In an article in the first issue (September 1970) of ‘Pit Stop’ magazine, Bill Johnson of Burbank, California is credited with building “in the early 1960’s”, this internal combustion engine-powered, radio-controlled, 1:12th scale, model car. Although the date is not specific, since the article was written in 1970, and since it later mentions “Bill Eccles” (they somehow really botched “Charles Eckles” name) and Norb Meyers cars built in 1965, it seems reasonable that this car was built in 1963 or 1964 at the latest. The craftsmanship is incredible!

First posted on July 18, 2022 by David Palmeter

Above – Bill Johnson’s early R/C car was of all-metal construction. Utilized reeds, direct drive.

Above – Close-up of drive train.

Above – Rear suspension on Johnson car.

Pit Stop Magazine

Vol. 1 No. 1
September, 1970
Pages 31-33, 41-42

An excerpt from:
By Don Dewey and Pat Crews

Bill Johnson Experimental RC Car

In the early 1960’s, Bill Johnson of Burbank, California constructed an all metal, radio-controlled race car using an early Bonner reed system. His experiments took the shape of a 1/12th scale car composed of two sections – in the forward section the radio, power pack, two servos, and front suspension were placed to give the car as narrow a body between the wheels as possible so as not to interfere with the turning and adjustment of the front wheels. The rear section contained the motor, rear end, rear suspension and the fuel tank.

Even then, the Veco .19 engine was chosen for its ability to deliver power at any given RPM. Bill experimented with a 4:1 direct drive gear ratio and finally settled on a 6:1 ratio. Using 3 3/4″ diameter rear tires, Bill achieved a 600 to 2,500 RPM range resulting in speeds from 6 miles per hour to 29 miles per hour.

His individual front wheel suspension, while not having adjustable camber, caster, etc., and although on the heavy side by today’s, standards, proved quite durable and the car tracked well in a straight line or in tight circles as close as 8 feet in diameter. Bill utilized a leaf spring set-up allowing an override when a jolt was given to the front wheels, having found that a worm drive to eliminate the jolts to the steering servo was impractical.

For the rear suspension Johnson used springs because of the ease of installation in the car and due to the many changes that he knew would be necessary as he found improvements. The radius rod was connected to the side engine mounting and to the outboard wheel bearing using the wheel hub for its outer thrust. Working alone, Bill achieved a remarkable degree of success and sophistication with a vehicle that was virtually alone in its class, and which was built from a standard model and surplus store parts.