Wedell-Williams Model 22 / We-Will Jr
NR10337, Model 22 Prototype
Experienced air-racer James R. Wedell formed a business partnership in 1929 with millionaire Harry P. Williams after giving him flying lessons. Initial plans were to teach flying, provide an aerial photography service and win an airmail contract. Wedell's passion for air-racing led him to convince Williams to build a racer for the January, 1930 Miami Air Races.
This first aircraft was named "We-Will" but as development and testing continued it became apparent it would not be ready for the 1930 Miami event. Wedell halted development of the "We-Will" design and began two new aircraft, the "We-Winc" and the "We-Will Jr".
Of these two aircraft, the We-Will Jr would eventually evolve into the "Model 22". It was designed to compete in the American Cirrus Engine Company's "All-American Flying Derby". The only requirement was one of the Cirrus aircraft engines be used in the competing racer. Williams chose the supercharged 110 hp Hi-Drive engine which was a poplular choice of racers at the time. Gross weight was 1,660 lbs and it could carry 54 gallons of gasoline.
The race began at Detroit, Michigan on July 21, 1930 and was a 5,500 mile cross country endurance race that would end back in Detroit. Wedell, piloting the NR10337 and sporting the race number 17, was in contention for first place all the way to the stop at Houston. After this mechanical trouble hampered his efforts and reduced his finish to eighth place.
The NR10337 was next entered in the 1930 National Air Races in Chicago. With the underpowered Cirrus Hi-Drive the performance of the craft was disappointing. Wedell flew in the 350cu free-for-all, finishing third and in the 450cu free-for-all finishing fifth.
Wedell turned his attention to the larger We-Will and We-Willc, with the NR10337 languishing until 1932. In order to compete in the lower power classes, the aircraft was substantially rebuilt. The fuselage was shortened from the wing root aft, the wings were shortened while the Cirrus engine was retained. A Hamilton Standard ground adjustable propeller was fitted for the first time to the Cirrus. The cockpit and cowling were redesigned to be more aerodynamic. Aerodynamic wheel "pants" and "spats" made its first appearance on a Wedell-Williams design. The aircraft was re-registered as NR60Y and was officially designated "Model 22". In this configuration the NR60Y competed in smaller races throughout the south during 1932.
In preparation for the 1933 Los Angeles National Air Races, the NR60Y's Cirrus engine was replaced with a Menasco B6 Buccaneer air-cooled engine. Given race number 54, it was entered in the Shell Speed Dash 550cu race and piloted by W.A. McDonald. In the preliminary events, the Menasco proved troublesome and performance was disappointing. While taxiing, the Menasco engine backfired and ignited the fabric fuselage. The engine was removed from the frame and later installed in the NR64Y. The frame was placed in storage at the Western Airways hangar in Los Angeles until 1934 when Dave Elmendorf purchased it.
1933 brought more development on the Model 22. A second aircraft, NR64Y, was begun in cooperation with the Delgato Trade School in New Orleans. Construction of this aircraft was overseen by a senior mechanic E.D. Dennis. The entire rear fuselage was covered mainly with plywood utilizing a Delgato design. Not ready in time for the 1933 Nationals, NR64Y was trucked to Chicago for the 1933 International Air Races. After a brief test flight on September 1, the aircraft proved to be underpowered with the Menasco B6. Wedell entered one event but retired after a single lap. Testing continued briefly on February 5, 1934, but Wedell decided that further testing of the NR64Y was not warranted and donated the aircraft to Louisiana State University where it was eventually scrapped.
In 1934, Elmendorf began reconstruction of his Model 22. Al Novotny, a former Wedell-Williams employee was hired for the work. A Menasco B6 was fitted to the airframe. Elmendorf flew the NR60Y from Los Angeles to Cleveland for the 1935 National Air Races. He entered the 549cu race as number 22 and qualified fourth but finished a disappointing seventh. In 1936, Elmendorf sold NR60Y and it is presumed the airframe was scrapped.
Only the two were built at an estimated cost of US$4000 each in 1936.
A replica Model 22 is on display at the Louisiana State Museum, Patterson, Louisiana.
Model 22 replica in 1932 race trim.
Model 22 NR60Y
Engine: 1 × Menasco B6 Buccaneer, 160 hp at 1,975 RPM
Max cruise power: 120hp at 1,800 RPM (119.3 kW/89.48 kW)
Wingspan: 20 ft 0 in (6.1 m)
Length: 18 ft 0 in (5.49 m)
Height: 6 ft 5 in (1.96 m)
Maximum speed: 180+ mph (289.7+ km/h)
Crew: One pilot