A restored 1944 P-51D Mustang fighter plane
This is a 1944 P-51D Mustang, the penultimate year of World War II. It served in 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 role – it became the first warbird purchased by Sir Tim Wallis. This would be the aircraft that led to the creation of the Alpine Fighter collection and the legendary Warbirds over Wanaka air show.
Quick Facts – The P-51D Mustang
- There is no doubt that the North American P-51 Mustang is one of the most memorable and significant American aircraft of World War II. 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 licence, but the NAA chose to develop their own more advanced fighter instead.
- The P-51 was originally fitted with the Allison V-1710 engine, but this limited its performance, versions of the Mustang with the Rolls-Royce Merlin engine performed much better.
- The more capable P-51D Mustang was produced from mid-1944, equipped with the Packard V-1650-7 – an American license-built Merlin V12.
The North American P-51D Mustang
The North American P-51 Mustang is certainly the most famous American fighter of World War II. It is an aircraft that can be named by many non-aeronautical people, such is the impact it had on society that it is remembered so well more than 77 years after the end of the war.
The Mustang was originally developed specifically for the British by North American Aviation after the start of World War II, but before the United States joined the conflict. In 1940, the British Purchasing Commission approached North American Aviation and asked them to build Curtiss P-40 fighters for them under license.
The company’s management did not like the idea of building another company’s plane very much, and therefore they offered to create their own design.
The Purchasing Commission agreed to this compromise and, remarkably, just 102 days after signing the contract, the first prototype rolled out of the factory.
Early versions of the P-51 were fitted with the Allison V-1710 V12 aero engine, although a remarkable engineering feat, it could not match the high altitude performance of its forced-induction rivals – rivals like the Rolls-Royce Merlin.
A deal was struck for car manufacturer Packard to produce the Merlin in the United States in large volumes for the war effort. This engine was called the Packard V-1650-7 and when fitted to the P-51 it transformed the aircraft into one of the finest fighters of the war.
They named this new variant the P-51D.
Sir Tim Wallis – “Hurricane Tim”
In 1984, a New Zealander by the name of Sir Tim Wallis fulfilled a lifelong dream and bought himself a newly restored P-51D Mustang.
He didn’t know it at the time, but this aircraft would shape the rest of his life, it would lead to the creation of the Alpine Fighter Collection and the annual Warbirds over Wanaka air show.
Sir Wallis first went to medical school before dropping out after two terms and finding a job at a local sawmill. Soon after, 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 are 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”. Of course it doesn’t work, but the pizzle was normally wasted and if people were willing to buy it, Sir Wallis would sell it to them.
One of Sir Wallis’ most important innovations was the development of a method of collecting live deer on New Zealand’s South Island. They captured and bred deer, creating an entire industry, a breeding program and an export industry.
Warbirds on 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 at both at the Alpine Fighter Collection and at the annual Warbirds over Wanaka air show. .
Since the air show began in 1988, it has become one of the largest historic air shows in the world and certainly the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.
Major aviation figures including General Chuck Yeager and Buzz Aldrin have attended, and accommodation in the town of Wanaka is now usually booked more than two years in advance.
Video above: This 12-minute film gives a good overview of the events of the 2018 Warbirds Over Wanaka Air Show, including a crash (luckily with no injuries).
The collection and air show was started in the 1980s by Sir Wallis, and the first warbird he purchased was the 1944 P-51D Mustang you see here in this article.
The 1944 Mustang P-51D shown here
The P-51D Mustang entered production in mid-1944, over 8,000 of this variant would be built, some being sent to Australia, the UK, Canada and other countries for use during the war .
This aircraft originally entered service with the United States Air Force (USAF), then served with the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and passed into civilian hands as military surplus in 1959.
About 20 years later, this P-51D was restored by Fort Wayne Air Service, flying again in 1984. This would also be the same year it was purchased by Sir Tim Wallis and imported into the country.
This aircraft is now offered for sale by Platinum Fighter Sales with an asking price of $2,395,000 – not a bad price for an airworthy and historically significant P-51D.
If you want to know more about this aircraft or inquire about purchasing it, you can check out the list here.
Images courtesy of Platinum Fighter Sales / Grant Newman
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