Scratch-built 1/72 Horton Wingless Prototype-1950

Gallery Article by Gabriel Stern


   While some designers choose to do away with the fuselage and the tail and create a “flying wing”, others choose to eliminate the wings and create a lifting body. That was the choice of William Horton, from California and Vincent Burnelli –see a previous article here:
Both of them shaped the fuselage as a wing section.

   Another model of a lifting body -the Wainfan Facetmobile- to further illustrate the concept in a different approach can be seen here:

   The Horton design featured large “endplates” –apparently described as “sealers”- along the fuselage/airfoil to improve its efficiency. A number of control surfaces can be seen at its rear end: a central, finned elevator and two surfaces on the sides that look like elevons (elevator+ailerons). Two fins and rudders are integral with the endplates. It is of notice that the concept of lifting body in this case was linked to the “roadable” plane too, since it was suggested to develop such machine later on. The design can be also described as being of “negative aspect ratio”, since its span is less than its length, roughly a 0.5 to 1 ratio.

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   And perhaps we should clear some recurrent confusion: William Horton was an American from California , while the Horten (with “e”) were brothers from the nazi Germany that later got a free-pass to Argentina for a while. The Horten Bros. designed a number of flying wings and William Horton, as said, worked on the concept of lifting bodies, creating first the plane which model is here depicted, and later a more futuristic-looking, twin-engine bigger machine also called the Horton Wingless.

   William Horton associated with Howard Hughes, a joint-venture that apparently didn’t work out very well due to the iron grip of Mr. Hughes. Unfortunately, Hughes stalled in every possible way the development and sales of the Wingless. Shame on you Howard.
Nevertheless the prototype achieved some flight and its beautiful lines were preserved in a few images.

   Every one of the strange, out of the ordinary models you enjoy –I hope- in these articles takes not only the time and effort of the scratchbuilding, but also the energy spent on the research phase. Data has to be retrieved from the most inaccessible crags of the Net or the most arcane and dusty libraries. In many occasions friends and fellow modelers also come to the rescue. To resort to magic, incantations, invocations and potions is not uncommon, nor is some nudging and prodding to secret societies and hidden brotherhoods to be able to produce a 3 view or even a blurry photo.

   Simple lines on a model don’t necessarily translate into simple construction. Once the planning and engineering started, it was obvious that once more simple didn’t mean easy.
   The parts for the model were cut from styrene sheet and rod of adequate thickness.
One or two parts were modified spare bin sleepers, while wheels and prop –Hartzell on the original plane- were modified aftermarket items.

   Only a bit of the interior can be seen in the available photos of the real plane, enough to see the bulk of the long Franklin 68A engine in the middle of the cockpit/cabin while the shaft protrudes ahead of the fuselage. The pilot seat seemed to be the located on the left.
   The part count was about a hundred when I judiciously stopped counting.

    Although undiscriminating fellow modelers -whose visual education and taste leaves much to be desired- dared to call this beauty a “flying toaster”, one thing can not be denied: imagination was for sure abundant in the blooming 50’s.

Gabriel Stern

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Photos and text © by Gabriel Stern