Spare Parts For Your Mustang?
How About A NEW Mustang!?
- Update 08-04-00
By: Wayne Sagar
If your car needs a part,
what can you do? Easy... run to one of the thousands of
auto parts stores across the country and make your
selection from the millions of parts readily available
for nearly every automobile ever made.
If your classic Warbird
needs a part... your options are far more limited. In
fact, some of the more hard to find components are on the
"unobtainium" list... there simply are no
workable parts left.
What this shortage has
done to Warbird flying is make it increasingly more
expensive; as the parts get even harder to find, in some
cases, it simply rules out flying at all.
When we first heard of a
company gearing up to make new Mustang parts just before
Sun-n-Fun this year, it simply sounded too good to be
true; we tracked down the man at the helm of the company
to get to the bottom of the story.
Andy Neale, President and
CFO of "Millenium Classics," was a bit guarded
when we spoke to him a few months ago. Things were still
in the planning stages and the first test parts had just
begun rolling off the line at the Millenium Classics
Romanian manufacturing facility.
Neale did not want to jump
the gun by speculating what the company might ultimately
be able to produce.
Since that time, more
research and consultation with the Romanian engineers in
charge of reproducing the parts, has opened up the doors
of possibility... and opened them very wide.
When Neale first told us
of the potential capabilities of their Romanian
facilities, as far as accurately reproducing some of the
harder to find parts for Mustangs, we brought up the
specter of creating a P-51 from the ground up. He told us
that "theoretically" this was, indeed, possible
but their effort at that time was focused on getting the
parts they were initially involved with ready, tested and
on the market.
With a few months under
their belts and more than a few first run parts in the
bins, Millenium Classics has announced their intention to
reproduce the entire P-51 airframe and many of the engine
parts, with the ultimate goal of reproducing the entire
engine as well.
Neale told us today:
"Weve just completed negotiations with the
factory, in Romania, to produce complete airplanes.
Its likely the first airplanes will be flying with
overhauled, original Merlins, since the engine
development time is going to take longer than the
AAFO.COM had also discussed the potential
of building a reproduction Rolls Royce Merlin engine with
Neale, when we asked this question again today,
"Absolutely, absolutely" was his answer.
This raises the
possibility of recreating a classic engine.. an engine at
the pinnacle of piston aircraft engine design and making
it even better.
metallurgical science and the associated improvements in
alloys, could we see a Merlin "hybrid" even
better than the best of the engines currently in use?
said Neale, "the technology is there and we have a
team of engineers working on it now." Neale also
indicated that engineering for the top end of the engine
had shown it to be within their capabilities, company
engineers are currently crunching the numbers for the
We asked Neale if this
process could filter down to the racing Merlin that has
evolved by modification from the original designs...his
response: "The racing [engine] will be a little
further down the line but we are going to produce top end
kits for people to convert their engines from the
standard head to the 620 Transport Heads"
We also asked Neale if he
could take a shot at an estimated cost for a new
Transport Head "top end kit," versus a rebuilt
existent assembly: "That kit will run somewhere from
$35,000 to $40,000 I would guess."
How does this compare with
what is available now?
According to Neale,
"Theres virtually no hardware left for
Transport Head assemblies. People are reusing stuff,
theres not really any good heads and liners left;
so well be producing a complete kit. Pistons,
liners, cam racks, cams, everything anyone would want to
convert their standard Packard 1650 -7 engine to the
Rolls Royce Transport Heads."
Neale told us that these
converted engines would, indeed, still be -7s but
when they are geared up and begin producing complete
engine packages: "As brand new engines, wed
build the -9"
Beyond the standard engine
production, will this company offer
"one-off" production runs of custom engine
work... even to the extent of changing the nose case prop
reduction gearing, long a dream of those who race the
customer wants" was Neales reply.
Being a bit of a
"closet engineer" I was interested in just how
you go about reproducing a Mustang. I know it can be done
from drawings, weve seen this process first hand...
...but what about making
an absolutely accurate parts inventory, from which new
airplanes could be built and parts supplied to existing
airplanes as well?
According to Neale, there
was only one way to do this... Millenium Classics
disassembled an entire Mustang and is using the actual
parts from this airplane as models for the new airplane
"We had 95% of the
drawings and the 5% we did not have was not enough for
the factory [to work with] What we wanted to do was not
only make new airplanes but make sure the parts would
retrofit with original Mustangs. They [the engineers]
could guarantee to make a Mustang but without having
parts to measure, they could not guarantee that the parts
would fit on the originals; and we really want for people
to be able to keep their original airplanes flying.
These [parts] are absolute
reproductions, unless there is anything better that we
can do. [from the original]. For instance, the pressings
for the heat shield for the exhaust fairings are actually
thicker than the originals because they were prone to
crack. The exhaust stacks, the bases are actually
machined and then double welded because they were liable
to crack. The engineers did the calculations and found
that if you machine them rather than forge them, they
will be stronger and you can double weld them. There are
little improvements the engineers have done the
calculations on that will apply to almost every
This work being done by
Neale and Millenium Classics to reproduce and improve on
the basic P-51 Mustang is not being done in a
vacuum...there are many people in the Warbird industry
who have spent entire lifetimes working with these
machines. Andy Neale knows this and they are working with
some of the most well known names in the business to
ensure that all the best improvements and ideas are
incorporated into the changes...
very closely with Rick Shanholtzer and his company,
Frontier Aviation of McKinney, Texas. Were also
working with Nelson Ezell, Ezell Aviation of
Breckenridge, Texas and also Les Crowder. Rick is working
with as a technical consultant on the engine, Les and
Nelson are working with us on the airframe."
With parts being made and
nearly ready for shipment, we should start seeing
Millenium Classic components on airplanes soon. Neale
told us that Frank Bormans airplane will be
receiving a set of the new exhaust stacks and shrouds..
Neale added that another
part would soon be available: original Harrison radiator
reproductions, built to exact original specifications
will be offered. These radiators will also be available,
built specifically in a racing version.
There will be extensive
field testing of all parts before general marketing
begins...expect to see a few examples of Millenium
Classic parts on display in the pits at Reno this year.
If this company is
successful and achieve their goals, it could change the
face of Warbird flying, adding years to the life
expectancy of these rare flying classics. Unlimited Air
Racing, as it currently exists, would also gain a new
lease on life!
Many Air Racing and
Warbird theorists put a closure factor in any speculation
about the future of racing the classics. Parts
availability, or better put lack of availability
being one of the key points of their musings. We
know, from our original conversation with Andy Neale,
that they are not limiting their vision to the Mustang;
other hard to find components for radial engine classics
are part of this companys overall goal as well...
All of this is good news
for those bending wrenches to keep these beautiful
examples of our aviation heritage flying.
Well be keeping an
eye on progress at this new company and hopefully,
well meet with Andy at Reno, get some pictures of
the parts available by then and any more details that
develop as this company moves ahead.
information and contact information