damage.
At the end of the war, MH415 along with a number of other Spitfires, was sold to the Dutch government.
From there it spent the next 15 years flying with the Royal Netherlands Air Force and Belgian Air Force before being leased in 1961 for the film The Longest Day, which was filmed on location in France.
Five years later, MH415 was bought for an undisclosed sum to appear in British war film Battle of Britain.
However, it wasn't until 1968 that MH415, along with other Spitfires and some Spanish-built versions of the Messerschmitt 109 - the backbone of the Luftwaffe's fighter arm - were flown out to Montpellier in southern France to film the flying scenes.
One of the pilots who flew the Spitfire, Wilson 'Connie' Edwards, eventually took ownership of MH415.
However, the aircraft lay dormant at Mr Edwards' ranch in Texas from late 1978 until it was sold in 2015 and shipped to Vintage Fighter Restorations in New South Wales, Australia, for an extensive restoration.
Six years later, the Spitfire was shipped to vintage aircraft specialist Air Leasing Ltd of Northampton and the final touches were added prior to successful test flying in 2021.
Of what it's like to fly MH415 today, Spitfire expert Richard Grace, speaking with Aeroplane magazine in February 2022, sad: "It flies like an old aeroplane right out of the box, which is a good thing... with a bit of fettling here and there it immediately turned into just a lovely, lovely aeroplane.
"It's every bit of what you'd imagine a Spitfire would fly like."
The Spitfire has been finished in its 222 Squadron markings, carrying the codes ZD-E and has performed at air shows throughout the UK.