North American XP-82 Twin Mustang 44-83887 on a test flight over the Sierras in 1945.

North American XP-82 Twin Mustang 44-83887 on a test flight over the Sierras in 1945.

Tom Reilly is no stranger to warbird restoration; he owned the Flying Tigers Warbird Restoration Museum in Kissimmee, Florida, before Hurricane Charlie destroyed the facility in 2004. He presently heads The B-25 Group, which specializes in restoring old warbirds to flight. He is also called upon for warbird appraisals and that’s how he came to own the Twin Mustang.

While Tom had never been particularly interested in fighter planes, while visiting inveterate collector of anything with wings, Walter A. Soplata to assist with valuation of his collection of planes for IRS purposes in the early 90′s, Tom stumbled across a North American F-82 Twin Mustang which he instantly fell in love with. He mentioned he would be interested in purchasing the plane to Walter, but in reality he didn’t have the money at the moment anyway. In 1997 Tom sold a flying B-25 and flush with cash, gave Walter a call inquiring about the F-82, only to learn the plane had been sold two days before.

Retrieval of the carcass of XP-82 from Ohio.. (Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Retrieval of the carcass of XP-82 from Ohio..
(Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

It's a brave man that looks at this and thinks "airworthy plane" (Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

It’s a brave man that looks at this and thinks “airworthy plane”
(Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Starting point for right-hand Fuselage (Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Starting point for right-hand Fuselage
(Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Left-hand turning Merlin (Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Left-hand turning Merlin
(Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Twin fuselages after an unbelievable amount of work (Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Twin fuselages after an unbelievable amount of work
(Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Right-hand gear wheel shows complexity and meticulous workmanship of this project (Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Right-hand gear wheel shows complexity and meticulous workmanship of this project
(Image Credit: XP-82 Restoration Project)

Itch unscratched, Reilly resigned himself to the fact that he would never possess this plane of his dreams. Tom continued to do appraisal work for the Soplatas and in 1997 was once again at their home in Ohio to appraise a Republic F-84 Thnuderstreak while stomping around in the snow Tom spied what appeared to be a Mustang fuselage buried under some corrugated metal sheeting, when he said to Walter, “I didn’t know that you had another Mustang,” Walter informed him that what he was looking at was the actually a prototype for the Twin Mustang. Reilly was unable to convince Walter to sell it to him, but got an agreement that when it was time to sell, he would get first option.

With visions of Twin Mustangs flying ’round his head, Reilly started searching for parts and investors for what would necessarily be a very expensive restoration project. The ‘XP’ #44-83887 was one of two prototype planes for the series and early production planes, which had dual controls were vanishingly rare as after only 20 production planes the switch was made to single-cockpit pilot controls with weapons and radar control in the second cockpit as the needs of the military and the intended utilization of the planes had changed as a result of the war’s end.

Not actually having a deal on the plane, nor knowledge of what it would cost, Reilly nonetheless scoured the globe searching for parts that would fit this very special plane. Drawing on his extensive network of contacts within the warbird restoration community, He located a had-crashed F-82 in Alaska as well as several pieces from multiple planes in South Florida. Tom put a conditional agreement together to hold these parts, so that if he was able to purchase the fuselage and all of the other P-82 parts that the Soplatas had, he would have almost a complete P-82.

In April 2008 the Soplatas called, Reilly raced up to Ohio and negotiated the purchase and the restoration project got going in earnest by July. one of the biggest problems that emerged early on was finding a left-hand turning Merlin engine and a left-hand turning prop for the second fuselage. Miraculously a brand-new engine was found in Mexico City of all places, and Tom contracted Vintage V-12s of Tehachapi, California to rebuild both a right hand and left hand turning engine for the project and hired MT Propeller of Germany to build two composite pros for the project, one left and one right.

Finding the second cockpit with flight controls proved to be quite challenging, but piece by little piece Tom has been finding what’s needed, though it has been difficult and through sheer luck that some of the pieces have come into his possession. In the past few years Tom and his crew have made significant progress in bringing the XP-82 to flying condition, fabricating parts from scratch when necessary and brining a collection of parts and a pile of scrap to what is destined to be a pristine example of a plane many said couldn’t be done, done.

We’ll be keeping an eye on the progress of this ambitious and impressive project. More information is available at www.XP-82TwinMustangProject.com.

14 Comments

  1. Sirs, I would like to subscribe to your e-mail updates if at all posssible. My interest in aviation goes way back as my Dad was Joseph P.McConnells crew chief when he was stationed at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. This was when Mac was still in training in F-80C’s. After Korea Dad went to work at Chance Vought, on the flight line with F-8s Nd the illbfates Cutlass. I really enjoyed reading your latest post! Thanks!

  2. All I can say is Unbeleivable!! The work( building/ creating!) Is phenomable!! Its amasing that this bird is so far along after seeing the condition that it was when discovered. I hink most would have just written this one off and called the scrap yard to come pick the mess up. I’ve seen some slides that my Dad took while in Alaska and these twins were beautiful aircraft. I can’t wait to see this aircraft when its finished!! These guys deserve medals!

  3. WarbirdsUpdate says:

    Hey Jim,

    There were some amazing planes back in those days.. The Shooting Star in particular is a thing of beauty.

    On the XP-82, we wholeheartedly agree, it’s a hell of a project, but Tom and his crew are clearly up to the task. That Soplata fellow was an odd one though, LOVED planes and saved what would become priceless artifacts when they were considered to only have scrap value, turning his farm into an aviation junkyard in the process. Thank goodness for that man’s eccentricities!

    You can subscribe to our RSS feed to get our email updates it’s the orange and white logo on the top right of the header bar on every page, otherwise, just make a habit of coming here everyday, as stories are added multiple times a day. :D

    Roger

  4. Chris Sidelov says:

    Interresting! I used to work for Tom Reilly when he still had his place in Kissimmee but never knew he “…owned a fleet of AT-6 Texans” by himself at any time! When was that?

  5. WarbirdsUpdate says:

    Our understanding was that there were several T-6 Texans at the Kissimmee location. We’ll double-check it with Tom.

    Thanks!
    Roger

  6. WarbirdsUpdate says:

    Hey Chris,

    You are correct, we misunderstood. The T-6 Texans at the Kissimmee location belonged to Warbird Adventures, which leased space from Tom.

    Thanks for catching our misstatement.

    Roger

  7. The museum in Kissimmee was not completely destroyed. It was heavily damaged but repaired and still stands today. He sold the museum when he completed the B-17G “Liberty Belle” and moved to Douglas, Ga. to stay with it and continue with it’s maintenance while restoring another there.

    The Museum and some of the planes are still in the same space but owned and operated by Warbird Adventures, Inc who also own the P-51 Reno Racer “Precious Metal”

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  13. Hi Folks,

    The P/F-82G Twin Mustang is an awesome plane! Here is a great site I found for, very high quality wooden replica’s and they offer over 600 different Airplane, Helicopter and Military vehicles.
    Check this website out http://www.premiumwooddesigns.com

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