The Art of Mustang Preservation and Restoration

Preserving the legacy of the Mustang is not an easy task. Of the thousands of P-51 Mustangs built there are approximately 160 left that are airworthy. Those that have survived through the decades of neglect have found a rebirth at the hands of skilled mechanics that not only restore them to the sky but also have restored the history that they have guarded within.

More than mechanics, the men and women who bring these magnificent examples of the period’s aviation know-how back to life are more akin to museum conservators, following the more intricate details and drawings to restore the aircraft to new condition and sometimes better than new.

North American Aviation, who designed and made the Mustang, created cutting edge technology. They also had the ability to mass-produce Mustangs and all its specialty parts and components thousands of times to perfection. The abundance of these parts makes it possible to keep the surviving Mustang flying. Wings, fittings, skins, casting, components, engines and accessories are still available in various states of use ready to rebuild, restore and reuse on a P-51.   A Mustang’s restoration is never complete; it is a progressive project needing to be worked on continuously.

Mustangs were built in WWII with a short life expectancy; assuming they would be shot down or shot up before they wore out.   Today, we restore and repair them for the long haul. That takes time and effort to continually work on them; possibly like a Formula racer verses an everyday driver. Though the Mustang is sturdy and dependable; she is a well-bred race horse that needs TLC on a continuous bases. Not much different than restoring a car; systems are replaced or rebuilt and then maintained but unlike a car they are restored and repaired by FAA licensed technicians that learn their craft from those who came before them. It’s an art as much as it’s a vocation. Some would say a calling.

By: KT Budde-Jones