Category Archives: Morrison
Billed as “America’s most durable model car,” the Silver Rocket Special entered the miniature race car world late in 1938. It was initially campaigned in the Oakland Bay area by Roy Mayes, Don Coad, and Ted Morrison.
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The cars were manufactured by the Sky Devil Model Company of Oakland, California. Sky Devil, owned by Ted Morrison, was founded in the early 1930s and primarily produced model airplanes. Most of the kits were of the twenty-five cent rubber-powered variety. The most well known were the Ace series: Ace, Baby Ace, Mono Ace, and so on. The company also produced an auto-gyro kit and a twin engine Sikorsky amphibian.
The original patterns for the Silver Rocket were designed and built by Sky Devil’s owner. After castings were received from a local foundry, all of the machine work was done by Morrison, a self-taught machinist, on a six-inch lathe purchased for the task from Sears Roebuck. The cars were powered by Ohlsson engines. The wheels were die-stamped steel, made in two halves fastened together with four bolts, and had a brass machined center. Tooling for the wheels was the product of Don Coad. Tires were of the Spin-Tru variety and were purchased from Don Baab.
The car was offered for sale either as a complete kit or, for those who wanted to make their own body, as a chassis-only kit. All of the kits featured fully polished castings. Both headrest and flat-tailed versions were available for those kits supplied with bodies. The kits also featured two grille variations. The first cars produced had a narrow, heart-shaped grille with a single vertical center bar. Later cars had a grille that stood straight up and down with three chevron-style horizontal bars, in addition to the vertical bar. The majority of the cars produced had the single bar grille.
According to Roy Mayes, an employee of Sky Devil, between thirty-five and fifty cars were produced. Mayes was one of the primary racers campaigning the Silver Rocket. He claims that the car was very weak in the area where the engine mounted to the frame and often failed in that location. Mayes recalls the car being produced with a two-piece gearbox that was split in the middle. Although several cars have been seen with a “screw together” gearbox, Mayes claims that Morrison had no way of machining anything other than the two-piece model. Roy Mayes left Sky Devil in 1939 and went to work for Jim Brown, who was producing the Thermite engine. Mayes says he left Sky Devil primarily for health reasons. With polishing dust from the cars, balsa dust from the airplane kits, and Ted Morrison’s heavy smoking, it was nearly impossible to breathe in the shop.
According to Mayes, one of the best accessories built by Ted Morrison was the Ted Way clutch. This was a centrifugal clutch with the shoes on the drive unit rather than the flywheel. With this design, the engine could be started and run at full speed without the gearbox turning over. Then when the car was pushed off, the centrifugal weights would make contact with the inside of the flywheel and gradually pull the car up to speed. by Ed Tate
Morrison Silver Rocket