RCU Review: ProBoat PT-109

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    Contributed by: Matt Gunn | Published: September 2008 | Views: 56450 | email icon Email this Article | PDFpdf icon
    Proboat PT109

    Review by: Matt Gunn (webdr)

    Distributed exclusively by:
    Proboat/Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    (877) 504-0233



    Good scale appearance

    Watercooled esc and motors keep temps down

    Quick for a scale ship

    A little louder than other electric boats

    A few decals were peeling off from the factory

    Proboat's latest scale ship, the PT-109, is a 40" deep vee displacement hull modeled after the famous Navy torpedo boat, the PT. PT stands for Patrol Torpedo and their initial role during World War II was intercepting japanese destroyers and ultimately sending them to the bottom with any one of their four massive 1-ton torpedoes. Later versions of the PT were used as gun boats against much smaller targets such as armed barges used to shuttle Japanese troops between islands. When most people see a PT boat, they instantly think "PT-109" but in reality, PT-109 was a specific boat commanded by Lieutenant John F. Kennedy in the Pacific theatre during WWII. Other famous PT boats were PT-34, PT-59, and PT-105.

    Capturing the true essence of a PT boat, Proboat delivers a fiberglass hull bristling with scale weapons, a semi-scale helm, and running lights. Twin 540-sized motors deliver enough punch to plane the big hull out almost instantaneously and the watercooled esc with reverse gives it's captain the ability to maneuver it into any port.

    Now that you have a brief history of the real PT-109, let's take a close look at Proboat's model of this glorious ship.

    Name: PT-109 RTR
    Price: $399.99 retail price
    Length: 40.75"
    Beam: 10.6"
    Motor: 550 x 2 water-cooled
    Batteries used: 1400mah 6-cell NiMh (x2)
    Transmitter batteries used: 8 AA batteries
    Radio equipment: (Included) 2-channel 27MHZ AM transmitter, receiver, watercooled esc w/ reverse, steering servo

    • Battery charger
    • 2 battery packs with Tamiya-style connectors (Nimh 7.2v)
    • Marine grease
    • 8 AA batteries for transmitter
    • Soldering Iron (used for lighting system)

    Other Helpful Items

    • Ballast for adding weight to the hull which creates a more realistic driving boat
    • CorrosionX anti-corrosion spray

    M3 37mm anti-tank gun
    M2 .50 cal machine gun
    Mark 13 torpedo

    The Proboat PT-109 features many scale-like elements that were modeled after features found on the real boat. Up front is an M3 37mm anti-tank cannon that was actually retrofitted by JFK's crew, the wheels removed and the gun bolted to the deck. On the starboard and aft of the boat are two M2 fifty-caliber machine guns. The essence of a PT boat, it's torpedoes, are fitted to either side of the deck. Each torpedo comes bagged separately and must be attached and glued in place. The helm is identified by a sticker packed with gauges and a steering wheel. The rest of the PT-109 is adorned with various air scoops, boxes, tanks, depth charges, cleats, and hand-holds. There's alot of goodies attached to this hull!

    The PT-109 hull is painted with a flat olive-drab color and a semi-gloss black is used for the depth charges and deck guns. There is no clear coat so if the hull brushes up against anything too hard, it will probally show as a faint scratch.

    The two 540 silver-can motors included with the PT are a good match and push the hull very well. They are mounted side by side and feature water jackets designed to keep them cool when under way. Water is picked up from a tube on the left rudder and pushed to the right motor, then to the left motor and then expelled out the side. Aluminum collets attach the drive shafts to the motors and are held tight with grub screws. The stuffing tubes, which house the shafts and provide a watertight exit through the hull, are standard brass and have a grease tube at the top to allow easy lubrication of the shafts without removing them. Another nice feature are the bullet connectors on the motors. Should you need to remove them for any reason, the wires will come apart easily.

    Steering servo
    Rudder linkage
    Electronics layout
    Twin 540 motors
    watercooled esc

    Providing power to the motors is a watercooled electronic speed control. The watercooling jacket also doubles as a waterproof compartment, preventing moisture from frying it quickly. The great thing about this little unit is it's reverse feature. There really aren't many rtr boats out there with reverse and having it adds to the scale experience. Powering the entire system, two 6-cell battery packs, which are not included, sit on either side of the esc in separate wooden cradles. tamiya connectors are used on both sides. No means to attach the batteries is provided with the kit but two strips of double-sided velcro will do the trick. Since the hull doesn't break any speed records, you can get away with just placing the batteries in the cradles without any velcro. Water for the esc is picked up from the right rudder tube and pushed through the water jacket, then expelled out the left side. There are two switches inside the hull; one is for power, the other is to turn on and off the lighting system.

    The fact that this boat features running lights makes it even more unique. There are interior lights, port and starboard lights, and a white running light attached to the mast. This is where the soldering iron comes into play because you'll need to solder the mast light's wires to the wires in the hatch. When you place the hatch on the hull, the magnets used to keep it held tight create a circuit and provide power to the mast light. If your a little confused, don't worry, it's clearly explained in the manual. The remaining lights don't require any soldering and are ready to be switched on. The power for the lights is provided by the two 6-cell packs.

    The rudder linkage on the PT-109 is very simple for a 3-rudder configuration. All 3 are attached with a 4-40 sized rod and the center rudder has an arm for the servo linkage. The attachment points feature swivels so everything moves smoothly. Bushings are found on the outside of the hull and keep the rudder spaced away from the hull, and also help keep water from entering. On the inside, small wooden discs act as spacers for the steel linkage-mounts.

    Running lights
    Triple rudders/ twin screws
    2 channel am transmitter

    The propellers are simple, plastic, and have 3-blades. They sit at the end of the stuffing tube and are set at a fixed angle by non-adjustable struts. They are screwed on the threaded prop shaft and held in place with a lock-nut on the back side. Even though there are only two props, there is a 3rd prop tube in the middle to keep with the scale appearance.

    Going against the usual choice of rtr transmitter, the PT-109 comes with the PB-2S am` twin-stick radio, possibly for a more scale feeling? Maybe it's because of the unspoken law of rc; slow and scale gets a stick, fast and race-like gets a pistol-grip. For whatever reason, Proboat's decision to give the PT-109 a stick radio turned out to be a great one. The twin-stick radio functions well and offers a feeling of precision, something that comes in handy when parallel parking her at the dock. The transmitter features 3 led's to warn against low batteries as well as a charging jack for using rechargeable aa's. There's also a dual rate switch for the throttle; in the "up" position, you get 50/50 forward and reverse. Switch it "down" and it splits to 70/30. The receiver is your standard 2-channel number and comes wrapped in a balloon to help keep moisture from damaging it. It's attached to the hull with double-sided tape. The antenna wire runs through a small hole under the hatch and up to the front. I kept the antenna inside the hull for a more scale appearance and was surprised at the radio range; a little more than 50 yards. An antenna tube is included with the PT-109 should you choose to use it.

    The PT-109 requires a little preparation to ready it for it's maiden voyage. You'll need to attach the torpedoes, which is accomplished by sliding them on their mounts and then using a drop of CA to keep them from falling off. The search light, flag pole and antenna tube also come bagged separately and will need to be attached. The only hard part ...well, hard if you don't have a soldering iron, is the mast light. After it's installed, you'll need to solder the wires to make the connection. Proboat also recommends you use some ballast, somewhere in the order of 2.3 lbs, to make the boat turn better and look more realistic. Knowing where to put the ballast comes down to trial and error. Run the boat and see if it runs with the bow excessively high or low and adjust the ballast forward or aft to compensate.

    Before you break a bottle of champaign across the bow of this beauty, make sure you do a range check, and check the servo throws. It's hard to tell if the props are spinning in the right direction, which is counterclockwise, with the boat on dry land.

    The PT-109 can be run in two configurations; with ballast or without. With ballast, the boat sits a little lower in the water with the extra 2.3 lbs and really throws a wake off the vee hull as it punches through the waves. Turning is alot more scale-looking because the boat is deeper in the water. Top speed and overall quickness of the boat are slightly reduced. Without the ballast, the PT will instantly plane out and travels quicker because more of the hull is above the water, but turning suffers a little. The boat will want to lay down in the turns, almost dragging it's sides in the water.

    Either way you run it, it's a blast. The PT looks very realistic, especially if there is a light chop on the water. It will ramp a small wake and bring the bow out of the water, only to slam into the next wake and throw a spray out on either side. The triple rudders provide positive control at any speed, as well as in reverse. The inside of the hull stays relatively dry when crusing which is a plus, there just isn't alot of water coming up over the bow. There's a nice progressive feel to the throttle; just the slightest movement in either direction will get the props spinning and the PT-109 will creep slowly as if it's stalking it's prey. But throw the stick full forward and the twin 540 motors will burst to life and plane the large hull out in a hurry as she races across the water.

    My only complaint about operating the PT-109 is the motor noise. When idling forward or backward, the motors emit a distinct whine as electricity passes through them. Also, when underway, the hull acts like a drum, amplifying the sound, which is a combination of the prop shafts in their tubes, the props, and the motors spinning. It's a little loud when compared to other boats I've run, but by no means unbearable.

    Run time for the PT-109 was over 10 minutes. Even with two motors, the use of dual 6-cell packs give you ample time to explore the lake or river. Radio range is also good. I chose to leave the antenna inside the hull for a more scale look and still got at least 50 yards away with no loss of signal. When it's time to bring her back in after a mission, care needs to be taken when operating in the shallows or near the dock. Because the hull is painted in flat military-style olive drab, it has no clear coat and will scratch easily.

    The PT-109 is a real joy to operate. It's a step away from the fast-paced nature of racing boats and that makes it a winner in my book. I enjoy all aspects of rc boating and the PT-109 fills the "sit back and relax" niche quite well. I think half the fun is maneuvering the PT near the dock or around the shoreline. I found myself trying to master docking the boat without hitting the side, and executing 2-point turns with the handy reverse feature. I would definitely suggest this rtr scale boat to anyone who enjoys rc boating because of the PT-109's ease of operation, scale appearance, and high fun factor.

    Proboat/Horizon Hobby
    4105 Fieldstone Rd.
    Champaign, IL 61822
    Support Phone: (877) 504-0233
    Web Site: www.proboat.com

    Atlanta Model Boaters
    1000 Naturally Fresh Blvd.
    Atlanta, GA
    Web Site: www.atlantamodelboaters.com


    Thanks to Jessica Halsak for helping me test the PT-109.

    Comments on RCU Review: ProBoat PT-109

    Posted by: Kmot on 09/01/2008
    The slow-mo footage at the end was great! :) I have read many people with this model complain about the cooling systems lack of flow and I have seen the same problem with a clubmate who had this boat. In your photos and video it is clear that one of the cooling passages is working while the other is not. But that one stream is better than any I have seen so far.
    Posted by: EarlOfTroy on 12/11/2008
    Is the Chris-Craft (from the 50s & 60s) series still available?
    Posted by: EarlOfTroy on 12/11/2008
    The price of this boat is listed as retail: $399.99 on RCUniverse.com/magazine/article The price was marginal at that but when the price went to $479 on Horizon Hobby, it was out of the price range for me.
    Page: 1
    The comments, observations and conclusions made in this review are solely with respect to the particular item the editor reviewed and may not apply generally to similar products by the manufacturer. We cannot be responsible for any manufacturer defects in workmanship or other deficiencies in products like the one featured in the review.

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