N74190 - Happy Jack's Go Buggy
P-51D-30-NA N74190 Happy Jack's Go Buggy
Serial number
Construction n°
Paint Scheme

Based at
Happy Jack's Go Buggy
Major Jack M. Ilfrey
20th Fighter Group
79th Fighter Squadron
Bruce Winter

Texas, USA
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Airframe history

It all started when a young Mike VadeBonCoeur helped in the restoration of Henry “Butch” Schroeder's F-6D Mustang “Lil Margaret”. Since that time, P-51 restorations have been taken to a whole new level. Mike attended the Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma and helped work on several warbirds during this time. After that, he worked at the Fixed Base Operator in Danville and later for the University of Illinois Aircraft Maintenance Facility as the Master Sheet Metal Mechanic.

The F-6D "Lil Margaret" restoration earned both the Gold Wrench and Grand Champion Award at the EAA event at Oshkosh in 1993. Mike was hooked ever since and started his own company, Midwest Aero Restorations Ltd. back in 1993, together with his good friend David Young. Many have asked Mike how he could ever top a restoration like “Lil Margaret”.

Mike and Midwest silenced everyone with their first ground up restoration project: Ken Wagnon's P-51D “Cripes A' Mighty”, which promptly won the 2002 Grand Champion WWII Warbird award at EAA. More than 11,000 hours went into this project.
Even now, after each restoration project, Mike constantly asks himself “Can I still do better?”. The restorations following "Cripes" proved everyone he still can. In 2004, Midwest's next restoration, P-51D “Daddy's Girl” won the Reserve Grand Champion WWII following a 3 year restoration and in 2006 another P-51D “Red Dog” followed with another Reserve Grand Champion award.

Nowadays, Midwest employs five and usually has at least 2 projects in at any one time. They are able to fabricate almost any part themselves and all of the fuselage reconstruction takes place in house. Some items are outsourced to other experts in the field of Mustang restorations: the wings generally go out to Odegaard Wings in Kindred, North Dakota, the flight controls are handled by Aerospace Specialities and the engines by Roush Aviation in Livonia, Michigan.

After their last P-51, “Red Dog”, which wasn't a completely stock restoration project (the owner wanted some added comfort such as modern communication equipment, an autopilot, etc.), Mike wanted to go back to doing something stock. This is where the story of one of the most beautifully restored P-51 Mustangs begins.

North-American Aviation's P-51D 44-74452 was delivered to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) as 9225 in 1950. It was struck off charge in April of 1958 and was bought by James H. Defuria & Fred J. Ritts of Intercontinental Airways. The Mustang remained stored outside in Canastota, New York. It wasn't until 1962 that it was sold onto the Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca (Guatemalian Air Force) as FAG 366 where it re-entered military service.

In August of 1972, the airframe returned to the US when it was acquired by Don Hull of Sugarland, Texas. It was re-registered N74190. In 1976 the Mustang was again passed on to Wildon C. Edwards, Big Springs, Texas and finally ended up stored outside with Ezell Aviation. There it was planned to be restored and to be used as a template for P-51 parts.

Bruce “Doc” Winter is a former F/A-18 Hornet pilot with the US Navy who now has a private practice as an ophthalmologist. He has always been interested in WWII aviation and was looking to buy a P-51 as far back as 1993. When he was looking around, he knew he couldn't afford one then. He kept on looking for a non-flyer to restore later in his life. In 2003 he stopped at Nelson Ezell's shop in Texas and noticed a P-51 sitting on some pallets outside.
After contacting Nelson, he learned the Mustang might be for sale. He contacted Mike (learning about his talent in Mustang restorations from various publications) to see if Midwest could help him out on this project.

Bruce originally wanted the P-51 to be restored back to airworthy condition, nothing fancy, but after Midwest had a look at the airframe, this idea changed quickly.
When Mike and the team further examined the airframe, they were amazed by the level of authenticity buried deep inside. There were some modifications in front of the firewall and some repainting of the cockpit area and wheel wells, but other than that this airplane still looked pretty much how it did when it left the North American Aviation factory!

This was the opportunity Mike had waited for for many years. After they explained to Bruce what they discovered, he quickly jumped aboard and they decided to make this project one of the most detailed restorations ever realized. This Mustang was planned to be restored extremely close to the way it left NAA's factory over 60 years ago.

© Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd. © Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd.

The restoration itself started in 2006 and they really outdid themselves this time. Most of the level of detail is not even visible from the outside. On this particular P-51, the team found grease pencil marks created at the NAA production line that were made by inspectors of NAA at the time to replace bad rivets or de-bur a piece of metal. They also replaced and recreated any manufacturing marks and labels. The stamped water transfer data decals (with the exact same size, shape and font) were recreated and lacquered as they had been originally, with the lacquer realistically altering the color of the aluminum where it was applied. Some clamps and nut-plates that are no longer manufactured were recreated and nuts and bolts were painted in recreated orange dye paint as per the factory signifying that the batch had been inspected.

The paint scheme for this P-51 is truly a masterpiece of its own! Bruce had a liking for the 8th Air Force and decided he wanted the Mustang painted in the colors of one of the 8th Air Force Fighter Squadrons. He opted for a combat-military paint scheme that wasn't too shiny and finally came across the 20th FG. He saw a picture of Major Ilfrey's P-51 and grew a liking to the name “Happy Jack's Go Buggy”.

© Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd. © Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd.

Mike and his team resisted the temptation to polish the aluminum skin and opted for a worn, dirty and abused look, just as it would have looked during wartime operations. They came up with a waxing process that protects the finish from corrosion and exhaust and oil stains. As a result, the aircraft has a flat satin finish and the panels are smooth and unblemished.

© Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd.Mike says: “If you look at photos from WWII, all the stencil markings on the exterior of the airplane were put on with rubber ink stamps and clear coated with lacquer from the factory. You don't ‘see' the lacquer at the factory because it is clear, fresh, new, but when you get out in the field, the sun gets to it and the lacquer goes a yellowy-brownish color. So to replicate an airplane that looked like it had been out in the field, we tinted urethane to make it look like aged lacquer.”

On spot-welded subassemblies, the team even recreated the look of acid etching that NAA applied to Mustangs when they left the factory.

© Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd.Mike adds: “if you look at factory photos you will see where that metal was etched with acid because when you do aluminum spot welding, the metal has to be perfectly clean and one way they did that was with an acid etch cleaner. So, for instance on the front scoop, and some of the areas on the aft door back, you can see how much lighter it is. They just brushed acid on and spot welded. That's why you have the two-toned look. People look at that and scratch their heads!”

If you're not convinced about the level of authenticity of this restoration, check out some of the exterior details:

© Midwest Aero Restoration, Ltd.

  • The cockpit is completely stock and painted as it was at the time. It houses a completely operational K-14 gunsight and an original SCR-522 radio assembly. Although this Mustang has modern avionics and radios, the dummy vintage assembly can be installed over the modern systems for static displays.
  • When you check out photographs of Happy Jack's Go Buggy and other Mustangs during WWII it shows that they were field modified to carry both the Spitfire style rearview mirror on a black stem above the cockpit canopy as well as a P-38 rearview mirror in a Plexiglas shroud, so this P-51 also had both installed.
  • The Plexiglas canopy also has a fitting for a wire antenna on top, but the antenna itself is not present, which is also realistic according to history.
  • This is the only P-51 which has a completely working and original ANAPS-13 tail warning radar. Flip the switch, and an alarm bell rings and the light goes on! Mike found it on E-Bay about two weeks before the 2010 EAA Air Venture and explains: “When I received it, it was like new…still in the box. After we installed it and turned the master switch on, it immediately started working!”
  • The team had real 0.50 caliber (de-militarized off course) machine guns manufactured and installed. Real ammo belts are also installed. Mechanically, the electric gun solenoids in the wings even click convincingly when activated.
  • They have an original ANN-6 gun camera in the left wing which also works. Mike says: “We were able to get Kodak to load color film on an original cartridge and we actually shot gun camera footage from the airplane.”
  • An original low-pressure oxygen system is also installed.
  • The team even fabricated a canopy cover out of smelly, bulky, heavy duck-cloth canvas, like the originals, which were used to keep the snow off the canopies during the harsh English winters.

The piece de resistance however has to be the paper drop tanks that were recreated. To date, these drop tanks have nearly gone extinct. However, Bob Baker, a good friend of Mike, had a rare original 108-gallon drop tank that he lent to Mike's team. They took it to Jack Roush's composite shop and made 108-gallon carbon fiber replicas. Since the mould was made of an original 108-gallon drop tank, the replica also has the same imperfections as the original had. Although they are non-functional, the team also recreated the plumbing that goes from the wings into the tanks.

About two-and-a-half years later, restoration was complete and Happy Jack's Go Buggy got the Grand Champion WWII at the 2008 EAA Airventure.

Youtube video clips of N74190:

Filming of Bombshells calendar
Filmed at Gillespie Countey Airport

Date Registry Owner



44-74452 9225


Built at North American Aviation
Delivered to Royal Canadian Air Force on November 15th
Struck off charge on April 29 th , sold onto James H. Defuria & Fred J. Ritts of Intercontinental Airways, Conastota, New York
Delivered to Fuerza Aérea Guatemalteca in March
To Don Hull, Sugarland, Texas in August
Wilson C. Edwards, Big Springs, Texas
Still in FAG camouflage scheme, stored in Beckenridge, Texas
To Ezell Aviation, planned restoration
Bruce Winter, Texas
Restoration by Midwest Aero Restorations begins
Restored as Major Jack Ilfrey's Happy Jack's Go Buggy, 79th FS, 20th FG
Won EAA Grand Champion Warbird WWII

Paintscheme information

44-74452 is painted in the colours of Major Jack M. Ilfrey's 44-13761 (MC-I) "Happy Jack's Go Buggy" , 79th FS, 20th FG. The 20th FG was stationed at Kingscliffe from August 26th, 1943 untill October 11th, 1945. It wasn't until Jack returned to the ETO for his second tour that he was assigned to the 79th FS of the 20th FG.

The pilot

Jack Ilfrey was born on July 31st , 1920 in Houston, Texas. He entered the US Army Air Corps as an Aviation Cadet in April of 1941 and graduated on December 12th , 1941. He was assigned to the 94th Pursuit Sqn., 1st Pursuit Group, flying P-38s.

After an eventful time with the 1st Pursuit Group (during which he also became the first ever P-38 Lightning ace), and after a total of 5.5 air-to-air victories, 208 combat hours and 72 missions, Jack was relieved of combat duty and returned to the US to become a flight instructor on P-38s and P-47s.

He returned to the ETO however in April of 1944 as the Operations Officer of the 79th FS, 20th FG, also flying P-38s at that time. On September 27th of the same year he became Squadron Commander of the 79th FS.

The 20th FG was assigned to the 8th AF on August 25th , 1943 and converted to P-51 Mustangs in late July of 1944.

It was at around that time that Jack was promoted to Major, however the celebration that followed this promotion led to him being busted back to 2nd Lt. for multiple infractions. He remained in command however making him the sole 2nd Lt. to ever command a Fighter Squadron. Thanks to an intervention of Gen. Doolittle however, he soon regained the rank of Captain.

Another notable incident occurred on November 20th , 1944, when he landed his P-51 behind enemy lines, near Maastricht, Holland, and successfully picked up his wing man for a short flight to Brussels, Belgium.

Ilfrey ended his second tour of duty in WWII on December 9th , 1944, having flown a total of 70 missions and an additional 2 aircraft shot down. In total, he destroyed 8 enemy aircraft, damaged 2 more and also destroyed 2 trains.

Ilfrey, Jack M. 1st Lieutenant 94th Pursuit Sqn 11-29-1942 0.5
Ilfrey, Jack M. 1st Lieutenant 94th Pursuit Sqn 12-02-1942 2
Ilfrey, Jack M. 1st Lieutenant 94th Pursuit Sqn 12-26-1942 2
Ilfrey, Jack M. 1st Lieutenant 94th Pursuit Sqn 03-03-1943 1
Ilfrey, Jack M. 1st Lieutenant 94th Pursuit Sqn 03-08-1943 0.5
Ilfrey, Jack M. Captain 79th FS 05-24-1944 2
      Total credits 8

The paint scheme

Aircraft of the 20th FG had used geometric shapes rather than colours to distinguish themselves. The geometric squadron symbol was applied to both sides of the fin and rudder area with black paint and were 30-inches tall at their widest and highest point and they mostly obscured the tail number. In addition to carrying individual “plane-in-squadron” letters on the rear fuselage, the 20th FG also had these letters repeated in white paint on the black geometric shape on the vertical tail surfaces. They were the same height (24-inches) as the ones on the fuselage.

The 55th FS (unit code “KI”) had a triangle as their symbol, the 77th FS (unit code “LC”) had a circle and the 79th FS (unit code “MC”) had a square.

The black QIMs on both top wing surfaces disappeared with the application of the D-Day Stripes, while those stripes on the upper surface of the horizontal stabilizers were mostly over-painted when the green paint was applied.

On a few of the Groups camouflaged aircraft however, these bands were retained. The QIMs located on the under wing surfaces remained intact. Depending upon the individual application to the tail section, the QIM there might or might not have been retained.

It wasn't about a month after D-Day that the 8th Air Force continued with the conversion of its groups to Mustangs, the four P-38 groups being next in line. The 20th FG made their transition on July 20th, 1944.

All D-series Mustangs delivered to the 20th FG were in natural metal finishes and were immediately adorned with full Invasion Stripes. The squadron code and aircraft call-letter on the fuselage remained of standard size and location and were either masked-out prior to application of these stripes or reinstated shortly thereafter.

The 20th FG used yellow as its group identification color while flying P-38s, but this was already the trademark of the 361st FG Mustangs. Therefore new nose markings had to be thought of. They changed their nose pattern as follows: starting at the top of the spinner with a 12-inch wide white band, immediately followed by a 15-inch wide black band. The front of the cowling started out with a further 11-inch wide black band, also directly followed by a 5-inch wide white band.

This pattern would only be used by the 20th FG until November of 1944, when it was replaced with a higher profile configu-ration.

Some of the 20th FG P-51s received an application of dark green paint to the entire upper surface of both wings and rear stabilizers. Additionally an “edging” to the top surface of the entire fuselage and tail section was also applied. This was not an Olive Drab shade of green and was possibly something acquired from the RAF. The reasoning behind this application was likely motivated by an anticipated deployment of part of the 20th FG to the European continent following the D-Day landings. Whatever the reason, use of this colour scheme had disappeared from virtually all of the 20th FG Mustangs by late 1944.

In October of 1944, the 8th AF issued an order for additional squadron identification by means of coloured rudders. The 20th FG still opted not to use colours, but continued the use of their geometric symbols.

The squadrons of the 20th FG were arguably the most prolific users of “mission symbols” within 8th Fighter Command. If the 20th didn't invent the use of these images, its squadrons certainly developed their application to a near art form.

Happy Jack's Go Buggy displays the following historically correct mission markings on the cowling:

50 Top hats with canes, indicating fighter escort mission usually for either bombers or transports
7 umbrellas denoting top cover for any allied aircraft
4 brooms denoting combat patrol or fighter sweep of enemy ground targets
4 locomotives indicating a successful attack on a railway, aka. “Chattanooga Mission”
5 bombs denoting bombing mission
8 Swastikas denoting air to air kills

In November of 1944 the nose markings changed once more. Alternate black and white bars were added along the sides of the cowling to a point above the leading edge of the wing. The 12-inch wide black type identity band was retained, followed by seven white and eight black bars, each 6-inches wide.
A black border line of the same width extended back under the bars, curving up from low down on the leading black bar. There was no black band bordering the anti-glare panel, which remained in factory Olive Drab.

All of the mission markings are situated on the port side the cowling. The 50 top hats are divided into two rows of 25 and are displayed on top of the cowling. The 7 umbrellas are on the front side of the cowling (just aft of the spinner and between the top hats and the exhausts). The 4 brooms are just to the right of the umbrellas. The 4 locomotives are positioned at the same height of the exhaust stacks and just to the right of them. The 5 bomb markings are just off the right of the bottom row of top hats.

Immediately right of the bomb markings is a black label displaying the names of the crew. Just below this are the 8 swastika kill markings (tilted 45 degrees and in black in a white circle).

The name "Happy Jack's Go Buggy" is below the exhaust stack and is divided into 2 parts. The name was in yellow with a red shadow.

The paint scheme of N74190 is situated somewhere between July of 1944 (when the 20th FG converted to the P-51) and November of 1944 (when the new nose markings were applied). She displays 8 kill markings which is also correct, because Ilfrey (Captain at the time he got this aircraft) got his 8th air-to-air kill on May 24th , 1944.

© Nick King via Littlefriends
© Nick King via Littlefriends

For more information on the following general P-51 markings, please click their appropriate links:
D-Day markings
US National Insignia markings
General P-51 markings

Contributor pictures of N74190 Happy Jack's Go Buggy


Contributor image copyright (left to right, top to bottom):

3, 5 - 12
4, 13
14 - 22
23 - 27
28 - 31, 33
34, 35
37 - 40
42 - 44
45 - 51

© Curtis Fowles
© Carl Caruthers
© Al Sauer (Spookythecat)
© Dave Miller (Armchair Aviator)
© Peter Ortensie
© Midwest Aero Restoration, Inc.
© Diane
© Trey Carroll for Warbird Depot
© Tim Adams
© Flyoverfred
© G Takeuchi
© David Leiniger for Warbird Depot
© Scott Shea
© Robert Bourlier

Pictures of the original "Happy Jack's Go Buggy"


If you have any high-quality photographs of N74190 you would like to share on this website, please contact us.

Usefull links

79th Fighter Group

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