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1/43 Wingfoot Express II

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When I was a kid we drove out to the west coast from Evanston Ill in 1964.  We fished in Colorado and generally looked wide eyed as we crossed America.  Then we came to the Great Salt Lake.  I had seen lake Michigan, that wide body of water, this was different.  It was salt water, and salt flats.  As we came off the salt flats on the way to Reno, we climbed a slight hill.  At the top of the hill was a motel on the outskirts of Wendover, with what looked like a jet fighter on a trailer.  It was overall grey and blue trim while my dad did not really see it, I was fascinated by it.  I learned later it was the Sprit of America Jet Car.  I was to see the Spirit again in 1986 in the Science and Industry Museum in Chicago Ill, as I was killing time before a deployment to Honduras, flying UH-1H Huey’s on “Operation Blazing Trails”, to build a road into the interior, and “bandit” country.  But that’s another story.


From that moment the 10 YO in me was hooked on Land Speed Record Jet cars.  Forward a few decades, to the early 90’s and the F1 fan in me was on Grand Prix Models web in England and I stumbled across the 1/43 Pandora Models Wingfoot Express II.  A car powered by 15 JATO bottles and I had to have it. 


Walt Arfons designed the car that Bobby Tatroe drove in 1965 a speed of 406 MPH, the initial 15 JATO (at around 1000 Lb. Thrust each) bottles did not give the car enough thrust, and only propelled it to 406 MPH.  In the next attempt they added 10 more bottles, for a combined 25,000 LB of thrust, and not inconsequentially $60,000 a run.  It still was not enough to crack the 536.71 average speed measured on two runs.  The crew wanted to launch the car vertically, but Goodyear said “NO!”.   And the Wingfoot Express II faded into history.


The kit was unboxed, and I was interested.  The shape looked right, and it was not all that complicated.  But the turned aluminum JATO bottles were very “simple”.  Since they would be so prominent on the back of the car, I set about researching them to get a better look. 

Edited by BWDenver
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I decided the bottles needed to be made up of several parts, a casing, the nozzle section and the safety cap.  ¼” brass rod stock was turned on my lathe to the correct diameter, dictated by the JATO holder in the kit, then it was hollowed out to accept the burn chamber.  The burn chamber had a straight section, a tapered section and finally the exit nozzle.  Safety caps were made to top it off.  The safety caps are misunderstood by some modelers who have built the kit.  They are bright red and are labeled “REMOVE”, and stand out on the Md Grey JATO bottle.  I’ve seen a few of these kits displayed with the red cap hollowed out, completely wrong.  Then I put the kit on the shelf for “a while” and worked on other things. 






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Early this month (August 2023) I stumbled across the kit in my collection as I was “thinning it”.  Not that far from completion I sanded the kit with 800 grit wet/dry paper and epoxied the white metal fin onto the body.  The next step was to spray the parts with etching primer.   Using popsicle sticks to hold the smaller parts.  I drilled a hole in the back of the body to insert a small screw driver to hold the body when spraying it.  Then I went about finding a “blue” that was close.   Dupli-Color blue engine enamel looked close enough.  The spray paint was transferred to a bottle, and sprayed with my Grex airbrush.  This stuff dries within a few hours and can be sanded.   But the transfer is a bit messy…


Some voids were found at the base of the fin and filled with putty, and let dry for 24 hrs.  I lightly sanded the surface with 800 grit sanding sticks.  And immediately sanded through the blue paint in several spots to the primer.  More blue paint and this time I sanded with 2000 grit sanding sticks.  And burned through in a couple of places on the rear wheel housings and wing attach area.  This process was repeated several more times, spot painting and sanding.  I finally got to a consistent surface, and applied Maguire’s Miricle Glaze 100 to the car to polish the paint.  We used this stuff to polish out the scratches the canopy on the Army helicopters I flew for 32 years.  Great stuff, but you guessed it, I burned through in two places.  With that I sprayed what I hoped would be a final coat and its off fishing for several days.







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