Sorry, we mean Gee Bees. An important distinction that avoids you having to hear this. Founded in 1925, the Granville Brothers Aircraft company built just twenty-four aircraft until their bankruptcy eight years later, but they left one hell of mark. In the ground mostly, with a trail of fire behind it, but we’ll come on to that in a bit…
Designed primarily as sports cars for the sky, Granville Brothers’ aircraft excelled at air racing in the ’20s and ’30s, winning multiple trophy races and speed records. Known as ‘Gee Bees’ the outrageous designs looked like caricatures, with absurdly short fuselages, tiny control surfaces, and hot-rod-esque engines.
The superb Lego recreations of two of Granville Brothers’ designs pictured here come from Volker Brodkorb of Flickr, and whilst they may look like exaggerated cartoons, their real-life counterparts really did look like this. Well, until they inevitably crashed of course…
The Gee Bee Model Z Super Sportster (above) was constructed in just five weeks in 1931, with the smallest possible airframe built around the largest possible engine. The Model Z’s enormous Pratt & Witney supercharged ‘Wasp’ radial engine gave it well over 500bhp, powering it to victory in every race it entered, despite it being ‘tricky’ to fly. Later that year Granville Brothers re-engineered the Model Z with an even bigger 750bhp Wasp Senior engine in at attempt at the Landplane Speed Record, when tragically a wing failure sent the aircraft spinning into the ground in a ball of flame, killing air-racer Lowell Bayles.
The next year Granville Brothers Aircraft built a successor to the destroyed Model Z, the R-1 Super Sportster (below). With a 25ft wingspan but just 17ft long, the R-1 was if anything even more dangerous to fly than the Model Z. Nevertheless the R-1 took victory in the Thompson Trophy in 1932 and the Landplane Speed Record the same year, before its inevitable fatal crash in 1933. Granville Brothers Aircraft re-built the wreck whereupon it crashed almost immediately.
Of the twenty-four aircraft built by Granville Brothers almost every single one was destroyed in a crash, with almost a dozen fatalities. By the mid-’30s the effects of the Great Depression – and a reputation as killers – meant that orders for new Super Sportster aircraft dried up, and the Granville Brothers Aircraft company filed for bankruptcy in 1934.
A few replica Gee Bees have been constructed since, however the Granville family have only shared the original designs with museums under the promise that the recreated aircraft will never be flown. Which is probably a good thing. Even so, we’ll stick with these fantastic and non-lethal Lego replicas. There’s more to see of each, plus Volker’s other planes, by clicking here.