Not related to the more
famous racing designs of Lawrence W. Brown (Miles and Atwood Special,
B-1, B-2, B-3), the Alden Brown Racer was a curious little machine. Of
all-wood construction, Alden Brown designed his racer to be powered by a
544-cu-in Menasco C6 six-cylinder inline and the small machine spanned
just 18-ft 9-in with a length of 19-ft.
Completed during 1932,
the racer was registered NR71Y/Race 203. Painted overall light blue with
cream and black trim, it does not appear that much flight testing was
done on the aircraft before it was entered in the 1932 National Air
appear to give the aircraft's fuselage a rather fat look, it was fairly
slim in cross section but larger that the Keith Riders and Howard's Pete
that had appeared in 1930 and 1931. However, the plane was very clean
and Alden Brown had originally designed the cantilever wing to
incorporate retractable landing gear. Time did not permit the
installation of the retracting units so a fixed gear was installed with
cantilever struts. Very tight pants were then installed around the tires
to complete the overall streamlined appearance but these pants would
prove to be the racer's undoing.
Alden Brown had also
designed an extremely unusual canopy for his racer. In order to ensure a
very smooth fuselage line, the windscreen started immediately behind the
cowl and the transparent area continued behind the small headrest. The
pilot had a throw-over hatch that conformed to the flowing line on the
canopy. The unit gave the appearance of plenty of visibility but, in
fact, it was soon discovered that visibility on the ground was very poor
and once the plane got into the air it was not much better.
For 1932, the National
Air Races were held in Cleveland between 27 August and 5 September.
These events were fairly complex in their structure and there were seven
cross-country derbies including the famed Bendix, a staggering total of
21 closed-course races, and two speed dashes. Spectator interest was
concentrated on the nine free-for-all races, seven of which were limited
to engines of various displacements, the remaining two being unlimited -
one for men (Thompson) and one for women (Aerol Trophy Race).
The Alden Brown Racer
was trucked to Cleveland where it would be entered in the appropriate
cubic-inch events. The pilot was Roy Minor. However, on its first
takeoff, the racer began to rapidly accelerate but the wet field allowed
mud to rapidly pack into the wheels which were surrounded by the tight
pants. This locked the wheels and the racer went onto its nose then fell
back hard on the tail which also collapsed the gear. The Alden Brown
Racer was out of action before it even got into the air.
Trucked back home,
repair work started and in early 1933 the retractable gear was
installed. Alden Brown had a great deal of trouble getting the gear to
perform the way he wanted so, exasperated, he switched back to the fixed
gear but minus the wheel pants (a photo on race day shows that the pants
had been re-added). Also, the fuselage was modified to have a higher
roll-over structure which also served as a dorsal fin, extending back to
the vertical tail which had increased surface area for better stability.
For 1933, the National
Air Races were conducted in Los Angeles from 1 to 4 July and the events
were restricted to free-for-all races by just racing aircraft of
different cubic-inch groups. The derbies and races for standard category
aircraft had been eliminated and this helped speed up the event.
Formerly spread over a ten-day period, the National Air Races could now
present in just four days all the important major speed and acrobatic
Once again trucked to
the race, the Alden Brown Racer would be piloted by Lee Schoenhair. The
craft carried the name Gilmore Special on the fuselage which indicated
sponsorship from the oil company. The little racer was entered in the
1000-cu-in free-for-all but had engine troubles and Schoenhair could
only average a low 137.52-mph. This was the last event we could find in
which the Alden Brown Racer had been entered. Presumably, the racer was
trucked back home and disassembled.