Model Airplane News
January, 1949

Model Airplane News Cover for June, 1933 by Jo Kotula Granville Brothers Gee Bee    Model Airplane News Cover for Jan, 1949 by Jo Kotula Granville Brothers Gee Bee    Model Airplane News Cover for September, 1953 by Jo Kotula Granville Brothers Gee Bee

Granville Brothers "Gee Bee"
Model Airplane News Cover Art for June, 1933, January, 1949, and September, 1953
by Jo Kotula
Click to Enlarge

The January, 1949 cover features an exact scale model of Lowell Bayles' version that was made by Robert Haack of Lowell, Massachusetts. The model has a wingspan of 32" and was flown several times using an Ohlsson 23 engine. For the photo, a Bullet was installed. The fuselage is covered in nylon and the wings are covered with tissue. The model is finished in authentic black and yellow as was the original.

The Gee Bee Super Sportster was made by Granville Brothers Aircraft of Springfield, Massachusetts.The cockpit was located very far aft, just in front of the vertical stabilizer, in order to give the racing pilot better vision while making crowded pylon turns. In addition, it turned out that the fuselage acted as an airfoil, just like the 'lifting-body' designs of the 1960s. This allowed the plane to make tight 'knife-edge' turns without losing altitude. It was, in effect, a Pratt & Whitney R-1340 engine with wings and a tail on it.

The Model Z, with Lowell Bayles at the controls, won the prestigious Thompson Trophy in the summer of 1931. However, Model Z crashed during a speed run in December 1931 because the gasoline tank cap, was ripped off by aerodynamic forces and smashed into the pilot's face, killing him instantly. Public relations be damned, the Granville Brothers rebuilt the plane as the Model R-1, incorporating a bullet-proof windscreen and an internal fuel cap.

Gee Bee Model Z

Gee Bee Model Z

 Gee Bee Model R-1    Gee Bee Model R-1

Gee Bee Model R-1
Beware the flying fuel cap...
Click to Enlarge

Piloted by war hero Jimmy Doolittle, the R-1 won the 1932 Thompson Trophy race. The Springfield Union of September 6, 1932 quoted Doolittle as saying, "She is the sweetest ship I've ever flown. She is perfect in every respect and the motor is just as good as it was a week ago. It never missed a beat and has lots of stuff in it yet. I think this proves that the Granville brothers up in Springfield build the very best speed ships in America today."

As shown in the patents below, the Granville Brothers also tinkered with SkyWriting gadgets, possibly when they weren't fighting wrongful death actions.

Granville Brothers Skywriting Patent No 2,062,511     Granville Brothers Cooling Fins Patent No.2,113,939

Granville Brothers Patents
(left) Skywriting Patent No 2,062,511
(right) Cooling Fins Patent No.2,113,939
Click to Enlarge

Not surprisingly, the R-1 rapidly earned a reputation as a very dangerous machine. During the 1933 Bendix Trophy race, racing pilot Russell Boardman was killed, flying Number 11. After taking off from a refueling stop in Indianapolis, Indiana, the R-1 stalled, caught a wingtip and crashed.

Another version called the R-2 also crashed and killed the pilot. It was the Depression and life was cheap...

Click Here to learn more about the Gee Bee Racers. Thanks to the miracle of YouTube, here is some video of the Gee Bee in action.

The notoriety (and speed) associated with the Gee Bee planes have made them very popular subjects for modeling. As with their full scale progeneitors, Gee Bee models are devilishly fast and almost impossible to control... at the model level this generally only results in charred balsa... Cleveland made kits for BOTH the Model Z and the Model R-1. Below are photos of the kit for the R-1. The Model Z kit is quite rare.

Cleveland Kit for the Gee Bee Model R-1      Cleveland Kit for the Gee Bee Model R-1       Cleveland Kit for the Gee Bee Model R-1

Cleveland Kit for the Gee Bee Model R-1
The Model Z kit is the valuable one...
Click to Enlarge

Cleveland Site Location of Gee Bee Model Z    Cleveland Site Location of Gee Bee Model R-1

Gee Bee Model Z and Model R-1 on the Cleveland Site

Fortunately, Cleveland sells the plans for BOTH the Model Z and the Model R-1. You can buy the plans and patterns that will enable you to make this model right now. Click Here to go to the exact location on the Cleveland Website to get them.

Click Here for more information about the Granville Brothers "Gee Bee".

Our review of Popular Mechanics from 1932-1939 turned up several interesting articles on air racing.

Racing the Man-made Meteors from Popular Mechanics, February, 1937    Flying the Winged Bullets from Popular Mechanics, October 1938    Secrets of Speed from Popular Mechanics, November, 1938

Articles on Air Racing From Popular Mechanics
"Racing the Man-Made Meteors" (February, 1937)
"Flying the Winged Bullets" (October, 1938)
"Secrets of Speed" (November, 1938)
Click to Enlarge

We have scanned these articles anmake them available to you as free downloads

go to the master list of Model Airplane News Covers

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