The New England Air Museum’s (NEAM) North American P-51D Mustang, N13Y, has been moved out of storage and into their 11,000 square foot restoration hangar, where crew chief Pete McConnell and his team are now putting the historic machine back into its 1948 Thompson Trophy-winning configuration.
Originally delivered to the USAAF in January 1946 as 44-72400, the P-51 was sold as surplus that July. In December 1946 it was acquired by National Airlines pilot, Anson Johnson who began to modify the airplane, shortening the wings by 2 feet on each side, removing as much excess weight as possible and fitting a Packard Merlin engine.
Johnson entered the bright yellow N13Y in the Thompson Trophy event at the 1948 Cleveland Air Races. The strong field included two Goodyear F2G Super Corsairs, a modified Bell P-39 Cobra II flown by test-pilot “Tex” Johnson, two Bell P-63 Kingcobras, as well as five other Mustangs. Johnson’s strategy was to go for reliability rather than outright maximum speed, a strategy that paid off as his competitors lost the battle of attrition as their high-strung power plants broke down forcing them out of the races. The Mustang won at a speed of 383.78 MPH, nearly 20 MPH faster the second place P-51D, the only other finisher of the races being a Bell P-63C which loafed in at 313.56 MPH.
Johnson made even more radical modifications for the 1949 season, but it was all for naught as he failed to finish in any of the further races. Johnson then decided to go after the world piston-powered airspeed record of 469.22 MPH, set by Fritz Wendel on April 26, 1939 in a Messerschmitt Me 209. During June 1952 at Key Biscayne, Florida, Johnson and N13Y made one run at 503 MPH, but problems with the timing equipment during the official runs ruined the attempt. Soon after this disappointment Johnson sold the aircraft.
Pete McConnell and his restoration team at NEAM are restoring N13Y to its overall yellow, 1948 Thompson Trophy color scheme, after which this historic Mustang will take its place in NEAM’s already impressive collection of air racing machinery.