BENDIX RACE WINNER | RECORD SETTING P-51C
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.
Thunderbird registered to Joe De Bona Racing Co. The company was a partnership between De Bona and James M. (Jimmy) Stewart.
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.
James Stewart (Sole Owner, for Joe De Bona Racing Co.) sold Thunderbird to Jacqueline Cochran, for “$1.00 and other consideration.”
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).
Jackie Cochran sold it back to Jimmy Stewart for “$1.00 and other consideration.”
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.
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.
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.
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.