This article transcribed from Dwight’s original in the April/May 1988 issue of “Scale Ship Modeler”
BY DWIGHT F. BROOKS II
1799 Correa Way, Los Angeles, CA 90049
ALL PHOTOS BY THE AUTHOR
“Big” time ship modeler Dwight Brooks describes the latest in his extensive series of large scale radio controlled boats, this time an all-out, no holds barred 1/10 scale fiberglass and metal torpedo boat of exquisite quality.
For a lot of scale model boaters there seems to be a substantial amount of interest in the World War Two PT Boat. This is not to say that a lot of us have not had fun building any number of other hulls, but still there seems to be a fascination with the history of these little “Mosquito” Boats (as they were once called), which performed at very high speeds, were built entirely of wood, and presented a very difficult target for the enemy… especially at night. The hulls provided graceful lines which seemed to “flow” somewhat like an Italian race car, yet they offered enough firepower in a vast number of configurations which stood them well while attacking most anything. With one exception that I’m aware of, there aren’t any full scale WWII PTs in operation today in North America. Several are on view in various museums throughout the world, but that’s it as far as I know.
I’d already built two earlier PT hulls; one was a smaller five footer powered by an old Marine Gannet engine, and a later six foot version powered by an old Ohlson 60. Late in 1986 I ran across Bob Lanthier here in California who had molded an eight foot version of the EIco eighty-footer. While he had not had time to fully complete the boat he did have enough done to begin construction of his final effort. There were still a lot of parts which hadn’t been molded up yet so the entire boat with all its parts had not been fully completed. I was impressed with what he did have however, and offered to begin to complete the boat. At the time Bob did not have any idea what might power this eight foot monster, and I agreed to locate something which I felt would offer enough power to provide the boat with scale-like speeds. There was, and is, nothing in the marketplace today which could provide four and a half horsepower, have a centrifugal clutch, water cooling, and a recoil hand starter. Sure, I heard all this stuff about weeder motors, blower motors, etc., etc. but they all turn clockwise! Try and find a right hand propeller in the marketplace today which has a three inch diameter. I scoured the entire USA to no avail! Obviously there’s no demand for this sort of thing so the units are simply not manufactured. There were some right hand props, but all were too small. I spent countless hours at various machine shops trying to find out if it would be possible to reverse the motor rotation only to find this was not feasible for the most part, and would require an awful lot of very expensive engineering and, beyond all that, none of these shops Were the least bit interested in taking the job on. What I really needed, and subsequently located, was at least a 41cc gas engine that turned counter clockwise. Inasmuch as the completed hull weighed over eighty pounds it was necessary that the engine have a recoil starter, water cooling, and a clutch because you don’t just pick this thing up and throw it into the water!
Anyway, time passed, and I continued to build the boat out in my shop. I continued my search for some sort of engine that would fulfill the requirements we needed. My good friend, Jay Replogle of the Hobby House in Reseda, suggested I call B&B Specialties back in Granger, Indiana, who provide a lot of trick units for the quarter scale airplane boys as well as engines, smoke systems and the like.
Dick Bennett of B&B eventually led me to Tom Yeager of Yeager Machine back in Dover, Ohio. Both Yeager and Bennett have worked hand in hand for years and were good friends. My request was for a unit B&B didn’t handle, but they felt Dan Yeager could probably help me out. After numerous telephone conversations with Dan he was able to locate and offer me an Italian engine which provided 41cc worth of power, and had the clutch as well as a recoil starter, and it turned counter-clockwise! However, some modifications were going to be necessary before we could install it in the PT hull. I would like to say I’ve never worked with a finer bunch of people than Yeager Machine. They do nice work, and can be relied upon in every way. They also do a lot of work on quarter scale model airplane engines so none of this was of any real concern except that they’d never set one up to go in a boat. In two months the engine arrived on my doorstep, fully marine-modified, test run, and ready for final installation in the hull. At my request they even specially mounted a new exhaust system and sturdy base plates for mounting the engine. I might add at this point that I never had one bit of trouble with that engine throughout the testing series back in Minnesota last summer where I did all the water testing on the hull. Assuming this boat is to be ‘kitted” I would certainly recommend that this engine be used as it does stand up well, and offers plenty of power. In addition it runs cool, and is very easy to start. I would estimate the top rpm comes in at around 9000. Props are available in the marketplace which will suit this powerplant nicely.
One thing you needn’t worry about with this boat is rough water. It simply is not affected by it! Top speeds were around fifteen miles per hour which is something in excess of scale speed although one could easily argue this point based on appearance. PT boaters have told me it appears to be running at scale speed. Further, in view of the manner in which the three deck houses are attached there is little, if any, leakage into the hull regardless of water conditions. Each house is “lip fitted” to ensure this.
Because I only utilized two rudders, steering was somewhat sluggish at slow speeds because the rudders were not set behind the propeller. I eventually added a third rudder directly behind the prop which quickly solved this problem. I should have done it in the first place! Unless you are an avid scale nut there’s really no need for more than one rudder on this model anyway, but be sure it’s mounted directly behind the propeller and not off the other side.
In this particular model I initially installed a collector box to bring the noise down, but quickly realized that I had probably built up excessive “back pressure” by doing so, and eventually removed it and went directly out the transom with a three-quarter inch copper pipe. A separate electric water pump was used to cool the exhaust pipe as soon as it came off the engine. This helped to quiet the engine down and provided excellent cooling also. Rubber hoses with clamps were utilized to allow for vibration from the engine to the exhaust pipe.
The hull comes in two pieces basically. The interior of the hull is reinforced with quarter inch plywood bulkheads spaced about eight inches apart. This provides additional rigidity. Hull and deck thickness are both a full 1/8 inch, and 3/16 inch in some areas so the entire hull is really strong! In my hull I sanded the interior and used several coats of “Bondo” in order to get a good smooth surface which I later painted. The plywood bulkheads were coated with two coats of clear resin to ensure protection from water. The front two bulkhead sections were filled with “foam” to provide good flotation just in case someone or something hit the hull hard enough to cause it to try and sink. Engine stringers were made of maple with a bolt attachment arrangement which worked out well. The stringers were securely fastened to the hull with three layers of fiberglass cloth. A twelve volt motorcycle battery was mounted aft of the engine which provides power for engine cooling, interior and exterior lights, and two blower motors which were mounted to provide additional cooling for the engine although these, it turned out later, were really not required. In addition installed a bilge pump with a good length of hose so I could get to any part of the hull which might have “shipped” water. I never had to use it, however. I used a Futaba Radio system with the large S-14 servo arrangement. This is definitely required for the rudder system as there is a tremendous force acting on that unit when running at full power. Double arms off the rudder servo are also a “must.”
The deck is all one piece, and after the interior of the hull has been completed you simply glue and screw the decks to the hull itself. Once dry the screws are removed and the holes filled with “Bondo” and sanded flush. Inasmuch as the deck is attached to the hull with 30 minute epoxy it is only fair to say this is definitely a two man operation. Both individuals apply the glue, lay the deck on the hull, and screw the deck down on the sides. You gotta be fast on this if you use epoxy! It’s best to let it stand overnight once this is accomplished.
This boat is probably the most highly detailed model I’ve ever seen when it comes to fittings. It is absolutely to scale which means I had to spend a lot of time just applying all the intricate parts. Bob has designed the deck structure so that the primary fittings have guide hole in dentations on the deck so you end up having everything properly lined up and in the correct location. When ready to install a unit you simply drill the rest of the indentation through and glue and set the part in place. This really works out nicely. There are three removable deck houses; the forward cabin, the midships cabin, and the aft cabin. I added a fourth flush hatch to enable access to the rudder linkage area which is necessary. No hold downs are required on the three cabins due to the tight “lip” fit of each as well as their individual weight. It simply isn’t necessary. The fourth rudder access hatch I hinged. There’s no plastic on this model for the most part because almost all the fittings are made of zinc. The guns are masterpieces of molding and absolutely scale and are also made of zinc. Each is able to turn. Torpedo tubes are made of aluminum as are the gun tubs, depth charges, and the smoke unit. The cabin windows are made of Lucite and are complete with frames surrounding them. I wired mine for lights and position indicators. It’s really fun to run this boat at night with the lights on! The balance of deck fittings are too numerous to mention except to say I spent the better part of a week just installing deck fittings.
Nothing’s changed! I’m still addicted to Dietzler Products and had them make up the appropriate color combinations as best I could from limited colored photo graphs of the Elco 80 footer. I seriously doubt that any two PT boats were ever the same throughout anyway. The same thing goes for submarines and tugboats! No two are the same. The model was painted overall ‘New Guinea green” with a flat red rust colored bottom. Flat black camouflage “spotting” was applied later in the summer after most of the water testing was completed. The camouflage design layout was copied from U.S. PT BOATS OF WORLD WAR TWO by Frank D. Johnson. Anyone building a PT regardless of its origin should try and get a copy of this book. It’s printed by Blandford Press of Poole, Dorset, England. There’s enough information in this book to make you all “experts” on PT Boats! It’s also loaded with superb photographs, layouts, and historical data. Also there’s another book titled “AMERICAN PT BOATS IN WORLD WAR TWO” by Victor Chun which is excellent.
I’d like to give special thanks to Bob Lanthier of Model Marine Classics who is in the midst of possibly creating this boat in “kit” form for the market. To Dan Yeager and Tom for all their help with the engine locating and engineering of same. Oh yes, and to Northwest Airlines for getting the damn thing back to Minneapolis, Minnesota, without getting lost, landing at the wrong airport, accidentally shutting down engines, etc., and loading the twelve foot crate in the “747” so it didn’t “stall” on takeoff! It was later trucked to Brainerd, Minnesota, where I have a cabin and where I test all my boats in the summer.
Finally, let me just say that quarter scale boats are coming! To those of you who say that’s too large then how come the model airplane guys did it? Yes, you do need a pickup if possible just to haul this boat, but those guys do it with the twelve foot model planes so what’s the big deal? I even hauled mine on top of my car once while back at the lake. All you need is a roof rack and Sonny Liston to help you get it up there, but it can be done. I submit the biggest problem any of us will have with a model of this size is putting your transmitter away and lifting it onto its cradle for the night!
ENGINE—Italian Olympic 41cc (gas).
RADIO—Futaba 10 channel, FP S-14 servos.
HULL & DECKS—Hand lay-up fiberglass.
For More Information Write:
Dwight F. Brooks
1799 Correa Way
West Los Angeles