A-J Classics Air Mail
from Jeff Miller
Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho

Miss Unlimited story from Jeff Miller

Jeff Miller's Miss Pend Oreille

The American Junior Model Hydroplane "Miss Unlimited"
by the American Junior Aircraft Company

Miss Unlimited model boat by Jim Walker and American Junior

Miss Pend Oreille
a.k.a. Miss Unlimited
Designer: Jim Walker 1905-1958
Kit Manufacturer: American Junior Aircraft Co.
Builder: Jeff Miller 1944 -

I vividly remember, as a kid of 10 or so, flying the Interceptor by American Junior Aircraft Co. (Is there anybody over 45 that doesn’t remember that little balsa glider with blue & red graphics!?) I bought the A-J Model with fold-up wings that you could launch with a rubber band, and followed the optional instructions that explained how to enhance its performance by careful sanding of the wings and other empennage. Anyway, when I launched it, I chased it for more than two miles on my bicycle before it landed. That little glider was one of my favorite models. I didn’t realize that American Junior Aircraft Co. also made model boats.

Miss Unlimited model boat - American Junior Aircraft Company modelHowever, some 36 years later, while rummaging through some junk at a garage sale in Ketchum, ID near Sun Valley, ID (Hemingway’s hometown), I came across what appeared to be a very old model boat kit that someone, a long time ago, had started to put together. To my surprise the kit, Miss Unlimited, was manufactured by American Junior. The original owner had only glued a few of the bulkheads in place. At the time I was really into RC airplanes and helicopters, and there wasn’t much open water around. Consequently, Miss Unlimited went into the limbo state of “I’ll get around to it someday.” Well someday finally came about 13 years later! I was again rummaging through some old stuff that I had been lugging around with me from house to house for years, and there she was - Miss Unlimited. I looked at the plans and realized that this was now a really really old kit and was fascinated to see what she might develop into. A new project was begun.

Detail of the Miss Unlimited model by Jeff MillerThe first thing I did was disassemble what the previous owner had put together. This took some doing. That old glue is surprisingly durable, especially when it has had fifty years or so to dry. Assembly of the frame and hull went pretty fast - thank heaven for cyanoacrylate adhesive! The mahogany deck was another story. Anyone who could attach the deck to one of these models, using only the adhesives available in the 1950’s, has my profound admiration! After some carefully chosen “magic” words, some stress relieving notches, and my trusty old cyanoacrylate glue, I finally had the deck in place. The rest was a piece of cake. For power I installed a Graupner electric 700 marine motor with a Jeti Marine ESC. Both are water cooled. I also use 12 volt 3600 mAH batteries. Both plastic canopies had to be fiberglassed inside. Needless to say they were a bit brittle after that many years in storage. I also fiberglassed and gel-coated the hull. The mahogany deck has four coats of hand rubbed gel-coat. I had originally decided to paint her purple with yellow trim.

Miss Unlimited model boat built by Jeff Miller However, when I made the decals, the yellow lettering was too transparent to use over purple, so I switched the scheme to yellow with purple trim. Good decision! Her exhaust stacks are made from a wooden dowel “chromed” with bare metal foil. (I know, they should have six outlets per side instead of four.) I used a HiTec two channel radio and push-pull rudder control. She was named after the huge lake in Northern Idaho, where I live, called Lake Pend Oreille. If you’re interested you can look it up on the Internet. It’s about 35 miles long with 111 miles of shoreline, 1,300 feet deep and has a Navy submarine base named after Admiral Farragut.

Miss Pend Oreille’s performance with 12 volt batteries is outstanding. Under full throttle she throws up a nice rooster tail and looks very scale.

Jeff Miller


Jeff Miller built this model boat - A Miss Unlimited by American Junior Aircraft Company in Portland, Oregon

Here is an exerpt from the e-mail exchange between Frank Macy and Jeff Miller in July, 2006, just prior to writing this story. Jeff Miller lives in Idaho on the shore of lake Pend Oreille:

Hello Frank,

About 15 years ago I found an old wooden model kit of an unlimited hydroplane racer that was manufactured by American Junior Aircraft Company. The name of the kit is Miss Unlimited and it's 36 inches long. It was in a garage sale and most of the pieces were still in the box along with the plans. It sat around in the box up until about 3 months ago when I decided to put it together. I'm almost finished with it. (I'll send you a picture when it's done.) I fiber glassed and clear gel coated everything, leaving the deck and the bottom natural mahogany. I set it up as radio control and put a Dumas 700 electric motor in it, powered by a 12 volt battery. I don't know how fast it will be but it should really move, since the motor is rated to be more powerful than a .40 size gasoline engine.

Best regards,
Jeff Miller

Willie Willingham and Chuck Hein with Miss Thriftway and Miss Thriftway Too, boats by American Junior. Photo was taken around 1957 at the Westmoreland Casting Pond in Portland, Oregon
Willie Willingham (left) with the "Miss Thriftway" hydroplane by American Junior. Chuck Hein shows off his "Miss Thriftway Too." Photo taken around 1957 at Westmoreland casting pond in Portland, Oregon.

Hello Jeff Miller,

Good for you. I'm delighted that you made the decision to build Miss Unlimited. It was the largest boat kit that American Junior Aircraft Company produced. I've still got mine, N.I.B. The other popular models were "Miss Thriftway" (18 inches, 7 inch beam), and "Thriftway Too" (24 inch model with a 9 inch beam). These were designed by Ted Jones, world famous designer of popular racing hydroplanes. Production of the A-J racing hydroplanes was short lived, only because Jim Walker died in 1958. They were produced for 1953 to 1962, when Dumas Boats bought the boat end of the business and continued production for some years. Parts may stll be obtainable I would certainly enjoy a good photo of your A-J Racer. We will be happy to feature her in our "FireWire" newsletter.

Frank D. Macy

Watch a rare 1956-57 film clip of Jim Walker
with the Miss Thriftway model hydroplane
from our "Short Takes" film library

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