The ‘Rogers’ Mustang is the first of a special limited edition series to be created. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE
The ‘Rogers’ Mustang is the first of a special limited edition series to be created. Picture: PHUTI MPYANE

The project is a brainchild of the Friends of the SAAF Museum, a group of people, some of whom are retired pilots, who have a passion for preserving the rich aeronautics heritage of the South African Air Force.

They also restore some choice birds, among them the legendary British-built Spitfire that featured prominently in World War 2.

The SAAF had a Spitfire MkIX, otherwise known as 5518, which is a derivative of the short-range, high-performance interceptor aircraft acquired back in July 1947. The plane was allocated to 1 Squadron at AFS Waterkloof on December 4 1948.

On April 15 2000, the SAAF Museum’s Spitfire, which is a low back mark IX HF and reportedly the last remaining example of this particular plane worldwide, suffered engine malfunction during the annual Air Show at Air Force Base Swartkop. A forced landing short of the runway severely damaged the plane which has been in storage ever since. Some years ago plans were hatched to seek sponsorship to restore the damaged Spitfire, which is valued at many millions, to a static condition at the least.

Enter American Vaughn Gittin Jr. whose company RTR tunes Mustangs and other Ford products at Performance Centre in Centurion. His aggressive but stylish works caught the eye of Friends of SAAF in 2018 when he released a radical but special Mustang that featured a World War 2 Eagle Squadron Spitfire paint theme. This led to the idea of a similar project but with a distinctly South African twist.

The Friends of the SAAF Museum have secured a licence to have Performance Centre, local producers and performance parts distributors of Roush and RTR monster Mustangs, to develop a total 10 of these coupes that blend SA war-time flying history with the modern histrionics of a 500kW and 800Nm supercharged V8 to not only raise the pulses, but raise funds for the Spitfire Restoration project.

Lt Gen Bob Rogers was a South African pilot from Warden, Orange Free State who flew the SAAF Spitfire 5518 on United Nations missions to Korea and later became chief of the SAAF. The first completed RTR Mustang that matches the livery and decals of the damaged spitfire is dedicated to him.

The design and detail of the "Rogers" Mustang RTR is a sight to behold. Specific design elements reflect aircraft design essentials like the thick-rimmed, specially developed 20-inch alloys while crafty airbrushing has the bespoke rear boot-lid spoiler mimic aircraft wing-elevators.

The car boasts signature RTR styling cues such as the RTR upper grille with unique LED lighting. It’s not just an aesthetic rework but the wide-body car features performance items like a sports exhaust, lowering springs, adjustable front/rear sway bars and shocks. The interior remains stock with its creature comforts and practicality with some sporty touches and an information plague.  

With each of the 10 vehicles, customers will be able to choose themes of varied planes belonging to a specifically drawn up list of hero SAAF pilots with sterling flying careers.

Known as "The warriors of the sky" there are nine more cars to be built initially, which will be upped to 18 over time. They include both South African aces in the SAAF as well as famous SA pilots who served in the Royal Air Force, including Roger Bushell, the Springs-born leader of the "The Great Escape" and Rosamund Steenkamp, who was a member of the Woman’s Ancillary Air Force whose task was to deliver replacement aircraft to the squadrons.

The cost of each of these magnificent Mustangs is estimated in the region of R2.5m apiece, of which a part of the proceeds will go towards the restoration of the rare and valuable Spitfire 5518.

For more information on the warriors of the sky go to www.warriorsofthesky.co.za

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