The Other Mustang: At More Than 550 MPH, This P-51 Is Now The Fastest Piston-Engined Airplane Ever

We like airplanes here on Roadkill, especially old ones, and we love seeing them do real work, even on Labor Day Weekend. Last Saturday, Steve Hinton Jr. and his P-51D Mustang air racer, Voodoo, did some of that great work at Clarks Field in Idaho.

Hinton piloted the fastest-ever piston-engined, propeller-driven aircraft with a four-lap average over three kilometers of 531.53 miles per hour, which included a best single pass of 554.69 mph. To beat the official (and retired) FIA record for piston-engined planes, Hinton needed to clear the previous record by 1 percent, which was a 535 mph average. While he fell short, no one will dispute that the young ace racer and his steed are the fastest piston-engined combination in the sky.

Like most hot-rodded land-speed racers, Hinton’s Voodoo required an evolution to achieve those new speeds. The P-51 Mustang has raced in the sky for nearly three decades with several big trophies to show, but the warbird got new wings for this endeavor from Aviation Partners. The Seattle company was responsible the sole graphic on the white-painted Voodoo for the record attempt, a major departure from the Mustang’s usual bright livery (See below).

P-51_Mustang_Record_Voodoo2

As for the record, we’re impressed that Hinton went 550 miles per hour at all, but few things compare to seeing Hinton flying that speed maybe 70 feet above the Idaho runway. Maybe 70 feet. Even when we watched the video on a crappy laptop, the Mustang’s blurry shape and the sound of the V12 turned to “11” gives us the chills. This is some pinnacle man-and-machine work right here and we can’t wait to see the high-definition footage that should be coming soon.

Hinton and his Voodoo Mustang will feature in the Unlimited class at the upcoming Reno National Championship Air Races, which begin next week. What better way could you prepare for a race than by outrunning any other piston-engined aircraft in history? Hinton has three Unlimited wins with Voodoo, including the 2016 title, and you can expect him to mix it up around the pylons at Reno again.

Just like the hot rodders at El Mirage and Bonneville, airplane racers have cranked up the speed in their classic planes. Most of the heavy hitters in air racing are built on World War II-era fighter-plane chassis. And they race wingtip-to-wingtip around pylons just a few breathtaking feet above the earth. Here’s Steve Hinton qualifying Voodoo in 2013 before taking his first Unlimited win with the Mustang.

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2 thoughts on “The Other Mustang: At More Than 550 MPH, This P-51 Is Now The Fastest Piston-Engined Airplane Ever

  1. I can’t see it written anywhere obvious, but I assume it’s still got the (presumably Packard built) Rolls Royce Merlin V12?
    I’m sure I’m not the only person that would love an article on just the engine, let alone the rest of the aircraft.

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    1. If you dig around the websites that cover Reno air racing, you can find out a little about the engines used in racing mustangs like Dago Red, Voodoo, and Strega. (aafo.com, warbirdaeropress.com) But not everything… those guys guard their speed secrets! As far as I know, the current engine is a Merlin built by Vintage V12s. Voodoo has run Merlins built by Mike Wilton, “Sparrow” Barrow, Mike Hovey, and the late Dwight Thorn in the past 20+ years. The usual formula, established by Thorn in the 80s, is a Merlin -9 “transport” (postwar airliner) banks and case with all sorts of parts from different models. The biggest single modification is using the stronger connecting rods from an Allison 1710 engine- not an easy swap since the bearing sizes are different. Nobody has successfully built an aftermarket connecting rod set for a Merlin or Allison (think about that!) Allison rods let it withstand incredible boost pressures-at least until it doesn’t anymore :p. The aftercooler is removed and water/alcohol injection alone is used for charge air cooling. That barely scratches the surface, but it gives you a rough idea. There have been other combinations used too, such as custom supercharger gear ratios, ur even using the -7 gears, keeping the lighter Merlin rods, and a different prop to turn higher crank RPM.

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