Jack Headley’s main interest while in college was contest flying. He didn’t care whether it was Free Flight,
Control Line, or RC. “Models were built
… to win,” he stated.
With that being said, he did not know
why he built or obtained a Sportwagon.
The aircraft, a design by Calhoun Smith,
was featured in a British magazine in
the 1950s. It was, as Jack described it,
“the antithesis of my type of model”
because it had a cabin, wheels, and a
large fuselage. But he said it was a good
flier and he used it for both fun and in
Jack wasn’t certain what happened to
his original Sportwagon, but when he
got the urge to build another one, which
he called the Sportwagon Jr., he made
it single channel to fly at his local park.
He redesigned and simplified the plans,
building it primarily for use with an Ace
The wing was initially built as a single
piece, and then cut into two halves
and rejoined at the correct dihedral
angle. The wing ribs were made in the
builder’s preferred manner.
The basic fuselage body was two 1/8-
inch square side frames that were joined
with the various frames and 1/8-inch
square crossmembers to make up the
basic fuselage box. A substructure was
added on the bottom side, with 1/16 x
1/8-inch strips along the fuselage sides.
Frames were then made and added. F1
was cut from 1/8-inch plywood and F2
from 1/16-inch sheet balsa. F3 held the
1/16-inch wire landing gear, while F4 was
1/8-inch sheet balsa with a center slot
for the 1/8-plywood actuator support.
F5 was built-up 1/8-inch sheet balsa, and
F6 through F9 were 1/8-inch sheet balsa.
The two fuselage sides were joined at
the rear with a scrap balsa block.
The celluloid windows were glued on,
with 1/32-inch balsa sheeting glued on
top to widen the window frames. After
a final sanding of the fuselage and its
components, the tail surfaces were glued
into place and the fuselage was covered
Stabilizer tip pieces were 1/8-inch
sheet balsa that were glued into place,
and then the ribs and 1/8-inch square
spar were secured. The fin and rudder
were cut from 1/8-inch sheet balsa.
Jack found that a sewn hinge was the
most effective for a pulse rudder. The
required holes were drilled into the fin
and rudder, and the rudder was sewn to
the fin with carpet thread in a pattern
shown on the plans. The thread was
stabilized with a drop of glue.
After the stabilizer was covered,
tissue was removed from the
center slot to glue the fin in place.
The fuselage was covered with a
lightweight tissue, shrunk with water,
coated with clear dope, and painted.
Jack’s prototype was painted red—with
the exception of the rudder—and had
black trim and stick-on vinyl letters.
The battery and receiver were placed
between F3 and F4 and wrapped in
foam rubber. The actuator was bolted to
a 1/8-inch plywood bridge between F4
and F5. The 1/16-inch wire torque rod
was attached to the actuator with a scrap
of plastic tubing and held in place at the
back with a 1/16-inch plywood bearing.
The rudder actuator was soldered onto
the torque rod in the final installation.
Finally, a wire loop was attached to
the rudder and held in place with a bolt
for rudder throw, which was changed by
moving the loop up and down.
Jack used rudder control to nudge
the model back home, and stated that
it was possible to do loops with it but
he preferred sport flying. He set up the
balance on the Sportwagon Jr. by making
“When the glide seems about right,
try some power flights,” he noted. “Then
make the final corrections to the rudder
throw and the glide path. After this it
should just be fun.”
The Sportwagon Jr. was featured
in the August 1983 issue of Model
Aviation as AMA Plans Service number
417, and is available for $9, plus
shipping and handling. AMA members
can access the MA Digital Library on
the magazine’s website to read more
about this airplane and its construction.
Go to www.modelaircraft.org/plans.
aspx to order.
102 Model Aviation DECEMBER2016 www.ModelAviation.com
Small RC model designed for Cox .020
Pee Wee engine and rudder-only control