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National Model Race Car Championships!
Model Annual 1956 Air Trails

Annual Edition 1956 Air Trails
Annual Edition 1956 Air Trails Cover - Airplanes and RocketsTable of Contents

These pages from vintage modeling magazines like Flying Aces, Air Trails, American Modeler, American Aircraft Modeler, Young Men, Flying Models, Model Airplane News, R/C Modeler, captured the era. All copyrights acknowledged.

Is that a way-cool-looking collection of fuel-powered model cars or what? They are fashioned after what full-size Indy (Indianapolis 500) race cars of the era looked like. To be a national champion in the model race race world back in the day (and to some extent today) required skill as a machinist with an excellent knowledge of mechanics, internal combustion engines, and metallurgy. A scan of photos of the winning cars makes that evident. There were no CNC (computer numerical control) milling machines or lathes; the operator made every cut but hand-cranking feeds and measuring lengths and diameters with calipers and dial indicators. Interest, too, is that the engines were started by pushing them with a stick that had the battery contacts for the glow plug at the end so the plug was lit by the stick. Note that these model race cars ran in a circle on a tether (wire or string), so the aerodynamics needed to keep the cars stable while constantly fighting the struggle between centripetal (center-seeking) and centrifugal (center fleeing) forces. They are to some degree "flying" around the circle. A video of the 2011 Tether Car Nationals is at the bottom of the page. Listen to that Doppler effect (at 4:32)!

1955 National Model Race Car Championships!

1955 National Model Race Car Championships!, Model Annual 1956 Air Trails - Airplanes and Rockets

1955 National Model Race Car Championships!
New World's Records Established!

By Robert J. More

Screeching full bore at 22,000 rpm. Booming like a thunder-clap at each pass of the crowd. These are the sounds of a model race car hitting 150 mph. In just six seconds it has circled six times, it quarter mile, propelled only by madly spinning wheels. Thrilling? Yes. And it happened not only once but four times during the thirteenth running of the Nationals-1955 edition held at Anderson, Indiana August 11, 12 and 13.

Race with us in the top model car event of the year. Race with us in your imagination. It's our biggest, toughest of the year, so we'll give you something "hot."

Your car like almost all the others is powered by a .601 cubic-inch-displacement two-cycle engine. Ignition is by magneto as in the big Indianapolis race cars. The car is geared and tired so that when top speed is reached the engine will peak at 22,000 rpm. Seems fast? Wait till you hear it!

Piston that got up to 22,000 rpm and then decided to take off thataway - Airplanes and Rockets

That's the way it goes sometimes. Paul Kruse, former record holder, displays piston that got up to 22,000 rpm and then decided to take off thataway!

Winning Spur Gear car on its way to first place at 143.08 mph - Airplanes and Rockets

Winning Spur Gear car on its way to first place at 143.08 mph. Raced by Howard Fox.

Jack Wolfe and Howard Fox - Airplanes and Rockets

Jack Wolfe and Howard Fox; HF's winning Spur Gear at left.

Russ Harter's original twin McCoy .60 g.p. spur and bevel gear front wheel drive - Airplanes and Rockets

Russ Harter's original twin McCoy .60 g.p. spur and bevel gear front wheel drive. Body is from exhaust pipe shields.

1955 Champion Bob Loose pushes off for his winning run of 151.26 mph - Airplanes and Rockets

1955 Champion Bob Loose pushes off for his winning run of 151.26 mph. This was in the Custom Proto Class which is the big event in model car racing.

Typical car boxes. neat and compact design, by Leroy Lehner - Airplanes and Rockets

Typical car boxes, neat and compact design, by Leroy Lehner. Youngstown, Ohio. Tools, fuel and accessories are packed around cars.

Marilyn Simmons appears to approve of the gorgeous Packard Amethyst paint job on entry by Irwin Stein - Airplanes and Rockets

Marilyn Simmons appears to approve of the gorgeous Packard Amethyst paint job on entry by Irwin Stein. Clifton. N. J.

Setting ignition timing: dial indicates - Airplanes and Rockets

Setting ignition timing: dial indicates piston travel in 1,000ths of inch. Timing light is seen under left hand.

ack Wolfe, 14, from Lakehurst. N. J. - Airplanes and Rockets

Jack Wolfe, 14, from Lakehurst. N. J., made lots of friends with his fine sportsmanship and beat most of them with his fast car that turned in 149.25 mph, Navy encourages model car races at its Lakehurst station.

Jack Oliver explains to Marva Jean Green, Miss AMRCA Nationals - Airplanes and Rockets

Jack Oliver explains to Marva Jean Green, Miss AMRCA Nationals, how he smashed Custom Sportsman record at 138.46.

Joe Kantrow, Jr., 1954 Champion - Airplanes and Rockets

Joe Kantrow, Jr., 1954 Champion, gets clear off the ground as he starts his Custom Proto.

Californian Ed Baynes must have made critical comment about Jack Hines' fancy car tops - Airplanes and Rockets

"Ooo - what you said!" Californian Ed Baynes must have made critical comment about Jack Hines' fancy car tops based on reaction expressed by Jerseyite Irwin Stein.

Proxy-running all these cars, Red Abrahem of Akron, Ohio - Airplanes and Rockets

Proxy-running all these cars, Red Abrahem of Akron, Ohio, was busier than the proverbial one-armed paper hanger.

Jack Oliver pushes off to a new world's record in Custom Sportsman - Airplanes and Rockets

Jack Oliver pushes off to a new world's record in Custom Sportsman without chrome liner or fuel shut-off valve.

The gear ratio is 1.75 to 1 and we'll put a set of medium-hard four-inch tires on the drive hubs for this smooth track. Notice all the ball bearings? The less friction, the more speed. That fuel is very hush, hush - "Celestial Z." If you don't burn up the engine you might win. If you do - well, you can always watch the others. You'll notice the car's a foot and a half long but it weighs a good solid six pounds. It'll run about 24 laps a mile, before it's at top speed, and then you press the clock starting button. After six laps the clock will stop automatically giving the elapsed time right down to 100th of a second. If you get that far.

You want to run it? How do you start it??? Why, man, you've got to push!!

Practice - Wednesday

Prospects for good Nationals weather looked slim. Sky was solid overcast and moving eastward. Earliest arrivals were Easterners Joe Sampias, George Feczko, Sr. and Irwin Stein, all of New Jersey. Realizing the company would be fast they were determined to make a good showing. Paterson Joe ran the wheels off his Feczko Proto but never smiled. Constantly grumbled about changing the engine liner. All tried hard to talk him out of it, pointing out that the track was slippery and car was O.K. Didn't look convinced. The quiet Mr. Feczko harbored deep thoughts that bore fruit with each faster run. Friend Irwin's difficulty was one of the most disgusting. Sheared the gear holding pin in the rear axle. Rebuilt rear end and promptly sheared that one on next run. Very long face. Bill More ran his Fox at a reasonably satisfactory 142 but shut off broke. Then the rains came.

All adjourned to Linder's Restaurant for a gripe session. Back again and we took notice of others' misery. Multitudinous woes dogged Doc Cronin. Lowest blow came when flywheel shifted back against the magneto fields. Result - many iron filings. Stein's trouble was diagnosed as a rounded-off axle hole caused by first pin shearing. Needed new axle. Cleveland's Ray Hunter glumly hinted "selling everything." Philadelphia's Al Winter joined the crepe hangers as his weird Custom Proto (magneto mounted on gear box) ground its gears to powder. Ultra fast but now a questionable starter. Day's only good run was Loose's 148. A typical first day - awful!

1955 National Model Race Car Championships Winner List - Airplanes and Rockets

First Qualifying Day - Thursday

With a sigh of relief we drank in glorious sunshine. Newcomer Stein turned 139.55 and might be in. Sheared pin number three in process. Hitting 141.96 for his best ever, Sampias was "in" and happy. Said he didn't touch the car that night but it took will power. Bill More, Bethlehem, Pa. never again reached 140. Hunter was still gloomy. Hoosier Kenny Craig, an old-time model car man trying a comeback, did 138.25. May squeak by.

So far speeds were a disappointment and engine room troubles were plentiful. The Kantrows Sr. and Jr. (54 Nat. Champ) and Bob Loose were by far the best, clocking in the 146 to 7 region. Might be prophetic.

Last Chance - Friday

Desperation was setting in. Many Anderson Hotel windows had light far into the A.M. That morning we were greeted by smiling faces exquisitely adorned with bloodshot eyes, beautifully framed in purple-blue circles. Stein's answer to queries about his jazzily painted car - Packard Amethyst. The rich, heavy odor of "oil of Merbane No.5" drifted through the pits. Ah, the picture was complete now. This surely was the Nationals.

13th Annual Race Results A.M.R.C.A.

National Championships 1955

All were here now. Foxy, Petrakis and Wolfe ran. Wolfe posted 147 for fifth starting position. Poor Petrakis wilted as his shut off system let him down. Car kept running "over the hill" until came a sickening grunt as the engine "froze." Car slid to a stop on two flat tires. Fox obviously was after the record. Easily "qualified" at 145.14, he nevertheless continued to run. A notorious dry track car, Fox's "1234" remained in the mid-140's with a screeching "spin out" on his last attempt. Granted a justifiable dry track re-run he eagerly took it and that did it. The Walter Wilson 151.77 mph record was tied.

Then Carl Noward's world blew to pieces. Custom Sportsman Class is his pet baby. Twenty-three-year-old Jack Oliver also likes it. Jack ran just once and had a new World's Record of 136.57 mph, topping his own mark of 135. Contestants shook their heads in amazement - no fuel shut-off valve and no chrome liner. It hardly seemed possible. Poor Carl was crushed like a grape.

Canada was represented! Charles Hardy, Ontario, Canada had entered his immaculate Arrow car in Class "A." Noward, fully recovered now, worked harder to get this car in the race than any of his own and it was worth it. It qualified at 110.70 mph - excellent in its class.

Carl Franz, the craftsman whose standards are perfection, was getting his hard knocks at precisely the wrong time. Since last year's Nats, reports on Carl's sensational Midwest wins indicated he would be the tough one. First blow came when the connecting rod broke in his best car, cutting the engine in half. The other car refused to respond and remained in the low 40s.

The word "roach" began drifting through the pits. Turned out to be the name for any car other than Custom Proto - the snobs.

Time was rapidly running out, and the usual last-minute rush began. As the last car took its official run nary a gripe was heard, each man feeling satisfied he had been given ample opportunity.

We took a last look at the Official Timing Sheets. Only 60 percent had qualified but, 100 percent had given their utmost effort.

The Banquet

With the delicious memory of last year's Smorgasbord banquet still in mind, all hands had no trouble arriving at Linder's right on time. Was even better than the '54 feast. It was with excessive wing loading that we carried on with the program. Armed with a bit of Bayou Humor, V.P. Bill Wunderlich took it upon himself to warm up the food-benumbed crowd, saying, "As most of you know I come from the deep South where living is done in a slooow and eeeasy way. This has been evidenced by the way my cars ran here today." He finished by describing the model race car group as the "greatest people in the world." Secretary-Treasurer Carl Noward then awarded Regional Championship Trophies, one of which was to Jack Hines. A big voice from way back loudly exclaimed: "A roach - nothin' but a roach." Jack waved the golden trinket high in the air yelling back: "Then roaches payoff."

The first annual Sportsman of the Year award went to the very deserving Bill Bissman.

National Model Clubs in 1955 - Airplanes and Rockets


Normally best things are saved till last and this was no exception. Bill Cronin introduced one of the famed personalities of the racing world, the Racing Representative for the Perfect Circle Piston Ring Company, Eugene "Stoney" Stonecypher.

Wise in banquet ways Stoney kept it brief but with a punch. He frankly expressed surprise as to the speeds, technical knowledge and intensity of purpose that the model racing group displayed. He described racing as "sportsmanship from beginning to end" and cited an example of the day's activity that interested him - "this young man suffered two disappointments this afternoon both serious enough to be disheartening, but he always returned from the track smiling although I know there was not a smile in his heart. I believe his name was - Wolfe." He was describing with obvious sincerity 14-year-old Jack Wolfe of Lakehurst, New Jersey.

At Stoney's direction we went to the big meeting room to view Perfect Circle's movie of "Indianapolis 500-1954" filmed by Dynamic. Superlatives would hardly be adequate. We can only say every race fan should see it.

The concluding annual business meeting was of more than routine interest. Subject of serious concern was the scarcity of engine parts (attention: Tom Dooling). Among suggested remedies was a Swedish version of the Dooling .61. Glenn Fairabend felt a serious survey of the current engine market should be made. Officer nomination came next with the names of Cronin and Charlie Flynt raised for presidency. Vice Pres. naming went to Wunderlich and Jolly Joe Feimer. Sec.-Treas. honors (?) went uncontested to Noward. It was wisely moved that new A.M.R.C.A. badges with identifying mimes be made up. Bill Wunderlich then rose to deliver a message from Atlanta, Georgia Club. It was their formal bid for the '56 Nats.

Championships - 1955

In contrast to last year's horrible, mucky race day this year's was perfection. Dark blue skies, temperatures in the 70s and humidity in the 40s. The lucky top 60% in Custom Proto and all of the other class entries (all ran, due to limited number in each) were straining at the leash to run. As usual Henry Hargraves with the help of the completely cooperative Fire Company had the track spotless. The new cable was carefully made and tested by the safety committee "beef trust" (Loose, Winter, Franz, Bissman, Wunderlich, Fairabend and Flynt). At ten we were ready to roll.

Fox, as top qualifier was first up, and time was never riper for a record. There was no wheel slip, yet the engine screamed high. Surely - but no, the electric timing clock had failed!

Three long hours of try and try again with many "shocking experiences" and complete frustration followed. By 12:30 p.m. all became concerned for the future of any race at all. It remained for Fox himself to find the trouble - a rusty cotter pin. Our nominee for the best sportsman of the '55 Nats, Californian Ed Baynes, insisted he be guinea pig for the clock test.

The second heat can best be described as sensational. Despite the fast slicking track that did require "Speedy-Dry" cleaning every ten runs speeds shot sky high. The answer was the weather. Humidity had fallen and temperature was up.

Without warning came the first dramatic 150. Carl Franz of Lafayette, Ind. took over leadership when his homemade Custom Proto (in last year's Annual) circuited at 150.25 mph for his first time ever over the magic mark. Never was this accomplishment more popular or deserved. The nice guy was hand-pumped and back-slapped all the way to his bench by scores of cheering contestants.

Speeds were blistering. Run after run produced successive 147 mph speeds. Baynes was among them. And to think just the day before he had still never attained 140! Absolute proof that newcomers can succeed. Walter Wilson, Jr., the World's Record holder at 151.77, ended his personal long high-speed drought by posting 147.54. Bob More's 1.5 geared Arrow jumped back into contention with a sixth spot 147.78 mph. Lump in throat was due to dropping to twelfth spot from a first heat fourth. Fairabend became another 47er. Fairabend also selling "Stardust K" fuel with little or no sales talk.

Bob Loose, Bermuda shorts and all, was continually busy on the track lighter-fluid-priming balky engines. Yes, they were pouring the nitro to 'em. Then Bob himself was on deck with a worried but determined look. The clock raced 'round and 'round but the car won out bringing the needle to a halt under the six-second mark. 151.26 mph! It was quick now and the tenth man on the track was Fox. Wailing its heart out with only hugely expanded tires to show for the effort, the answer was obvious. Just like that the track was too slick and he clocked only 142.63. Last year's Championship tie run-off loser, Paul Kruse, sadly ended the heat and his '55 efforts with a split piston, tearing up his engine. On the bright side, entering into the realm of "highest speeds ever" were George Feczko, Jack Hines, Ray Hunter, Joe Feimer, Ed Baynes, Joe Sampias and a few others.

The other classes were blasting records and having scorcher type racing, too. Jack Oliver did it again in Custom Sportsman, topping his own two-day old record (which in turn had topped his own 135 record) with 138.46 and that Class Championship win. Jack Hines' McCoy-powered McCoy Invader "BB" (Roach) likewise did some record setting at 116.13, far out-classing his field. Foxy repeated his '54 Spur Championship breezing along on a four mph cushion. Al Winter's two-year-old 144.00 mph record still stands. For the first time all Spurs used magneto.

In "A" and "B", where weary Red Abrahem (he proxy ran seven cars) could have used some nitro personally, Howard Rasmussen and Jerry Anderson took respective honors. Howard's Arrow turned 135.95 mph without benefit of shut-off or chrome liner and we wonder when he's gonna try Custom.

Loaded mostly with disappointments the third heat produced good and bad for the popular youngster, Jack Wolfe. Jack's Fox got ahold to the tune of a great 149.25, but for only fifth place. Just as the car completed its timed run a tire flew off, breaking the top and shaking most all car innards loose. Then came Fox, the perennial "man to beat." Despite the adverse conditions all pit activity ceased in respect to this great competitor's ability. Fellow entrants crowded around the electric clock. Fox sent the 1234 away and began the half-minute wait that seemed like an eternity. Perfectly "called," the crowd whooped momentarily as the needle stopped - just 0.01 second shy of Loose's 151.26 for 151.01, bringing to a dramatic halt the 1955 A.M.R.C.A. Championship. Bob Loose was World Champion.

- Bob More

The American Miniature Car Racing Association brings the Tether Car Nationals to Cedar Creek Park in Massapequa.



Posted January 27, 2024

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