By Fred “Crash” Blechman
The first of what will be an annual event, the Mustang Mustang Show, took place on Sunday, July 22, in the parking lot and on the ramp behind the Airtel Plaza Hotel and Convention Center at Van Nuys Airport (VNY). More than 80 Ford Mustang cars and two North American P-51 Mustangs were on display.
Through the cooperation of Airtel owner Jim Dunn, parking and admission was free. “Motorman” Leon Kaplan broadcast the show from the Airtel on AM Talk Radio 790 KABC, during his regular Sunday morning broadcast. A variety of food and beverages was available from vendors.
This was also a birthday party for Kaplan, who was born on July 22, 1941. He was presented with a birthday cake, which he shared with the many fans surrounding his broadcast booth.
Since he promoted the event on his popular weekly “Motorman” radio show well in advance, aviation and classic automobile enthusiasts came out in droves. Car and plane enthusiasts continued to arrive at Airtel for a couple of hours after the broadcast concluded at 11 a.m.
Kaplan has been doing the “Motorman” radio show since 1979. His moniker isn’t accidental.
“I think I was conceived in a car,” he said. “All my life I’ve been interested in cars, motorcycles and airplanes. I’ve raced motorcycles, flown airplanes and have worked on almost every kind of car. Right now I’m doing what I wanted to do when I was 4 or 5 years old.”
Kaplan earned his private pilot license in 1968. Since 1996, he’s owned a Beechcraft six-place A36 Bonanza. He previously owned a Great Lakes biplane, Cessna 182, Cessna Cardinal and Beechcraft F33.
Mustang cars of every age, model, color and trim were lined up in two long rows in the parking lot. In the aircraft parking area were two P-51 Mustang fighter planes from the WWII era. Kevin LaRosa flew his silver Mustang in the documentary, “One Six Right.” The purple Mustang, owned and flown by Clay Lacy, is a former Reno Air Race winner.
A homebuilt three-quarter-size “Thunder Mustang” was also exhibited. Wayne “Solo” Richards owns and flies the accurate replica of a P-51 that is extremely detailed and beautifully painted in flashy décor. Richards has been flying since the mid-1970s. He’s owned two Pitts biplanes and has 4,000 hours of tailwheel time.
“This design was originally sold only in kit form, with 8,000 to 10,000 hours of assembly time,” he explained. “I bought this assembled about a year ago, and have flown it about 45 hours. The engine is a Ryan V-12 racing engine that puts out 650 horsepower—a lot for this 2,800-pound airframe. It climbs out in the 6,500 feet-a-minute range, and flies at just under 400 miles an hour.”
Leon Kaplan owned the Beech A36 on the ramp, and a hotel guest displayed another Bonanza. Also displayed was a yellow 1946 Piper Cub, originally sold for $1075, which has flown 3,200 hours. Si Robin, executive vice president of Sensor Systems, Inc., has owned it for more than 20 years. Robin piloted it in the documentary, “One Six Right.” He still flies it frequently.
Plans are now in the works for a bigger Mustang Mustang Show next summer.