In a dusty hangar in southern California, at an unassuming airfield, there sits a forgotten treasure: A P-51D Mustang, a legendary World War II warplane that could become the find of a lifetime for one lucky buyer. One of the few remaining 425-knot piston-powered airplanes - the fastest piston-powered airplane of its era and perhaps of all time - lies in a hangar at Torrance Airport in southern California, waiting to be auctioned to its new owner.
As the inheritor of the fabled Merlin engine, the most admired sound ever produced by twelve cylinders marching two-by-two in the classic V-12 configuration, the P-51 Mustang was the best fighter aircraft of its time, shooting down 4,950 enemy aircraft by the end of the war in 1945.
According to photographer and historian Dick Phillips of Warbird Images, who researches the history of P-51 Mustangs, this airplane, serial number 44-84896, was manufactured for the war effort in 1944 and ended its military career in 1956 as part of the 169th Fighter Squadron in the Illinois National Guard. According to Phillips, the airplane was stored in California until it was sold on the civilian market for $867 dollars to P.J. Murray of Oxnard, California and was registered with the tail number N5416V.
According to Phillip's records, N5416V would be sold 10 additional times in the next five years before being sold to James Keichline for $8,950 dollars. Keichline owned the aircraft for ten years before selling it to its most recent owner, Ken Scholz in Playa Del Rey, California in 1973. Scholz originally kept the aircraft tied down on the ramp at Torrance Airport, but vandalism caused him to move it to a hangar in 1978. Scholz, a retired aircraft mechanic, apparently never flew the plane, but intended to restore it during his retirement. It seems he would never get the chance.
Starting June 2nd, this old 1958 P-51 Mustang will be auctioned by Scholz's estate, and the starting bid is only $150,000. It's a little rough around the edges and needs an extensive restoration, but it's complete - or at least advertised as "appearing complete," which we know is hardly a guarantee. The Packard Rolls Model V-1650 engine is being auctioned separately, starting at $8,000. And there are no logbooks or any other documentation for the aircraft. Add to this that the aircraft is being auctioned "as is," and, according to the listing, there is a host of problems that will require extensive efforts on behalf of the owner, including crazing and discoloration on the canopy, oxidized paint, corrosion, and a total overhaul of all instruments and gauges.
We know that the aircraft will need to be almost completely rebuilt, but what about the logbooks? How much do the missing logbooks decrease the value of an aircraft? We know that with a typical aircraft purchase, the logbooks are vital for determining airworthiness, and can reduce the value of an aircraft significantly, sometimes by up to a third, but for an aircraft restoration project this may not be accurate. Without logbooks, an active airplane may not be airworthy until an A&P mechanic or IA recreates each AD or service bulletin and attests to its performance and compliance, an expensive prospect that may end up repeating service that was previously performed but not evidenced without proper documentation. But a project as extensive as this P-51 Mustang is likely to be documented over the course of its restoration, providing proper documentation in the form of logbooks by the end of the project.
Rumors are swirling that the bid price will come in around $400,000-800,000 (minus the engine) but the cost of this restoration project will far exceed that dollar amount. According to a few of our Facebook followers, a restoration like this will likely cost at least $1.5 million. The airworthy P-51 aircraft on the market right now seem to be going at a market rate of $2.0-$4.5 million. This 1945 Mustang is listed for $2.14 million.
How much would you guess this P-51D Mustang will bring at auction? How much do you think it will cost to restore it? How much would you pay for the privilege of owning it?