After seeing this cobalt blue aircraft rip past the pylons (and competition!), the only name that could possibly capture what you see is Blue Thunder.

Blue Thunder is a Thunder Mustang--an all-composite, kit-built aircraft manufactured by the Thunder Builders Group. The Thunder Mustang is a 3/4 scale version of the World War II-era North American P-51D Mustang.

Blue Thunder was built over a 3-year period by American Air Racing with one goal: AIR RACING!

We chose the Thunder Mustang because it is the most powerful and fastest piston-powered kit aircraft available. Thunder Mustangs outperform even jet and turboprop kits below 10,000 feet MSL! Once you have had any contact with a Thunder Mustang, it will affect you for the rest of your life.

Looking at your Thunder Mustang on the ramp makes you feel like you're looking at your very own space shuttle. Sitting still they look fast, but nothing can surpass the excitement and joy of flying it. There are hundreds of little things that stand out about flying one; one of the most unique and memorable visions is the view out the canopy at the double row of camlocks on top fo the cowl that are always in front of you. There is no question that owning and flying a completed Thunder Mustang makes anyone the most testosterone-enhanced pilot at the fly-in.

Blue Thunder has some significant custom modifications, but one of the most noticable is the 3-blade Hartzel propeller. The stock 4-blade prop was damaged in 2001 when Blue Thunder made an emergency landing due to a left main gear extension failure. The 3-blade prop was chosen due to aerodynamic efficiency and ideal match to the custom powerplant.

Other modifications are less obvious: a little streamlining here, some weight reduction there, and some secret stuff mixed in between. It all combines to make Blue Thunder one of the top contenders in the Sport Class, and the center of attention wherever it goes.

Interestingly, although the Thunder Musting is a 75% scale P-51, it usually matches and sometimes exceeds the performance of a full-scale P-51. Here is the side-by-side comparison:

General Specifications:

  Thunder Mustang North American P-51D Mustang
Powerplant: 640 hp Falconer V-12 @ 4500 rpm 1490 hp Merlin V-1650-7
Displacement: 601 cubic inches 1649 cubic inches
Propeller: 94" MT 4-blade constant speed 134" Hamilton Standard 4-blade
Length: 24.2 ft. 32.2 ft.
Frontal area: 8.1 sq. ft. 13.4 sq. ft.
Wing Span: 23.8 ft. 37.0 ft.
Wing area: 104 sq. ft. 235.75 sq. ft.
Wing Loading: 28.84 lbs./sq. ft. 49.2 lbs./sq. ft.
Power Loading: 4.69 lbs./hp 7.78 lbs./hp
Gross Weight: 3,200 lbs. 11,600 lbs.
Empty Weight: 2,200 lbs. 7,635 lbs.
Useful Load: 1,000 lbs. 3,965 lbs.
Payload with full fuel: 400 lbs. 2,885 lbs.
Basic Fuel Capacity: 102 gallons in wings 180 gallons in wings and fuselage
Baggage Capacity: 50 lbs. None
Design Limit Load: + 9 g's @ 2600 lbs. (+ 7.3 @ 3200)
- 6 g's @ 2600 lbs. (- 4.9 @ 3200)
+ 8 g's @ 8000 lbs. (+ 5.5 @ 11,600)
- 4 g's @ 8000 lbs. (- 2.8 @ 11,600)


  Thunder Mustang North American P-51D Mustang
Rate of Climb @ Gross: 5,200 fpm 2,800 fpm
Max. Level Speed at Sea Level: 326 kts. (375 mph) 326 kts.(375 mph)
Cruise Speed @ 75% power: 300 kts. (345 mph) @ 20-25 gph 250 kts. (300 mph) @ 50-75 gph
Range: 1300 naut. mi.
1600 naut. mi @ economy cruise
700 naut. mi.

Service Ceiling:

25,000 ft.

46,000 ft.

Limiting and Recommended Airspeeds:

  Thunder Mustang North American P-51D Mustang
Vx (best angle of climb speed) 87 kts (100 mph) 87 kts (100 mph)
Vy (best rate of climb speed) 156 kts (180 mph) 148 kts (170 mph)
Va (maneuvering speed) 222 kts (255 mph) 226 kts (260 mph)
Vfe (max flaps extended speed) 165 kts (190 mph) 143 kts (165 mph)
Vne (never exceed speed) 439 kts (505 mph) 439 kts (505 mph)
Vso (stall speed, clean) 77 kts (87 mph) 92 kts (106 mph)
Vsl (stall speed, landing config) 68 kts (78 mph) 88 kts (101 mph)
VL/D Max Best Glide Speed 153 kts (176 mph) 152 kts (175 mph)

Blue Thunder's Powerplant

Ryan Falconer's history in engine development began while working for Andy Granatelli building the Novi engines for the Indy 500. For the past 29 years his company has built engines for numerous racing teams that have won the Indy 500 and other prestigious races. Roger Penske, Andy Granatelli, and Galles Racing have also been among his Indy customers. In 1973 Ryan began development work for Chevrolet. He has supplied engines to many of the top racing teams in Can-Am and Trans-Am.

In 1980 Ryan was asked by Chevrolet to develop the first V-6 Chevrolet Indy engine, which qualified and completed the 500. In 1984 development began on the Chevrolet GTP Corvette which gained considerable notoriety. At the completion of the V-6 GTP project, he was developing over 1200 HP from the 3.0 liter V-6 engine. It was during this time that Ryan decided to look at build a V-12 engine.

The Falconer V-12 engine was developed by Ryan Falconer Industries (RFI). The engine has been used in racing boats, specialty race and streetcars, trucks, airboats, and now airplanes. This engine incorporates the latest splayed-valve cylinder head technology and the highest quality internal components developed for racing, such as Carrillo rods and J.E. hypereutectic pistons. The Falconer V-12 airplane engine was developed by RFI especially for the Thunder Mustang with specific unique features which include: special long-runner, electronic, sequential, tuned-port injection system with end-entry plenums for narrow width; 10.9 to 1 compression ratio, special grind hydraulic roller cam for low rpm horsepower and torque, and additional bosses on the drive end of the crankcase to provide greater clamp up area for the gearbox. It is interesting to note that the exhaust port spacing is almost exactly 3/4 of the Rolls Royce Merlin which powers the North American Aviation P-51.

Blue Thunder's Falconer V-12 has been modified to improve performance. Known as Version 3.0, the V-12 is normally aspirated and puts out 660 hp at a density altitude of 5050 feet. This altitude is the elevation of the Reno-Stead Airport. At sea level, 782 ft./lb of torque are generated. The engine is controlled by dual and fully redundant Motec FADEC (Full Authority Digital Engine Control) systems with dual ignition and fuel programs.

Developed for the Thunder Mustang, this project was headed by B. J. Schramm. Final design and analysis was done by Mr. Oswald Webb of England (now retired), who worked on the original Merlin engine reduction and was Chief Design Engineer for GKN, the largest gear works in Europe. The unit is designed to endure up to 1500 HP, pulling 13.5 g's, doing one second snap rolls for more than 400 hours! We expect some owners to hop-up the engine and go racing, and we want the gearbox to last. The reduction ratio is 2.8 to 1. It is a straight cut spur gear arrangement with a quill shaft between crankshaft and drive gear.

The propeller is an 8.47 foot diameter, constant-speed, 3-blade, manufactured by Hartzell Propellers. Extensive engineering was applied to ensure the optimum design of each component of this system. With the V-12 turning 4500 rpm, the gear box ratio of 2.8:1 turns the prop at 1607 rpm for the best prop efficiency and high speed. The 134 lb. propeller blades are CNC machined from solid aluminum forgings. The gyroscopic effect of the prop on take-off is negligible with only a slight yaw during climb. the weight increase over the stock 4-blade unit is 34 pound per blade. Because there is one less blade, this results in a gain of only 2 pounds for the entire prop assembly.

Developed and designed so that each of the two ribbed, serpentine belts will drive the entire five pumps and prop governor, should one belt fail. A third belt drives the alternator only. Supercharger development, for high altitude or higher horsepower applications, is in final testing.

Engine Specifications:

Engine type: 90 degree V-12, Ryan Falconer Industries (all Aluminum)
Displacement: 601 cubic inches
Horsepower: 660 hp @ 4500 rpm at 5050 feet altitude
Torque: 782+ ft./lb @ 4700 rpm at sea level
Compression Ratio: 10.9:1
Bore: 4.125 in.
Stroke: 3.750 in.
Fuel: 100 LL Avgas


Cast aluminum with splayed valve design
Cylinders: Steel sleeved
Main bearing size: Same as 400 cid Chevrolet
Rod bearing size: Same as 350 cid Chevrolet
Cam bearings: Similar to Chevy small block
Rods: Forged, Carrillo Industries
Pistons: Forged aluminum, J.E. Pistons
Valve train: Dual spring
Valves: Stainless, 2.190 intake / 1.610 exhaust
Rocker assembly: Investment, cast stainless steel, 17-4
Roller tappets: AC Delco
Pushrods: Smith Brothers
Manifold: RFI, with end entry plenums and 70mm butterflies
Ignition: Delco Direct Fire (no distributor), with dual computers
Freeze plugs: Threaded with o-ring
Port runners: Pre-machined for better flow
Crankshaft: Bryant
Head gasket: Fel-Pro, custom-built
Dry oil sump pump: RFI, custom-built
Damper: Fluidampr
Length: 55.5 in
Width: 24.25 in
Weight: 980 lb (firewall forward, includes: accessories, batteries, gear reduction unit, hoses, propeller, etc.)