Presented is a historic model aircraft so unusual in design it looks ready
to jump into the air rather than take off because of its stubby shape and huge radial engine. This true-to-scale replica is
of one of the most written about racing aircraft of the early 1930's. The Granville brothers' GEE BEE R-1 racer was conceived
during the depths of the Great Depression. It was one of the most advanced designs of its day. The stubby shape, based on
a teardrop, blunt in front tapers to a small tail. Wind tunnel tests show this minimizes resistance and drag, but when compressed,
The Gee Bees were among the fastest planes of the day and won many air
races including the Thompson Trophy of 1931 and 1932. Lowell Bayles, the winning pilot in 1931 in a Z model, later set a world
speed record in the same plane, but died in the attempt. In 1932, Jimmy Doolittle won the Thompson in the R-1 and later broke
the speed record, and retired from racing shortly thereafter. Pilots lost their lives flying them so the Gee Bees have remained
very controversial. Some people have labeled them "killer planes" while others praise their engineering and say they were
just too aerodynamically advanced for the pilots of the day to handle. Whatever the truth, Gee Bee's history is destined to
remain a point of contention among aviation enthusiasts and historians.
MODEL CONSTRUCTION: This model is built to the
same standards and quality as our model of the Boeing 314 and the Douglas DC-3. It achieves
a level of excellence unparalleled in production model making. No one, even custom professional model makers, can do as well
as this level of accuracy at anywhere near this price.
The GEE BEE is painted in its original red and white colors with the paint
scheme's scalloped edges reminding you of its streamlined shape. It is built in the same fashion as the real planes using
wood frames and rib construction, which are covered in aluminum panels and silk fabric over which is applied seven coats of
red and white paint. The attention to detail is remarkable with working control surfaces, i.e. ailerons, rudder and elevator.
The engine's propeller spins, the tires are rubber. The nacelle is made of aluminum. The canopy over the cockpit is exact
in its details. Everything is authentic to the real aircraft including the historically correct markings and colors.
MODEL DIMENSIONS are 25 1/4" wingspan, 16"
long, 8" high.
Narrow cord and faired skirts
Aft cockpit to balance engine
Under carriage and stubby wings
HISTORY: The Granvilles were top-notch
engineers who experimented with some of the most advanced aerodynamic theories of the day. They were working with wind tunnels
before most aircraft companies began using them. Because they built the Gee Bees to the highest performance standards they
could design, only the most skilled pilots could handle their aircraft. The Gee Bees had a very fast landing speed and were
much more difficult to fly than other racers of the era. Unlike most airplanes of the period, the Gee Bees' wingspans were
noticeably wider than the length of their fuselages. Contemporaries easily recognized the short and chubby little planes because,
as one observer noted, they resembled "a section of sewer pipe which had sprouted stubby wings."
In 1931, the Granvilles produced their first full-fledged racer,
the Model Z. Bob Hall, one of Granville Brother Aircraft's most promising engineers, helped design the plane. The plane exceeded
all of their expectations when both Bayles and Hall piloted Model Z's to win five first place trophies at that year's National
Air Races in Cleveland. On September 1, Bayles won the coveted Thompson Trophy Race, a closed circuit race of 100 miles in
25 minutes, 23 seconds, by averaging more than 236.24 miles per hour. Maude Tait also flew a Gee Bee to victory at the same
meet. Tait won the Cleveland Pneumatic Aero Trophy Race for Women in a Model Y.
On December 5, while making an attempt at the speed record, Bayles'
plane pitched up sharply and its right wing folded in half which caused the plane to spin uncontrollably and crash. Bayles
died on impact. A film review of the accident, determined that a gas cap had loosened during the flight and had flown back
and knocked Bayles unconscious. On January 14, 1932, aviation officials awarded Bayles a new speed record posthumously for
his 281.75-mile-per-hour flight. Although the Granvilles had achieved a certain degree of fame with the Model Z by winning
so many trophies at the 1931 National Air Races, the plane also, perhaps undeservedly, started to saddle them with a reputation
as the designers of "death traps."
The Granville's produced two more racing planes less than a year
after the tragedy. The first racer they rolled out that year was the R-1. The Granvilles had specifically designed it with
the hope of winning the Thompson Trophy, and, once again, they succeeded. Pilot Jimmy Doolittle not only flew the R-1 to victory
in the Thompson Race on September 5, 1932, but he also lapped his competitors in the process by averaging 252.67 miles per
The second racer the Granvilles built in 1932 was the R-2. Its sole
purpose was to win the Bendix transcontinental race, another of the nation's most prestigious air contests. Unfortunately
for the Granvilles, the R-2 did not achieve its goal. During the Bendix, it suffered an oil leak and pilot Lee Gehlbach could
coax it only to a fourth place finish.
In 1933, the Granville Brothers suffered several major setbacks that
contributed to the demise of their company. The first set of incidents occurred during the Bendix in July. During a landing
in Indianapolis, the R-2 sustained some damage, and its pilot, Russell Thaw, decided to drop out of the race. Although the
Granvilles would repair the R-2 shortly after, it would quickly suffer another crash that would put it permanently out of
commission. On the same day as Thaw's accident, Russell Boardman, who was also competing in the Bendix, died when his R-1
crashed shortly after takeoff from Indianapolis. Then, in September, Florence Klingensmith, a 25-year-old female pilot, lost
her life during the Phillips Trophy Free-For-All Race in Chicago. By the end of 1933, Granville Brothers Aircraft was bankrupt,
not necessarily because of the repercussions caused by the accidents but rather because the Granvilles had not won enough
prize money to keep their company going.
One of the final ironies of the Gee Bees' history occurred in 1934.
On February 12, Zantford Granville, the oldest brother, was flying one of the last Sportsters to a customer when he ran into
trouble. While trying to land in Spartanburg, South Carolina, Zantford suddenly noticed a construction crew in the landing
area. When he quickly tried to abort the landing by pulling up, the Sportster's engine failed and the plane crashed. Zantford
died en route to the hospital.
From their inception in the early 1930s the Gee Bees have remained
among the most controversial airplanes in aviation history. While some scholars and aircraft enthusiasts have continued to
consider them "killer planes," others admire their advanced aerodynamic designs and argue that several skilled pilots safely
flew the Gee Bees to several key victories and records. Regardless of how one views the brief history of the 22 Gee Bees,
it seems that there will always be a wide range of opinions about the well-known racers.
Adapted from David H. Onkst, U.S. Centennial of Flight