Ford Flivver Flies

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve gotten around to getting some of this stuff up on the site, so here we go. Here is what the Ford Flivver actually ended up looking like when completed.

Not too bad. The dummy Anzani engine heads really give it a scale presence.

And here is the video of one of the first proving flights.

It’s not the best quality as it was taken on a simple hat cam, but you get the basic idea. As was mentioned in the clip, I am experimenting with different prop sizes to try and cut the speed a bit to help with landing on my rough field.

All for now….but stay tuned as there are some Toon P40 pics detailing some of the progress made there coming soon.



Ok, so…..well….I haven’t been too good about posting. But the Flivver is almost finished!!

The title pretty much says it all, but here’s some eye candy to make up for my most unpardonable negligence.


All in all it’s coming together nicely, and I’m now in the process of installing the radio gear, adding details, and checking for flying balance.

Flivver construction continues…

Alrighty, not to get too wordy on this post, lets get down to the good stuff.


Above shows the aileron cut free from the wing. Then after this was accomplished, I found the aileron control rod holes were mis-aligned, leading to the final decision that it’s simply better to punch them at this stage anyway by simply sharpening one end of the wooden control arm dowel, aligning it, and re-punching the holes while sliding it through the foam ribs with the new corrected alignment. Try doing that with ply ribs sucker face!  It worked….enough said. Ok, I might mention it’s a little late here. Enough said again.

Oh and the second pic is of the inspection by supervisor number two who decided to give it a look. Yes, the yellow one. No, the smaller white fluffy one is supervisor number one……oh never mind.


These show the tail surfaces being aligned and fitted, as well as the hinge locations being established. A single wood dowel runs the length of the control surface, and soda can stock hinges wrap around this and attach to the opposite surface. It makes a very realistic, strong and smooth operating hinge.


And finally these last two show, first a better shot of the soda can hinges in place before gluing, and secondly, the method I decided on for attaching the wing. Those ply saddles will take screws that pass up through the wing and hold it in place. I was just going to permanently glue the wing in place, but then decided on this method, although a bit heavier for versatilities sake, especially due to the fact it’s a prototype. It can be built either way though.

Some Flivver history before we return to the build…

While I prep some more pics of the build progress to post, I thought folks might enjoy a little of the history of this unusual little plane. The following is an excerpt from the Wikipedia entry for the Flivver, and is a short synopsis of it’s curious but ill -fated career. I believe that it’s rather weak engine (for it’s size) was the main reason for the Flivvers’ unpleasant handling charactersistics as described by Lindbergh. I guess I’ll find out for myself whether it handles well or not! But in the meantime…..

The aircraft was a welded steel tube fuselage, with wood wing construction with fabric covering. The steerable rudder mounted tailwheel was also the only wheel with a brake. The exhaust was routed through a special manifold to a stock Model T exhaust. The designer of the plane, Otto Koppen went on to design the Helio Courier.

 Operational history

Ford’s chief test pilot was Harry J. Brooks. Brooks flew the Flivver regularly from his home garage to work. He once flew the aircraft in a race against Gar Wood in Miss America Von the Detroit River during the Harmsworth Trophy Races.

Charles Lindbergh flew the Flivver on a visit to Ford field August 11, 1927, and was the only other pilot to fly the Flivver prototype. He later described the Flivver as, “one of the worst aircraft he ever flew”.

A third prototype, tail number3218,was built to win a long distance record for light planes in 440 to 880 lb (200 to 400 kg) “C” class.The race was set from Ford Field in Dearborn Michigan to Miami, Florida . A first attempt launched on 24 January 1928, witnessed by Henry Ford, landed short in Asheville, North Carolina. A second attempt launched from Detroit on 21 February 1928, witnessed by Edsel Ford, landed 200 mi (320 km) short in Titusville, Florida, but still won a record.

Flying the second prototype from a winning record attempt four days earlier on February 21, 1928, Brooks crashed into the ocean off Melbourne, Florida . Investigation of the wreckage disclosed a matchstick had been plugged into the gas cap vent hole, causing an engine stoppage.

Following the death of Brooks, Henry Ford was distraught, and light airplane development was stopped under the Ford brand. In 1931 a new “Air Flivver” or Sky Car was marketed by the Stout division of Ford. Ford went back into light plane development in 1936 with the two seat Model 15-P. The prototype crashed during flight testing and did not go into production.

A surviving Flivver resides in the Henry Ford Museum.

Flivver wing construction

The Flivver wing design  I decided to make in a slightly more traditional method with individual ribs to create the old fashioned scale wing look with ribs portruding through the skin. All in all it is very simple and quick to make. The ribs are cut out with a razor blade. A yardstick is bisected lengthwise for the central spar and glued into place, then the ribs are added on top of the spar. One side is completed on a flat surface at a time. The next shots are how the plan is transferred to wax paper, and then onto the foam for building.


Then the wing is framed up….


The aileron rod holes are punched prior to covering with wet paper and wood glue.

….then covering.


… the ailerons get cut out, and rigged.

Progress with Henry Fords’ Flivver

The basic jist of this design is a card-model styled format, executed in fanfold foam. The fuselage is cut out of the foam in one detailed piece and then scored and bent to shape as you can see in the images below. A litte right thrust has been factored into the engine mount as well to counter torque issues. You can also see in these shots the ply engine mount and fuel tank support floor, which is the one piece tray that has been installed. The bottomside  images show the plastic tube used for the engine exhaust which will portrude from the bottom of the fuselage, just fore of the wing.


 …..I think she’s shaping up nicely. That little notch in the edge of the cockpit will be filled with a chunk of foam and faired in. It was a necessary evil, in that the one piece fuselage had to be shaped without it. Small price to pay for simplicity. Now an underside view.

The rubber bands are holding in the fuel tank above. This is if course a scale model of the Flivver and not a “Cartoon” type creation. All in all I think the real Flivver looked cartoony enough to not need any embelishment, however, for those following whos leanings are less scale, I do have another machine I am building at the same time as this one that should satisfy all of your surrealistic desires. I’ll make a post on it shortly. But in the meantime, here is another image of what the Flivver should end up looking like. Pretty cartoony as-is!