Pontiac resident Eric Palmer customized his 2011 Ford Mustang  in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. He designed a special car wrap to emulate a P-51 “Red Tail”  fighter plane, which the 332nd Fighter Group of Tuskegee Airmen flew in World War II.

Pontiac resident Eric Palmer customized his 2011 Ford Mustang in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. He designed a special car wrap to emulate a P-51 “Red Tail” fighter plane, which the 332nd Fighter Group of Tuskegee Airmen flew in World War II.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Behind the Wheel: Custom Mustang honors Tuskegee Airmen

By: Jennifer Sigouin | C&G Newspapers | Published July 11, 2018

 Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr., of the Tuskegee Airmen, sits behind the wheel of the  Mustang. The driver’s side of the car was modeled after the fighter plane that Stewart flew in WWII.

Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr., of the Tuskegee Airmen, sits behind the wheel of the Mustang. The driver’s side of the car was modeled after the fighter plane that Stewart flew in WWII.

Photo provided by Eric Palmer

Photo by Deb Jacques

Photo by Deb Jacques

Photo by Deb Jacques

Three years ago, Pontiac resident Eric Palmer was looking for a new convertible for summer cruising, so as a 20-plus-year General Motors Co. employee, he began scoping out Corvettes. 

“I had a couple of convertibles in the past, so I yearned for the breeze to blow through my scalp again,” he said in an email interview. 

His plan changed, however, after he attended a spring 2015 meeting of the Detroit Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen, of which he’s been a member since 2003. During the meeting, the chapter had to turn down a request to participate in a parade because the organization didn’t have access to a proper vehicle to use. 

“At that time, I changed my focus to finding a convertible that I could use in parades for the chapter, one that would have meaning and one that would stand out and honor the Tuskegee Airmen.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were a group of African-American military personnel who fought in World War II under the Army Air Corps program. According to TuskegeeAirmen.org, the Tuskegee Airmen included “pilots, navigators, bombardiers, maintenance and support staff, instructors, and all the personnel who kept the planes in the air.” Today, Tuskegee Airmen chapters nationwide help honor Tuskegee Airmen accomplishments and preserve their legacy.

To help out the Detroit chapter, Palmer decided to forgo his Chevy brand loyalty in favor of something that he could connect to the Tuskegee Airmen — a Ford Mustang. 

“Along with some of the other fighter groups in WWII, the 332nd Fighter Group of Tuskegee Airmen ended the war flying P-51 Mustang fighter planes,” Palmer explained, noting that a convertible Mustang became his new target. 

In February 2016, he purchased a 2011 Mustang. The next step was to customize it in honor of the Tuskegee Airmen. Palmer used Adobe Illustrator to create a design for a custom car wrap that would emulate a P-51 “Red Tail” fighter plane and recognize two Tuskegee Airmen “living legends” whom he knows through the Detroit chapter — Lt. Col. Harry T. Stewart Jr. and Lt. Col. Alexander Jefferson. 

“Those two really appreciated the fact that I was going to honor them by having either side modeled after their P-51 fighter planes,” said Palmer. “I then showed them a mock-up of the license plate that I was going to order to put on the car to get their approval. The license plate is an Army Veteran plate that reads RDTAIL. They gave me the thumbs up.”

The car, which Palmer affectionately calls “RedTail,” also features the Detroit Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen logo emblazoned on the hood. The wrap was printed and applied to the car by FastSigns last June, just in time for display during the GM River Days festival in Detroit, which included an air show sponsored by the Detroit Chapter of Tuskegee Airmen. 

“From then until the end of the fall, I found car shows to participate in, and our chapter and museum already had air shows and parades that they were committed to,” said Palmer. “I ended up participating in five or six car shows, four parades and four air shows.”

In addition to using RedTail to transport Tuskegee Airmen veterans during parades, the car also serves as a mobile museum. Palmer created a series of storyboards to display with the car that explain the history of the Tuskegee Airmen. The Mustang has also collected a number of signatures from Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen, known as DOTAs, on the hood.

To continue his outreach efforts with the Mustang, Palmer started a 501(c)(3) nonprofit called Detroit RedTail Inc., and he coined the motto “Rolling the Tuskegee Airmen into the American car culture.”

So far this summer, RedTail has appeared in the St. Clair Shores and Sterling Heights Memorial Day parades, as well as in several local car shows. In August, Palmer will drive RedTail along Route 66 to Las Vegas for the Tuskegee Airmen Inc. 47th National Convention, with several stops planned along the way. 

“We are sure we will get lots of opportunities to talk to people about the Tuskegee Airmen during our stops,” he said. 

For more information on Palmer’s Mustang and Detroit RedTail Inc, including upcoming appearances, visit www.Detroit RedTail.org.


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