Truth be told, the North American F-82 wasn't just two mated Mustangs. Most of us who have never gotten our hands greasy on one have assumed the very-long-range postwar twin was simply two P-51 fuselages riveted to a wing center section and horizontal stabilizer. "We've found that there are very few parts common to the World War II Mustang series," says restoration pro Tom Reilly of Douglas, Ga., who has spent three years totally rebuilding the rarest Twin Mustang to survive—the number-two XP-82 prototype—and who estimates he still has a year and a half to go before his airplane flies.
And fly it will, for Reilly is famous among warbirders for putting back into the air projects ranging from Stearmans to B-24s that had been consigned to scrapheaps. Indeed, Reilly's XP-82 came largely from two junkyards—one outside Fairbanks, Alaska, and the other from late Ohioan Walter Soplata's famous back-lot salvage yard of rare warbirds.