This is a P-51D Mustang from 1944, the second last year of WWII. It served with both the United States Air Force (USAF) and the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) before passing into civilian hands in 1959.
In 1984 this Mustang would fulfill what was arguably its greatest ever role – it became the first warbird bought by Sir Tim Wallis. It would be the aircraft that led to the creation of both the Alpine Fighter Collection and the legendary Warbirds over Wanaka airshow.
Fast Facts – The P-51D Mustang
- There can be little doubt that the North American P-51 Mustang is one of the most memorable, and most important, American aircraft of the Second World War. It was originally developed by North American Aviation for the British Purchasing Commission, before the United States entered the war.
- The British Purchasing Commission had wanted them to build the Curtiss P-40 fighter under license, however NAA chose to develop their own more advanced fighter instead.
- The P-51 was originally fitted with the Allison V-1710 engine however this limited its performance, versions of the Mustang with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine performed far better.
- The more-capable P-51D Mustang was produced from mid-1944, fitted with the Packard V-1650-7 – a Merlin V12 built under license by the Americans.
The North American P-51D Mustang
The North American P-51 Mustang is almost certainly the most famous American fighter of WWII. It’s an aircraft that can be named by many non-aviation people, such is the impact it had on society that it’s remembered so well over 77 years after the war ended.
The Mustang was originally developed specifically for the British by North American Aviation after WWII had started but before the United States had joined the conflict. In 1940 the British Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation and requested that they build them Curtiss P-40 fighters under license.
Company management didn’t much like the idea of building another firm’s aircraft, and so they proposed creating their own design.
The Purchasing Commission accepted this compromise, and remarkably just 102 days after the contract was signed the first prototype rolled out of the factory.
The first versions of the P-51 were fitted with the Allison V-1710 V12 aero engine, though it was a remarkable feat of engineering it couldn’t compete with the high altitude performance of its forced-induction rivals – rivals like the Rolls-Royce Merlin.
A deal was struck for automaker Packard to produce the Merlin in the United States in high volumes for the war effort. This engine was called the Packard V-1650-7 and once it was fitted to the P-51 it transformed the aircraft into one of the best fighters of the war.
They named this new variant the P-51D.
Sir Tim Wallis – “Hurricane Tim”
In 1984 a New Zealander named Sir Tim Wallis fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought himself a recently restored P-51D Mustang.
He didn’t know it at the time but this plane would shape the rest of his life, it would lead to the founding of the Alpine Fighter Collection and to the annual Warbirds over Wanaka air show.
Sir Wallis originally went to medical school before dropping out after two terms and finding employment at a local lumber mill. Not long after this he realized that New Zealand’s large wild deer population would be worth millions due to the global market for venison, velvet, antler, and pizzle.
If you’re wondering what pizzle is, it means penis. Specifically the penis of a male deer, which is sought after in traditional Chinese medicine as a “male vigor enhancer.” It doesn’t work of course, but the pizzle normally went to waste and if people were willing to buy it then Sir Wallis was going to sell it to them.
One of Sir Wallis’ most important innovations was the development of a method of live deer collection on New Zealand’s South Island. They captured and farmed deer, creating a whole industry, breeding program, and export industry.
Warbirds Over Wanaka
As a lifelong fan of aviation, warbirds in particular, Sir Wallis set about using some of his newfound wealth to acquire historically significant aircraft, bring them to New Zealand, and display them both at the Alpine Fighter Collection and in the annual Warbirds over Wanaka airshow.
Since the air show began in 1988 it has grown to be one of the biggest historic airshows in the world and almost certainly the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Major aviation figures including General Chuck Yeager and Buzz Aldrin have attended, and the accommodation in the town of Wanaka is now typically booked out over two years in advance.
Above Video: This 12 minute film provides a good look at the happenings at the 2018 Warbirds Over Wanaka airshow, including a crash (with no injuries thankfully).
Both the collection and the airshow were started in the 1980s by Sir Wallis, and the first warbird he bought was the 1944 P-51D Mustang you see here in this article.
The 1944 P-51D Mustang Shown Here
The P-51D Mustang entered production in mid-1944, over 8,000 examples of this variant would be built, with some sent to Australia, the UK, Canada, and other nations for use during the war.
This aircraft originally entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF), it later saw service with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), and it passed into civilian hands as military surplus in 1959.
Approximately 20 years later this P-51D was restored by Fort Wayne Air Service, firstly flying again in 1984. This would also be the same year that it was bought by Sir Tim Wallis, and imported into the country.
This aircraft is now being offered for sale by Platinum Fighter Sales with an asking price of $2,395,000 USD – not a bad price for an airworthy and historically significant P-51D.
If you’d like to read more about this plane or enquire about buying it you can visit the listing here.
Images courtesy of Platinum Fighter Sales / Grant Newman
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