Golden Wrench P-51


Thunderbird is one of the recognizable P-51 mustangs from the post war era. The cobalt blue P-51C NX5528N, most notably won the 1949 Bendix race piloted by Joe DeBona where it set the piston driven speed record at 470 mph. Thunderbird was finished with 48 coats of primers and the iconic gloss cobalt blue paint adorned with the Red Pegasus logo of Mobile Oil. Polished to a high shine, the paint job reportedly added 8 mph to the speed of the aircraft.


Thunderbird was owned by WWII Brigadier General, bomber pilot and academy award winner Jimmy Stewart. Jackie Cochran, the Speed Queen, also owned Thunderbird. Warren Pietsch has engaged AirCorps Aviation to restore his P-51C to honor this historic aircraft.


  • BUILT: Dallas, TX
  • ENGINE: Rolls-Royce “Merlin” V-1650-7 Liquid cooled, fuel injected V-12 inline. 1800 hp @ 3000rpm
  • FUEL: 150 octane gasoline produced by General Petroleum Company
  • PROPELLER: Hamilton Standard, 11’2 inch 4 blade (hydraulic)
  • ARMAMENT: None
  • LENGTH: 32′
  • HEIGHT: 13′ 8”
  • WINGSPAN: 37′
  • WEIGHT: 6,223 lbs
  • RANGE: 2008 miles plus (wet wing)
  • SERVICE CEILING: 41,800 ft
  • MAX SPEED: 470 mph 


North American P-51C Serial No. 2925

April 15,1948
Thunderbird registered to Joe De Bona Racing Co. The company was a partnership between De Bona and James M. (Jimmy) Stewart.

September 3,1949
Joe De Bona & Jimmy Stewart win the final Bendix Trophy Race. With De Bona piloting Thunderbird won the 2,008 mile (3,231.6 kilometers) race to Cleveland, Ohio in an elapsed time of 4:16:17.5, averaging 470.136 miles per hour.

December 19,1949
James Stewart (Sole Owner, for Joe De Bona Racing Co.) sold Thunderbird to Jacqueline Cochran, for “$1.00 and other consideration.”

December 29,1949
Jackie Cochran flies Thunderbird, to two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records and a U.S. National Aeronautic Association record, with an average speed of 703.275 kilometers per hour (436.995 miles per hour).

January 20,1953
Jackie Cochran sold it back to Jimmy Stewart for “$1.00 and other consideration.”

June 2,1953
The P-51 Pony Express is reborn – The Coronation of Elizabeth II was a major television event with CBS and NBC arranging to have footage of the ceremonies flown across the Atlantic to Newfoundland. From there the film would be flown on to the United States by Jimmy Stewart’s P-51 and another owned by Paul Mantz, NX1204. Thunderbird, piloted buy De Bona arrived 24 minutes before Mantz’s NX1204.

September 1,1954
Jimmy Stewart sells Serial No. 2925 to Joe De Bona for $1.00 plus a $7,500.00 Chattel Mortgage. They now designated the aircraft a North American F-51C.

Allan Grant, Life Magazine 1949

Jimmy Stewart

WWII Bomber Pilot

Jimmy Stewart was the first Hollywood star to enlist in the armed forces after Pearl Harbor. He joined the Air Force, flew over 20 combat missions, and attained the rank of Brigadier General, the highest rank of any Hollywood star.

Jackie Cochran

From Cosmetics to Command
Jackie Cochran

Jacqueline was a pioneer of aviation in the 20th century. In 1948, Jackie joined the U.S. Air Force Reserve with a rank of lieutenant colonel, almost certainly becoming the first female pilot in the U.S. Air Force. She set world records for flying from the ‘30s through the ‘60s.


We have created numerous print materials highlighting the story and history for P-51C Thunderbird.
P-51C, N5528N, Thunderbird, 1949 Bendix Trophy Race


The historic P-51C THUNDERBIRD is housed at the Dakota Territory Museum located in Minot, North Dakota. The remarkable collection of flying aircraft is globally recognized and sought after. The DTAM collection includes a combat vet razorback P-47D “Bonnie“, D-Day veteran Spitfire Mk.IX, Hurricane  Mk.XII, P-40E Warhawk, FM-2 Wildcat, C-47/C-53 Skytrooper Duchess of Dakota, Harvard Mk.IV, P-51C Mustang “Lope’s Hope 3rd”, P-51D Mustang “Miss Kitty III“, P-51D Mustang “Little Horse”, P-51D Dakota Kid, a Battle of Iwo Jima veteran Stinson L-5 Sentinel and a Luscombe T8F.