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May 25, 2021

The Twin Mustang was built with an audacious design and a specific purpose - to escort a fleet of bombers further than any other aircraft USAF was capable of at the time. While they weren’t operational in time to accomplish that specific task during WWII these versatile planes went on to fulfill many other missions. Read about 44-83887, an ultra-rare prototype XP-82 that remains the only airworthy Twin Mustang left today. MotoArt had the opportunity to acquire the original aircraft skin that was removed in restoring 887 to flying condition and turn it into something new. Let’s take a closer look at the Twin Mustang and a one of a kind XP-82.

44-83887

By United States Air Force - Dean, Jack. "The Lonely Long Ranger." Airpower Magazine, September 1987 Image source listed as United States Air Force, Public Domain, Link

What is the XP-82?

The North American Aviation F-82 Twin Mustang was a long-range, high altitude escort fighter, produced for the USAF. It was the last piston-engined fighter ordered into production and was based on the P-51 Mustang. It was initially intended to escort Boeing B-29 Superfortresses on longer missions during World War II but the war ended before they were operational. It was versatile and could adapt to many roles, including long-range escort, fighter, attack bomber, rocket fighter, interceptor, and long-range reconnaissance. They were used during the Korean War. Only 272 were manufactured.

xp-82 planetags

North American (XP-82) F-82 Twin Mustang (sn 44-83887) flickr photo by aeroman3 shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

 

It was formed by two fuselages which were joined at the horizontal stabilizer and wing. Each fuselage had its own pilot, each of whom could control the engine throttles and propellers. The left pilot contained the normal flight and engine instruments; the co-pilot in the right could operate their controls during an emergency or to relieve the pilot.

Twin Mustang planetags

North American XF-82 flickr photo by twm1340 shared with no copyright restrictions using Creative Commons Public Domain Mark (PDM)

 

The XP-82 variant was a prototype, equipped with Packard Merlin V-1650-23 and -25 engines. Only two were built, not including the XP-82A, of which one was built and the second canceled, or other variants. Today, there are only a handful of Twin Mustangs of any variant remaining, one of which is 44-83887.

twin mustang production

More F-82 facts at nuclearcompanion.com.

History of 44-83887

44-83887

By U.S. Air Force - http://www.nationalmuseum.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=2293 ( direct link), Public Domain, Link

887 was produced circa 1944 and was the second of two XP-82 prototypes. Although they accepted by the USAF in 1944, it like the other 82s never saw combat during World War II. Instead, took its first flight on April 15, 1945 and immediately went to NACA, the predecessor to NASA.

NACA

 

NACA logo

The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was established in 1915, during World War I, to manage and conduct the United States’ aeronautical research. One of its four centers was the Aircraft Engine Research Laboratory, Lewis Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. It was here that 887 was stationed and served as a ramjet testbed, specifically for an eight machine gun center pod, underwing rockets, and a radar pod.

During WWII, NACA assisted in resolving operating problems with piston-engine aircraft, among other studies. After the war, NACA continued to research and test many developments that benefited the military and civilian aeronautics. In 1958, it was evolved to include space, and its centers became the nucleus of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

On December 15, 1949, 887 was damaged beyond repair after it skidded off an icy runway. It was struck off strength/charge from the Air Force. It was later acquired by Walter Soplata for his collection around 1965, for $300. It remained at the Soplata property until purchased by Tom Reilly.


Tom Reilly

 

Famed master restorer Tom Reilly has been restoring planes for 50 years, including 44-83887. He met Walter and Margaret Soplata sometime during the 1990’s when he was doing appraisal work for them. Walter had a F-82 that Reilly was interested in restoring but by the time he was able to purchase it in 1997, it had already been sold. Ten years later, in December 2007, Reilly was again at the Soplata location, performing another appraisal, when he spotted a Mustang fuselage hidden behind some sheet metal. Actually, Soplata informed him, it was not a Mustang but the prototype P-82. Although the Soplatas were not ready to sell it, they promised Reilly he would have the first option to buy it if they ever were.

Reilly began looking for P-82 parts and salvages, in the hopes that he would be able to buy the fuselage and parts from the Soplatas. He also began assembling potential investors to help fund the expensive restoration project. The good news is that in April 2008, Margaret Soplata invited Reilly to Ohio to discuss the P-82.

Watch Tom Reilly describe it in his own words.

Restoration of a XP-82

The story of the restoration of 887 is one of dogged determination and a labor of love. Reilly had amassed parts from Alaska, Colorado and other sources, as well as had the assistance of craftsmen and women to repair, rebuild, or recreate what was needed to return the plane to flyable condition. The project took ten and a half years and 207,000 man and woman hours. 

MotoArt’s XP-82

XP-82 PlaneTags

 

“We were really excited to get this material from the restoration,” says MotoArt owner Dave Hall. “Only 272 Twin Mustangs were produced and most of them were scrapped. We are just so honored to make an XP-82 PlaneTag to keep the memory of the Twin Mustang alive. It’s cool to imagine those who flew in them being able to share memories and this collectible with their children and grandchildren.”

XP-82 MotoArt

 

North American Aviation XP-82 Twin Mustang PlaneTags

The XP-82 Twin Mustang PlaneTags are numbered to 1,700. They are made from the original parts from the restoration of #44-83887. Each PlaneTag is hand stamped, then smoothed and polished and attached to the collector's display card. We take great pride in the quality of PlaneTags because we know how much they mean to ourselves and our customers.

Add one to your collection or engrave one and give it as a gift. They are more than luggage tags and these will be a standout favorite in your collection.

North American Aviation PlaneTags

F-86 Sabre PlaneTag

P-51K Mustang PlaneTag Serial# 44-12852

 

In case you missed these:

P-51K Mustang: One Plane's Journey

The Soplata Collection: Preserving Planes for over 70 years


 

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