Stephanie Davies Associate Online Editor
May 14, 2012
Photos By: Pete Epple

Powered by a dual-stage supercharged Merlin V-12, the P-51 produced well over 1,400 hp and could achieve speeds above 450 mph--amazing for a prop-driven plane. The P-51 was used in WWII and the Korean War, and its pilots have shot down over 4,900 enemy aircraft.

Phil Bartnicki, an aviation and automotive fanatic, pulled out all the stops transforming his '06 Mustang GT into a stunning tribute of a P-51 fighter plane. In its day, the prolific fighter essentially ruled the sky; today you can see them flying at air shows and special events. And when pilots push the balls to the wall, the P-51 provides the ultimate hot-rod rush.

Adrenaline is a staple in Phil Bartnicki's life. As a private pilot with approximately 330 hours in the air, Phil knows what a powerful engine should feel like. So when his daughter Allison decided her dad should have a car he loved to help him cope with a devastating loss, they began the search.

"When my wife, Barbara, got sick about 10 years ago, I stopped flying," Phil explains. "Then when Barbara passed away, Allison encouraged me to find a new hobby." This '06 Screaming Yellow GT fit the bill--which Phil purchased in September of 2005. At the time, Phil worked for Nestlé and decided on plates that read "W WONKA." "It was a fit for me," he says. Then the real fun began.

Phil installed JBA axle-back mufflers early on, and also decided to lower the car using Ford Racing lowering and handling kits. A supercharger was also in the cards, and he chose to go with a Roush setup producing 10 pounds of boost. A Roush off-road exhaust gave the car the growl he desired.

With some newfound power under the hood, Phil turned to Midwest Hot Rods located in Plainfield, Illinois. Dan Ulrich collaborated with Phil in the planning of the transformation of this newly blown GT into a tribute to the "other" Mustang. "I was always an aviation buff, especially WWII aviation," Phil explains. So the tribute was a natural.

Black stripes were painted on at Midwest Hot Rods before the car was sent to receive a complete interior facelift. Holy Cow Sports and Mr. Trim, both of Downers Grove, Illinois, took on the job of transforming the Stang's cockpit with yellow inserts and four different P-51 planes embroidered on the seat backs.

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Nick Solovey of Big Nick's Garage in Kenosha, Wisconsin, got his hands on the car next, and is responsible for the highly detailed murals on the inside of the trunk lid and under the hood, while Paul Boeckman of Plainfield, Illinois, painted the "kill" flags seen in prominence on the fenders. As an added tock, they feature car company logos of the brands Phil has gunned down. Paul also added a painting of Phil's wife Barbara to the sidescoops, as well as his daughter's name, Allison Marie.

Phil then turned his sights back to adding more power with the addition of a Nitrous Oxide Systems wet kit, Design Engineering Cry02 kit, BBK ceramic long-tube headers, 4.10 gears in the rear, a Hurst short-throw shifter, and a few other go-fast goodies.

Many special details went into the creation of this fine tribute. The NOS and CO2 switches on the dash are creatively designed to resemble aircraft switches, while the bottles in the trunk have been painted by Nick Solovey to resemble bombs. The fusebox could easily be mistaken for an ammo box, and the fuel cover is a spitting image of one found on a P-51 fighter plane. Phil even went so far as to change his license plates to read P-51.

As you read this, he says the car dyno'd at over 400 rwhp, but he may unlock more power in the future. "I've put so much time and effort into it," says Phil. For now, he is quite happy driving the car on the street and getting compliments--especially those from World War II veterans. "I get quite a reaction to the car. It's especially moving when a veteran tells me how much he appreciates the tribute," says Phil.

So, does this incredible Mustang fill the flying void in Phil's life? "Someday I'll return to flying," he admits. "But this Mustang is exhilarating."

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