Toy companies had been selling various motorized models for many years but interest in commercial production of radio-controlled model cars followed an interesting evolution in the United States.
– 1966 Wen-Mac/Testors Mustang – In the early ‘50’s, toy company Wen-Mac produced a cast aluminum, .049 gas engine powered Indy tether car, the Wen-Mac Automite.
By the ‘60’s they were producing plastic, gas-powered tether cars. Then, in the November 19, 1965 issue of Life magazine, Ford Motor Company advertised an exclusive – “Only at Your Ford Dealers” – 16-inch, 1966 Poppy Red Motorized Mustang GT made by Wen-Mac. The price was $4.95. The ad showed a young boy playing with it indoors to show that it had a battery powered electric motor.
However, the ad also noted, “For racing buffs a conversion kit (gasoline engine and slicks) and remote-control throttle may also be ordered.” The conversion kit also included a pylon and spikes for attaching the pylon to an outdoor racing surface and a line to tether the car. The revolutionary advancement was the “remote control throttle” (not radio control). This consisted of a second line fed from the car, through the pylon and back to the “driver” to control the throttle of the .049 cubic inch, two-stroke gas engine. Remote control by radio was the next step.
Apparently that next step was being developed during late 1965 and early 1966. Wen-Mac was purchased by Testors in 1966 and, in the April 1966 issue of Car Model magazine, coverage of the February 1966 Hobby Industry Trade show in Chicago included the Testors model company announcement of a radio-controlled, electric powered version of what was apparently the same basic 16” 1966 Mustang GT. It was mistakenly called a 1:9 scale model when actually, a 16″ long 1966 Mustang is 1:11 scale.
It was powered by electric motors and had rechargeable nickel cadmium batteries. To operate the car, a switch on the bottom of the chassis was first set to select Low Speed or High Speed. The transmitter had 3 channels, one connected to a pushbutton that transmitted a simple “Go or Stop” signal to the drive motors. The other two channels were very early proportional controls, activated by a single stick; pushing it right activated the right turn channel and left for the left steering channel. The innovative drive system had two transverse motors, one for the right rear wheel and one for the left. Both motors powered the car when operated in a straight line but in a turn, the inside free-wheeled, creating a form of rear differential. Three different 27mHz channels were available to allow running 3 cars at a time. The price announced in 1966 for the complete, ready to run car was $69.95, a clear indication of the high price of radio control in what was originally a $4.95 battery electric car without radio control.
Then in the February 1967 “Model Car Science” there was a vey extensive specs and racing report. (The report included an R/C airplane which has been blanked out). The car is surprisingly sophisticated for that time. Steering is identified as “full-proportional”. I was particularly intrigued by the “differential action” of the twin sidewinder electric motors. The function is explained in the photo captions. I wonder how the inside motor was “disengaged” in a turn?
(This report correctly identified 1/11 as the scale.)
Then the news that in early production there were problems and therefore initially there were “very few delivered”.