[Headline: SAM competition]
Competition comes in various intensities. Many forms of competition require you to devote most of your life to it for any degree of success. A shot at the Olympics, for example, takes years of effort and monetary outlay. Slack off, and all is lost. Few of us are into that.
Like many, I enjoy Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) competition because of the lower intensity and the fact that you can choose your own level and your own goals. There are no losers at a SAM contest.
Maybe your goal is to simply finish in the top half of an event or two. If so, you have more latitude to select a seldom-seen model/engine combination that might be less competitive, but more interesting.
If you enter a championship category at the SAM Championships, you’ll be more restricted as to the model and engine selections. You’ll also need to put in more building and testing time, but the intensity can stay well below Olympics level and still be enjoyable.
Winning a SAM event requires a well-built and trimmed aircraft, reliable engine performance, a tad bit of luck, and for the RC side, basic RC flying skills. For FF, you’ll need some FF trimming knowledge and skills. Veteran SAM FF flier Gene Wallock often says that modelers should learn when to “launch into lift.”
Good equipment preparation is essential for success. My first contest goal is to have my equipment reliably perform. I also hope to get in some good flights. Then, when others enjoy a series of better flights, I’m not disappointed.
I also hope for at least one win. Whatever level of competition you choose, it’s guaranteed to improve your everyday flying.
More Balsa Available?
A news item that has model builders all astir is the breakthrough of a new carbon-fiber epoxy honeycomb material that could replace balsawood in industrial windmill blades. As with most such announcements, it’s uncertain when, or even if, it will take over that market. The product will probably not be suitable as a model-building material, but it’s still good news.
Huge windmill blades require large amounts of prime balsa, leaving less for our model building. The switch by the windmill industry could free up plenty of good balsa. We can’t expect a dramatic price drop, but future increases might come slower. Do you suppose that new material might also replace balsa as hull-insulating material on those giant ocean-going oil tankers?
Most antique spark-ignition engines were designed with integral fuel tanks. Some were metal, but many were made from the plastics available in the 1930s and 1940s. The plastic tanks withstood gasoline and oil, but along with the invention of the glow plug, came glow fuels.
We quickly learned that methanol, nitromethane, etc., attacked and ruined these tanks. Even today’s pump gasoline (laced with ethanol) will corrode, shrink, and dissolve the old plastic tanks, but modern plastics appear to survive any fuel.
Old engines can be run on either gasoline or methanol-based fuel, but the majority of us use FAI fuel, which is methanol and oil with no nitro. It runs cooler, slightly faster, and produces less carbon deposit. With modern alcohol-compatible oils, our engines last longer.
I assembled the tank pictured with this column from an old 35mm plastic film canister. I’ve also had good luck using those canisters for Brown Junior tanks. It requires some work and more parts than are visible, but designing it is part of the fun and challenge of model building. You can also purchase tanks to replace old plastic ones.
Ohlsson & Rice plastic tanks were secured to the engine with the needle valve’s spray bar. A full tank has enough inertia that engine vibration can cause the tank to rattle loose. Alcohol gets poorer mileage than gasoline, so a larger tank is required. A bigger tank could become loose even faster.
I’ve included a photo that shows the added stabilizing bracket on the tank’s bottom. Some late-model Ohlsson & Rice engines came with two types of solidly secured aluminum tanks.
Let’s consider this a biography of both Fred Megow (1900-1977) and his business (1929-1949). I typically search a few sources when writing biographical sketches, but I always end up viewing the AMA History Project for more information. In Fred’s case, his 18-page AMA biography has so much information that I had to condense it for this column.
Charlie Reich, known by SAM members as “Ol’ Charlie,” assembled Fred Megow’s biography with help from other modeling historians, including an autobiography by Fred.
Fred’s biography doesn’t include the typical string of model aircraft designs, contest wins, etc. Instead, it’s an inspiring success story of building a prominent American business from scratch during tough times. It begins as the Great Depression starts, and concludes shortly after World War II. During that period, Fred became the world’s largest model kit and supply maker.
Fred tried writing for magazines with little success. He graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in 1927 and began teaching drafting and shop courses in Pennsylvania public schools. For a while, he taught one-hour classes at five schools, driving his Ford Model T to and from each school. During the summer, he and another teacher earned extra money doing repair work at schools.
Fred approached a small sundry (variety) store owner about selling model building supplies, which he would furnish on consignment. A handshake agreement was made to split the profits, a price list was posted in the window, and Fred supplied a cigar box in which to collect the money.
Kids began lining up and a couple of days later, the store owner called Fred and said he needed more supplies. By the end of the week, business had been more successful than either expected. Fred envisioned expanding his business, and came up with an idea for store display cases. He built the cases in his basement, painted them green, and they became known as Megow’s Green Cabinets.
He began placing green cabinets in other local stores and established a regular route, resupplying them like a candy machine vendor would do today. The initial setup cost the store owner $7.50 for a green cabinet stocked with modeling supplies.
I’ll conclude the Megow story in my December column.[dingbat]
AMA History Project