Bee Model Z Racer
Vic builds the Williams Brothers Gee Bee Model Z straight from the box. He applies scallops and pin-striping by hand to produce the Model Z as flown by pilot Lowell Bayles for the 1931 Thompson Trophy race.
The Gee Bee racers of the early 1930s have often been recognized for the
failures, but rarely for the successes that they brought to the air races. No Gee Bee
design could better epitomize this reality than the Gee Bee model Z. Designed by Robert
Hall and constructed by the Granville brothers, the Gee Bee Z took first place in every
race of the 1931 Cleveland National Air Races. The following table summarizes the Gee Bees
After the Cleveland National Air Races, the model Z was re-engined with a Pratt & Whitney Wasp Sr. for an assault on the world land plane speed record. Several attempts were made and one run resulted in a speed of 314 mph. On December 5, 1931 Lowell Bayles again took to the air to break the record.
The kit used in this article is the Williams Brothers 1/32nd scale Gee Bee model Z. In the instructions, Williams states clearly that the kit is for the experienced model builder. This led me to believe that the kit would be difficult at best. I found that the parts were a bit flashy, but not bad to assemble. Painting this thing is another story.
I chose to build the model straight from the box with no additions. The one comment I can make about the kit is that the parts were somewhat flashy. The parts fit was OK and required some final sanding to adjust the fit properly.
To paint Gee Bee
is to questions ones own sanity! Ive built a few models, but the model Z was a task
to paint. I first painted the model overall yellow. The instructions from Williams give
several options for the builder to choose. I selected to mask the entire model, then once
completed, I pencil traced the scallop pattern onto the mask. I then carefully cut away
the unwanted mask with an Exacto knife. At this stage, I airbrushed a thin coat of clear
flat onto the edges of the mask to prevent any paint from bleeding through the edges of
the mask. This is very important to successful completion. Once dried, I airbrushed the
black coat onto the model. After drying, the masking was removed with the fine scallop
With the lion share of the painting completed, I focused on final assembly.
The large landing gear was attached, and the flying wires cut and placed. I decided to
ditch the kit supplied monofilament line and use .010 in. brass wire instead. It was much
easier to apply and doesnt sag unless asked to do so. For a golden age air racer,
this stuff is a must. The engine was painted and inserted into the cowling. This assembly
was then attached to
The Gee Bee Model Z is not out the reach for the average model builder provided that enough care and time is given to the project. Painting and detailing require the greatest amount of time and energy. You might also consult your physician for a prescription of Prozak before attempting this little plane. Would I build a Williams Gee Bee again? Yes, in fact I plan to build a Gee Bee R 1 and an R 2...........Someday!
Gee Bee, The Real Story of the Granville Brothers and Their Marvelous
Airplanes, by Henry Haffke
Model and Article Copyright
© 1999 by Victor Annas
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