Ace’s WWII ‘Old Crow’ plane takes flight – on four wheels

Tribute auto looks like Bud Anderson’s famed fighter – with horsepower to spare
By: Gus Thomson of the Auburn Journal
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With an engine powerful enough to get a plane up in the air, a Connecticut man’s four-wheeled hot-rod tribute to World War II air ace Bud Anderson has the horsepower.

But Mike Katz has gone even further than that.

Utilizing a team of auto craftspeople from the New York-New England area and his own over-the-top creativity, Katz has created a rolling tribute that replicates Anderson’s “Old Crow” P-51 fighter plane down to period-correct embellishments like a decorative camouflage paint job, P-51 wing lights used as tail lights, a parachute and an instrument panel that could pass as World War II cockpit.

Katz shared the plane’s intricacies with Anderson when the 95-year-old National Aviation Hall of Fame member was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award recently by the 94,000-member Air Force Association in Maryland.

Katz says the “Old Crow” project took up six years and cost more than $300,000. And he told Anderson that he’s hoping that it will go on display at an aviation museum.

Anderson said he had learned about the “Old Crow” tribute vehicle before it was shown to him so it wasn’t a complete surprise.

But the price tag for the work was.

“I couldn’t imagine how a guy could spend that amount of money on a car,” Anderson said. “And I was also surprised at how much horsepower it has.”

According to Katz, the hot rod is powered by a Ryan Falconer V-12 engine with 1600 horsepower. It’s the motor used in three-quarter scale P-51 Thunder Mustang planes that compete in the Reno Air Races.

Anderson grew up in Newcastle, graduated from Placer High School and now lives in Auburn. A retired Air Force colonel, Anderson is credited with downing 16 Luftwaffe aircraft during 116 missions over Europe.

Katz, the owner of five Connecticut Planet Fitness health club, said the car also honors two other men who served in World War II – an uncle and a friend – and another friend who died while serving in the Vietnam War.

Anderson said that this wasn’t the first time someone has used the ‘Old Crow’ as a template for a car customization. At least two others have done the same thing, including a 1932 Ford owner in Mexico, he said.

And four P-51 Mustangs have been redone to mimic the ‘Old Crow’ appearance. Two are currently still flying, one based out of Cleveland and the other owned by a Michigan NASCAR team owner.