I saw this plane in the San Diego Air & Space Museum. It is like a toy, or a cartoon character.
This plane is "Gee Bee Super Sportster R-1", built by The Granville Brothers Aircraft in 1932, during the "Golden Age of Aviation". It was the fastest land planes in the world.
The Golden Age of Aviation was a time when airplanes had classic lines and character, regulations were few, pilots were popular heros, and is generally considered to be the 20-year period between the end of World War I and the beginning of World War II and was the pinnacle of Aviation excitement, and Aviation development for Civilian as well as Military Aircraft. This period is referred to as Golden because of the many tremendous advances in aviation technology that occurred, the many expeditions undertaken, and the numerous records set.
Engineers and pilots have notably always differed in opinion on the amount of stability fast airplanes should have. Engineers favor a lot of stability, maintaining that the less that a pilot has to control the airplane, the less drag will be created by the control surface and trim system displacement. Pilots on the other hand want a highly responsive airplane, even if that means cutting stability margins to the minimum. Granville and Miller decided to side with the pilots, knowing that a very sensitive airplane would result.
They expected to gain performance by cutting down things such as tail volume to a bare minimum and depending on the pilots skill to make up for any handling shortcomings. This was perfect rational for a high performance racing plane.
The R-1 had a powerful Pratt & Whitney R1340 "Wasp" engine. It has a diameter of 50-5/8" and a frontal area of 13.98 sq. ft. Nine cylinders, super charged with a 12:1 supercharger and devloping around 800hp. The R-1 was built specifically for the Thompson Trophy race (pylon racing).
On August 27, Granny made telephone arrangements with Doolittle for him to fly the R-1. On August 28, Doolittle arrived at Springfield. While everyone expected him to take a turn or two around the field to familiarize himself with the new aircraft, dubbed by the press as "The Flying Silo", he simply climbed in, headed west and never altered his course. Less than two hours later the Granvilles received a telegram stating simply, "Landed in Cleveland O.K., Jim."
Who is Jimmy Doolittle? He was one of the most famous pilots during the Golden Age of Aviation. The first pilot to take off, fly and land an airplane using instruments alone, without a view outside the cockpit. And in WWII, He was a war hero (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jimmy_Doolittle). In 1985, the U.S. Congress promoted Doolittle to the rank of full 4-star General on the U.S. Air Force retired list.
On September 5, Doolittle set the world's high speed record for land planes at 296 miles per hour in the Shell Speed Dash. Later, he took the Thompson Trophy race at Cleveland in the notorious Gee Bee R-1 racer with a speed averaging 252 miles per hour.
After having won the three big air racing trophies of the time, the Schneider, Bendix, and Thompson, Jimmy Doolittle officially retired from air racing stating, "I have yet to hear anyone engaged in this work dying of old age."
Non-flying replicas of the R-1 have been built at the New England Air Museum and the San Diego Air & Space Museum using original plans for the aircraft. Another is displayed at the Lyman and Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History at the Springfield Museums. A flying replica of the R-2 was built by Steve Wolf and Delmar Benjamin that first flew in 1991.
In Disney movie "Planes", El Chupacabra is a Gee Bee Model R.
Interesting now? You can buy a RC version of Gee Bee R-1/R-2, or, you can build it with LEGO!
There are a total of 138 parts, with 54 unique parts/colors.
In memories of the Golden Age of Aviation!
(update 2016-04-11 : New instructions, image created by LPub )