Dale Amy
January 25, 2012

Every July, pilots and other aviation enthusiasts descend on Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for a week-long festival of flight known as AirVenture. Billed as The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration--and rightfully so as annual attendance typically hovers around the half-million mark--AirVenture is hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Ford Motor Company is a major sponsor and supporter of this Mecca of aviation, and in recent years, has gotten into the habit of annually building and donating a special, one-off Mustang to be auctioned off at AirVenture. All proceeds of this auction go to support EAA's Young Eagles program, whose commendable purpose is to freely introduce kids and teenagers to the joys of flight. In 2008, Dearborn created the AV8R Mustang; for 2009, it was the AV-X10. In the summer of 2010, the singular, high-flying Mustang was the SR-71 you see here.

Fellow propeller-heads out there will no doubt recognize the SR-71 designation as belonging to the Darth Vader-ish strategic reconnaissance jet nicknamed Blackbird, which was designed and assembled by the secretive Lockheed Skunk Works beginning in the early '60s. Just 32 of these aeronautical marvels were built before the tooling was ordered destroyed in 1968. The Blackbird was nothing if not fast: Its typical cruise speed at altitude was in the vicinity of Mach 3.2.

Even though out of operational status for over a decade, the SR-71 still holds all airspeed and altitude records for a production aircraft--certainly reason enough for Ford to want to build a one-off Mustang based on a 2011 5.0 GT of the same name. But in this case, the SR in the designation also stands for Shelby/Roush, as this was the first ever--and quite likely the last--collaboration between those two icons of Ford performance and racing.

It's no coincidence that these two became involved in the project. Though fierce and direct competitors in the field of high-performance Mustangs, both Jack Roush and Carroll Shelby are true aviation buffs who attend AirVenture whenever schedules permit.

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Roush's passion for flying his WWII-vintage P-51 Mustang fighters is well-documented (as have been his two death-defying, non-P-51 crashes), but Shelby's connection with aviation is not as widely known. Carroll was in fact a test and ferry pilot, as well as flight instructor, on medium bombers for the air force during WWII, and his interest in aviation apparently hasn't waned a bit over the intervening decades.

So, when Ford approached the pair with the thought of lending their ideas and names to this aviation-charity project, both quickly agreed and soon met with Mustang Chief Designer, Darrell Behmer, in Dearborn to review and decide between seven different conceptual renderings from seven different designers. Shelby and Roush also helped select the car's hardware, and the SR-71 was then built in Roush's Livonia assembly facility.

Given the plane's Blackbird moniker, it's not hard to understand how the SR-71 Mustang came to be primarily finished in a semi-matte black, although its aircraft namesake was actually finished in a dark matte indigo blue. The car's red accents echo similar contrasting striping and lettering on the jet, and there are even stylized gloss-black "leaks" trailing over the edges of the front fenders. (The aircraft was a prodigious leaker on the ground since its skin panels were designed with significant gap dimensions in order to accommodate the inevitable expansion that would occur at the 400-degree skin temperature during supersonic cruise flight.) The Mustang also wears stylized Air Force markings in silver, along with a graphic of the aircraft itself on its glass roof, and it has "jet exhausts" in the grille instead of foglamps.

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The two-seat interior favors bright red upholstery and trim, with the driver-side Recaro bucket wearing Carroll Shelby's signature while the passenger seat wears that of Jack Roush. Instrumentation wears special lettering--like "Ground Speed" on the speedo--and even the nav display lights up with a home screen proclaiming: "You Are Cleared For Flight." The rear seat has been replaced with a RaceSkinz carbon-fiber cover and the whole cabin is surrounded by a rollcage.

Performance mods to this ground-bound SR-71 come primarily from the Ford Racing catalog and include the Handling Pack suspension, and FRPP exhaust (in this case with Roush tips). Not yet in the catalog are SVT's GT500 Performance Pack wheels (19-inch front; 20 in back) finished in black, wearing "SR-71" center caps. It also wears the polished version of FRPP's 50-state-legal, 2.3-liter Whipple supercharger for the Coyote, rated at 525 hp and 470 lb-ft at the flywheel.

By all accounts, the one and only SR-71 Mustang was a huge hit on display at EAA AirVenture. After the auctioneer's gavel fell, it had sold for an impressive $375,000 to an unnamed buyer, with all proceeds headed to the EAA Young Eagles so that some young folks might be introduced to the same joys of flight that have captivated Carroll Shelby and Jack Roush for so many years.

Like you, we would have loved to have this distinctive jet-themed collectible in our own hangar.

Horse Sense: The SR-71 airplane was once clocked from New York to London in an hour and 54 minutes (by comparison, a Boeing 747 would average over six hours for the same route, and even the Concorde could only knock it down to around three hours).

5.0 Tech Specs

'11 SR-71 Blackbird

Engine and Drivetrain
Block Coyote 5.0 aluminum
Displacement 302 ci
Crankshaft Forged steel, fully counterweighted, induction hardened
Rods Forged steel
Pistons Hypereutectic, short-skirt, flat-top w/four equal valve reliefs; moly friction-reducing coating; oil-jet cooled
Camshafts DOHC, four camshafts, independently adjustable timing
Cylinder Heads Aluminum, four valves per cylinder
Power Adder FRPP/Whipple 2.3-liter twin-screw supercharger, intercooled
Intake FRPP/Whipple
Throttle Body Stock GT500
Fuel System Sequential mechanical returnless w/FRPP 47-lb/hr
Headers Stock Tri-Y manifolds
Exhaust Stock w/FRPP axle-back
Transmission Getrag MT82 six-speed manual
Rearend Stock 8.8-in

Electronics
Engine Management Copperhead w/FRPP calibration
Ignition Stock coil-on-plug
Gauges Stock w/ EAA and SR-71 graphics, plus gauge pod w/FRPP<

Chassis and Suspension
Front Suspension
Shocks Stock
Springs FRPP
Brakes 14-in GT500 Performance Pack
Wheels 19-in GT500 Performance Pack, forged, black
Tires Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2, P265/40-ZR19

Rear Suspension
Shocks Stock
Springs FRPP
Brakes GT500 Performance Pack
Wheels 20-in. GT500 Performance Pack, forged, black
Tires Goodyear Eagle F1 SuperCar G:2, P285/35-ZR20

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