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Will race fans get to see more of Ron Buccarelli and Precious Metal? It certainly looks that way... The team is looking at making some serious modifications in the quest for more speed. Story and Photos by Scott Germain - WarbirdAeroPress.com


Ask any crew chief, pilot or aircraft owner on an air race team what makes their racer as fast as it is. They will probably run down the normal list of things that make an airplane quick: racing engine, money, a talented crew, the usual airframe modifications and a good pilot. But that will only get you to the next level. There are hundreds of little details that get you the final ten or 15 mph. The difference between running 450 mph and 460 mph are staggering, let alone 490.

Whatever speed range an airplane is capable of, bumping up 10 mph is a significant accomplishment. Want to equate that to money? The going rate is about $1,000 per mph. Now how fast do you want to go?



Ron Buccarelli wants to go faster. During the Aviation Nation airshow at Nellis AFB in November, Buccarelli gave WarbirdAeroPress.com a tour of his Precious Metal Mustang and briefed some improvements that will be made to the racer before Reno next year.

Although Precious Metal is not overly heavy by any means, the team is looking to shed some pounds from the airplane. "Nothing too involved," Buccarelli said. "That part will be simple."


Aeronautical engineer and photographer Jim Larsen has thrown his hat into the ring, and will provide input on new fairings between the wing and aft fuselage. Those that have followed air racing will remember Larsen was a driving force behind the modifications made to the Roto-Finish and Sumthin’ Else P-51 racers. Both racers were Reno champions.

"We might go ahead and fill the seams in the fuselage and paint it, too," Buccarelli said.


More Mods

Buccarelli smiled as he showed the tail of the racer and pointed to the elevator and rudder hinge line. "We’re going to fill that to prevent air from getting in there and causing drag," he said. "More aggressive mods will include lowering the frontal area of the racer by removing the induction scoop and going with a NACA duct, but the jury is still out on that."


Precious Metal has always had somewhat of a hump-back appearance when compared to other modified Mustang racers; it’s just the way the racing turtledeck was made and put on the fuselage. Buccarelli says they’d like to reduce the hump and install a Dago Red style canopy; a design that allows it to be opened in flight, unlike the current lid.

Gut Check

The Mustang’s stock belly scoop causes a lot of drag at race speeds, and can be greatly improved. The fastest Mustang racers have highly modified scoops that delete the boundary layer splitter and reduce the inlet area by approximately one-third. The doghouse is also reduced in depth and volume. Since most of the radiator/heat-exchanger cooling is accomplished with spraybar water; the air taken on through the scoop is just a means of getting the water to the unit. Strega and Dago Red are examples of this, and racers like Anson Johnson’s Race 45 and Dave Zeuschel’s Stiletto did away with the scoop altogether.


It’s no surprise that Buccarelli wants to pay attention to the same area on Precious Metal. "We want to get the scoop tighter to the belly," he says. When he acquired the racer from the Whittingtons, a lower profile scoop was on the airplane, but at the time, Buccarelli thought he wasn’t getting proper cooling. He had the stock scoop put back on, but found that his speed suffered some.


Other small details that will be addressed include sealing the gaps around the flaps and ailerons, and filling them with foam. The team will also seal the cockpit to prevent air from moving around inside the racer, and fairings will cover the elevator and rudder trim actuators. Round head screws on the fuselage inspection panels will be replaced with flush screws.

"We had a crew meeting in December, and will have another one this month. The work should begin pretty soon so we have the airplane ready to go in September," he said.


The Next Step Up

In 2001, Buccarelli said that he would only race one year at Reno. He never got to race due to the cancellation of the races that year, so he came back in 2002. Then he came back again in 2003; so you see how this is turning out... In 2003, the team won the bronze race at a record speed of 407 mph without pushing the Griffon engine too hard. Hopefully, a faster Precious Metal will be back at Reno this year, and will be able to continue to build on its success for years to come.


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Story and Photos Copyright 2003 - 2004 by Scott Germain - WarbirdAeroPress.com. All Rights Reserved.