Anson Johnson P-51D – Fall 2014 Restoration Update

A rare color image showing how Anson Johnson's highly modified Mustang looked at the 1949 Cleveland Air Races. This is how the NEAM will present the aircraft when the restoration is finished. (photo by Aaron King via NEAM)
A rare color image showing how Anson Johnson's highly modified Mustang looked at the 1949 Cleveland Air Races. This is how the NEAM will present the aircraft when the restoration is finished. (photo by Aaron King via NEAM)
A rare color image showing how Anson Johnson’s highly modified Mustang looked at the 1949 Cleveland Air Races. This is how the NEAM will present the aircraft when the restoration is finished. (photo by Aaron King via NEAM)

WarbirdsNews has been following the restoration of the New England Air Museum’s uniquely modified P-51D air racer, which Anson Johnson flew during the Cleveland Air Races in the late 1940s. He actually won the 1948 Thompson Trophy race in this aircraft. NEAM is preserving the Mustang as close to her final configuration for the 1949 race as possible. One of the aspects of this aircraft which made it so unusual was Johnson’s fairing over of the belly scoop radiator. He replaced it with leading edge oil-coolers instead, giving the aircraft a dramatically different appearance. NEAM has been working on these parts of the project of late, and we will see some fascinating, detailed photographs within this piece.

We haven’t had much news since our early August 2014 update HERE…. but now have a slew of details to share. We will let the simple text and photos from NEAM tell the story for the intervening months, and hope you enjoy them as much as we did! All photos are via the New England Air Museum.

August 2014:

The left wing lower surface and wing flap’s upper surfaces received a coat of primer paint.

left wing bottom primed
left wing bottom primed
wing flaps upper surfaces primed
wing flaps upper surfaces primed

left wing cooling inlet primed. This is one of the leading edge oil cooler inlets we mentioned!

The missing right wing landing gear cover assembly was fabricated and primed. The rear section of the fuselage was primed as well.

rear section of fuselage primed
rear section of fuselage primed
landing gear cover inside
landing gear cover inside
landing gear cover assy primed
landing gear cover assy primed

The restoration team fabricated the missing right wing skin panel (upper left) and Anson Johnson’s modified engine cooler exhaust duct guides are under  installation.

missing wing skin panel fabricated (upper left)
missing wing skin panel fabricated (upper left)
Anson Johnson's cooling exhaust guides installed
Anson Johnson’s cooling exhaust guides installed

September 2014:

The restoration crew installed the right wing’s inlet cooling ducts and mounted the engine cooling radiator and oil cooler.

right wing oil cooler & radiator
right wing oil cooler & radiator
installing the right wing cooling guides.
installing the right wing cooling guides.

The team installed the right wing’s landing gear. They then plumbed the brake and control actuating cylinders.

 

right wing landing gear retracted.
right wing landing gear retracted.
right wing landing gear extended.
right wing landing gear extended.

A tail wheel actuating link was fabricated by NEAM member/volunteer Chuck Allessio, Whip City tool room Forman.

 

tail wheel actuating link
tail wheel actuating link

The fuselage and right wing fuel door are now prime coated and the volunteers have refinished the instrument panel.

right wing stressed fuel door primed.

fuselage right side primed
fuselage right side primed
P-51D Instrument panel.
P-51D Instrument panel.

October 2014:

The right wings exhaust cooler cover doors were installed. These doors were designed by Anson Johnson to accommodate the exhaust of cooling air for the wing’s oil cooler and engine radiator installed in the wing. An aileron work stand was fabricated to assist in the HARD riveting of the aileron skin surface.

Right wing dual cooling exhaust.
Right wing dual cooling exhaust.
Aileron work fixture.
Aileron work fixture.

The right wing’s lower surface was prepared and primed with white epoxy primer. The photo (right below) shows the dual cooling inlet directing air into the engine radiator and oil cooler.

Right wing dual cooling inlet.
Right wing dual cooling inlet.
Right wing primed.
Right wing primed.

The rear fuselage was joined to the main fuselage.

Fuselage primed.
Fuselage primed.

A tricycle assembly for the joined wings was designed and fabricated. This fixture will allow the wing assembly to be moved for final assembly to the fuselage. The left and right wings brake plumbing was re-routed to fit the landing gear cover door. The landing gear door was attached to the landing gear and links adjusted for proper closure. All stencils and placards were applied. The right wing’s landing gear and landing gear door were installed.

Landing gear decals/stencils.
Landing gear decals/stencils.
Landing gear brake plumbing installed.
Landing gear brake plumbing installed.

November 2014:

The windshield assembly was fitted with new front and side windows. The right wing was rotated for priming of the top surface.

Windshield assembly.
Windshield assembly.

 

Right wing cooling exhaust ports.
Right wing cooling exhaust ports.

Shown below are the Anson Johnson engine radiator and oil cooler dual inlet and exhaust ducts.

right wing dual cooling exhaust.
right wing dual cooling exhaust.
right wing dual cooling inlet
right wing dual cooling inlet

Both wings have been re-oriented on the ‘dihedral angle’ wing stands so that the upper surfaces can be primed. The main landing gear wheels were refinished in ‘Anson Johnson’s 1949 red color and the canopy was restored with the interior finished in red as well.

both wings on 'dihedral angle' stands.
both wings on ‘dihedral angle’ stands.
Landing gear main wheels & canopy.
Landing gear main wheels & canopy.

All of the P-51’s major components were arranged in a ‘completed’ configuration for the day after thanksgiving open house.

 

The P-51's left side.
The P-51’s left side.
P-51's right side with flap and aileron.
P-51’s right side with flap and aileron.

WarbirdsNews wishes to thank the New England Air Museum profusely for their assistance with this article. We hope you have enjoyed looking through the details of this magnificent restoration. Please do visit the New England Air Museum if you get the chance, and as always, contribute to their fine work if you can. To learn more about the museum as a whole, or to find a way to help them please click HERE.

2 Comments

  1. Great photos, great aircraft and certainly a great Museum. So proud to be a member of a Museum that has such talented volunteers that rebuild history.

  2. Wow, what a restoration – and what an update! Thanks so much for sharing all these photos. I had no idea this project existed. It’s always exciting to see another new (to me) spin on the racing Mustang concept. Fantastic reporting and More Power to the NEAM team!

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