2nd August 2004
Bob Baker and crew, in the midst of some extremely well-done, near perfect P-51 restorations at EAA Airventure in Oshkosh this year, came out on top. Baker earned top spot with this beautiful P-51D "Sweet and Lovely". It is both "Sweet" and "Lovely". Rebuilt from an old ANG airframe, it is truly a site to see. "Sweet and Lovely" won Best Fighter in 2003 and his other P-51, "Oklahoma Miss", earned Best P-51 a few years ago. "Sweet and Lovely" is 44-73279, N451D. It must be difficult to split hairs and pick just one to win grand champ. Bakers presentation was excellent with the addition of 108 gal paper drop tanks (1 of them original) and runway matting and WWII style wheel chocks.
I'm not sure what Bob learned from prior years, but it paid off. The other P-51s contending for the top spot, have restorers that have been there before and always produce top-notch restorations. John Muszala of Pacific Fighters in Idaho is no newcomer to P-51s. John restored Bill Allmon's "Naca 127" and in 1998 was awarded "Grand Champion - WWII". Max Chapman owns the only TP-51C. This is a very immaculate and creative P-51. Fully dual-control as put into a razorback - cool. John is a great guy let me check out the work inside. It is a very nice mix of old and new in the cockpit. The canopy is a custom piece of work to say the least. You have to see it to appreciate the time and talent it took to complete.
Another spectacular restoration was by Mike Vadeboncoeur of Midwest Aero
Restorations, Ltd. I've been praising this one before I saw it because of the
refreshing paint scheme -the only one like this today. But it is much more than
a good paint job. Mike has produced yet another excellent piece of history.
Mike finished Ken Wagnon's "Cripes a Mighty" last year (I have not been able to
see it in person). It is stunning from what I hear and have seen in the photos.
"Daddy's Girl" is hard to describe in words, it is awesome to see.
All the newest P-51s were all polished. You certainly needed some shades when the sun came out. They were gleaming for miles. I try to wait for airshowers to pass by when I'm shooting so I can get a "spectator free" shot. Well with these highly-polished P-51s, you have to wait for the reflections to clear out, not just the backgrounds.
Tom Wood finished up the repairs after a belly landing last year. Repainted as before but with that "new paint" look. The CAF P-51, "Gunfigher" is a well-knownP-51 at Oshkosh. "Gunfighter" was up in the air several times each day. The
blue-noser line was finished off with Jim Reed's "Excalibur" and Anthony Buechler's "Petie 2nd" both P-51s flying during the warbird displays. As I showed up on Friday morning, Gene Mallett's "My Sweet Mary Lou" was taxiing out for departure,
and did not return.
Henry Reichert owns "Dakota Kid" and I only saw this one very briefly as it taxied out for departure. Yes there are more! Bod Odegaard's "Dazzling Donna" was on the show line with Jimmy Leeward flying until Sunday when he left and Doug Rozendaal flew her in the show race. Of course the XP-51 was at the EAA Museum and so was "Paul I", recently retired to museum status.
"Dual Mustangs" - Lee Lauderback and "Mad Max" with Ed Shipley and "Bald Eagle" on his wing entertained the crowd with some of the best P-51 formation flying I have seen. Their performance was the only one I made sure I saw again the next day. If you have a chance to see it at another show this summer - don't miss it! They perform fly-bys and formation loops with different configurations. I like the stacked formation loop - very cool. It all set against some background music.
The show very smooth yet done with some speed because of the vertical component they bring forth. You have to be quick with the camera to keep them in the frame.
Well, I was very pleased at the P-51 turnout this year, although I wanted to see some of the other "new" P-51s that have been out this last year or so. I am not going to complain when 20 mustang show up to a show.
Congratulations to Bob Baker and crew for keeping that top spot at Oshkosh a P-51 Mustang.