This is truly a magnificent Mustang which underwent very accurate and detailed restoration work.
42-103831 was built on NAA's production line in Dallas, Texas in 1942. It is not clear whether this particular P-51C saw any action during WWII. The first documented history on this airframe is that, after being declared surplus by the USAAF, it was stored at Stillwater AFB in Oklahoma.
On February 19th, 1946, it was sold to Paul Mantz of Glendale, California. Mantz was a noted air racing pilot, movie stunt pilot and consultant from the late 1930s until his death in the mid-1960s. He used the Mustang as a race plane in the Bendix races.
42-103831 was registered as NX1204 and was raced in 1946 as #46 “Latin American”. Mantz further developed the aircraft into one of the hottest cross-country air racers. Along with another P-51C owned by Mantz, both aircraft won the Bendix races from 1946 through 1948, setting a new Bendix speed record in the process with an average of 435.5 mph (700.71 km/h).
In 1948 the Mustang was reregistered as N1204 and it was retired in 1950, when it became registered to the Tallmantz Aviation at the Movieland of the Air Museum at Orange County, California. There it was displayed in front of the museum hangar, but still regularly took to the skies with either Mantz or Paul Tallman at the controls.
It remained on display until 1984, before being sold to Kermit Weeks in 1985. At that time she was put into storage, awaiting its time to be restored.
This time came two years later, when Weeks contacted Cal Pacific Airmotive of Salinas, California, to rebuild the aircraft's wings.
A complete rebuild of the wings was necessary because during the aircraft's racing career, the wings were altered to a “wet” configuration. This means that the entire gun and ammunition bay sections were stripped out and that the interior surface of the wings had been sealed to carry fuel.
Massive corrosion was also found in both wings, leading to the installation of several new wing ribs as well as new main and rear spar assemblies. Since none were available, they were newly manufactured by Cal Pacific Airmotive, as were hundreds of other parts.
New gun bay ammunition webs, were fabricated and installed, as were all gun mounts and castings, new wing skins and new stress doors for the wing fuel tanks.
The wings were restored using a large jig fixture which was specifically manufactured to accommodate P-51C wings in order to guarantee the correct flight characteristics. On completion of both wings, the mainplane was removed from the jig fixture and bolted together in a wing stand.
The main landing gear had been overhauled and was installed. The gun doors were cleaned, restored and new outer skins were spot-welded as per the original process at NAA.
One of the final tasks in restoring the wings was to fabricate the new gun port leading edges as the originals were removed due to the “wet” configuration in its racing days. Steel fixtures were manufactured with the gun ports hand formed and highly polished in order to match the finish of the rest of the aircraft. Art Teeter's team at Cal Pacific even fabricated a new lens for the port wing's leading edge landing light!
After the mainplane, it was the fuselages' turn to be restored. Again, severe corrosion was found, which led to the manufacturing and installation of four new fuselage longerons, new bulkheads and skins. About 90% of the cockpit enclosure mechanisms were manufactured as new.
New wooden floorboards were made, along with a new heating and ventilation system, again as per original NAA specifi-cations.
Coolant and oil tubes and new hydraulic and oxygen lines were fabricated, marked with the appropriate colored identification tapes and fitted.
Durint the restoration process it was decided to install Type I cadmium plated hardware and parts that have silver-color plating. Research shows that that's exactly what was used at NAA during WWII. Since most hardware today is Type II, which has gold-color plating, this required extensive stripping of all hardware, followed by considerable replating work.
Intensive work was done around the engine compartment as well:
- Four new engine mount beams for the bearers were installed
- The Lord mounts were sent out for refurbishment with new rubber
- The cowl formers were cleaned, stripped, inspected and repaired
- New side cowlings were made
- The upper and lower cowlings were reworked to eradicate corrosion
- All new dzus-fasteners were fitted as standard
The engine itself, a 1490-hp Packard Merlin V1650-7 was overhauled by Dwight Thorne in Hollister, California.
After all this, it was finally time to mate everything together: the mainplane, fuselage and engine. Work however was far from over, as it was now time to begin restoring most of the aircrafts' interior.
All of the Mustang's subassemblies were overhauled and restored to their original configuration. These included the hydraulics, oxygen bottles and all of the cockpit assemblies. New electrical wiring was installed throughout the aircraft, with identification marked horizontally along the wire, again as per original NAA specs.
Now we come to the items which make this particular P-51C a truly, absolutely magnificent piece of restoration.
- Fuel tanks:
- What really makes this Mustang an excellent restoration piece of art is that it is one of very few
P-51s with a completely working fuselage fuel tank. This required extensive research and
fabrication of all the appropriate systems and components
- This P-51 is equipped with original bulletproof self-sealing fuel tanks
- Armament & ammunition:
- Replica 0.50-calibre guns were installed
- an original gun camera was installed, albeit non-functional
- the ammunition boxes, feeds and chutes were fabricated from drawings
- blank ammunition shells were marked at the tips as tracer, incendiary or armor-piercing
incendiary and assembled into clips
- new bomb racks were cast from aluminium, all internal mechanisms for the shackles were made
and assembled as one unit
- The cockpit:
- a functional gunsight was fitted
- instrumentation is original, overhauled and even re-screened to resemble old radium dials
- the only modern equipment (a transceiver, transponder and encoder) is carefully concealed
- military radio equipment was refurbished and can be installed for static display only
Numerous hours were spent researching the Mustang's internal and external markings. Watertransfer markings were manufactured and positioned on the aircraft, again as per the originals, along with new phelonic and metal data plates. Even the propeller was stencilled, with the old-style Hartzell Propeller placards installed.
As far as the color scheme was concerned, Kermit Weeks decided to have the Mustang finished in a 302nd FS, 332nd FG “Tuskegee Airmen” color scheme based on “Ina The Macon Belle” which was flown by Lt. Col. Lee Archer during WWII.
Since Mr. Archer was still alive during the restoration of this aircraft, he helped out with providing the utmost accuracy for the paint scheme.
Working closely with an artist and studying old photos, the Zoot Suit character located on the aft port side of the fuselage was also brought back to life.
Restoration of the P-51C was interrupted on a few occasions as work was undertaken to rebuild Kermit Weeks's P-51D-25-NT 45-11507/N921 “Cripes A' Mighty 3rd ” which was badly damaged by Hurricane “Andrew” when it hit Florida on August 24th , 1992.
“Ina The Macon Belle” made its first post-restoration flight on November 30th , 2000. After some flight time in California to get acquainted by Kermit Weeks, the Mustang left the Cal Pacific Airmotive facility on March 31st , 2001.
As you might expect with such excellent attention to detail with this restoration project, the Mustang won several awards that year. It won the Grand Champion Warbird award at the EAA Sun ‘n Fun Fly-in and also the America Grand Champion WWII Warbird at EAA Oshkosh, along with a Golden Wrench Award for Art Teeter's team at Cal Pacific Airmotive.
Today, the aircraft is still in the hands of Kermit Weeks's Fantasy of Flight and can be admired at various events on a regular basis.
|Manufactured at NAA Dallas, Texas
In storage at Stillwater AFB in Oklahoma
Sold to Paul Mantz and raced as #46 and later #60 at Bendix races from 1946 through 1949
To Tallmantz Movieland of the Air Museum, Orange County, California
Sold to Kermit Weeks, Weeks Air Museum/Fantasy of Flight, Tamiami, Florida
Intensive restoration work began at Cal Pacific Airmotive, Salinas, California
First post-restoration flight on November 30th
Flown to Kermit Weeks's Museum at Polk City, Florida on March 31st
Grand Champion Warbird award at the EAA Sun ‘n Fun
Grand Champion WWII Warbird & Golden Wrench Award at EAA Oshkosh
This P-51C is repainted in the colours of the famous “Red Tails” or Tuskegee Airmen, more specifically as the personal Mustang of Lee Archer whilst assigned to the 302nd FS, 332nd FG.
When Archer received his, he named it “Ina The Macon Belle”, after his wife, Ina Burdell Archer. Originally he wanted to name his Mustang “The Macon Belle” as he didn't want to tell the other guys who she was. He remained angry at the Squadron Intelligence Officer who censored the mail and let the secret out. His Squadron mates then made him add “Ina” to the name.
The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of determined and dedicated young African American men who enlisted to become America's first black airmen. They were also constantly subject to racial discrimination, both within and outside the army. Despite these adversities, they trained and flew with distinction. The name “Tuskegee Airmen” was commonly used because those men were all trained at Tuskegee, Alabama.
Lt. Col. Lee Archer (a Captain when his combat duties during WWII were over) was one of those brave and determined men. After attending the New York University, he joined the Army in the hopes of becoming a pilot. After finally realizing his dream, he was assigned to the 302nd FS which saw combat duties in Northern Africa and later in Sicily and Italy.
Lee Archer flew 169 combat missions in the ETO and downed a total of 4 enemy aircraft. He also destroyed three enemy Me-109s on a single mission on October 12th , 1994 over Lake Balaton in Hungary.
A lot of websites and other media portrait Lee Archer as being the only African American “ace”, but this is not really true. Archer was acknowledged to have shot down four planes, and he and another pilot claimed victory for shooting down a fifth plane. An investigation revealed Mr. Archer had inflicted the damage that destroyed the plane, said Brown. The last kill was however never acknowledged by the USAF Historical Research Agency, strangely even not as a shared kill. He did however destroy an extra 6 enemy aircraft on various strafing missions.
Some state he's an ace, some state he has 4 kills or 4.5 kills. Whatever way you look at it, he's a hero.
|Archer, Lee A.
|| 1st Lieutenant
|Archer, Lee A.
|| 2nd Lieutenant
The paint scheme
P-51C-10-NT 42-103831 is painted in the colors of the notorious “red tails” or “Tuskegee Airmen” 302nd FS, 332nd FG of the 15th AF. The specific color scheme of this beautiful P-51C is that of Lt. Col. Lee A. Archer's “Ina The Macon Belle”.
The 332nd FG consisted of 4 squadrons: the 99th FS, the 100th FS, the 301st FS and the 302nd FS. Trademark for all 332nd FG aircraft, once they made the transition to the P-51B/C Mustangs in July of 1944, was an all red tail surface along with red spinners.
Distinction between the Fighter Squadrons was made in a different color trim tab on the rudder and a difference in color or profile of the 12-inch band just aft of the spinner was painted in a different color for each squadron.
The 99th FS carried blue trim tabs on the rudder and horizontal stabilizers and the 12-inch band just aft of the spinner was painted in a blue and white checkerboard. This was changed at a later stage to a solid blue band.
The 100th FS had black trim tabs on both the rudder and horizontal stabilizers. The 12-inch band was entirely red but had a blaze pointed aft (something like this: I>).
The 301st had white trim tabs on the rudder and horizontal stabilizers with a red 12-inch band and the 302nd FS finally carried yellow trim tabs on the rudder and horizontal stabilizers, along with a horizontally oriented and equally divided alternate yellow and red 12-inch striped band. This was later changed to a solid yellow band.
By late December, 1944, a decision was made to alter the red colored tails by adding a diagonal edge towards the top of the fuselage, instead of the shorter straight edge which was used before.
Profile © Nick King
Pictures of N1204 Ina The Macon Belle
Walkaround pictures of N1204 Ina The Macon Belle
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Pictures of the original "Ina The Macon Belle "
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