The P-51 Mustang is one of the best iconic aircraft in aerodynamics history. These long-range, single-seater fighter-bombers served throughout the Additional World War as able-bodied as during in Korea afore actuality relegated to atom yards. But abounding accept survived, some in the best absurd of places. You’ll never assumption what quiet suburb the Lil’ Margaret was begin in.
P-51D (F-6D) Lil’ Margaret
“Mustang Mike” Coutches of American Aircraft Sales in Hayward, California, was on the coursing for P-51H genitalia in the backward 1950s and aboriginal 1960s. Coutches was affairs licensed, ready-to-fly P-51Ds for $3,995 at the time, but his absorption was in the P-51H. The 194th Fighter Fleet of the California Air National Guard operated P-51Ds and -51Hs from the Hayward Airport, and it was a sad day aback the assemblage confused to Fresno, California, and transitioned to the F-86A. About a hundred afar northeast of Hayward, the U.S. Air Force annex at Mc-Clellan Air Force Base, a Sacramento, California, had apparent hundreds of Mustangs canyon through its check curve and dozens were awash surplus from actuality as well. In addition, bags of pounds of Mustang genitalia were auctioned off as they were no best bare in an all-jet air force.
In the backward 1940s, accession had purchased a Mustang at a surplus bargain (possibly at McClellan), and afresh attempted to advertise it to Israel or one of the Latin American countries attractive for aircraft in the backward 1940s or aboriginal 1950s. The alike was reportedly disassembled, crated, sitting on the dock, about to be loaded on a ship, aback U.S. Customs stepped in and bedeviled the Mustang. The aircraft did not leave the country and was afterwards awash at bargain and afresh purchased by a atom dealer.
Coutches was activity into one accurate Sacramento-area deliver backyard that was affluent in H archetypal Mustang parts—parts that alone Mustang Mike bare and wanted. Every time he would go in, the atom banker would bug him to buy a disassembled D archetypal Mustang sitting in a bend of the yard, but they could never ability an acceding as Mustang Mike didn’t appetite a disassembled P-51D aback he could buy aeriform aircraft for not abundant added of a premium.
Coutches alternate already again, and the scrapman assuredly told him if he capital any added H archetypal parts, he was activity to accept to buy the disassembled P-51D Mustang. The aircraft was accessible for transport, so Mustang Mike hauled it home and put it in his backyard. The adventure has it that the Coutches’s kids played on it for years.
In 1961, William “Bill” Myers of St. Charles, Missouri, bought the disassembled P-51D from Coutches. Hauled east, the fighter alike activity took over Myers’s house, basement, and garage. And boring chat got about the adjacency that there was a alike in a garage. The rumor acquired legs as bodies would see it aback the aperture was up, and by the mid-1970s as the warbird movement best up steam, the rumor had developed and was alpha to advance to pilots in adjoining states.
Mustang buyer and restorer John Dilley from the Fort Wayne Air Service, Fort Wayne, Indiana, and Butch Schroeder of Danville, Illinois—who at the time endemic above El Salvadorean Air Force Cavalier about-face P-51D FAS 409, ex 45-11559, North American Maid—had heard the rumor, too. “I affectionate of exhausted Dilley to it,” said Schroeder. “I had the befalling to go to St. Louis on business and I was consistently attractive in the buzz book aggravating to acquisition who I anticipation was the buyer at the time, but I consistently concluded up abandoned handed.
“A abbreviate time later, a acquaintance of abundance who endemic a Hawker Sea Fury asked me to booty North American Maid to an airshow in St. Charles, Missouri. I asked if the airshow was activity to pay for armament and said I wasn’t absorbed in activity afterwards it. Afterwards axis him down, we got to talking about this abstruseness Mustang, which was anticipation to be in the aforementioned area. My acquaintance said the hosts of the airshow knew breadth the Mustang was, and I’m cerebration ‘Yeah, right.’ I told my acquaintance that if the appearance hosts would booty me to see the plane, afresh I’d fly down.
“I went to the airshow and one black they took me to see the Mustang, and on the way over they said they were not absorbed in affairs it. So I approved and fabricated a accord to buy the plane.” Butch Schroeder had begin the ambiguous P-51D Mustang in a garage, and bought it!
Restoring an F-6D Mustang
Upon afterpiece inspection, Schroeder bent that the Mustang was a attenuate photo assay adaptation of the P-51D accepted as an F-6D, and afterwards an RF-51D, consecutive cardinal 44-84786. “When we researched the history of the airplane, we knew absolutely what we were attractive at. It still had the aboriginal abstracts bowl assuming it was appointed an F-6D. It was affectionate of ironic; best of your airplanes accept a metal abstracts tag with the advice formed in it. This was all done on phenolic and it was handwritten application article like a paintbrush,” Schroeder said.
The F-6D was congenital at North American Aviation’s Dallas, Texas, branch and delivered on June 8, 1945, afterwards the war in Europe had ended, but still three months afore the Japanese surrendered. The photoreconn fighter was assigned to U.S. Army Air Force bases at Andrews, Washington, D.C.; Stuttgart, Arkansas; Brooks Field, Texas; Topeka, Kansas; Hobbs Field, New Mexico; Spokane, Washington; Kelly Field, Texas; Pope Field, North Carolina; and assuredly to McClellan Air Force Base, allotment of the Air Material Command, for accumulator in June 1949. The F-6D was stricken from the air force’s account on November 25, 1949.
As the now proud-owner of a Mustang project, Schroeder had to get the fighter from the St. Louis breadth home to Danville, Illinois, a ambit of 215 miles. Aboriginal he had to alarm his accompany with auto trucks, afresh acquisition abundant added accompany to advice amount the project. “Bill Myers’s wife was absolute animated to see the Mustang go because, in essence, I had to apple-pie their barn to get the alike out,” Schroeder said. “I anticipate it took us six auto trucks and bristles trailers and we went bottomward aboriginal one morning, loaded up, and we and had it aback home that afternoon.” Myers had about 95 percent of the airplane, and what he didn’t accept Schroder would use his all-encompassing contacts in the warbird association to locate.
Once home, the P-51D was stored in Schroeder’s aerodrome while he formed with Mike VadeBonCoeur to acknowledgment his AT-6 to full, banal aggressive configuration. “I had become accompany with Mike aback he was still in aeriform school,” Schroeder said. “He came and started aloof allowance me and I would pay him aeriform time in barter so he could assignment on accepting his pilot’s license. So in essence, to alpha out with, he formed for me, and afresh years later, he went off on his own and started Midwest Aero.” VadeBonCoeur had formed with Schroeder on his warbirds afore abrogation to appear Spartan Academy of Aeronautics in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Aback he returned, VadeBonCoeur and Schroeder accomplished the apology of U.S. Air Force T-6G consecutive cardinal 49-3144 in 1990. The aircraft was awarded the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Warbird Reserve Grand Champion Award, and VadeBonCoeur was accustomed with the Golden Wrench Award for his work. Today, VadeBonCoeur’s Midwest Aero has been accustomed for its awful detailed, award-winning P-51D Mustang restorations, such as Cripes A’ Mighty, Daddy’s Girl, Happy Jack’s Go Buggy, Live Bait, and Red Dog.
“I was accomplishing best of that aboriginal assignment on the T-6 and the Mustang allotment time, as I had a absolutely nice job at the University of Illinois,” said VadeBonCoeur. “I larboard the University of Illinois to appear assignment for Butch abounding time on the T-6. I affectionate of consistently had it in the aback of my apperception that if I was activity to leave a good, solid university position that my achievement and ambition was to be able to eventually alpha my own business.”
Once the T-6G was out of the hangar, Schroeder and VadeBonCoeur began the apology of the photoreconnaissance Mustang abounding time. The activity would booty three added years of adamantine work. “This aeroplane had never been a analysis aeroplane or a warbird. Aback we got it, it still had the adjustment on the wings and was appealing abundant the way it had appear out of the factory. So aboriginal on, it was absitively that the ambition was to accomplish it attending aloof like the day that it formed out of the branch and accumulate it stock—single seat, guns, cameras, the accomplished deal,” Schroeder said. “For some reason, accoutrements had never been put in that aeroplane alike admitting a lot of the accessories was in there. We had to go out and I fabricated about three altered trips to California scrounging around. Aback then, the rare, aboriginal accessories were appealing accessible to acquisition because cipher capital them. Now, everybody wants those detail parts, so they’re abundant harder to find. There’s an armor bowl that sits appropriate abaft the ballista to assure the armament catchbasin that’s aback there. I begin it in California at a Mustang boutique and they were application it aloof to prop the aperture open. The armor plating that goes abaft the bench . . . somebody was application it as a barbecue grill.
“I had a account of aggregate that I was attractive for, and I larboard copies with people, and again, at the time, this was actuality that cipher wanted. I can’t bethink if it was Strega or Stiletto, but one of the antagonism Mustangs had been an F-6D and some original, air-conditioned actuality came out of one of them. Afterwards I was out in Fort Collins, Colorado, and I went and talked to Darrel Skurich [known for rebuilding the XP-51 on affectation at the Experimental Aircraft Association Museum]. He had the camera arise I bare for my aircraft. Dennis Schoenfelder had the camera ports, but they bare some adjustment work, which was done by John Neel of Low Canyon Inc. in Griffin, Georgia. I additionally had the acceptable affluence to become accompany with Brian O’Farrell. He’s the guy that bought all the Dominican Mustangs and their spares, and he had a barn abounding of aboriginal parts. I had the adventitious to aces through O’Farrell’s account of new genitalia for my airplane.”
Mike VadeBonCoeur said, “We did aggregate except the engine, propeller, the radiator, and instruments. I apparently congenital best of the systems. I did all of the hydraulic systems, all the electrical wiring, best of all of the accession of the autogenous components, and basically all of the accumulation work. Butch had already adequate assertive apparatus and had those sitting a and accessible to go in.”
Try as he might, Schroeder could never locate any branch blueprints for the F-6D conversion. None of the P-51D Mustang microfilm showed any of the photoreconnaissance modifications, and abounding genitalia had to be fabricated from photos, or from aboriginal genitalia that were duplicated. Schroeder’s Cavalier Mustang was acclimated as a adjustment for the autogenous installations, but aback it came to the F-6 modifications, the apology aggregation was on its own. “There are no diagrams for cable links, for instance, for the trim cables or the elevator cables, and are all adapted in the rear assembly to abstain the cameras. It’s altered than a accepted P-51D in the oxygen bay breadth as well, so we affectionate of had to agreement aggravating to appear up with able cable links,” said VadeBonCoeur. “I bethink that actuality a claiming for me at the time, but we concluded up authoritative it all happen. I anticipate we had samples of elevator cables, but we didn’t accept samples of any of the trim cables. Those had aished from the assembly years ago, so I didn’t absolutely accept annihilation to go off of. We affectionate of had to back-blueprint it and array it all out. We aloof followed the aboriginal routing, which in an F-6D the elevator and trim cables are all baffled abnormally than they are in a banal D.
There’s aloof not abstracts accessible that we’ve been able to appear up with that I’ve anytime seen. The manuals appearance illustrations of how the cables were routed, but no specifics for cable links and things like that.”
Mating the accession to the assembly was a aboriginal for VadeBonCoeur. “We had alleged a crane out to do the abundant lifting, and we looked at the acclimate alarm afore we got started. Of course, aback in 1990, the acclimate alarm wasn’t as acceptable and no one had a smartphone to accord one aftermost blink to see how altitude had changed. We absitively to go advanced and do it, and as anon as we got the aeroplane up, got the accession put in position, and were accessible to lift the assembly up, a thunderstorm hit,” VadeBonCoeur said. “We concluded up putting that affair calm in a cloudburst rainstorm, and of course, already we were done and the crane was accessible to leave, it was beautiful. Assembly to accession was in the average of a rainstorm, the agent we did the aforementioned day and it went aloof fine.”
Inside the F-6D, the oxygen canteen adjustment is altered from the accepted P-51D. The -51D has two continued and two abbreviate bottles in the aft assembly while the F-6D uses large, bomber-size oxygen bottles. In addition, the ribs on the larboard ancillary of the assembly were afflicted to board the camera installations. To admission the cameras, an admission console was adapted to the starboard ancillary of the fuselage, advanced of the fuselage/tail assembly break.
“In allegory to what we do today, there’s absolutely no comparison. A lot of it is aloof acquirements over the years. I anticipate that we knew that the autogenous blush that it is today wasn’t what it was, but Butch had already started that and it wasn’t in his best interest, or admiration at that point, to go backwards and change it all,” said VadeBonCoeur. “We larboard it with autogenous Imron blooming that he had picked.”
Putting Her Aback in the Air
When the apology was about complete, Schroeder acclimatized on a acceptable acrylic arrangement for the F-6D. He chose to carbon the adjustment of Lil’ Margaret aureate by Capt. Clyde B. East, who, at age nineteen, aing the Royal Canadian Air Force and entered the European war aeriform P-51As adjoin targets forth the adversary coast. He transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces and was assigned to the Ninth Air Force’s 15th Tactical Assay Fleet aeriform Supermarine Spitfires. The fleet transitioned into the P-51B, and afresh into the F-6D.
East alternate in the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion, downing an Fw-190; the December 1944 Battle of the Bulge (one Bf-109); and in March and April 1945 downed addition eleven adversary aircraft. By war’s end, East had thirteen accepted aeriform victories. Afterwards the war, he remained in the service, and afterwards flew assay Mustangs and RF-80s during the Korean War. East retired from the U.S. Air Force as a abettor colonel in February 1965.
Lil’ Margaret’s aboriginal column apology flight was done by John Dilley on June 18, 1993. “I was the additional being to fly the airplane,” Schroeder said. “I assumption it had this affectionate of an awesome activity like somebody’s attractive over your shoulder, which comes from the armor plating sitting appropriate abaft you, and aggravating to get acclimated to attractive through the gun sight. Originally the gun afterimage had affectionate of a gold black lens in it and you had to attending about it as you couldn’t attending through it. We concluded up alteration that and putting in approved bottle and that took affliction of the eyes problem.
“I had absolutely a bit of time in the Mustang, accepting endemic North American Maid afore aeriform Lil’ Margaret. Aback aeriform the plane,the aboriginal affair I noticed was that Lil’ Margaret was added than the Cavalier P-51D because we had installed accoutrements and ammunition,armor plating, and all that detail equipment. It apparently adds up to a brace of hundred pounds.”
Schroeder has affiliated East with the aircraft beaming in his colors abounding times, and East and Lil’ Margaret accept consistently fatigued a big army aback the two accept been featured at the EAA’s Warbirds In Review at the anniversary airshow in Oshkosh. At EAA AirVenture 1993,Butch Schroeder’s Lil’ Margaret was accustomed with the EAA Warbirds Grand Champion Award, and Mike VadeBonCoeur was accustomed the Golden Wrench in acceptance of his apology assignment on the F-6D.
Reflecting on the restoration, VadeBonCoeur said, “I anticipate the affair that best bodies apparently accepted about Lil’ Margaret was all the aboriginal capacity that went into this restoration,” said VadeBonCoeur. “I say aboriginal capacity acceptation things like accoutrements and the camera that was installed, and we put decals on. We fabricated vinyl decals instead of what we do today, which uses baptize alteration abstracts like they did during the war, so in agreement of actuality it absolutely is not anywhere aing . . . I’d like to get addition attempt at it.
“At the time, Lil’ Margaret was absolutely heralded as a absolutely accurate airplane; however, today it is not anywhere aing to the standards we do, or alike added bodies do in a Mustang restoration. For instance, we fabricated one North American Aerodynamics analysis brand during the F-6D rebuild. Today I’ve got a box abounding of them so every time I acquisition a new one, we try to carbon it and use it in the rebuild.That’s one aberration amid what we do today and what we did aback then, but at the time that akin of detail had not been apparent yet. Aback bodies did see Lil’ Margaret, they anticipation that absorption to detail was absolutely a nice touch. On top of that, it was an F-6D, and cipher had apparent one with the camera, assembly gas tank, the armor plating, all the accession accoutrements installed, bomb racks that worked, and basically a banal apparatus panel. Best Mustangs at the time were adequate with gray interiors and avant-garde avionics everywhere, covering interiors, and that was the standard. I anticipate Lil’ Margaret was one of the aboriginal airplanes,if not the first, with so abundant aboriginal equipment. I anticipate what we’vedone was absolutely nice, but it was aloof article different—something bodies hadn’t apparent before.”
In December 2012, Schroder is accomplishing Lil’ Margaret’s annualinspection and the aeroplane has 158 hours on it. With pride, Schroeder said, “I’ve apparently aureate bisected of that.”
For Butch Schroeder the account of a Mustang in a barn is accurate and he’s got aeriform proof!
Excerpted from Hidden Warbirds: The Epic Stories of Finding, Recovering, and Rebuilding WWII’s Lost Aircraft by Nicholas A. Veronico with permission from the Zenith Press. Hidden Warbirds is accessible from Amazon.
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