Royal Air Force Mustang II, serial no. FX80I. (Photo: Imp. War Mus.) a few insiders are familiar with the real story. It is to the eternal credit of the great Dutch Kindelberger, President of North American Aviation, that the demand for gratuities in return for a production award was refused in no uncertain terms. Ultimately even those who sought to block the procurement could not sustain their position because of the obvious qualities of the airplane. Justice triumphed eventually, and the P-51A was ordered in quantity. In all some 670 Mustang I and IPs were procured by the R.A.F. while 358 model P-51 and P-51A's were delivered to the U.S.A.A.F. These machines performed satisfactorily in spite of the powerplant deficiencies but they could be classified only fair at best. It required the marriage of the Rolls Royce Merlin engine to the Mustang airframe to create the beginnings of a really great combat airplane. Life for the P-51B began in late 1942 in the form of two prototype XP-51B airplanes identified as A.A.F. serial numbers 41-37352 and 41-37421, equipped with the V-1650-3 engine. The major differences in appearance between the A Band created by the Merlin engine arc evident from the firewall forward and in the coolant radiator structure. The carburettor air intake was moved from the top to the bottom of the nose and all nose guns were removed. The coolant radiators were enlarged requiring a deepening of the fuselage in the area of the radiators. The increase in performance was dramatic. The 390 m.p.h. speed of the P-51A was raised to 441 m.p.h. by the P-51B. Now the A.A.F. had a machine that could compete on even terms with the late model Bfl09’s and the Fw 190’s. Production began in late 1942 at the Inglewood, California facility of North American and proceeded through 1943 with a total of 1,988 produced in 7 blocks. The California-built This P-51B-15NA, “Joan” o f the 362nd Ftr. Sqdn., 357th Ftr. Grp., is seen in its June 1944 warpaint with full invasion markings. (Photo: Merle Oimstcad) 4
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