The North American P-51 Mustang
P-51 Who?   Case # 29
44-74923     N5438V     Closed
Solved by: Jim Church, T.J. Johansen, DP
P-51 Who 29
Case#: 29
Date: Jul 01 1999
By: Lowell Thompson
Photo: Taken in the early '60s in CA.
Status: Closed
Serial: 44-74923
Registry: N5438V
P-51 Who? Viewer Responses
07/01/1999 08:00
Lowell Thompson sent this photo in (he's the little guy by the right gear) and helps with this info. His father remembers this as Sherm Cooper's N5445V (they knew Mr. Cooper because he was their family dentist). Along with Sherm Cooper's P-51 on the field was N5438V, 44-74923. See the April 1972 issue of Air Progress (a full story on Cooper and a color photo spread showing his collection in front of the same hangar can be seen on pages 36 &37). BUT in the text it says, "He...kept eyeing a beautiful polished F-51 that was based on the field." (This is 1963) "When he heard of a Mustang for sale at Willows, he offered its owner his Swift plus some cash and became the owner of a warbird. He flew the fighter home, and that's where his education began. The Mustang, a little shabby all over, had a sick engine. So with the help of a friend who knew about Merlins, Cooper pulled the engine out of the fighter." "There she sat," grins Sherman, "out on the ramp in the rain with oil dripping and hoses and wires hanging out of the engine cavity while the other F-51 on the field sat polished and gleaming in its hangar. My patients, who knew I owned a Mustang, would come into the office and say, 'Boy that guy who's got that beat-up Mustang out in front is really in bad shape, but yours looks real good inside the hangar.' I didn't dare tell them any different."

So, is the nice and polished P-51 in this photo Dr. Coopers? Or is it N5438V which was owned at the time by JJ Wolohan and then Hawke Dusters of Modesto, CA? Lowell Thompson says that the photo is either '63 or '64. Cooper bought the mustang in '64, and if it needed engine work and lots of polishing, this very well might be N5438V.

Another case that needs a little more work...
Bill Eaton
07/10/1999 10:00
A plausible explanation is that it was the Hawke Dusters airplane. Bud Fountain, who was, I think, the owner of Hawke Dusters, flew an F8F-2 in the early 1970s that was highly polished with similar bright red trim.
Jim Church
07/19/1999 22:02
I think your photo shows P-51D-30-NA, 44-74923, c/n 122-41463, which at the time would have carried the registration N5438V. It wound up in El Salvador, where it served as FAS 410. It came back to the U.S. in pieces, and was restored, adopting the identity of 44-11353 in the process. It has since carried the registration N132, N100DD, N345 and N6395. The late John R. Sandberg owned it in the early '80s, and it was raced at Reno as #28, 'Tipsy Too.' It suffered an engine failure and crash landing at Reno '83, while being flown by Chuck Hall. It was then owned by Gary Levitz, who also raced it, but changed the name to 'Miss Ashley,' race #38. Levitz won the Gold Final in this basically stock P-51 at Reno '88. The last I had heard of it, it was being crated for eventual shipment to Europe.
Lowell Thompson
02/02/2000 20:58
T.J. Johansen was very kind to send me a period photo of N5438V and everything seems to match, thus solving a very old mystery. Now if we can just find a period photo of Sherm Cooper's shabby P-51! Anyone out there have one?
02/03/2000 12:00
Thanks Jim, Lowell and T.J. for solving this one.
02/05/2001 12:00
This P-51 has been positively identified as N5438V, 44-74923
Chris Taylor
07/25/2004 00:00
My dad will be able to solve this,he worked for Bud.I played as a kid in both Bud and Sherm's mustangs. Bud's was all polished and Sherm's was a very soft blue with white on top of fuselage in front of cockpit with a bit of gold trim when I was around. Bud purchased his in 66 for 6,000.00 with a spare engine if I am correct, I will get a hold of my Dad tomorrow who at 70 is in his 39th ag flying season, taught by one of the best, Bud Fountain. This is a real cool site! Chris Taylor
Dennis Wolohan
10/06/2004 16:05
This is the 51 owned by my late father, J. J. Wolohan of Livingston, CA. The location shown is its home field, Merced airport, where it shared a the hanger with his D18 Beech, among others. He sold the plane in 1966 to an acquaintance, Bud Fountain. He also sold a spare engine he paid $2,500 for in the early 60's. When my brother & I took a break from helping polish we'd sneak a little driving time on the yellow tug in the background.
martha hawke
03/25/2011 09:18
Wondering if any one has any info on my grandfather Edwin Hawke who started Hawke Dusters. Thank you.
04/18/2012 15:07
i remember this i grow up in riverbank calif and bud would fly this bird all over the riverbank and oakdale area and yes he did own hawke dusters
Paul Addison Wilhite
08/19/2013 15:58
I worked for Bud Fountain and Pappy Dunlap in the mid 50's as an assistant while I went to the Ceres Union High School. Pappy and Bud were partners but Bud Bought out Pappy because Pappy had broken a blood vessel in is eye and could no longer fly because he could not pass the physical to renew his pilots license.
They owned several planes then including two PT 17 Stearmans one for pleasure riding and the other for crop dusting. They also had a Navy trainer. I don't remember ever seeing a P 51 there at the hanger in Modesto.
Later in the late 60's and early 70's I heard about Bud Fountains Gold Coast Air show and he flew in the Reno Air races several times. I was not living in the area of Modesto anymore so it was out of site, out of mind. I know that from my experiences with Bud He was a real dare devil and could make his planes do some incredible stunts. I used to ride with him and we would fly over to the Oakdale area near Riverbank and he would practice crop dusting over his Fathers Peach Ranch. He would fly so low the wheels would be hitting the top limbs of the trees, as I observed. He also used to take me up to about 10,000 feet altitude and perform acrabatics like the hammer, butterfly, outside roll, inside roll, upside down , etc. He used to say to me he wanted to separate the men from the boys. He rode a big Indian bike to work every day.
Bud was killed in the Reno Airshows about 1976 (correct me if I missed the date) in his P-51 D fighter plane from WW2. He was landing when suddenly the engine caught on fire and it was so intense and was burning right into the cockpit that he lost control and crash landed right in front of the crowd. I suspected fowl play because Bud was also his own mechanic and he kept his planes in excellent condition. So if anyone knows the details of that I would like to hear about it. Thank You
Torry Kirksey
11/16/2013 00:27
I worked for Bud Fountain in 1964 and 1965. I remember things differently that what I have read on this site. Would like to have contact with anyone interested.

Torry Kirksey
Curtis Fowles
11/16/2013 15:04
According to the Reno Air Races Database, Bud Fountain raced a Bearcat in 1969 and 1983 - no listing of Fountain racing a P-51D. His P-51, the one in the photo at the top survived and did race at Reno under different owners. The FAA Database does not have a fatal P-51 crash listed until Bill Speer died in 1994.

This P-51 raced from 1982 - 1992 as Tipsy Too then Miss Ashley. It bellied in Lemon Valley in 1983 after an engine failure when piloted by Chuck Hall - Hall was ok.

I could not find Bud Fountain listed as owner of any other P-51 in MustangsMustangs database. If we are missing something, please let us know.
Larry Perkins
12/19/2014 00:38
Walter "Bud" Fountain bought the Mustang from Dr. Wolohan for $8,500.00 in 1965. I had looked at the Mustang the day before for another party who tried to buy it for $8,000.00.

I told Bud that Dr. Wolohan's Mustang was for sale for $8,500.00. He went down to Merced the following day and bought it. The purchase price included a spare engine and a ground power cart.

Bud flew the Mustang out of Modesto, California for a few years then disassembled the aircraft. The Mustang was still disassembled when Bud sold it, possibly to John Crocker.

Bud was killed in the crash of his F8F Bearcat during the 1973 Mojave Air Races. The Bearcat caught fire in flight. Bud pulled up to about three thousand feet. However, he did not get out of the aircraft before being overcome by fire. The fire was so intense that the tail control surface fabric was burned before the aircraft pitched down and impacted the ground.
Richard RC Vickerman
09/09/2015 18:40
I knew Bud Fountain very well and also Clyde Parsons I sold Aircraft Parts to both of them from my Store in Manteca (Air Tred Co) and they were partners in the Gold Coast Airshows. I flew a Yellow and White Bonanza N3059V in and out of Modesto and to Buds strip in Riverbank and I even took the Beechcraft into Clyde's ity-bity Knight Twister Strip just outside of Modesto. Clyde called for parts one day and I said that I would be out and about the next day and that I would land at his field to deliver them and he warned me that the field was a little short and narrow for a hot Bonanza but I flew in anyway and he was so impressed he offered to teach me aerobatics but unfortunately he was killed a short time later in his little Knight Twister by crashing into an old canal instead of hitting some homes. Bud offered to sell me the 51 and its spare engine for $5,500.00, just after he bought the Bearcat, and I could have bought it but the thoughts of using 100 Gallons an hour were to much for me to deal with so I just admired it everytime I saw it and then Bud raced the Cat in Reno but had hydrolic's leaking in the Bearcat Cockpit (Bearcat was one of the first to use Hydrolic's instead of Cables for controls) and had to fix them up to fly home to Modesto. Then in the Mohave Race they let loose again but way worse and then Bud pulled up and ejected the canopy to roll upside down (the proper bailout procedure for any Bearcat) but the Hydrolic oils exploded and Bud didn't make it out and crashed with no other injuries. I used to think that Bob Love got the all polished metal 51 because he had one down in Madera or Merced that I saw when selling him some Aircraft parts at his hanger but that was a long time ago and that's about all I can remember about that. Good Men all, Great Racers and Excellent Pilots all, I believe Bob Love was also an Ace! Took my required Flying Lessons from Dave Frey who worked for Bub at Hawke Dusters on Modesto Field, my Dad (JC Vickerman) always told me that I had about 600 hours of duel before those lessons and to take it easy on Dave because he didn't have as much experience as I had at the time. Dave saw me fly in driving the Bonanza and just told me to show him what I knew and after I called ground and got permissions and was cleared for takeoff I took off and asked Dave where he wanted to go? and Dave said I thought so! Dave then made me go 45 minutes under the hood during my first hour and and I flew back from the valley using the omni and was spot on it and after I landed Dave said I could solo you now but he looked over to the Bonanza and said but I think I will keep for a while and we then got into Commercial Flight Requirements which I passed and he finally soloed me at 5.5 hours and the next day I was taking the Bonanza into every little Duster Strip all over the state of California, which amazed a lot of people in the 60's with my tie-dyed shirts and pants and foo-manchue mustache and long hair. My old old days were a lot of fun!
Brian Ash
02/01/2016 15:42
Wow... This brings back memories in actuality Dr.Cooper at one time owned 2,P-51s A red one and a blue one in his 10 aircraft inventory. I'm the son of Rolly Ash who owned the white and red staggerwing parked in the hanger across for him and he was also my orthodontist too!I remember playing 3rd base at Hoover Jr high and watching him in the distances practice with Marv Green. When he was coming out of a loop then nothing...... smoke, I remember throwing my mite on the ground and started crying, and when my coach yelled whats wrong and I said Dr.Cooper just crashed. When I told my mom she said I was crazy you will see him tomorrow at your appointment, but there was a NOTE of the front door of his office. One day at my moms we were going threw old photos when I came across the article of Clyde Parsons crash article. My dad was a good friend of Clydes and we used to visit he and his wife in Modesto where we got rides in the Great Lakes and walk around with a 410 shooting the ciders that were burrowing holes in his so called runway . Oh the story I remember, most is my birthday present ride my dad got me in the blue P-51...... don't stick your finger in the hole in the canopy you my loose it. I remember Miss Merced falling off the jack and putting a hole in the left fuel tank before Modesto flying Inn. That fly ing was the first time I met Darrel Greenamyer in his white bearcat, right after he went for the world speed record. Bud Fountain Skip Volk, and all those guy were all great guys and was a great part of my life. Anybody remember Frank Sanders popping a tire when he landed at the fly Inn....this was after his death and his crash at the Mojave 1000. Oh the times my bother and I spent hours playing like we were flying in formation... in that HOT MERCED SUN.
morris bibens
07/10/2016 02:37
I was born in 1957. I remember my dad talking about Clyde Parsons,Pappy Dunlap, Jack Sperry, and others. My Dad, Maynard Bibens, and Bud Fountain, had joint ownership of a Stearman before I was born. My mother convinced him to sell his share of the plane to Bud when my older brother was born, and he never flew again. Lucky for Dad, because it seems, all of his flying buddies, except Pappy were killed in accidents while flying. When I was very young, Bud would come over to visit with Dad, and it was very exciting to me to listen to them talk about flying. Bud also did the crop dusting on my Grandfathers property on the corners of bangs and Tully outside Modesto, and even landed one time, after the alfalfa or corn was harvested. I wasn't born yet, but remember them talking about it. I remember seeing a picture of one of his dusters upside down in a field with a pile of fertilizer that had poured out as Bud climbed out and walked away after clipping power lines with his landing gear while crop dusting. The plane did a flip, and landed upside down going backwards I guess. I can`t remember if that was before or after he flew his mustang over the house. He called my dad and told him to bring the kids out to watch. We all went outside to watch him go right over the house, wide open, a couple hundred feet off the ground. That is one thing I will certainly never forget. We would go watch him fly the red and white stearman with his wing walker lady at the airshows in Modesto and Merced. In the early sixties I remember a guy never coming out of a spiral decent, and crashing nose first, in a small biplane, maybe a citabria at the Merced air show. Dad said it broke the pilot`s back, but he survived. It seemed to happen in slow motion. I was in high school when Bud was killed in his Bearcat. I heard He had put in an airliner engine or something, and wanted a fire suppression system, but the system was too expensive for either him or his backers. It was a hydraulic fluid fire. It was very depressing when I heard about his death, but he knew the risk, and died doing what he loved. My dad and his friends were my heroes. Dad always frowned on my wanting to take up flying. I knew Bud went through a divorce, I think it was in the late sixties. Did Bud have any children?
Jeff Cree
10/25/2016 22:09
I grew up watching Bud and Clyde fly out of the small runway at Clyde's off of Dewitt Rd. in Modesto. Between the two of them they had a collection of planes that made it real hard for a kid like myself not to gravitate down the road to see the airplanes. Clyde had a Great Lakes and the Knight Twister and Bud had the Stearman, an AT-6, the Bearcat and the P-51.

The Gold Coast Airshow would practice over our field just off of Parker Rd. and Dewitt Rd. I got to ride with the two of them many times and it made me want to fly. So in high school I got my ticket by training out of Hawke. The announcement of the death of Bob Hoover today made me look up Bud's name as he introduced me to Bob when I was in junior high school. I have many fond memories of watching the planes as I grew up outside of Modesto.
Morris bibens
02/06/2021 00:21
Bud Walter Fountain did have a P-51. Flew it over the house on tully rd. when I was 6 or 7. He took it all apart in a hanger out at modesto airport. He was by dad's best friend and they owned a stearman together. Mom made dad sell his interest to bud. All of dad's flying buddies, Bud, pappy, clyde parsons and others died flying. I was named after bud's father.
Jim Rayl
05/27/2021 17:11
Bud Fountain was my uncle, my mother's brother. I worked for him during the summer when I was in high school. I loaded Sulphur and flagged for him when he, Jack Sperry and Don Taylor sprayed. It was a treat to see them fly and as someone earlier noted, seeing how low they flew over the treetops. Many times, people would stop on the road and watch them. One of my more memorable moments was when he was in the P-51, he circled the strip at the ranch and then buzzed it at about 50 feet above the ground. It was an unbelievable sight as he flew by and then did a slow roll as he ascended. I saw his acrobatics many times in the "Candy Kid". Bud, Jack and Clyde were tremendous pilots with 1,000's of hours of flying but it just goes to show anything can happen. We all miss him. He was one of my first heroes. Someone wondered earlier if Bud had any children. He had one son, Jerry Fountain, who still resides in Denair.
Case Closed!
P-51 Mustang

Send in Your Response
Enter "mustang" backwards:
Name and Response are shared with all readers. Email is private and never shared.