Dale Amy
September 1, 2008
Roush technicians Derek Riopelle, Larry Lindenmuth, and Andy Reichenbach stand proudly beside one of their babies: a ready-for-shipment P-51A.

We're not sure whether the debate has ever been completely settled. Was the Mustang named after the free-ranging western equine, or the long-range fighter aircraft that helped turn the tide in WWII? We're guessing Jack Roush would cast his vote for the latter-the famed North American P-51 Mustang. Indeed, he owns two examples of the aesthetically perfect WWII war bird-one is a "D" model that he straps into and flies whenever his chaotic schedule permits, and the second is a "B" model that's currently being restored to flying status.

So it comes as no surprise that the Cat in the Hat should honor the most powerful Roush Mustang ever with the P-51A moniker. The "A" was the first of the P-51 aircraft variants, which of course begs the question: Will there be follow-up versions of the Roush P-51?

Roush had five three-man build teams working simultaneously on two cars on a pair of hoists assigned to their use in the main assembly area. They used two hoists so they didn't have to wait for the seats to be reskinned and the engines rebuilt and supercharged. By the time they got the powertrain and stock buckets out of the latest car on one hoist, the beefed-up powerplant and P-51A-specific seats were back for the earlier car on the other hoist.

Limited to only 151 serial-numbered copies, the supercharged P-51A is armed with no less than 510 hp and an equal amount of torque. It's the first Roush Mustang to receive internal engine modifications to withstand the rigors of its generous amounts of boost. It comes in only one fighterish color combo: Vapor Metallic with an olive-green stripe down the hood. It wears badges in the red-and-yellow checkered colors of the 357th Fighter Group, the most successful in air-to-air combat victories of any P-51 group in the Eighth Air Force.

Like all of Roush's special-edition Mustangs, the limited run of P-51As was built at the company's Plymouth Road Technical Center in Livonia, Michigan. What really happened is that late last winter, a bunch of virtually identical, new '08 GTs (some with the Sirius satellite option, some without) were disassembled practically down to their unibodies, then hand-rebuilt in P-51A form. All work was performed under the Technical Center roof in three major separate areas: the main production line where the cars were torn down and reassembled; a dedicated trim department where the GT seats were rebuilt and reskinned; and a third area where the 4.6L cammers were stripped to their bare blocks, fortified with upgraded cranks, rods, and pistons, and topped with an upsized Roushcharger intercooled blower.

Even as the GTs waited their turn in the Roush storage compound, their hoods were removed and taken into the plant's paint facility where a military-looking olive-green stripe was painted down the middle. The hoods were also drilled for the P-51A scoop, then reclearcoated and reinstalled before the GTs were put onto the disassembly/reassembly hoists.

Those are the basics, but we thought you might be interested in seeing more details on just how an '08 Mustang GT becomes a Roush P-51A.

Maybe by now someone is driving No. 28 of the 151 P-51As, one of the pair of cars "our" build team assembled at the time of our visit.

Keeping Track
Of the 151 P-51As, 150 are coupes. Roush built a single convertible model specifically for the Muhammad Ali Celebrity Fight Night charity. Needless to say, this solitary ragtop should have even more collector value.

A second P-51A (No. 151, the final coupe built) was also auctioned for charity purposes at Barrett-Jackson's Palm Beach event last March.

Roush also built a pair of P-51As for media test drives. They weren't included in the 151-car total. Instead of a unique number on their Roush serialization plates, they simply contain the words "press car." They will ultimately be sold-assuming they survive the media thrashing.