Every year for the past eight, Ford has attended the Gathering of Eagles in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, with a special edition Mustang that is auctioned off with all proceeds going to the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) youth education programs. This year, they brought along “Ole Yeller.”
When you consider past contributions included last year’s Apollo Edition, the US Air Force Thunderbirds Edition from 2013, and 2011’s Blue Angels Mustang, it seems kinda nonsensical to make a special edition to commemorate Ole Yeller, but it’s not quite what you think.
“Ole Yeller” is a bright yellow P-51D Mustang that still holds the prop-plane record for going coast-to-coast (5 hours and 20 minutes), set in 1985. Its pilot, Bob Hoover, is widely considered the founding father of modern aerobatics and thrilled fans at more than 1,000 air shows over more than 20 years. It also performed duties as the pace and safety plane at the annual Reno National Championship Air Races. In 1997, Hoover sold the plane to friend John Bagley, who still flies it frequently out of its home base at the Legacy Museum in Rexburg, Idaho.
“This year’s one-of-a-kind Ford Mustang honors two aviation greats, the iconic and historic P-51D Mustang fighter plane, and highly decorated fighter pilot, test pilot, and air show performer, Bob Hoover, who is referred to by many as one of the greatest pilots ever to have lived,” said Edsel B. Ford II, a member of the Ford board of directors. “The Shelby GT350 Mustang, with its nimbleness, speed and aerodynamics, provided us with the perfect platform to create this tribute to the P-51D aircraft.”
The Ford “Ole Yeller” Mustang is based on the Shelby GT350 (billed as the most track-ready and road-legal Mustang ever), with its 526-hp 5.2-lite V-8 (generating 429 lb-ft of torque), controlled by a Tremec 6-speed manual transmission, and specially-tuned sport suspension.
The exterior is custom yellow, with Ole Yeller accents and badges, unique carbon fibre components, and mirrors that project images of the airplane. The interior features specially-designed Recaro seats, specific sill plates, floor mats with unique logos, and aviation inspired gauges.
Referred to as the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, the EAA Gathering of Eagles annually draws more than 1,000 aviation enthusiasts in support of the EAA’s youth programs, including the Young Eagles, designed to encourage young people to become engineers, aviators, astronauts, scientists and innovators.
The Young Eagles has provided free introductory flights to 2 million young people, to encourage them to become the aviation pioneers of tomorrow. The auction for the one-off Mustang is considered the pinnacle of the gathering. To participate in the auction, people can contact the EAA development office at (800) 236-1025 or online at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Over the past eight years, Ford Mustang special edition cars have raised some $3 million for the youth education initiatives.
“We’re truly grateful Ford is, and has been, such a committed sponsor of EAA and AirVenture for more than 16 years now,” said Jack Pelton, EAA CEO and chairman of the board. “With its ninth Mustang donation, Ford has definitely delivered something exceptional that any auto or aviation enthusiast would love to own.”
The Ford “Ole Yeller” Mustang exterior and interior were designed by Ford Design Manager Melvin Betancourt, with custom modifications overseen by Chris Mangum of MAD Industries, with contribution from a variety of Ford suppliers.