Philippe de Lespinay started with Heller, the French model kit company in the 1960s as a designer and project engineer. He also also worked for Cox, who are now known for their remote control and gas powered vehicles, but also created many kits over the years. More recently, he was the curator of the Los Angeles Slot Car Museum. And he’s on the hobbyDB Advisory Board, so yeah, he’s our kind of guy.
hobbyDB will be regularly sharing his insights on particular models he has worked on including production kits, never-produced projects, and his own custom builds. We hope you enjoy the journey through his career as well.
Read more about his history in the toy and model business here.
After the slot cars, I was put in charge of Cox Gas Powered Airplane Models, which was their core business along with gas powered models of cars and other toys. These were powered by the famous Cox .049ci marvel, entirely produced on “Coxmatic” screw machines. Specifially, I was head of the newly created styling department, then of the Research and Development department while keeping a firm hand on styling.
Cox studied the possibility of converting their U-control aircraft line to electric as pressure against excessive noise and use by children of dangerous fuels mounted. The miniature rechargeable battery technology was in its infancy, but we designed, developed and put into production several electric airplanes, the most commercially successful being a Supermarine Spitfire. The project was named “Falcon” after I drew this F16 that would have been propelled by an electric motor mounted in the tail.
The Falcon project led to several prototypes, the red one at left having survived. It was never put into production in favor of another design after visual testing by a group of 9-14 year olds. (A couple years later Cox would release a similar jet-styled plane, the F-15 Falcon, with the propeller in the front.)
Meanwhile, another project began, that of a low-cost, gas powered aircraft line. The “Wings” project led to a series of aircraft in which this dream machine I designed gathered the most votes in a test. The original line drawing is shown here.
The original line drawing is shown here as well as a wooden mockup and a production airplane under its blister pack. These are old factory documents.