Gorham Model Products

 

 

 

the former home of Gorham Model Products: 23961 Craftsman Road, Calabasas, CA

 

Reliable, controlled helicopter flight was not achieved until the late 1930's and early 1940's. In this era, research models were powered by electric drill motors and flown with umbilical cords carrying electric power and control signals up to the model.

It was not until 1959 when researchers at Lockheed successfully flew a truly self-contained radio controlled helicopter model. It would take another decade until R/C helicopters could become a viable hobby.

Most of the very early models, if they got off the ground at all, just rolled over and smashed their blades. By about 1974 or 1975, we had model helicopters that were fairly flyable by today’s standards, but the reality was that hardly anyone knew how to fly them! One
of these early model helicopter pilots was the late John A. Gorham, an aviation engineer by trade, and avid aeromodeler.

 

In 1979, Mr. Gorham was chosen by the producers of the film All Night Long to create a flying model helicopter for one of the film's planned scenes.

 

Of course, the producers wanted extra helicopters made, in case one should break.

There were, according to Mr. Gorham, six original Cricket helicopters made for the film.

 

Click picture to watch a test flight of the original Cricket prototype!

After the production of the film was complete, Mr. Gorham retained the rights to the Cricket design and tooling. He, along with his soon to be wife Louise, showed three of these intriguing little helicopters at the Long Beach hobby show that year. They wound up selling 55 kits on the spot, and taking orders for 500 more, as another early model helicopter pioneer, Dieter Schluter looked on from the next booth!

The rest, as they say, was history! The Gorhams founded Gorham Model Products (GMP) later that year, as the Cricket was an instant hit, receiving positive press reviews, television coverage, and widespread advertising.

1980's local LA newscast feature about GMP- push play to watch

 

 

Approximately 16,000 Cricket kits were produced. Driven largely by the widespread success of the Cricket, with 10 employees, and revenues of $795,000, GMP became the largest U.S. manufacturer of R/C helicopters, and was awarded the INC 500 award in 1983 as recognition for one of the fastest growing privately held companies in the United States.

 

While the Cricket remains the best known and remembered helicopter of this very early era of the hobby, the company later expanded its offerings and went on to sell a separate line of larger, high-performance collective-pitch helicopters based on Hirobo Falcon mechanicals, the  Competitor, Cobra, and Legend. GMP was also the sole U.S. distributor for Hirobo's own Shuttle, Stork, and Scale R/C helicopters. By  the early 1990's, GMP had produced yet another unique model helicopter design, the Rebel, and then went on to develop a new high performance, collective-pitch aerobatic helicopter, the Viper, however, the company went out of business before this model could be mass-produced.  

 

1988 promotional shot featuring all GMP models at the time, plus the Hirobo Shuttle & Stork SE.

(Rebel, Legend and Viper were designed 1989-90)

Towards the beginning of the 1990's, GMP's longstanding relationship with it's Japanese partner, Hirobo began to sour. GMP, once the exclusive United States distributor for Hirobo, had been gradually reducing Hirobo-sourced parts counts in its models. Hirobo and GMP departed from their exclusive relationship, and became embroiled in a major business dispute with each other.

Ultimately, the GMP-Hirobo dispute lead to to the termination of GMP's credit lines with its Japanese lender Mitsui Bank. By 1991, GMP had closed its doors permanently, never to be heard of again. 

Gorham Model Products is remembered today as the single most significant American R/C helicopter manufacturer in  the history of the hobby.

  

this website created in consultation with

the late John A. Gorham and the Gorham Estate

 

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