A View from Broadway

Brodak bragging rights

* Fox Speed at the Brodak Fly-In

By Ken Burdick

Yes Folks, it's true.

There are bragging rights in the grumpy and secretive side of our hobby we call “Speed.”

Speed flyers by and large, seem to be secretive, and somewhat grumpy guys ... they of course will argue this, but overall they are trying to protect a “secret” and don't want you to know what's making them faster than you. Make sense? Okay, now we're getting someplace. Bragging rights are something that has no intrinsic value, that is you get nothing other than to say, “Yeah, kid -- pretty much kicked yer butt.” Let's combine the two and see what happens.

Cue the Tuba music

Bragging rights have a short lifespan. I first remember bragging rights, in events such as 1/2A Proto when it became profile only. No one really took it seriously until after Dale Kirn showed up. Something like ... I WON!…I WON! Then things got serious after Dale did his thing. Now we have Paul Gibeaults and Jerry Rochas, building airplanes that float in thin air!

Another notable event that began as bragging rights is 1/2A Combat. Back when we all had our pretty feathers and Tee Dee was the only choice for an engine, there was always time to screw around with the toy event, while real effort was being aimed at Fast Combat. Top Gun in Tucson really kicked this into high gear. At Top Gun, most of Friday was spent hacking on each other with the latest foamie sporting a VA .049 ... .the winner got bragging rights. Today, you can pay more than $200.00 for a good 1/2A engine and buy airplanes with built in shut-offs ... bragging rights be gone!

Fox Speed

“Now that I'm old and ready to go, I get to thinking bout things that happened a long time ago” (Thank you, Jimmy Rodgers)

Fox speed is right in there with what makes for good bragging rights. According to the clever "St. Louis rules” the engine, must APPEAR to be a Fox .35 Stunt -- pretty simple yes? No. The architect left a lot to the imagination, which in my book, is pure genius. Let's have some fun, OK? There is no mention of displacement, or what parts can be shoehorned into the Fox .35 stunt case. If you really put your mind to it, you might imagine a rear rotor and full wave tuned pipe! Really ... who would do such a thing?

Mix all this together with Duke Fox's commonality in part design, geezers with lathes, an online forum and the promise of fun, you will get bragging rights.

Talk about speed!

The online forum Stunt Hangar has a Speed section entitled Speed Talk.”Local West Coast speed hero Joey Mathison of New Math Speed team is the moderator. Somewhere toward the end of November 2015, Paul Smith (Event director for the Brodak Fly-In) posted: Speed Events at the 2016 Brodak Fly-In, and wanted to know if anyone was interested in flying “Fox Speed.”

The darkness of winter and not enough to do took hold like a Labrador eating a birthday cake. The posts began and before long, many a recognized speed flyer was posting things such as ... "I can make my own piston because I can and there's no rule against it!” Game on.

The rules police would reply that “No!!!! YOU CAN'T DO THAT!” This of course only fed the fire. By Spring of 2016, the site had gained a readership around the world, wondering what was going to happen next. Special handmade parts were talked about, photographed and posted, followed by more howling. I conspired with a well know flier from Florida to post anonymous series of pictures detailing the rear-rotor fox .35 Stunt and full wave pipe. Still others made SuperTigre piston and liners to fit in the ever thinning crank case. It was full-on fun.

By the time a warm-up contest was run in St Louis, it was none other than the oracle himself, Henry Nelson, blowing the doors off of everyone with a standing start of 103+ mph (have you ever tried to make one go 80?).

The gauntlet had been thrown. Henry used an airplane that when I asked, got no details. He simply called it “Ugly Betty” with no more information than that. The Brodak fun Fly was rapidly approaching (June 15) so it was time to go big or go home for all the talkers. Duke Fox however, had the last word. I'll let you decide, but in my book, it sounded like more fun than trying to get a flat head Ford to go 150 mph at Bonniville. Below are excerpts from the winner of the event, Tom Schafer. Good buddy Bob Whitney, contributed and none other than “The Henry.”

Tom Schafer: 107 mph!!!!

K"en, So far I had one con rod break. I don't like to stand in front while running. Since you are pressing me, while all of the parts are from Fox .35. not all are Fox Stunt parts. All of the Fox .35 and .36 parts swap right in so there are lots of possibilities and I have tried many of them! Henry had some pretty trick stuff but I would leave him to comment on it for accuracy's sake.

"As I'm sure you know it's the total package that gets the job done. Al's motor has more power but his set up needs a bit more development. Once he straightens it out he will top 108!"

Bob Whitney

"Fox is still a crapshoot. Henry clapped one piston and broke one crank, I burned up a piston/liner by using only 22% oil. I bought the oldest Fox .35 I could find and put the P/L in the RR plane and flew it at Dayton did about 85, I think.

The problem is getting a good head. Nelson is using his head button with the slot cut for the baffle.

I think the thing to do is build a ship like the real old upright rats with only half a cowl, the front being open face.

The V stab ship didn't have much control and Dave tried the pylon for the first time and let it get too high and didn't clear the ground on the bottom side . It broke the stab and popped the landing gear -- not a problem to fix. Everyone liked the RR set up. It was funny looking at them look in the venturi and find no hole in the crank.

The Henry

Hey, I flew Fox Combat, so I had a couple of engines.

I grafted it into the remnants of a 1974 team racer that I took to the world championships.

Probably would have been about as easy to start on a new plane.

Only real improvement so far has been a Nelson-plug head.

At Brodak they only had 10% instead of 5% nitro. Burned down and caved in the piston crown.

Put in another p/s and the crank broke off the disk. (That's the second one. Foxes break -- here grind relief does its job.)

Tried my second engine and it caved in the piston crown in the pits.

Put together another engine to take to Dayton on the weekend and it was a little overcompressed but being an AAC, it didn't melt.

It's really a struggle. The engine has so little there, that it's hard to do much in the stock crankcase.

Also, I've never tried to build a baffle-piston plain-bearing engine, but hey, I'm retired.

Perky is easier.

The last lap

Wish I had more comments and pictures for you, but it's what I could get from the grumpy and secretive world of speed. That, my friends, made for one fun weekend of tinkering, watching parts explode and then trying to figure out what to do next. There may be other Fox speed contests, but this one captured the imagination of more than a few. Tom got Bragging rights.

Good on ya, guys.


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This page was upated July 8, 2016