A fistful of Gee Bees

The last of my Shapeways planes are Gee Bees.  Gee Bees are air racers built by the Granville Bros between 1929-34.  They are perhaps the iconic air racers of the Golden Age of air racing due to their unique shapes and flying colors.  Sort of iconic like a black widow spider is iconic.  The Gee Bees eventually killed or severely injured all their pilots.  The reason there were no Gee Bee’s built after 1934 is because the Granville Brothers went bankrupt.

Gee Bee Z has a fuselage length of 1 1/8" and a wingspan of just under 2"

Gee Bee Z has a fuselage length of 1 1/8″ and a wingspan of just under 2″

It's a well designed, well cast miniature. Though it lacks detail, it just requires some photos and a little effort to make it usable.

It’s a well designed, well cast miniature. Though it lacks detail, it just requires some photos and a little effort to make it usable.

I’ll ‘fess up though, the Gee Bee Z, with the it’s 525 hp Pratt and Whitney Wasp engine is my absolute favorite plane.  Short and stout, its yellow and black flying colors make it seem short and quick.  That Shapeways produced the miniature was probably one of my incentives to move to the smaller scale.  The miniature is well made, though the rough resin really sucks up the paint.  I decided to go with Vallejo Deep Yellow as the base color with Vallejo black for the accent color. I felt  the pigment-rich Vallejo black would work best with the bumpy surface. My experience is there just isn’t a lot of room for error and my craft black just doesn’t seem to cover the resin well.  I’d never use a craft yellow for any purpose so the Vallejo yellow is a natural. The Gee Bee Z won the 1931 Thompson trophy, but crashed later in the year, killing pilot Lloyd Bayles

The most fun of the Gee Bees to paint.  You can see the much longer wings and fuselage than the purpose built racers.

The most fun of the Gee Bees to paint. You can see the much longer wings and fuselage than the purpose built racers.

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The fuselage length of this miniature is about 1 3/4" and the wingspan is nearly 2 1/2".

The fuselage length of this miniature is about 1 3/4″ and the wingspan is nearly 2 1/2″.

The Granvilles built two Gee Bee Model Y’s, called the “Senior Sportsters.”  Shapeways designer “Arctic Skunk” offers three version of the Y.  Mine is the 1931 version with the 215 horsepower Lycoming engine.  This plane was lost when it’s propeller flew off over New York City, and its engine vibrated loose.  It crashed in the ocean, but the pilot was recovered.  The second Y raced in the Chicago Nationals in 1932, finishing second.  The following year it appeared up-engined, with a 450 h.p. Wright Whirlwind.  This version killed pilot Florence Klingensmith at this same event.

All the Gee Bees had unique and interesting markings.  Due to the small size Doolittle's dice are hard to show.

All the Gee Bees had unique and interesting markings. Due to the small size Doolittle’s dice are hard to show.

This miniature has a fuselage length of about 1 5/8" and the wingspan is about 2"

This miniature has a fuselage length of about 1 5/8″ and the wingspan is about 2″

The best known Gee Bee is the R model “Senior Sportsters.”  R-1 was flown to victory in the 1932 Thompson Trophy Race, by Jimmy Doolittle.  It also won the Shell Speed Dash.  In 1933, the R-1 crashed, killing pilot Russell Boardman.  The second R, R-2, was not a winner and crashed in 1933, seriously injuring pilot Jimmy Haizlip.  As if the Granville’s hadn’t had enough, the remains of both planes were reassembled into the R-1/2, lengthening the fuselage.  Unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save pilot Cecil Allen, when the plane crashed in 1935.

The Gee Bee Y and Gee Bee R-1 are painted similarly.  I used Vallejo Vermillion and a white craft paint.  I decided against adding struts to any of the planes.  First, the models are really small.  They also limit what can be done on the fuselage and wings.  Because each of the three planes had important parts of their paint schemes where the wire should go, I decided against.  On a bigger model, absolutely, but on this small version, nobody would notice anyway.

All photos were taken with a Nikon Coolpix P510 with macro settings on.  From the closeups you can see how rough the resin surface is, which makes detailing a bit of a challenge.  Heck, the lines looked straight with my reading glasses on.

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