Moving into my own flat gave me a lot more freedom, not only in general, but in purely modelling terms. I had always been an insomniac and had 'wasted' much of my life trying to sleep. My parents had always complained about my use of 'their' resources - such as having a light on in my room. I would gladly have paid their electricity bill...
My modelling activities increased considerably with the emphasis on R/C Pylon. It's interesting that, although I was still interested in C/L Stunt and still made an annual appearance in the Gold Trophy, I simply had no interest in building a new model. My Gold Trophy appearances were all made with my aging, and heavy, 'Spacebird'. I would embark on a program of practice which entailed two flights per week for a period of 8 weeks before the Nats.
In the 1970 Gold Trophy I was lying third after the first round and was last to fly in the second, and final, round. Steve Blake informed me that Jim Mannall was leading him by 7.5 points. I commented that I didn't really have the heart to beat Jim. I then flew and slotted in between them, losing to Jim by 2.5 points. Many people commented that I had bounced the landing and that this was something I never did.
The 1971 Gold Trophy saw a rare reappearance by Frank Warburton and I was delighted to beat him into second place. I think that this was the first time that I ever beat Frank in a straight fight. 'Aeromodeller' made some remark about the first two places being taken by, "experienced, but relatively unpracticed flyers."
To put things in perspective, I was fifth in 1972, seventh in 1973, tenth in 1974... The models last appearance in the Gold was in 1977 when it was 36th.
For the 1970 pylon season I built a 'Cosmic Wind' from a kit. This had a moulded plastic top to the fuselage which presented problems with both matching and painting. It was quite a good model, but didn't achieve any real success, managing several thirds and one second, it's lowest position being 8th at the Nats.
Cosmic Wind 'Red Owl' at the 1970 Nats with caller Mike Gagg.
'RCM&E' cover shot.
I built a new 'DeNight Special' for '71/72. In '71, I flew in 9 events and managed 3 wins and 3 seconds, being beaten by the great Frank Van Den Berg just once. Beating him gave me more of a buzz than winning. In 1972 I flew in 6 events and managed 2 wins and 6 seconds. The motor was a K&B Torpedo Series '71 which I usually ran on 45% nitro with a mixture of 12.5% castor and 12.5% Ucon LB625 synthetic oil. Strange that, at this point, no-one seemed interested in flying the formula one models anymore and I was stuck with competing in the FAI event and the fledgling 1/2A event.
With the advent of the new FAI Pylon racing class I produced an FAI model for the '71 Nats. This required a much bigger aeroplane than the usual Goodyear (recognisably scale) racer and had only a semi-scale requirement. Having read in an article on R/C pattern that the ultimate aerodynamic shape was a 60% taper with semi-circular tips. I produced a model to that formula with a vee tail and the maximum fuselage section well forwards. The interesting thing was that the model was immediately very fast, despite using one of my Formula 1 motors (K&B Torpedo Series '69) running on the mandatory 'straight' fuel. The overall idea was to produce something closer to a typical C/L team racer, rather than a full-size racing aircraft. I didn't like that semi-scale requirement, which you could drive a bus through.
This model was written off in a mid-air (with Keith Jones' model) at the Midland Area Rally later that year so I had to build another to have something to race in 1972 The first one was called 'FAItal Move' which seemed to have been a bad omen, so subsequent versions became 'FAIr Move'. I eventually built a total of five. Numbers 2 to 5 (FAIr Move) all had small rudders at the rear of the fuselage. These models were all interesting in that they borrowed the concept from the Spacebird of having a canted motor with the silencer half burried in the side of the fuselage. I also used an air intake alongside the motor which led to a plenum chamber and grit trap and then on to the carb. In this configuration the motor frequently ran cool and it was necessary to block off some, or all, of the intake area.
FAItal Move at the '71 Nationals. Note the lack of a rudder.
One reason I thought it necessary to persevere with a racing class that I really didn't like, apart from the disappearance of Formula 1, was that there was to be an Open International meeting for FAI Pylon at Swinderby in August 1972. This meant that I had to build model number three! Note: it is possible to get two 60" pylon racers, with 48" fuselages into an Anglia!
I finished fourteenth with a fastest time of 2:14, having done a 1:59 at the Trials.
By way of a diversion here, I travelled to the '72 C/L World Champs at Namur with Jim Mannall and his wife. Maybe I hoped that my old interest in stunt would grab me again, but it didn't. A strange thing is that I tend to take few pictures of models at these events. This one is an exception and I have lots of pictures and intend to write a separate account. A link will appear here when this is done.
The whole business of motors for pylon racing was becoming a complex one. I had three K&B's, Series '67, '69 and '71. The '69 would run quite well on straight FAI fuel, while the '67 would only go with lots of nitro. The '71 preferred nitro but was reasonable on straight. In 1971, the first of the HP 40 rear intake motors appeared. These were immediately very good, but were in short supply. In 1972, I bought one of the new K&B 40S motors which were an unknown quantity. At the end of the season I gave it a test flight in my second FAI model (FAIr Move 2). I had an elevator servo failure and the model was written off! The motor then sat in a box until 1974. See later.
In mid-1973 I obtained a second-hand HP 40 from the Jim Davis empire. This went into FAIr Move 3 and was an immediate success. For the next two years it rarely failed to make the final of a meeting. Jim did actually try to buy it back on at least two occasions!
With the demise of Goodyear pylon and my general dislike of the FAI class, I turned my attention to other modelling activities, one of these being 1/2A racing. This was restricted to the Cox TeeDee 049/051 motors. I have always liked the Cox motors and I could continue with high nitro fuels (nitro is the great leveller). On occasion, when the conditions allowed, I ran these motors on 60% nitro with the same castor/synthetic mix as before. The usual prop was the Cox grey 5 x 3. I could obtain close to 22,000 rpme on these with some reworking. However, the Cox had a very strict rev limit quite close to that and on one occasion I landed with the prop freewheeling!
Finallists at the first ever British 1/2A pylon meeting at Beaulieu. Center: winner yours truly with Junior Falcon borrowed from Mike Gagg. Right: second placed Sid King with O/D. Left: third placed Jack Anderson with another O/D.
I built my own Junior Falcon and then produced a smaller version of my Dick Ohm Special formula one racer. This was never competitive so I built a simplified one piece version of the Falcon ('Peanuts') which eventually more or less dominated the class. So, I killed off another class of pylon racing!
Another change of direction in my modelling activities came with the advent of Class 2 R/C scale. I have always been a scale modeller at heart and this seemed like the event for me. Basically the models were to be judged from a minimum distance without any actual measuring and detail was supposed to be minimal with no cockpit interior being necessary.
Some time in the early 50's, I saw a copy of 'Air Trails' magazine (I now know that it was for April 1950). This had a plan and construction article for a C/L model of a Stearman biplane which had been modified for airshow work by a man called Sammy Mason. I was attracted to the colour scheme which consisted mainly of red/orange and white checkerboard (Sammy called it 'Checkers'). I did see an example of the model built by Johnny Jones, of the Birmingham club around this time. I resolved that, one day, I would build one. For the moment, however, this seemed to be the ideal subject for an R/C model to be based on a Sterling kit. With the help of Jack Beaumont, of Beaumont Aviation Literature, I obtained a copy of the american magazine 'Sport Aviation', which contained a detailed article on the full-size machine by Ken Wilson.
The aircraft went through several variations during its life and I elected to build the later version with four ailerons and a very conspicious 'mistake' in the colour scheme. This apparently arose because when they added the ailerons to the top wing, they painted them away from the 'plane and got them wrong. My version had all four very large ailerons driven by a single servo. I still marvel that this worked. It did suffer from adverse yaw during the climb-out and I had to use the rudder.
A feature of the real aircraft was the fitting of a Pratt and Whitney 'Wasp' engine - this being the first Stearman to be so fitted. Some two feet were removed from the nose to get the CG in the right area. A variety of exhaust systems were used, culminating in a stub exitting below the engine. This was quite easy to copy using a Tatone muffler with a length of silicone tubing going down to a brass tube stub - all enclosed in the dummy engine.
The full-size machine suffered from high stick forces and this was helped by adding booster tabs to the upper ailerons. I tried this too but the main result was to produce aileron flutter, so I fixed them in the neutral position. My target for completion (I always needed a deadline) was the 1973 Nats. In my usual manner, the model (minus the dummy engine) was completed two days before the Nats. The problem was that I had signed an undertaking that the model had been flown before the Nats. On my way to the Nats I intended to stop off at the LARKS club flying patch at Bitteswell which we could use at weekends. This was an active airfield at that time and not always available to us. Of course, this was one of those occasions! The Red Arrows were in for servicing.
I had no option but to go on to the LARKS main site at Market Harborough. The model flew perfectly straight off the board and I could have gone straight to the Nats. Time was now short and I had to find my way to Lindholme and get my transmitter checked. We only had six 27Mhz frequencies in those days and transmitter checking was just 2 hours (7 - 9pm) on the Saturday evening. I arrived at ten to nine (I said I needed a deadline) and made my way to the transmitter check. This was carried out at that time by Rex Boyer and we had already had several skirmishes based on the fact that my transmitter (a World Engines 'Pylon Migit') had rather a lot of power (about 2 watts). Things weren't helped by the fact that Rex had given the World Engines systems a poor review in 'RCM&E' magazine and relations between Rex and Mick Wilshere were strained. Although I was in time (and had witnesses to prove it) Rex insisted that I was too late and refused to check my transmitter. This was a malicious and totally unjustified act which cost me the best part of a years work.
The model did manage to place second at the Walsall scale rally (still without the dummy engine) and won the event at the South Midland Area Rally. This lead to a centre spread in 'Mayfair' magazine! However, there was a lingering bad taste in my mouth and my increasing disenchantment with the event was to lead me to eventually turn my back on scale. But that's in the future.
I was in a very good position in my job at this point. Although employed as a Contacts Engineer/Draughtsman, I rapidly worked myself into a position where I did most of the commissioning work and usually managed to spend at least one day a week out of the office on site - with appropriate expenses. My second-hand Anglia did a lot of miles (it eventually reached 107.000 miles before I sold it). My only real problem in all this time was a failed gearbox casing which led to me travelling from Eastliegh to Birmingham with the rear of the gearbox hanging on the propshaft.
Things culminated with me needing to do work on the car to travel to a contest on Sunday and my then manager refusing to let me take a day out of my holiday to fix it. I then became increasingly resentful about the amount of use that my employer was making of my car. This led to a series of incidents where I made trips using unreliable company cars or hire cars. On one occasion I arrived to pick up a hire car which had been prebooked and was told that I must pay cash because my employer haden't paid their bill. I promptly dragged the above manager from his home at 7.00 am so that he could pay with a personal cheque!
Although I was, by now, the Senior Electrical Contracts Engineer, things were never quite the same. Thus it was that I decided in early 1974 to accept a post with Mick Wilshere, of World Engines, as Works Manager. This meant that I had to move to Watford. This move took place on April 1st 1974. The date is appropriate as it was probably the worst move I ever made.
In 1974 we had the 'Aerolympics' to be held at Lakehurst Air Base, in New Jersey. Here we had the World Championships for C/L scale and Indoor F/F, open International meetings for F3D (FAI Pylon) and F3B (triple task gliders), and other events. A package deal was put together with Pan-Am and a total of 42 modellers made the trip from the UK. For this I clearly needed two new models.
FAIr Move 4 at the Nationals with regular caller Maurice Barker.
I built a pair of FAIr Move's (4 & 5) and deliberately made them so that the wing and fuselages were interchangeable. So far, all the models were red with yellow lettering, as was number 4. Number 5 had yellow wings and tail with a red fuselage. The HP 40 went into Number 4 and Number 5 received the K&B 40S which had been languishing in a box for 18 months. The models were completed immediately before my move to Watford.
Number 4 was flown in a couple of events before the trip and went as expected. Number 5 only got to be flown at a Cotswold Rally just one week before the trip. It was immediately clear that I had been wasting that motor! Unfortunately, while loading the car for the trip home, I did something to my back. Things didn't seem bad until I arrived home and couldn't get out of the car. I eventually managed to fall out sideways and crawl on hands and knees to my side door. Things didn't look good for the trip.
'RCM&E' cover shot