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Berlin Express is a Well-Painted Pony

Bill Overstreet's Berlin Express–in loving, colorful detail.

  • Berlin Express is a well-painted pony
    Jared Muszala researched the detailed markings that bring the Mustang Berlin Express to life at AirVenture.
July 23, 2015 - Thousands of P-51 Mustangs left the North American Aviation assembly lines looking uniformly anonymous. Sleek, powerful, capable, and just like the next one.

In service, each Mustang gained a personality, visible in unique markings.

That's key to the spectacle of rows of colorful warbirds at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. Each one is painted to represent a valiant warrior from a bygone era.

 Berlin Express, from the Pacific Fighters shop in Idaho Falls, salutes pilot Bill Overstreet who famously followed a German fighter over Paris in 1944, chasing him through the arched base of the Eiffel Tower and scoring hits before the German crashed.

To recreate one of Overstreet's successful Mustangs named Berlin Express, John Muszala and his sons John II and Jared first rebuilt a flawless P-51B, complete with the modified bulging Malcolm canopy.

Next, to accurately finish the Mustang.

Jared is the family expert when it comes to getting markings right. The correct hues of olive drab and gray can be mixed to perfection. Jared has copies of wartime blueprints that give the proper size and proportion for U.S. national insignia on the P-51. "Locating the star and bar you just look at pictures and eyeball it on," Jared says. But it's a bit more calculating than that—counting rivets visible in photos can ensure accurate placement, he adds. 

To replicate data markings on the aircraft, Jared created a stencil, but it had to look right. "That was kind of a big deal, trying to find that right North American font," he explains.

There's another touch of realism on this recreated P-51B that causes people to pause: it has white sidewall tires accented by nonstandard red-painted wheels. Overstreet and his flying buddy Bud Anderson lamented the sporty cars they left back home with red wheels and white sidewalls, so they added those touches to their Mustangs in England.

Berlin Express
brings the color of combat to AirVenture.

     

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