[Headline: Old-Timer definition change]
History is a moving target, progressing at calendar speed. The problem with history is defining when it begins. It’s an individual thing, often depending on when we were born.
Some time ago, a fellow sent some modeling information that wasn’t terribly old. His note asked what was considered an Old-Timer model. I couldn’t come up with a definitive answer.
The Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) five-year rules-cycle vote has been completed. One of the changes for 2015 is the definition of Old-Timer design dates. The date moves from models designed through 1942 to those designed through 1950. The change was mostly to accommodate the Europeans, who were kept busier than we were with non-modeling activities during the war years.
It wasn’t a big change, considering the original date had been in place since the beginning of the SAM movement. Incidentally, the Europeans are quite active in SAM flying. We’ll probably see more such changes as history progresses.
As long as we’re discussing history, here’s an item from 1952. The Russians held the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) world endurance record for radio-controlled models. By today’s standards, it was a modest 23-plus-minute time in the air.
Dr. Walter Good broke that record with a 40-plus-minute flight with his Rudder Bug design. Rudder was the only flight surface control. He used a Forster 29 glow engine. At that time, the Forster engine, like many others, was basically a spark-ignition design with the breaker points and cam no longer furnished.
Perusing old modeling magazines gives us an interesting perspective on the history of monetary inflation. Today you can pay as much as $8 for a common glow plug. In the early 1950s you could buy a small diesel engine (called a Deezil) for $2.95 via mail order, but there was a catch. Companies charged an extra 25¢ for shipping and handling!
The Deezil was obviously not a precision piece of machinery and it came with no guarantee that it would actually run. On the other hand, in the 1960s you could walk into a hobby shop and buy a new McCoy glow plug attached to a good-running, new McCoy Stunt engine. And you got change back from your $8.
The Chet Lanzo Airborn is the model du jour for Old-Timers (Airborn without the “e” is Lanzo’s original spelling). It’s rapidly nudging out the Lanzo Bomber and Dan Brogini’s Stardust Special as one of the most frequently built models for SAM competition (especially for RC).
Many Old-Timer fliers avoid the most popular models, not wanting to be copycats, but a newcomer to any activity is usually best served by choosing known, good-working equipment. When you can get results comparable to what others are doing, then it may be time to explore other designs. The Airborn is a good recommendation for any newcomer.
Postal meets are popular among old-time fliers, and are suited for any event where pure numbers and not judgment determine placement. There’s a 1/2A Texaco Postal contest each year, a Jimmy Allen Rubber event, and several others that come and go. In a Postal meet, an individual or club flies on a certain day, records results, and forwards them to the sponsor who reports overall results.
I recently saw an interesting Postal meet mentioned on a 1/2A forum. It’s a tachometer race for Cox 1/2A reed engines. A standard propeller and fuel are used as each contestant tunes his or her engines for highest rpm. The prepped engines are mailed to a central location, where each is run on the same propeller and fuel on the same day. A tachometer judges the winners.
Field Equipment and Safety
Modelers who use vintage engines do more test-stand running than those who use modern glow engines. More precise machining and better knowledge of metallurgy, clearances, etc., allow newer engines to be installed and flown practically right out of the box.
But the old engines were commonly set up tighter with the expectation that the modeler would perform extensive engine break-in before trying to fly with them. That procedure was, and is, part of the entertainment for many of us.
Few modelers today even own a test stand, but for those of us who do, there are choices. I find that the old E-Z Just wooden test fixtures probably accommodate a greater variety of old engines than any others.
Those fixtures haven’t been made for years, but can sometimes be found at swap meets, on eBay, through the Model Engine Collectors Association (MECA), etc. They’re taller and often require little grooves or notches to be made to accommodate different engines, but that’s easier to do with hardwood than metal.
I believe that the wooden fixtures are also inherently safer. I’ve seen engines in different metal fixtures suddenly vibrate loose, releasing a screaming little monster eager to get even with the world over its captivity. Wooden fixtures seem to absorb engine vibration better without loosening.
A bad idea is clamping an engine in a vise for running. It’s an accident ready to happen, but with any luck, the vise will have damaged the engine enough that it will not start.
Sometimes engines are mounted to a long piece of hardwood. That’s okay if the engine and board are properly bolted down, but one or more big C-clamps can also become loose. The metal Tommy Bar that tightens the clamp can vibrate and loosen the clamp faster than you can run.
Launchers are a piece of equipment peculiar to Old-Timer RC flying. Most of the engines used have only a shutoff capability with no throttle, so they are either held by a helper or a stooge during starting then released at full throttle. (I should point out that a stooge isn’t another name for the helper, but is instead a mechanical device.)
Several do-it-yourself stooge designs are used, but most feature a 1/2-inch-thick piece of plywood or other wood as a base. A pair of padded uprights restrains the stabilizer. Those uprights are hinged to the baseboard and released by foot-pedal latches.
Regardless of how foolproof a stooge looks, it’s still a good idea to have someone also restrain the model until everyone is behind the plane of the spinning propeller.
SAM Champs 2015
This year’s SAM Champs is set for October 18-23, and it again rotates to Boulder City, Nevada, so mark your calendars. Mike Myers will be the overall event manager. The SAM organization is a leader in Old-Timer modeling activities, but certainly not the only one.
If you’d like to see your organization represented with photos, activities, and event announcements, please send me newsletters and other information. With limited column space, I can’t guarantee everything will fit, so keep it brief and to the point. Allow approximately a four-month lead time for upcoming event announcements.[dingbat]
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