Reviewing a timeless classic - designs come and go but the WOT4 kit prevails
My 13-year old daughter Beth is learning to fly. She enjoys the model shows, and we always pitch a tent at the Nationals. One of the joys of the weekend is sauntering around the trade village on day one with the knowledge that you can do it all again the next day... wonderful! Anyhow, we were doing the rounds at the 2006 Nats when we came across a stall with line upon line of ARTF (Almost Ready To Fly) boxes on the ground... an impressive display of modern ARTFery if ever there was. After a few seconds I realised that Beth was examining one particular box with unusual curiosity.
The box in question contained no ready-built wizardy, in fact it contained a Wot 4. The lid had been removed so the balsa and hardware were clearly visible. Beth took a long look at the box and, sensing her interest, I explained that this particular model had to be built by the purchaser as no pre-assembled structures were included. After a pause she shrugged her shoulders, "what's the point of that?" she questioned, adding a lorry load of irony as 13-year olds tend to do. I laughed, which only served to annoy her, so she re-iterated the point, "No, really, what's the point of building a model when you can buy one that's made for you?" She's was right to a certain degree, and I couldn't argue with her logic. But let's park this issue for now and celebrate an anniversary.
In all areas of design there are classics that stand out from the crowd, and when talking of classic R/C model aircraft a number of designs immediately spring to mind: Gangster, Junior 60, Super 60, Ugly Stick, perhaps even the Twin Star, to name but a few. That said, in my opinion there's a model that stands head and shoulders above this illustrious crowd, and of course I'm talking about the WOT 4, which still looks fresh after 25 years of service to the R/C cause. It's longevity in a competitive market are thanks to a combination of qualities:
Now, before you think I've joined the Chris Foss payroll, let's just get things in perspective. If we think of classic cars then I'm sure we would all agree that the Morris Minor is an automotive classic... but would you want to own one nowadays? Would you like to fit the family, luggage and your R/C models in a Moggy and drive 400 miles? I know I wouldn't. Similarly, the WOT 4 isn't a new design, indeed it hasn't been updated since the development of this, the Mk.3, during the mid ‘90s.
So, let's take a look at what the WOT 4 offers today's flyers. Can it still cut the mustard as a flying package? Does it represent good value for money? Would you want to own one, or is this model nothing more than a Morris Minor of the model flying world?
In a curious way reviewing a traditional kit like this is always more subjective than assessing an ARTF model. Success with the WOT 4 relies so much more on the building skill of the individual, whereas an ARTF presents everyone with the same set of finished components to assemble.
There's no doubting the care that's gone into the kit. The quality of the wood is superb; beautifully cut and packaged. My deluxe kit contained a nicely made fibreglass cowl and undercarriage set, items that are infinitely superior to those supplied with the standard kit and worth the extra outlay. The hardware package is fine, although most builders will replace the horns and clevises with their preferred items (I did).
The Wot 4 is described as a 'quick build' model, but this must be understood in the context that it requires building in the traditional manner. In this respect it's a quick build when compared to other traditional kits, but obviously not in comparison to an ARTF equivalent. Cutting, shaping, sanding and gluing balsa wood parts together is the order of the day to construct the model and achieve the desired shape and finish. This process isn't difficult, but some thought and patience is required in order to fully understand each part of the building sequence and its relation to the completion of what will hopefully be a successful flying model.
The wings are veneer covered foam core items, the tail surfaces are solid sheet balsa and the fuselage is a basic box structure. That's all I'll say on the construction as I don't want to bore you with a blow-by-blow account! Expect mess, lots of balsa dust and great satisfaction as you create your own model from the ground up. Personally, I’d describe the instructions as adequate, although perhaps that's being unkind since in truth they are pretty good. However, to a generation of flyers who've become accustomed to ARTF photo-step booklets the WOT 4's illustrated pages of text and diagrams will seem to have come from another age. They work well but sometimes require repeated study to digest a particular stage.
MATTER OF CHOICE
It's been a while since I built from a kit or plan, so as construction progressed I started to remember some of the advantages that 'real' building can bring, e.g. the ability to 'engineer in' my own preferences. For instance, I like to use snakes to operate the control surfaces on my sports models; these are nearly impossible to retro-fit into ARTF models but are easy to build into a WOT 4's partially completed fuselage.
Likewise, rather than take the skin off my hands whilst reaching small bolts through the back of the engine firewall, I fitted the motor mount before adding the top fuselage sheeting, thereby allowing plenty of space whilst making the job easy. I also added some extra pieces of wood inside the fuel tank bay, which acted as bearers for the tank so it had a nice platform to sit on. It's funny how just a few years of ARTF model assembly have conditioned me to accept their engineered shortcomings.
The WOT 4 entertains a number of building options such as flaps, separate wing servos and the like, but I preferred to keep things simple by using a single, central, wing servo and leaving out the flaps. Truth is, the model's slow-speed handling is so good that flaps shouldn't be necessary unless flying space is very limited or your landing approach is short. In practice the (full-length) ailerons produce a snappy enough roll rate with a single servo, although do note that the addition of flaps will reduce both their length and effectiveness.
I finished my model in the traditional WOT 4 scheme shown on the box artwork, and although I've seen some very pretty Wots over the years I think this is still the best. Incidentally, adding the colour trim was simplicity itself, thanks to the optional sticker set available from Chris Foss Designs.
When the model's complete you'll look at it and say to yourself, "I built that," and (trust me) you'll already feel more connected to the thing than you would if someone in China had built it for you.
It's difficult to know where to start when describing the WOT 4 in the air. It's so versatile, so forgiving, so flexible and just so much fun that all I can really say is that it's what you make it. The only limiting factors to success will be your building techniques, flight set-up methods and, of course, flying skills.
With a new O.S. 46LA two-stroke in the nose my Wot had enough power for good punchy sports flying along with a pretty satisfying vertical climb rate. The suggested starting throws are comfortable enough, and the powerful ailerons induce a satisfying roll rate. The model spins and flicks with ease and recovers well, my example needed only a breath of down elevator to hold inverted flight. The slow speed handling is excellent, and the model will hover (and even fly backwards!) in a strong wind.
All told the model is the perfect trade-off, enjoying the traits of a fun-fly mixed with those of a more traditional aerobatic ship... one minute you can 3D it (up to a point), the next you can carve jet-like patterns across the sky, along with everything in-between.
LIFE IN THE OLD GIRL?
Some might say that by today's standards the WOT 4 is edging towards the expensive. The deluxe kit is around £90, and to that must be added the cost of purchasing wheels, spinner, fuel tank and covering materials (four sheets of Solarfilm); an extra £30 or thereabouts. Some very fine ARTF sports models can be had for this sum, although in some cases substandard wheels, fuel tanks and spinners require replacement anyway.
Expense is one measure but value is another thing entirely, and it's to this mark that we need to turn when assessing the WOT 4 in today's world of read-built convenience. If you've built (rather than assembled) a model yourself then you'll find it easier to repair thanks to the structural knowledge you acquire during the build. Accordingly, the WOT 4's simple structure means that only very severe damage will end its life. It was designed for British flying fields; one glance at the model is enough to see how strong it is. It isn't riddled with lightening holes, there's no brittle liteply, and the fit of the parts is such that there won't be any dubious glue joints (provided the builder does his job, of course!) This model should last for many seasons and will still be flying when your latest ARTF sports hack has fallen apart.
Faults are hard to find, my only thought lies with the instructions which, as mentioned above, could be tweaked to appeal to today's generation of ARTF assemblers. The WOT 4 was designed as a follow-on for those who had previously built a trainer in the traditional manner and therefore had a grasp as to how a model goes together. Those who have only put together ARTF kits need to appreciate the relative ease with which the model is built, something the existing instructions don't always convey. It would be nice to see some wheels and a fuel tank in the box just for sake of completeness, although I know some flyers prefer to choose their own hardware.
If you're an ARTF assembler who (like Beth) can't see the point, then I hope I've gone some way to convincing you that the WOT 4 is worth trying. If throwing a model together in a few evenings leaves you a little jaded then you may just find that a traditional kit such as this is all you need to widen your horizons and enhance your enjoyment of the sport. Go on, give it a try! Who knows, with this one under your belt you could find yourself heading for the balsa pile in the SLEC tent at the next model show, sourcing the necessary for a ground up, plan-built project. Who would have thought it?
KEEP ON TRUCKIN'
25 years on, I think there remains a place for the WOT 4. She's a lovely aeroplane with decided advantages over today's range of ARTF sports hacks, and is just waiting to be discovered by a generation who have grown up on these 'convenience' models. It's good to see your kits are still with us, Mr Foss.
Name: WOT 4
Aircraft type: Sports aerobatic
Manufactured by: Chris Foss Designs
Tel / Fax: 01273 452642
RRP 2013: £104 (deluxe kit)
Wingspan: 56'' (1422mm)
Wing area: 4.1sq.ft. (0.38sq. m.)
All-up weight: 4.5- 5.5 lb (2 - 2.5kg)
Wing loading: 17 - 22oz / sq. ft. (5.2 - 7.7kg / sq. m.)
Control functions: Aileron, elevator, rudder, throttle, optional flaps
Rec’d motor: .30 - .60 two-stroke or .40 - .90 four-stroke
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