I have no idea whether or not a person can still purchase a “Byron” - IRON BAY - Gee Bee R2 kit. I say that because since purchasing the Byron line up of kits and accessories, Iron Bay appears to have made no attempt to improve or even maintain availability and support for Byron products. On the contrary, over the years the Iron Bay website has deteriorated to the point where it is almost non-functional, and the occasional reports back from modelers who attempt to contact the owner are sketchy, at best. Further, modelers who have actually spoken with a real person at Iron Bay, then placed an order, have reported waiting times approaching months to receive what they ordered.
All of that said, you will still find this kit for sale from time to time, so it’s not what we could consider “unavailable.” And IF anyone has had any recent luck with Iron Bay, PLEASE POST IT HERE so other modelers may know what to expect should they wish to order a Gee Bee, or any other Byron kit.
A bit of background on me… I have been a certifiable ‘Gee Bee nut’ since I first viewed the Disney film, “The Rocketeer.” Prior to that film, I was vaguely aware of the Gee Bee racers, but my awareness was based on assuming the airplane was literally a caricature of a real race plane! I had seen cartoons that resembled the real Gee Bee racers – most notably the Models Z, R2 and R1, but had no real knowledge of these being actual race planes from the 30’s…
After seeing the Rocketeer, and also being obsessed with radial engines, the creative juices began to flow and I pondered… “What would be the absolute coolest airplane I could power with a radial engine?” I came up with the Gee Bee R1 and after much searching, found Henry Haffke, his great book on the Granvilles and their many designs, as well as Haffke's Gee Bee plans, available for purchase in several scales.
I ordered a set of R1 plans in 25% and immediately began working on a model. As I recall it was about 1990 and news of the Wolf / Benjamin Gee Bee R2 replica build was circulating throughout the aviation community. As I learned more and more about the various Gee Bee races, I concluded that duplicating the R2, with its smaller engine and cowl, would be more applicable to my crazy scheme.
At the same time, I ordered a Technopower 9 cylinder radial engine, even going so far as having the crankcase anodized to more closely match the look of a P&W Wasp Jr.
I had to resort to making my own fiberglass cowl as there was nothing available for the R2, only the R1.
When my Haffke was nearly framed up, the Byron Gee Bee kit was introduced. I was able to utilize the Byron canopy and decal set for my Haffke.
Henry’s plans for the R1 had the builder refraining from ANY sheeting, leaving the entire structure ‘open framework’ in an effort to save weight. His quarter scale prototype was flown at 14 pounds with a Webra .90 spinning a 16x4.5 prop! It flew well, but was rather fragile and not exact scale – having open framework, thicker airfoil, and a lengthened horizontal stabilizer.
Intending to first fly my Gee Bee with a Quadra 42 gasser, then the Technopower radial, I opted to sheet my Gee Bee in all the scale places. This required that I thin the wing to account for the 3/32” sheeting and make mods in many other areas of construction. I also reduced the stab length to scale. Also, rather than covering my model with iron-on film, I would be using fabric covering on the aft fuselage (open frame) area (like the full scale), and finishing the rest of the model with fiberglass and resin.
Knowing my Gee Bee would be substantially heavier than Henry’s prototype, I wrote to him, describing my intentions. He admonished me NOT to power the Gee Bee with a big, heavy gasser and to avoid adding the weight resulting from my scale efforts. He correctly stated that "the enemy of the Gee Bee is weight and torque" … nothing against Henry, but I ignored his advice and forged ahead on my Gee Bee R2 replica
As mine was nearing completion, I heard stories of Byron Gee Bee’s being completed and flown, and they ALL had a common theme: “Flies GREAT! Landing is a nightmare!” - or - “Flew great, but was badly damaged on the landing”
The Byron, with a G62 and Purr Power muffler/mount, was finishing out at up to 25 pounds.
My Haffke, at exactly the same scale and with a Quadra 42, finished at 18.5 pounds. I was still optimistic it would be a decent handling model…and it WAS!
Even with the Technopower (and McDaniels glow driver and batteries), which upped the weight to 19 pounds, my Gee Bee was a good flying model (as Gee Bee’s go) – see video:
Despite my Gee Bee success, I had always wanted to build and fly the Byron version of the vaunted R2. Many years passed and I built other golden age racers, including a Haffke Gee Bee Model Z, but the Byron was always on my to-do list.
When the CARF-Models Gee Bee R2 came on the scene, I gravitated towards that model and my exploits are thoroughly illustrated throughout another build thread on the CARF:
This thread is for those who have or may come into possession of a Byron (Iron Bay) Gee Bee kit and I will share my building and flying experiences as I go…