Williams Bros. 1/32 GeeBee R-1
Is there a racer better-known around the world than the Gee Bee Model R? To most fans of the sport of air racing, as well as all aviation enthusiasts, it is the quintessential 1930s air racer, with its barrel shape and bright red and white finish.
Granville Brothers Aircraft Company was founded in 1929 in Springfield,
Following the spectacular crash of the first Gee Bee racer, the Model Z,
In 1932, famed distance record-holder Russell Boardman purchased 51
percent of the
While legend has it the airplane was designed with chalk on the concrete floor of the hangar, the truth is more prosaic. Chief Engineer Howell "Pete" Miller and Zantford "Granny" Granville spent three days of wind tunnel testing at New York University, working with Alexander Klemin, professor of aeronautical engineering, and utilized the most advanced knowledge available at the time. The teardrop‑shaped fuselage was found to be the best way to streamline the big radial engine. Wind tunnel tests on fuselages of varying fineness ratios showed that minimum drag was attained at a fineness ratio of 3.00 to 3.50. Since the Wasp engine was 54 inches in diameter, the fuselage diameter would be 61 inches at its widest point, with an overall length of 17 feet 9 inches, to obtain a fineness ratio of 3.50. Counter-intuitively, the design meant that a large frontal area would create less drag than a smaller frontal area. Based on the wind tunnel data, Miller predicted the Model R-1 would have a top speed of 298 mph, which turned out to be very close, since the actual airplane had a top speed of 296.2 mph.
The cockpit was located just in front of the vertical stabilizer to give the pilot better vision while making turns around crowded pylons. It also turned out that this fuselage acted as an airfoil, an early “lifting body, allowing the pilot to make “knife-edge turns” right next to the pylons without losing altitude, which became the secret of its success: flying the course as low and tight as possible without cutting a pylon is still the best way to win an air race.
When completed, the airplane was exactly what it looked like: a Pratt & Whitney R‑1340 engine with wings and a tail attached.
Boardman decided that he would concentrate on the Bendix Trophy race, and
convinced Jimmy Doolittle -
In the 1932 National Air Races, held over Labor Day weekend in Cleveland, Ohio, Doolittle was not only victorious in the Thompson Race on September 5, 1932, he also lapped his competitors in the process, as he averaged 252.67 miles per hour over 100 laps. He then went on to set a new World Landplane Speed Record of 296.2 mph in the Shell Speed Dash.
The reputation of Gee Bees as “killers” continued when Boardman was
killed in the R-1 during the 1933 Bendix Trophy race.
After taking off from a refueling stop in
In 1934, the R‑1 was repaired with parts from the R‑2 to create the "Long Tail Racer." This Model R also crashed, though pilot Roy Minor was not severely injured. After yet another rebuild, the Long Tail Racer was sold to Cecil Allen, who - against the Granvilles’ advice - modified by installing larger gas tanks aft of the center of gravity, which made the aircraft unstable in pitch. Allen took off with a full fuel tank, pulled up, stalled, crashed, and was killed. After this, the aircraft was never rebuilt.
If there was a design flaw to the Gee Bees, it was the use of the Clark-Y airfoil. This is an excellent low-speed airfoil (used by the J-3 Cub, for instance), but not what is needed for a high-speed, high-weight, high-powered design. Delmar Benjamin built a replica of the R-2 in the 1980s, with a different airfoil, and has flown the airplane in air shows for years without a problem.
To my knowledge, this kit by Williams Brothers, which if I recall
correctly was released about 1973 (I remember seeing someone with one of the
kits at a meeting of the old Golden Gate IPMS, which makes it no later than
early 1974 for me), is the only
model of the Gee Bee other than the 1/48 kit
originally issued by Hawk back when I was mumblemumble years old, a very long
time ago, back in the early Jurassic (Actually, the copyright stamped on one I
have is 1952).
This is one of the first, if not the first, Williams Brother racer kit released, and is still one of the best in terms of production quality. The one piece wings and horizontal stabilizers are thin, with sharp trailing edges, and the kit assembles without much if any seam filler if you take time to test fit carefully before applying glue. There is a basic cockpit (but racer cockpits from that era are very basic!), with an instrument panel decal. The kit decals provide the markings for both the R-1 and R-2. Additionally, there is a choice of cowlings, though only one engine. In fact, it is impossible to make an R-2 from this kit if you are so disposed, since the R-2 had longer-span wings than the R-1, something that is hard to create here.
Williams Brothers was purchased a few years ago following the death of the founder, and the kits are being re-released in new boxes with new decals. This kit showed up at the LHS in the original boxing, with the original Scale-Master decals.
|COLORS & MARKINGS|
The decals may have been 30 years old, but they went on without problem with Micro-Sol. When they were set, I washed the model and gave it another coat of Future, since the instructions stress how smooth and shiny the paint scheme was on the original.
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