Loose Special Racer, 1937

While making the pilgrimage to Geneseo, New York for the Flying Aces Club Nationals a few years ago, I was captivated by Tom Hallman's Loose Special Racer, and knew immediately that I had to have one of my own.

This was my first significant FF build in more years than I care to admit, so I followed Dave Livesay's plan reasonably closely. There were a few inevitable changes though, inspired by my conversations with Tom, and inspection of his model. The most significant change was to enlarge it to a 24-inch span, the maximum allowed by the FAC rules for the Thompson Trophy Race mass launch.

The overall construction is pretty typical stick and tissue fare, with a few areas of interest to keep me honest. The solid cowl was another challenging change, with 96 pieces of planking running fore and aft behind the laminated nose rings. These were sliced to a uniform curve before installation, so required just a light sanding to fair them to the final contour. Surprisingly, it did not take long to cut or install them.

The cowl bumps are lightweight modeling compound, formed by pressing into a vacuum-formed tool. The cooling inlets were press formed from thin plastic.

The landing gear legs mount by sliding their wires into aluminum tubing secured to the relevant fuselage formers. While a bit more work than just binding the wire to the formers, they do slide a bit if needed when landing.

The wing structure also deviates from Livesay's original drawing. He originally drew it with cracked rib construction, and added a turbulator to contour the front of the airfoil. I used sliced ribs instead, and added diagonal members for torsional stiffness much as Hallman had done with his.

One area that demanded extra attention was the unique canopy. The only photo I have of the original in this configuration shows the canopy flaring to follow the upper fuselage arc. I had no choice but to carve a plug and vacuum form my own part. The instrument panel is pure fantasy. I think it unlikely a purpose-built, depression-era racer would feature a panel of elm burl, but as one well-known scale modeler often tells me, "prove me wrong."

The panel is an inkjet print, with a few coats of Deft lacquer to give it a gloss finish and richer colors. The overall finish is Esaki Japanese tissue, lightly airbrushed with Createx acrylics.

My model is far from complete, with rigging and other scale details yet to come, once I have the flight trim sorted out. The heavy winds at the FAC Nats this year limited my flying time, she did show a bit of promise near the end of the day on Saturday. With moments to go before the end of the contest, the Loose touched down after 54 seconds. My timer, Jason McGuire, signed and submitted my score sheet as I headed to the wheat for retrieval.

More flight trimming, and additional detailing should see her soaring up the standings in the next contest.

1937 Loose Special Racer
Weight - 61 grams
Span - 24 in
Length - 19 in
Prop - 8-in Pecks
Motor - 2 loops of 1/8
I have no flight photos of my Loose Special yet, but I can refer you to the inspiration.
Click here to see Tom Hallman's restored model in action.

Also, don't miss the Flying Aces Club website for more on their unique brand of competitive Free Flight.

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