Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff


PHOTOS OF A 1953 Studebaker Starliner/Starlight coupe  jogged my memory about the Harley guys and the ramjet. All this happened 67 years ago, and please excuse my rambling tale appearing in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow.

Raymond Loewy’s ’53 Studebaker. Automobile Quarterly, First Quarter 1987, Volume XXV, Number 1, said the car’s “dynamic composition exceeded even the taut Italian sports cars that theoretically inspired it. The low, sloping nose was framed by continuously tapering, full-length fender ‘pontoons’ on each side that supported a rakishly angled cabin.”

1953 Studebaker Starliner/Starlight coupe. Image from Automobile Quarterly, First Quarter 1987.

“Originally,” AQ continued, “the Starliner/Starlight coupe was just an adjunct to Studebaker’s regular line of cars but, surprisingly, it became the dominant statement in the company’s recognition pattern.”

Tom’s 1953 Sedan. AQ’s comment about dominant styling is spot-on to my tale because Tom, an advisor of our control-line flying club, drove a ’53 Studebaker sedan. 

1953 Studebaker Champion Deluxe 4-Door Sedan. Image from Wikipedia.

Given that other cars of the era were boringly beveled boxes, we all thought Tom’s Stude was cool. And we particularly appreciated that he didn’t talk down to us; this, despite his being an older guy (he was probably 25 at the time). 

Tom had beautifully finished control-line aircraft. In a sense, he was the master craftsman for our apprenticeships in the hobby.

Our Flying Venue. We did our control-line flying on a vacant field along the Cleveland waterfront of Lake Erie. This, by the way, caused me no end of confusion as a kid. 

I clearly remember flying until the sun dropped into the lake. And, of course, Cleveland was south of Lake Erie, which separated Ohio from Canada. 

Ergo, the summer sun must be setting in the north. 

I was disappointed when a map revealed the odd sweep of the Cleveland shoreline. I won’t embarrass myself here by telling when I acquired this geographical insight: Aha, I learned, the sun actually sets in the west!

Anyway, we had good camaraderie with Tom in flying our control-line craft along the lakefront.

Tom’s Ramjet. Whereas almost all control-line aircraft had single-cylinder piston engines, one of Tom’s models was ramjet-powered, a real rarity in those days. 

Wikipedia describes a ramjet as “a form of airbreathing jet engine that uses the engine’s forward motion to compress incoming air without an axial compressor or a centrifugal compressor…. sometimes referred to as a flying stovepipe or an athodyd (aero thermodynamic duct).”

Image by Cryonic07. Source: Emoscopes, later modified by Wolfkeeper, from Wikipedia.

Tomorrow in Part 2, my tale continues with the ramjet’s startup procedure as practiced by the Harley Guys. 

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2021


  1. Bob Storck
    November 11, 2021

    I’m sure you know the difference between a ramjet and a pulse jet. I used DynaJets and EnyaJets, as well as home made engines produced by CL speed record holder, Jim Summersett.

    There also was a larger jet for which plans were advertised by J Houston Maupin, one of your Ohio neighbors, plus the lesser known Sona Jet.

    ll were pulse jets with a vane closing upon combustion.

    Ram jets only work at VERY high speeds, not achieved by hobbyists.

  2. simanaitissays
    November 11, 2021

    Agreed, though we called them ramjets, technically they were pulsejets (as shown in tomorrow’s video). Sorry for the memory sloppiness.

  3. sabresoftware
    November 12, 2021

    In Edmonton the sun sets in the west only on the Spring and Fall equinox. By mid summer it is very decidedly in the North West and by mid winter South West. A drive to Calgary in winter (south of Edmonton) on a clear day means that you’ll have the sun in your eyes all the way as even at midday it is fairly low on the horizon.

    Speaking of geographic confusion, even to a geography fan like me, I was surprised when I realized only in the last few years that Windsor, Ontario is not located to the east of Detroit, but actually to the south.

  4. simanaitissays
    November 13, 2021

    Yep. My confusion was thinking due north when it was really west/northwest.
    Another good oddity: A ship traveling the Panama Canal from the Atlantic to the Pacific goes northwest to southeast (because of the angle of the Isthmus).
    Other good oddities are U.S. cities: Buffalo is east of Miami, for instance.

    • sabresoftware
      November 13, 2021

      The southernmost point in Canada, Middle Island (just south of Pelee Island in Lake Erie) is further south than Crescent City California.

      My current favourite is that with a roughly 40 minute ferry ride you can travel from Newfoundland to France. Specifically the island group called St. Pierre et Miquelon, which is part of France. To quote Wikipedia, “… a self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France in the northwestern Atlantic Ocean near the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Saint Pierre and Miquelon is the remaining vestige of the once vast territory of New France. Its residents are French citizens; the collectivity is a full member of the National Assembly and participates in senatorial and presidential elections.”

      We had entertained the idea of visiting when we were in Newfoundland this summer, but the next available ferry booking was for the day that we were leaving the island, and we couldn’t have taken our rental car for insurance reasons anyway, and as the “boss” was on crutches walking, although feasible, was not in the cards.

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