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Jim Harley
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Anson Johnson P-51D Racing Conversion

December 29, 2020 · in Aviation · · 12 · 2.2K

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 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 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, 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!

Reader reactions:
12  Awesome

13 additional images. Click to enlarge.

12 responses

  1. A fantastic build, Jim.
    This is an awesome and colorful looking Mustang.
    It was a pleasure to follow your thread.

  2. The speed mods remind me of Galloping Ghost with its radiator having been removed. Steve Hinton Jr. has taken a Mustang and modified its wing with the aide of computer scanning and 3D modeling and then refined the wing to go for the speed record and at some level its has all been done before. Great build and history lesson Jim. These Tamiya Mustangs can still hold there own .

    Two thumbs up.

    • He sure did, he made a carbon fiber cowling and tail fin fillet as well. Had 2020 not happened the way it did, the team was going to attempt to break his existing record, I don't think we've heard the end of Voodoo. It's hard to say what the future of the Unlimited Class, or Reno in general holds, but they sure gave us some spectacular moments.

  3. An amazing result, Jim.
    It was a joy to follow your build thread. I loved all mods you performed.
    Well done!

  4. Now that is one yellow aircraft. Very cool Jim

  5. I love racing machines of any sort, and this one really takes the biscuit. Definitely liked.

  6. What a gem. Well done. It was a pleasure to follow your progress over in Groups Jim (@jimh)

  7. What's not to love. A real beauty. All good.

  8. Thank you guys for all the encouraging words! Resin conversions can add quite a bit of time to a build but in the end it sure brings out some unique possibilities. Racing aircraft aren't for everyone, but when you have that "bug", there is nothing like seeing them come to life in 3 dimensions. Thanks again everyone for having a look and tuning in!


  9. Jim, @jimh
    This Mustang looks splendid with the mods you produced and installed. Good luck with Black Majik Resin. It looks to be off to a good start with the Mustang parts you have designed. Maybe in the future, (with time permitting), You can start branching out into producing parts for other planes and possibly even go into building air racing conversion sets for planes like the Bearcat, Sea Fury's, P-39's / 38's and Corsairs. There were SO many variations to choose from, starting from right after the War going up to today's Unlimited Class.

    It was a lot of fun to watch how you made this one... and several years ago it was brought up by James Robinson that maybe we should eventually start an air racing group build... It was well received.

    I pressed the "liked" button too. Thanks buddy, and Happy new Year.
    Stay safe.

  10. Happy New Year Louis! I have only posted builds here and on Facebook. It's amazing the reach that Facebook has generated. Since the resin venture isn't my full time gig yet 🙂 I'm going to slowly build up a catalog of conversions, then really go for it. I've found with the Anson conversion that the molds are getting more and more "sophisticated", sooo, I ordered a pressure pot and a vacuum de-gasser to further expand possibilities. I didn't want to invest a ton of money in to all the equipment until I knew the demand would support it, and so far so good. From the feedback I've received over on Facebook the models you listed are pretty much what people want. Sometimes I feel like I have "shiny penny" syndrome when it comes to what I want to convert next, BUT, I've got a plan and I'm going to stick with it :). I've got the Betty Jane Conversion pretty far a long and I'll be posting that here soon. The next will be a 3 piece kit to convert the Tamiya F4U to Cook Cleland's "Lucky Gallon", Dago Red, then Stiletto. I've also been getting a lot of requests to do Beguine. Since I have the lathe, it won't be hard to make the wing tips. That should take me well in to the summer. My real job has finally stabilized in to 8-9 hour days, lol, so I have free time to do all this resin work in the evenings. It's fun and 100% stress free work. I'm still planning on coming to FL, life just keeps popping up lol. Enjoy ringing in 2021! That goes for everyone!

  11. Striking scheme and a nice build!

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