In 1939, the British
Purchasing Agency came to America to buy aircraft for
the war that had just started in Europe.
Having experience with Curtiss P-40ís (of Flying
Tiger fame) they purchased all that Curtiss could build
they approached North American Aviation to build P-40ís
for them, the company was not too excited about building
a competitors aircraft but offered that they could build
a new fighter using the same American-built Allison engine. The British agreed, but on the condition that the aircraft
had to be flying in no more than 120 days.
117 days later, the first P-51 flew.
Named the Mustang
by the British, the P-51A was a great low altitude airplane
but could not compete at altitude with the Spitfires powered
by the British Rolls Royce Merlin engine.
With a more sophisticated supercharger, the Merlin
could maintain its rated power to a much higher altitude
than the Allison.
Merlin powered Mustangs were tested, and a great
fighter was born.
The first Merlin powered Mustangs were designated
P-51 Bís and Cís, the only difference being that the Bís
were built in Long Beach, California and the Cís in Dallas,
With the Mustangs
ability to carry large, external fuel tanks, and the Merlinís
good fuel economy the air war in Europe began to take
on a different look.
With over 450 gallons of fuel, the Mustangs now
had a range of over 2,000 miles, and had the capability
to escort the bombers on their entire long-range missions.
Deadly, fast, high-flying and fuel-efficient, the
Mustang became known as the plane that defeated the Luftwaffe
in World War II.
While the government
originally paid almost $40,000 for a P-51, they could
be bought for less than $5,000 when they were sold surplus
after the war. This
aircraft was one of two P-51Cís purchased by famous movie-pilot,
Paul Mantz. The
famous Bendix Transcontinental Race had been postponed
for 7 years because of the war.
When it began back up again, Mantz modified both
P-51ís to enter.
He modified the wings to hold an additional 406
gallons of fuel. This additional fuel, combined with the Mustangs normal 269
gallons, allowed the aircraft to make the trip non-stop
without the drag of having to use external fuel tanks.
In this aircraft, Mantz won the Bendix race in
1948. His other P-51C won the race in 1946 and 1947 and was later
purchased and flown over the North Pole by Charlie Blair.
Charlie later sold his aircraft to the National
Air and Space Museum.
Kermit acquired this aircraft when he purchased
the Tallmantz Collection in 1985.
There are only 4 original P-51B/C aircraft left
in the world.
This aircraft sat for many years and
had not flown since 1954 when Kermit sent the wing up
to Cal Pacific Airmotive in Salinas, California.
Art Teeters, his son Dave and crew specialize in
Because of the sealant Mantz used in the wing,
there was serious corrosion and much of the wing was made
new. A decision
was made early on to restore the aircraft back to a military
would be a big job as Mantz had extensively modified the
of the military equipment was discarded and covered over.
Meticulously restored, it is without a doubt the
nicest and rarest P-51 Mustang in the world today.
It received the prestigious ďGrand ChampionĒ Warbird
Award at the 2000 AirVenture event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
This aircraft was painted in the
red tail colors of the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the
first Black Americans to fly combat in World War II.
The Tuskegee pilots had to not only endure the
rigors of training and combat, but the hardships of prejudice
and racism of the time.
In the last days of the war, they were requested
by bomber crews for escorts as their reputation for protecting
the bombers grew.
Tuskegee pilots stood out for being the only group
to never have lost a bomber to enemy aircraft.
This particular paint scheme is that of Lt. Col.
Lee ďBuddyĒ Archer.
He became the only Tuskegee pilot to shoot down
5 enemy aircraft. Lee, who is still alive and well, came out to Salinas to watch
the initial test flights and finished off the successful
restoration by signing his name to the armor plate behind
the pilots seat.
Because of Kermitís effort in promoting
the Tuskegee story and honoring them, the Tuskegee Pilots
Association returned the honor by nationally voting Kermit
in as an Honorary Tuskegee Airman at their National
Convention in 2002.
was built in Dallas. On May 1, 1944 the Army Air Service took delivery of this aircraft
at Lakeland, Florida, just down the road from Fantasy
There are many honorary Tuskegee members, but the only
other person to be nationally recognized was famous black
entertainer Leana Horne during World War II.