Despite its equine logo, even Ford is unsure whether its iconic Mustang was named after the wild horses of the American West or the P-51D Mustang plane. Fortunately, the carmaker is happy to play fast and loose with the story so as to create cars like the P-51D-inspired "Ole Yeller" Mustang.
The P-51D was an American-made single-seat fighter and fighter-bomber used in World War II, among other conflicts. After the war, some were bought and flown in air shows. One such plane, flown for 20 years by the fêted pilot Robert A. "Bob" Hoover, was Ole Yeller, so-called for its bright yellow livery. Ole Yeller is said to still hold the prop plane record, set in 1985, for flying from coast-to-coast in the US, with a time of 5 hours and 20 minutes.
Ford has produced an aviation-inspired Mustang to be auctioned on behalf of the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA) youth education programs every year for the past nine years. This year's theme draws on the story of Ole Yeller, and far be it from us to cast aspersions on the use of any apparent nominative synergy to knit the two together.
"This year's one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang honors two aviation greats, the iconic and historic P-51D Mustang fighter plane, and highly decorated fighter pilot, test pilot, and airshow performer, Bob Hoover, who is referred to by many as one of the greatest pilots ever to have lived," explains member of the Ford board of directors Edsel B. Ford II. "The Shelby GT350 Mustang, with its nimbleness, speed and aerodynamics, provided us with the perfect platform to create this tribute to the P-51D aircraft."
Indeed, based on the Shelby GT350 Mustang as it is, the Ole Yeller Mustang has a 5.2-l Ti-VCT V8 engine under the hood. By way of context, that's the most powerful naturally-aspirated engine Ford has ever produced, kicking out a serious 526 hp (392 kW) and 429 lb-ft (582 Nm) of torque.
The engine is paired with a TREMEC six-speed manual transmission and there's specially tuned sport suspension to boot. Elsewhere, there are carbon fiber components and mirrors, as well, of course, as a bright yellow paint job with "Ole Yeller" accents and badging. Inside, there are specially designed Recaro seats, sill plates, floor mats with unique logos and aviation-inspired gauges.
The first of the now nine Mustangs that Ford has created for and donated to the EAA, in 2008, was the F-22 Raptor-inspired Mustang AV8R, with a glass-roof canopy. The following year saw the AV-X10 "Dearborn Doll" Mustang produced, which celebrated the World War II aircraft after which it was named.
In 2010, automotive icons Carroll Shelby and Jack Roush collaborated to create the SR-71 Blackbird Mustang, inspired by the legendary reconnaissance jet. 2011's Blue Blue Angels Mustang, meanwhile, celebrated 100 years of US naval aviation.
The Red Tails Mustang was created in 2012 to pay homage to the United States' first African-American military airmen, the Tuskegee Airmen, who also flew P-51 Mustangs. In 2013, the 60th anniversary of the US Air Force Thunderbirds demonstration team was celebrated with the US Air Force Thunderbirds Edition Mustang.
Two years ago, the F-35 Lightning II Edition Mustang was inspired by the F-35 Lightning multirole fighter jet and, last year, the Apollo Edition Mustang paid homage to the Apollo spaceflight program.
The "Ole Yeller" Mustang will be auctioned at the Gathering of Eagles charity event on July 28th, with all proceeds going to the EAA's youth education programs.
Update (August 2, 2016): The Ole Yeller Mustang sold for US$295,000 at the Gathering of Eagles event, which raised $2.2 million in total.