Perhaps one of the most iconic aircraft and automobiles of all time share the same name: Mustang.
And what better place to see both than at Oshkosh? This is a fairly rare P-51B, one of 1,988 built. Note the “turtleback” fuselage which has pretty poor visibility to the rear.
You can usually decode the year of manufacture from the serial number – this copy was likely built in 1943.
While not as roomy as the cockpit of a P-47 Thunderbolt (which had a radial engine, and thus a large cross-section through the fuselage), the Mustang was positively cavernous when compared to the Spitfire.
While this looks like a Mustang, and indeed is based on the same airframe, this is actually the A-36 dive bomber and attack aircraft. I’ve only seen one other copy of these in the wild – there were only 500 built.
Those slotted panels are the dive flaps, which allowed a steeper angle of descent without building up excessive speed. Both the A-36 and P-51 were fast enough in a dive to experience localized areas where airflow exceeded the speed of sound, and at least one A-36 shed its wings in a dive possibly due to the buffeting and pressures involved. Folks didn’t understand this phenomenon well at the time, and some groups actually had the dive brakes wired closed, thinking they were the cause of the problem.
The A-36 also carried a pair of .50 caliber chin guns. It was powered by the Allison engine, which, not having a two-stage turbo, never worked out well for the early P-51s (thus the changeover to the RR Merlin, which performed brilliantly at altitude). The Allison worked very well at lower altitudes, and was well suited to the A-36’s mission. The weak spot of both the P-51 and A-36 was the cooling system – the radiator was in the scoop under the fuselage with a good bit of plumbing running up to the engine – ground fire could easily puncture something vital.
Shifting gears a bit, the Ford pavilion had a Mustang show running, with a nice selection of well-restored cars. Some were obvious trailer queens, but others looked like regular drivers.
Love the red striped sidewall tires on this car (a ’65, I believe, going by the “batwing” side scoops) – it had every factory option except air conditioning.
This would be a ’71-’73 model (pipe in if you know the exact model). Engine options ranged from the 250 “Thriftpower” six to the 429 Super Cobra Jet V8.
This clean ’66 is more to my tastes. My high school best friend had a ’65 coupe which I remember fondly.
Another ’66 with optional fog lights. Somehow I conveniently forgot to take any photos of the sole Mustang II.
Ah, Mr. Shelby rears his head!
This appears to be a ’67-’68 model.
If I recall correctly, didn’t the taillights blink sequentially?
Ah, the presence of the Cobra name must make this a ’68 model.
For comparison, we’ll take a look at the original 1965 Shelby Mustang.
These cars used a modified 289 cu in (4.7 L) V8, which made 306 hp.
The “LeMans” stripes running the length of the top of the car were not on most early G.T. 350s (only 28%), which would normally be painted Wimbledon White with Guardsman Blue rocker stripes. Most of these early Shelbys have had the stripes added since, either by the original Dealer, or by subsequent owners.
Coming full circle, let’s move from this iconic Mustang back to another one parked out on the ramp:
That’s another P-51B, and the red tail gives it away as belonging to the 332nd Fighter Group, better known as the Tuskegee Airmen.
My Great Uncle was a flight instructor at Tuskegee, and passed before I ever got to ask him in detail about his experiences. It’s been my privilege to speak with close to a dozen Tuskegee pilots, including Charles McGee (shown below), who holds an Air Force record of 409 fighter combat missions flown in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
So there you have it. Linked in name only, both “vehicles” have etched a permanent place in history, albeit at different times and for different reasons. Both went on to enjoy storied careers in racing, too, and both rightfully have their place in automotive and aviation museums around the globe.