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Spiros Pendedekas
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Glencoe 1/35 Piasecki VZ-8P “Airgeep”

November 9, 2020 · in Aviation · · 24 · 2.5K

Hi everyone!

This is my VZ-8P "Airgeep" that I built about 15 years ago.

The Piasecki VZ-8 Airgeep (company designation PA-59) was a prototype vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) aircraft developed by Piasecki Aircraft. Developed to fulfill a U.S. Army Transportation Research Command contract for a flying jeep in 1957, it was envisioned to be smaller and easier to fly than a helicopter.

To meet the US Army's requirement, Piasecki's design featured two tandem, three-blade ducted rotors, with the crew of two seated between the two rotors. Power was by two 180 hp (134.2 kW) Lycoming O-360-A2A piston engines, driving the rotors by a central gearbox.

The first of two aircraft ordered by the Army, initially designated the Model 59K Skycar (and later renamed Airgeep) by Piasecki and designated VZ-8P by the Army, flew on 22 September 1958.

It was re-engined with a single 425 hp (317 kW) Turbomeca Artouste IIB turboshaft replacing the two piston engines, flying in this form in June 1959.

After being loaned to the U.S. Navy for evaluation as the Model 59N where it was fitted with floats, it was returned to the Army and its engine replaced by a lighter and more powerful 550 hp (410.1 kW) Garrett AiResearch TPE331-6 engine.

The second prototype was completed to a modified design, designated Model 59H AirGeep II by Piasecki and VZ-8P (B) by the Army.

It was powered by two Artouste engines, with ejection seats for the pilot and co-pilot/gunner and a further three seats for passengers. It was also fitted with a powered tricycle undercarriage to increase mobility on land.

The AirGeep IIs first flight occurred on 15 February 1962, piloted by "Tommy" Atkins.

While the Airgeep would normally operate close to the ground, it was capable of flying to several thousand feet, proving to be stable in flight. Flying low allowed it to evade detection by radar.

Despite these qualities, and its superiority over the other two types evaluated by the US Army to meet the same requirement (the Chrysler VZ-6 and the Curtiss-Wright VZ-7), the Army decided that the "Flying Jeep concept [was] unsuitable for the modern battlefield", and concentrated on the development of conventional helicopters instead.

The kit is the 2006 reissue of the...1958 ITC MODELCRAFT original. It is fairly simple and falls easily together!

--- pic18 not found ---

The "cockpit is spartan, as would the real one be anyway (ok, sort of...)

Three nice figures are provided and I used them to beef up the simple looks.

Speaking of the boots, their looks are not like the ones seen in pics, but they may very easilly be a prototype mod. I won't declare them "wrong", for sure!

A rather nice soil-looking base is provided, together with a transparent rod, should you wish to pose your Airgeep in flying phase.

Anyway, I decided to present it to you, as it is a subject not often seen modeled.

Happy modeling!

Reader reactions:
11  Awesome

2 additional images. Click to enlarge.

24 responses

  1. Crazy but true, I certainly wouldn't fancy flying more than a few feet off the ground in it. The model looks great, Spiros, as you say, the figures definitely beef it up a bit. Definitely liked.

    • Can you imagine flying "on" it, a couple or more thousand feet above the ground, as per the specifications? Scary! What about bailing out? Chopped by the props? Oh dear!
      It is interesting as a model, though.
      Thanks for kind words, George @chinesegeorge!

  2. Nice one Spiros. First time I have seen this built.

  3. OK SPIROS...upper case on... Did you ever see a real photo of this bird?
    Wow/awesome/what a thing to fly...

  4. Very cool machine Spiros. Video of it here...

    • Thanks George @blackadder57! What a great video!
      In its start, the machine depicted sports the full width tubes, like the ones at my model.
      I was not able to locate such a pic before, in order to validate my build...
      Now, thanks to your vid, I've got validation!
      Thanks again!

  5. Wow Spiros. This was one of those oddities of aviation that defies belief. Your model sure looks great! Thanks for posting it!

  6. I have seen videos of some of these experiments before, really cool ideas. I didn't know there was a model of it, Spiros (@fiveten) it looks great and like a fun build. Also tells me that George Lucas decided to borrow and update the concept.

    1 attached image. Click to enlarge.

    • Thanks Walt @luftwaffe-birdman!
      The kit definitely is a tad towards the toy-side, but for a 1958 mold what more should one expect? I am amazed they ITC Co even decided to make a model of it back then.
      It was an amazingly enjoyable and fun build!
      What a daring design the Airgeep was!
      A big scale half drone!
      I can only speculate on the success of a similarly designed machine today, with all the computerized aids...

  7. Wow, a blast from the past! Nice.

  8. Great looking model of a really unusual subject, Spiros (@fiveten). Glencoe sure modeled some interesting stuff.

    • Thanks George @gblair! Looks like ITC Co, the original molder, got their hands on one of the very early prototypes and did a simplified model out of it, bad not bad at all, especially for a 1958 attempt!

      Glencoe seems to acquire (among others, possibly) older molds on various subjects and reissuing them with nice decals, such as Scalemaster. Well, I love this kind of stuff: they might not be the latest and greatest, but what a sweet modeling nostalgia...

      Sometimes, as in this case, the subject might be unique as well!

      I read in Scalemates that they are still active!

  9. Didn't know this kit existed. (Also didn't know the AirGeep could get to those altitudes. I always assumed it worked in ground effect.) Sound like it was more successful than the Avro AirCar. (Which would be a neat model to go with it if anyone makes one.) Great job!

  10. Spiros, @fiveten
    This is an incredible model of something I never knew existed. I wouldn't want to bail out of this one either... What an incredible concept. Just think about it... now they are experimenting with electric cars that can ALSO fly... How cool would that be ? It reminds me of a flying model kit I had years ago. It was .049 glow powered engine, and it looked like a round UFO. It had a prop in the center and was a white plastic flying model. I think it was made by the Cox corporation, but it also could have been made by Testors as one of their flying models. You could start it up, and by adjusting the fuel mixture that controlled the engine RPM. At a low RPM it would hover over the ground. If you leaned out the mixture and the RPM's increased, it would climb until it ran out of fuel, then it fell back to the ground, almost like a Frisbee would.

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading your article about the history behind this build.

    Last night I finished up two more builds that I had underway... So I'm inching closer to our mutual Ki-45's and 1/32 scale Uhu's.

    Thank you for sharing it with us, and I pressed the "liked" button too.

    Stay safe my friend.

  11. Thanks Louis @lgardner!
    That "flying frisbee" would be such a cool thing to watch as it was ascending and descending!
    When i saw the Glencoe "Airgeep", I was immediately drawn by the uniquness of the subject.
    I am finishing "Patrouille de France" 1/72 Alpha Jet, then the Toryu will be again prioritized.
    Thanks for liking!

    • Spiros, @fiveten
      This is what it looked like when it was new in the box.

      This was a cool toy to fly ! You had to watch your fingers though, as you adjusted the needle valve to tune the engine. If you were not careful you would have a sudden (and not very friendly) meeting with the propeller.

      Can you imagine how this would be in today's world ? The lawyers would have a field day with lawsuits because it wasn't "labelled properly"... Yet somehow we managed to survive our childhood, in spite of ourselves ! 🙂

      • Louis, my friend @lgardner!

        What a pic!

        It immediatley brings amazing memories of all those "advanced" lovely toys that accompanied our childhood.

        There was no net then, so most of the info would be obtained from discussions with friends, or from any kind of shop catalog that would happen to contain a "toys" section and the like, or from waiting in anticipation to see what presents our fathers who would have gone at business trips would bring us, get the idea!

        Well, the world moved ahead for sure, now every info (including toys) is available to anyone who knows how to operate a cellphone...

        And this is a good thing, or, at least its a defacto one way.

        But, wasn't it also beautiful back then? Not so much info available, but imagination and anticipation was equally (or even more!) strong...

        Exactly what a child wants!

        Now, we live in more "politically correct" times, whatever that means...

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