Anson Johnson P-51D Racing Conversion
Cleveland, 1946, the wild west of Air Racing continued in a big way after the end of WWII. Many of the guys that raced in the 30’s returned, along with a new crop of enthusiasts. The days of the high horsepower homebuilts was basically over, replaced with a glut of surplus fighters. Anson Johnson was an airline pilot armed with a small budget and purchased 45 from Woody Edmondson in July of 1947. He went about clipping the wings and taking out all the unnecessary weight. He did well at the races in ’47 but still suffered from teething problems. In 1948 he returned with a solid and reliable airframe, and thanks to the Cleland Corsairs blowing off their carb scoops, Anson won the Thompson Trophy. He knew the airplane, as configured, couldn’t compete with big Corsairs or even the Bell Cobras. During the down tie between the 48-49 races, National Airlines engineer J.D. Crane stepped in to help Anson make it the ultimate Mustang racer. They cut off the belly scoop and placed the radiator and oil coolers in the wings, along with closing up the forward carb scoop and moving it further back on the lower cowling. The Johnson team showed up ready to rock, but…the 1949 races turned out to be one of the most dramatic, and costliest races ever held. Anson was ready…but it was not to be. His custom exhaust stacks started to melt down and he was getting carbon monoxide fumes in the cockpit and had to pull out early. Cook Cleland sailed in to the 1st place victory. The combination of the Beguine crash, and the looming clouds of the Korean war, the races came to an end. Anson, however wasn’t done yet. During the early 50’s he made a couple attempts at the World Propeller Speed record. On the second attempt, judging by his indicated airspeeds he thought he had it in the bag. The official FAI cameras failed to record the runs properly and Anson wasn’t given the prize. The airplane was left to languish in Florida for a number of years before Anson parted with her in 1959. It passed through a couple of owners until it was spotted by a keen eyed Bradley Air Museum volunteer in CT.. They made a deal and the airframe went to the their storage facility at Bradley. It was finally recently restored to her 1949 glory and is currently on display at BAM. Anson passed away in 1989 and was a regular at the Reno Air Races, but never got back in the game. The last time I saw her was about 8-9 years ago, give or take, sitting in the storage building at Bradley. I can’t wait to get back up there to see her!
The model is a Tamiya 1/48th scale Korean edition of their fine Mustang. It has 12 resin parts that replicate the same mods Anson and his crew performed. It’s painted with Tamiya and Alclad paints with Mr. Color Clear. The decals were rendered by Greg Drawbaugh at Drawdecal.com, which he is now offering for sale. I’ve loved the look of this Mustang since I was a kid and it’s pretty cool to bring her to life in this scale. Thanks for having a look!
13 additional images. Click to enlarge.