Army Interceptor “Time Capsule”
As we all know, collecting
vintage items of any sort is a test of perseverance and patience.
Occasionally, you may be rewarded by having a chance to “turn
back the clock” and add a vintage item to your collection that
literally has not seen the light of day since it was first packaged.
I had just such an opportunity recently.
I purchased an American Junior “Army Interceptor” folding
wing glider … the type used by US Army soldiers during WW2 for gunnery
practice … in its original box.
Reportedly, the box had never
been opened since leaving the AJ factory during WW2.
The original owner was a Lockheed employee and an avid model
airplane builder. This
gentleman had many airplane kits that he never had a chance to build or
fly before his time in this world was over.
Several unopened 1940’s era kits along with other vintage items
were placed into storage in 1981. In
2010, his widow (now in her 90’s) decided it was time to “let go”
of some of these items. I
was fortunate to have a chance to add his AJ Army Interceptor to my
Since I may be opening this
vintage glider box for the first time since it left the factory over 65
years ago, I decided to document the event with photos.
Photo 1 shows the unopened original American Junior box.
Photo 2 shows the end flaps opened for the first time.
Note the gravel-like material that started rolling out of the
box. At first, I wasn’t
certain what this material was. However,
I immediately recognized the black rubber as the type used by AJ with
its catapult launch sticks. And
yes … I was relieved to see the nose of a glider peering out from
inside the box. The box
wasn’t just filled with a modeler’s wood scraps.
(Something I had experienced before.)
Photo 3 shows the contents of
the box after I slowly slid them onto my photo table.
It was immediately clear that the glider was exactly what the box
indicated it was … an original AJ Army Interceptor from WW2.
Its “factory-fresh” condition seemed to confirm that it had
never flown and possibly had never been removed from the box.
Although most pre-War
Interceptors had colorful red & blue markings on the wing … many
War-era versions came with the wings printed with a single color, all
red or all blue. The company
reportedly used the ink color most readily available at the time each
batch of gliders was made. As
with the US military, Jim Walker eliminated the red circle within the
large star on the wings soon after the War began. This
was done to avoid confusion with the Japanese “rising sun” markings.
(Although the original box art was apparently never changed.)
Further examination of this
glider revealed that there was quite a bit of material missing from the
cavity in the glider’s nose. There
was also discoloration of the wood in this area on both sides of the
glider. I deduced the
“loose gravel” material was the remnants of the substance used to
fill the cavity as a nose weight. Pre-War
Interceptors had a ball bearing or flat piece of metal for a nose
weight. The knowledgeable
folks at American Junior Classics confirmed that Jim Walker often
utilized a Barium paste for this purpose during the War, because of the
metal shortages. The
discoloration of the wood was undoubtedly due to the paste leaching into
the wood over time.
Although the thick rubber band
used with catapult stick was still pliable, the small rubber band
inserted into the metal tube over the “cockpit” in the fuselage was
nearly petrified. It was
also fused to the inner surface of the tube.
Since this rubber is used to hold the wings in place when they
are fully extended, I elected to replace it.
I was able to use a small hand drill to bore into the rubber and
then slide it out of the tube. Fresh,
contemporary rubber was re-inserted.
Now, all that was left to do was
connect the fuselage rubber to the wing hooks, and slide in the
horizontal stabilizer. The
glider was now fully assembled ... maybe for the first time.
Photo 4 is the glider’s “official portrait”.
Although this entire process only took a few hours, for a short
time I was back in the War-years of the 1940’s.
Was I tempted to run outside and launch this beauty a couple
times? You bet!
But the “collector” in me has over-ruled the “kid” in me
… at least for now.