The 2016 EAA AirVenture Mustang is a Shelby GT350 finished in the livery of Old Yeller. Photos courtesy Ford.
Robert A. “Bob” Hoover just wanted to fly airplanes, and over the course of a six-decade career in aviation the “pilot’s pilot” has amassed accolades too numerous to mention. It’s fitting then, that Ford would select Bob Hoover and his Old Yeller P-51D Mustang (which still holds the prop-driven coast-to-coast speed record of 5 hours and 20 minutes) to honor with this year’s Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Ford Mustang, built upon the 2016 Shelby GT350.
Born in Nashville, Tennessee in January 1922, Bob earned money to pay for flight training by working at a grocery store. The outbreak of the Second World War would see him complete his training at government expense, and his wartime service would go on to include a daring escape from a German prison camp – in a stolen FW 190 fighter. A friend of Chuck Yeager (and Yeager’s backup for the Bell X-1, the first supersonic aircraft), Bob’s work as a test pilot helped to develop planes like the F-86 Sabre, the FJ-1 Fury, and the F-100 Super Sabre, as well as tactics used in air to air combat.
While employed by North American Aviation in the early 1960s, Bob began flying a P-51 Mustang in airshows around the country. A 1971 ground accident destroyed the original aircraft, which was replaced by tail number N51RH. Later, wearing a distinctive yellow with green livery, this Mustang would achieve fame as Old Yeller, and though Bob retired from the air show circuit in 2000, Old Yeller is still flown regularly out of the Legacy Flight Museum in Rexburg, Idaho, by pilot John Bagley.
To honor Bob and Old Yeller, the 2016 Shelby GT350 donated by Ford features a yellow finish with green highlights (and green neon lighting), along with unique carbon fiber components, mirrors that project the image of a P-51 on the ground, special Recaro seats with yellow stitching and accents, unique floor mats and sill plates that identify the car as the 2016 EAA Air Venture Mustang.
Given Old Yeller’s transcontinental speed record, it stands to reason that this year’s car is built upon the fastest Mustang currently available from Ford. Powered by a 5.2-liter V-8 unique to the Shelby GT350 and 350R, the Mustang is rated at 526 horsepower and 429 pound-feet of torque and shifts through a Tremec six-speed manual transmission. The Old Yeller Shelby GT350 joins the eight other EAA AirVenture Mustangs produced to date, which have honored the Apollo program in 2015, the F-34 Lightning II in 2014, the U.S.A.F. Thunderbirds in 2013, the Tuskegee Airmen in 2012, the Navy Blue Angels in 2011, the SR-71 in 2010, the “Dearborn Doll” in 2009 and the F-22 Raptor in 2008.
The Shelby GT350 will be offered at auction as part of the Gathering of Eagles charity event on Thursday, July 28, with proceeds going to support the EAA’s youth education programs. For additional information on the Old Yeller Shelby GT350 or on EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2016, visit FordAirVenture.com.