This is a transcription of Dwight Brooks’ article from the Feb/March 1992 “Scale Ship Modeler”

The prototype Gulfstreamer? Nah! Its Dwight Brooks’ beautiful model of the luxurious Italian yacht! At 334 pounds and with every imaginable working accessory, it’s probably the ultimate R/C model yacht.

The prototype Gulfstreamer? Nah! Its Dwight Brooks’ beautiful model of the luxurious Italian yacht! At 334 pounds and with every imaginable working accessory, it’s probably the ultimate R/C model yacht.


Late one Saturday afternoon in September 1986, I was down in Marina del Rey (Los Angeles area) working on my boat when a significant occurrence took place. People in boats around me were conversing and pointing to an area in the southern channel of the marina heading out towards the entrance. Coming up the channel, very slowly, was the most beautiful yacht I’d ever seen in this area. She was gleaming white, and there was no sign of life aboard, with the exception of one individual on the upper bridge, obviously steering the vessel. The late afternoon shadows made her look majestic inasmuch as she was larger than anything any of us had seen and far more elegant in appearance. The yacht slowly made her way up to the Marina City Club at the north end of the marina, came to a stop, and suddenly started going sideways to a berth that had obviously been made ready for her. I had never seen thrusters work before but, with what seemed to be great ease, she was quickly tied up by the crew who emerged from below. Everybody stared in amazement and probably with a fair amount of jealousy. To sum it all up, we were awestruck! The yacht was unfamiliar to us and nobody knew who owned it. Thus begins the Gulfstreamer story and how I came to build the model.

I drove over to the Marina City Club area and walked down the ramp leading to where she was docked, only to be confronted by courteous security people who were guarding the area. I asked one individual if he knew who the owner was, and he mumbled a name that sounded something like Paulson. I could only get within a few hundred feet of the yacht, which was even more beautiful up close. She towered above everything tied up around her. Security was tight, yet no one emerged from the ship other than the crew. There were no passengers. I later learned the yacht was en route to Florida from Alaskan waters where she had been cruising earlier that summer.

Later that day, I made some phone calls to inquire if, by any chance, this yacht was owned by my old friend, Al Paulson, whom I had known for years during the period when I was restoring an old airplane (Lysander) at the Van Nuys Airport. During that period, Paulson was president of American Jet Industries, which had a sizeable plant at the airport (the old Lockheed facility) and was engaged in all kinds of modifications to both propeller and jet aircraft. For instance, a number of commercial jets were modified to become cargo carriers for various enterprises. Later, Paulson sold American Jet and purchased Gulfstream Aerospace. This company produced the G-2 and G-3 executive jets, which were the finest made in this country. Rumor has it he made a handsome profit when he sold this company, and later, in 1984 I believe, he purchased the Gulfstreamer.

I was finally able to reach him in Atlanta, where his offices were located, and I asked his permission to go aboard the boat, photograph the interiors, and obtain the plans for the yacht which I would blueprint and return in short order. I told him I wanted to build a full scale model of it because I had never seen anything more beautiful on the water.

He was kind enough to arrange all this with the skipper, and I went down several days later and was served a sandwich on the after deck. Later, the skipper came up with five cartons of plans for the yacht, all of which were in Italian! The boat had been built by Bennetti Yachts in Viareggio, Italy, and was launched in 1980. I took what I needed and had the plans photographed so that I ended up with roughly 1/12 scale or 120 inches. The plans were then returned to the skipper. While on board, I was able to take 50 or so flash photographs of the interiors, which is all I had to work with later on during construction. Dimensions were not given on the plans.


Frames are fitted to the keel, and the hull’s shape becomes apparent.


The author stands with the partially planked hull. Note the full-size profile plan in the background.


Clamps hold doublers to the keel while the glue sets. The hull planks are temporarily held in position with pins.


Dwight displays the interior of the nearly finished hull.


Most everyone knows the classic beauty of Italian yachts, automobiles, and leather goods. “Styling made the reputation of the Fratelli Bennetti Yard” Bruno Bennetti says. “It was the first of the Italian shipyards to create a recognizable and elegant style, and for this they became known”. Their philosophy was not just to build speed or space into a vessel, but to give it all the comforts and character they could, along with a quiet ride. Care went into things like carpeting and the little details that mean so much to owners. They won prizes for their work in Italy, and their hulls became identifiable in ports around the world.

The little town of Viareggio is very unusual, with about 200 small companies, all in the yacht-building business. Each concentrates on specialties that, when combined, result in a completed yacht. The companies are mostly run by families who pay the minimum in taxes and work in little shops that can execute big projects. They love to invent gadgets that make for more beautiful yachts. They also take enormous pride in what they do. All the shops are concentrated in the three or four streets parallel to the marine basins along the canal of Viareggio. Oddly enough, these little shops don’t work from architectural drawings. You have to exp lain to them what you want or make a little sketch and then let them execute it, which is a dream for a designer who doesn’t have to spend weeks pushing a pencil around. These little shops also take tremendous pride in pretending they invent things. In fact, what they do is small scale industrial espionage. They check on what their neighbor does, then do it a little bit better. The competition among them is intense. One of the most famous yachts produced by Bennetti was Nabila, which was built for Adnan Khashoggi in 1978 and had a length of 86 meters. It was later purchased by Donald Trump and renamed Trump Princess.


Glass cloth is applied to one side of the interior of the hull. Applications of fiberglass resin will seal it in place and waterproof the hull’s insides.


An air sander makes quick work of smoothing the hull’s exterior.




Construction was standard plank-on-frame, utilizing 3/4-inch birch plywood for the keel itself along with 1/2-inch birch bulkheads. The hull was then strip-planked with 1/8×3/4-inch balsa attached to the frames using Titebond glue. The aft section was molded out of foam, in view of the radical roundness in that area. Once planked, sanded, filled, and then sande d again, the entire hull was fiberglassed both inside and out for maximum strength. The hull interior was then re-sanded and filled with a layer of Bondo to provide an extremely smooth surface, after which it was sprayed with several coats of white paint to make it look nice. This part of the effort took most of the time to get the proper ‘effect:’ Twenty-ounce cloth was used throughout, using laminating resin initially, followed by several coats of finishing resin. The results provided not only good strength, but also a nice appearance after finishing.



The real yacht had teak decks throughout, so I followed suit and laid up all three decks using 1/8-inch aircraft plywood. While expensive, this plywood was four- ply and provided strength and stiffness not found in regular stock bought at a lumberyard. Next, solid teak was stripped on my table saw to provide 3/8×1/8-inch strips, which were then glued to the plywood base using a 1/8-inch spacer between the planking strips. It was then removed and filled with automotive Bond o colored with black dye. Once dry, the entire surface was sanded flush, providing a caulking effect which worked out nicely. The deck undersides were later fiberglassed to provide additional strength. The topsides were sealed, filled, sanded, and satin varnished.


The interior fiberglassing is now complete. Bondo automotive putty has also been applied and sanded to smooth the inner surfaces.


Next comes priming, sanding, and priming some more prior to the final application of gloss white for all interior surfaces.


Twenty-ounce fiberglass cloth is laid up on the hull, later to be coated with laminating and finishing resins.


All the cabin structures were produced using aircraft mahogany plywood, again because of its superior tight grain and extra ply strength. Various thicknesses of this material were used in each structure as it was built up, and I used cyanoacrylate glues for the first time. In the past, I had always been leery about these glues providing the needed strength, but I was talked out of my fears by fellow modelers. The time saved was certainly worth the changeover from standard Titebond glue. However, I did use epoxies where strength was of maximum importance. All window cutouts had to be made prior to gluing up the cabin structures as well as pre-stained with red mahogany filler stain. This meant the interiors had to be built, cut out where necessary, sanded, stained, filled, and varnished prior to gluing up. There was no way I could have done this in a different manner, and extreme care had to be taken while gluing the parts together to prevent glue runs, etc. That is where the cyanoacrylate glues really paid off. Properly applied, I found they left few or no glue lines and were clear when dry. However, not all of this went without mishap, and several times I screwed up with incorrect angles, etc.


The hull’s exterior after fiberglassing. The excess on the upper edge will be trimmed level with the sheer line.


Plywood decking is the next stage of construction. Deck joists are in place here, as are wiring runs(the small brass eyes visible in the frames).


Over 276 pieces of mahogany plywood were cut to make up the furniture for all three decks. Table, couches, sideboards, doors, and paneling were built from photographs I had taken while on board the yacht. I tried to come as close as possible scale-wise, but probably some units are not dead on scale simply because I didn’t have any actual measurements to go by. Here again, all furniture had to be prefinished before glue- up within the cabin structure itself. The interior walls were built using “raised panels” throughout, which provided a nice effect, but they took many hours to build. The sanding required was incredible throughout!

Once completed, the balance of detailing of the interiors was purchased from local doll house suppliers. This included working lamps, fire extinguishers, figures, glasses, dishes, flowers, rugs, TV sets, telephones, etc. Those people have it all, but it is very expensive. Miniature Towne USA provided everything I was looking for to create some realism. They even sold me two miniature scale working clocks. The three cabin decks are fully removable, so the interiors can be viewed. However, because the interiors are fully lighted, most everything can be seen just by looking through the portholes and windows themselves.


Dwight prefers to use a table saw to rip his own deck planking from teakwood. Separate teak planks are seen here, ready for use.


Planking the teakwood decks onto the 1/8-inch plywood subdecks. A Dremel motor tool speeds up the cutting chores.


Bondo with black dye is used as caulking between planks.



The model is powered by two aircraft flap actuator electric motors produced by Dukes Inc., in Northridge, California. I am truly indebted to these people for being so helpful, not only with this model but with others I have built in the past. Their units can handle up to 28 volts and have substantially more torque than those available on the market today. Both mot ors are reversible and perform nicely usi ng the Futaba Speed Control.

The model uses 18 volts to power the motors while separate batteries are used for the stereo system (twelve volts) and the radio system (six volts). A large twelve-volt battery attached to a six-volt battery hand les the power requirements. The interior lighting, pumps, sound system, and horns have their own twelve-volt battery source. In other words, the motors have their own separate source of power. Everything else derives its power from other batteries. Inasmuch as I used the largest six- and twelve-volt batteries Sears has to offer, I found that I could run the model easily for three to four hours between charges. The smaller six- and twelve-volt Gel cells were charged between runs just to be safe. The six-volt Gel cell powered the radio system only.

Both motors were water-cooled using housings made from baby food cans, then attached to pumps which cooled them. This turned out to be the most critical function of the boat, inasmuch as I forgot to turn these pumps on prior to the last run and managed to burn up both armatures in 30 minutes or so. Luckily, I had spare motors which provided me with the backup I needed. That was really a stupid mistake on my part, and I have since changed the wiring to activate the pumps when the motors are turned out.

The motors were driven direct to the props through stainless steel universals, which were the only ones that worked. Shaft lubrication was important every two or three runs, although there was little, if any, stuffing box leakage, which surprised me because the shaft and motor level was well below the water line.

Motor temperatures were monitored by installing a probe on the motor casing itself, which ran up to a temperature gauge mounted in a hatch on the main deck. In addition, each motor has its own cooling fan which is ducted by hose up to deck level for air intake. Vents in the deck allow for exhaust from within the hull itself, inasmuch as the cabin fit to the deck is quite tight to eliminate water getting into the hull. Should this have happened, I had installed four bilge pumps in the hull at different locations which can be activated by switches on the main deck panel. Each has its own switch. In addition, I installed two Robbe leak sensors attached to a strobe light mounted in plain sight on the aft deck. This provided me reassurance that the damn thing wasn’t leaking, and they really did work very well.


The deck planking nears completion.


The cabin sides are cut out, stained, and sealed prior to assembly.


Here we see B deck windows being fitted to the structure. Because of the curve, each Lexan window pane had to be warmed in the oven to help it conform to the required contour.


The model is equipped with two twelve-volt automotive air horns connected to an old Chris Craft single horn, all of which are wired together. The noise is horrifying! In addition, we installed a standard diesel engine sound speaker along with a Welper or collision horn speaker, all of which were controlled electronically. The model has a standard twelve- volt AM/FM tape deck system which is mounted within a flush hatch on the forward deck. Two six-inch speakers were mounted within the hull fore and aft, providing good sound.



Surface preparation became the most important factor on this model. Everything had to be smooth, which meant hours of filling and sanding — more than I want to remember! However, thanks to air tools, I was able to accomplish this a lot faster than by doing it by hand or by using electric sanders. Air sanding saves so much time on a model of this size. Once fiberglassed, filled, and sanded, the hull was sprayed with numerous coats of automotive filler primer, each of which was lightly sanded between coats. The final sanding was done with wet or dry 400 grit paper. The hull was then painted using Dietzler Acrylic automotive paint with an additive. I have never used anything else and continue to find that their products last indefinitely. They also provide an extremely hard finish which doesn’t seem to ‘weather’

The rest of the model structures were filled, stained, sealed, and varnished using Z-Spar Flagship varnish, which I have found to be the best on the market simply because the consistency is greater than other brands and because it seems to provide a much higher gloss effect. I suggest you try it if you don’t believe me!


Initial construction of A, B, and C decks. Note the use of foam to handle the extreme curvatures. B deck masked off, awaiting painting.









How much better can it get than this? The builder takes his beautiful model out for her first run.

The model has 215 twelve-volt lights which are activated by a switch on the forward deck for night running. In addition, there are navigation lights, as well as mast lights and cabin entry lights. Thanks to Light Bulbs Unlimited here in Santa Monica, I was able to have the cabin interior lights custom-made by Mica Lighting, located in the Southern California area. These small twelve-volt bulbs were encased in 1/4-inch square clear plastic tubing and spaced 1-1/2 inches apart. Voltage draw was very low and each could be replaced if necessary, although I was told they would last up to 40,000 hours. The strips of light were custom-made to different lengths so as to be able to fit within certain areas of each cabin deck bottom. Connectors were then used between each deck to the main power source within the hull itself. This was also true of the radars, sound system, and navigation lights. Each unit, therefore, had its own connector. Color- coded wires were used where possible to simplify the hookup each time the various decks were plugged in. The hull interior was illuminated through the use of four twelve-volt automotive backup lights which, in turn, nicely illuminated the portholes on the main hull at night.


Dwight Brooks is all smiles as he prepares to launch his Gulfstreamer. The upper decks are added after the model is afloat. A 300-pound-plus monster like this needs a powerful hoist to raise it and lower it into the water.


The open bridge area on “A” deck. Radars on the streamlined mast operate.


Special thanks go to Jerry Siler, formerly of the Model Boatyard, who has been a good friend over the years and who has done most of my radio and electrical work. This is the one area I do not profess to know something about, so I have been lucky to have his help. His methods of wiring are carefully planned out and are neat in appearance. All of it is done in a very professional manner with tie wraps, color coding, and shrink tubing where necessary. He also fuses his installations which, because of the enormous amount of electrical power in this model, was a must All switches were properly labeled on plastic with engraved lettering. It took Jerry in excess of two weeks to wire the model. I used a Futaba system which worked out well. Standard Futaba servos were used throughout, with the exception of the rudder servo, which was an old S-14 I double-arm connected to ensure positive movement. The rudder itself measured six by nine inches, which required a heavy “throw”


Ship’s galley with “his & hers” bathrooms just beyond.


Looking down on the master bath. Even a weight scale can be seen!


The chart room. A miniature chart of the West Indies lies atop the table.


Once completed in June 1991, I had a crate built which measured 125x36x36 inches. This was the maximum size allowable on a DC-10 without having to actually rent floorspace! The crate by itself weighed approximately 400 pounds. The model was then packed on its stand and secured with several cross braces. All of which were covered with sponge. No damage occurred in shipment.

The unit was flown to Minnesota by Northwest Airlines, and then trucked 150 miles to Brainerd, Minnesota, where I have a cabin. Loading and off-loading the model is performed by using a portable, electrically powered 500-pound lift. Two large straps made of webbing were wrapped around the hull and attached to a pre-welded lifting support we had designed to provide proper spacing between the straps. This worked out quite well, although it is definitely a two-man job just to load and unload the unit from the crate. Once lifted out of the crate, the model was lowered onto a dolly equipped with wheels and casters, which was built to provide enough height for me to be able to work on the boat while it was out of the water.


Pre-finished interior furnishings arrayed on the author’s workbench, awaiting installation on “C” deck.

The method used to launch the hull was similar. We attached the electric lift motor to a rotatable “L” arm mounted to my dock, strapped the hull on, rotated the arm out over the water, and then lowered the hull into the lake. While there may be other possible methods, it would be difficult to launch this model any other way in view of its 334-pound weight and the fact that it was hard to get a proper grip on it, to say nothing of what it might do to your back! This, of course, is a drawback to building a model of this size, and I will admit it.

In late August, the model was launched for the first time in calm water Additional lead weight had to be added to obtain the proper waterline and to ensure that the twin props were deep enough not to cavitate. With the decks off, power was added, and the first thing that happened was the total disintegration of the rubber-insert universal joints. They simply flew apart! They had to be replaced with proper stainless universals which did the job.

I obtained two cast brass props from Jerry Siler which measured four inches in diameter and had four blades. While they appeared too small to me from the beginning, it was later obvious that the high pitch would make up the difference, and to my amazement, the hull really took off! After that, we attached the decks and made numerous runs along the beach to check for proper steering control and the reversing capability, all of which worked out better than I had expected. While the majority of weight was low in the hull, she did have somewhat of a rock and roll” tendency, although nothing to be concerned about.


Here, we see the twin 18-volt motors that propel the model’s 334-pound bulk.


Overall view of the main cabin’s interior. Note functional doors at bottom.


One of the stereo speakers. To its left is an interior light unit. One of the drive motors is at right.

Shortly thereafter, we took the model out in the bay, equipped with cameras and video to capture the whole event on film. Under full power, the boat was much faster than I had expected. Heading farther out into the main lake, I purposely took her into rough water, which didn’t seem to have that much effect, although she did roll a bit at times. Temperatures on both motors showed they were getting plenty of cooling through the use of the water pumps, and the stuffing boxes showed only a minor amount of leakage, which one would expect anyway, as they were mounted well below the waterline. Greasing the shafts seemed to stop any leakage. No water coming over the decks ever got into the hull, inasmuch as the main deck had a number of slots to allow the water to drain off when we took a wave over the bow.


A pair of four-inch, right-hand, four-bladed props generate more than enough thrust for the Gulfstreamer.


In the foreground is the lounge area while the main dining saloon is at rear. The clock at right actually keeps time, and the lamps illuminate.


The aft electronics hatch houses servos, R/C receiver, Robbe servo switches, and a digital time and date display. A look at the underside of “A” deck reveals the twelve-volt strip lighting installation. Tiny bulbs spaced 1-1/2 inches apart softly illuminate the interior.

As evening settled in, we connected the lights on all three decks and went back out for more filming and video work, which came out well. With 215 lights, I must say the model was impressive at night. My depth perception was not, however, so I brought her back in and put her back on the hoist for additional runs the following day.

Not all of the initial results were satisfying, however. The stereo system within the hull was so tightly concealed that the sound was not loud enough. Drilling some additional holes in the deck structure may help rectify this. The diesel eng ine sound system left a lot to the imagination, so I disconnected it. My failure to turn on the water-cooling pumps on the last run cost me two electric motors and a lot of work in removing the damaged units, remounting, realigning, etc. I intend to install some sort of warning light in case I ever fail to do this a second time.

In addition, I had failed to install the old ping-pong ball system I had used on other models to mark the model’s location in case the damn thing sank, and this hull, because of its total weight, would definitely go the bottom. However, even if I had installed the locating system, once we found it there would be a further problem, inasmuch as I failed to build some sort of heavy-duty attachment within the hull to hook onto in order to get it back up to the surface. This is now in the works.

The Robbe thrusters failed to have any effect on this model, probably because of its size. They might work on smaller models, however. One solution would be to reinstall four electronically controlled high-speed water pumps, with two on either side wired together. The Sure Flow pump could easily rectify this problem, and it is now being added.

The only other caution one must take with a model of this size and weight is to be sure to allow for all that forward momentum. It takes time to get this boat stopped! I only use reversing as a last resort, as it is hard on the motors.

Finally, and probably the worst problem connected with a model like this, is the general boating public! They want to get close and have a better look, which means nobody looks where he is going, and the first thing you know, you are trying to get Out of the way! That happened more than once, I can tell you, and all the yelling in the world does not help. People just get fascinated, and some even tried to touch it! Maybe I should install rockets.


With the superstructure removed, the vast hull becomes accessible for maintenance.


This control panel appears under the forward controls hatch. Visible are the motor temperature digital display gauge and the stereo unit.


Close-up of the galley’s fittings. The 1/12 scale dollhouse accessories have been put to good use in this model.


Big is beautiful, and I am glad to see some of the kits are getting larger, but not enough attention has been paid to true scale. Most continue to look like toy boats, in my book. I suppose one of the things that helped me most over the years was being able to look at what I am going to build before I build it.

Take a lot of photographs so you have a “feel” for what it is you are trying to duplicate. Then, during construction, try to visualize what each part will look like when you have finished. Above all, use your imagination throughout. Every time I think am pretty good, I flip through some model magazines and look at what these 1/4 scale boys are doing with scale aircraft nowadays! I get humble real fast. The quality of work being performed in this wonderful hobby is awesome, and it seems to be getting better. The trouble is, the competition in scale model boating is nowhere close to what it is in the model airplane field, and until that takes place — if it ever does — “scratch” building is really all we have to go with. I might also add that model boats don’t require that reaction time which is critical to airplanes and, at my age, this has become somewhat of a factor. So if it goes up on the beach, so what, paint it!

My special thanks to Jay Replogle at the Hobby House for selling me a forest of balsa as well as helping me out in numerous other ways; also, to Jerry Siler for his superb wiring craftsmanship and ingenious ideas; and finally, to the model boating community out there who continue to produce a lot of superb craftsmanship on their own. I enjoy all of it.



(An Italian Yacht)

BUILDER: Dwight F. Brooks, Los Angeles, California
LENGTH: 10 feet
BEAM: 25 inches
WEIGHT:  334 pounds
POWER: Twin electric flap actuator motors (28 volt)
POWER SOURCE: Two 12-volt and two 6-volt heavy-duty batteries
RADIO SYSTEM: 7-channel Futaba
RANGE: Line of sight
DEPTH: 9 inches

BUILDING METHOD: Plank on frame
MATERIALS USED: Balsa, pine, plywood, fiberglass, foam
GLUING: Epoxy, Titebond, cyanoacrylates with additives
PAINT: Dietzler acrylic
PROPELLERS: 4-inch brass castings, 4-bladed
DECKS: Solid teak and planked
TRIM: Solid mahogany throughout
HOURS TO PRODUCE: 3000 estimated
FITTINGS: Chromed brass

12-volt air horn
Collision alarm system
Automatic bilge pumps (4)
Leak sensors (2)
215 12-volt lights
Stereo system (am/fm tape deck)
Variable speed control
Complete interiors (all decks)
Digital temperature readout system for motors

Neutral, forward, and reverse capability
Working searchlights
Diesel engine sound system
Leakage sensor alarm system
Stainless steel shafts
Working doors and hatches
Working thrusters (2)
Working radars (2)
Water-cooled electric motors


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