Friday, May 9, 2008

Leif's "First Car" - the RC-10

When Leif was in junior high school in Highland Park, Illinois, he was too young to have either a car or a driver's license, but too old for the Matchbox cars. That's when he discovered radio-controlled cars. He save his allowance and gift money to spend on them. The first kit he bought was made in China and in those days (about 1986) the "English" instructions were nearly unreadable. With his mechanical skills, he figured out how to put it together and soon had it racing up and down the street.

Of course, typical of Leif, he had to have a better one . . . and a better one. The top of the line in those days was the RC-10. It was expensive and it took him awhile to save up the money, but boy, was it fast and sleek! Not content with the "out of the box" version, he spent what seemed to be an endless amount of money on different gears, wheels, bodies, and then modified the body. You can see in this photo that he drilled numerous holes in the aluminum chassis to make it lighter and therefore faster.

The RC-10 proved to be his ticket to two outstanding science fair projects. First, in seventh grade, he designed and carried out an experiment on how different tire treads affected battery life and the length the car could go on a single charge. In 8th grade, he went all the way to the Illinois State Science Fair with his intricate and excellent experiment on how different gear ratios affected speed and distance. Perhaps in the next couple of days I'll post photos of him with his science fair displays.

The obsession with radio-controlled cars had an added benefit. Leif had always maintained he didn't like to read, and getting him to read school assignments and books for book reports usually was an unpleasant chore. However, he loved reading about model cars, sports cars and radio-controlled cars and subscribed to several magazines about them, which he read avidly.

Actually, it wasn't that Leif didn't like to read, just that he didn't like the kind of reading he was required to do. Hand him the "right" book, like Orson Scott Card's Ender series, beginning with Ender's Game, and he couldn't put it down.

One amusing thing about his subscriptions was the other mail he got because of them. Evidently the profile for someone subscribing to Car and Driver magazine, for instance, must have been for a yuppy, or at least a young man with some cash, and of age. Leif got frequent credit card offers at the age of 13 or 14. We had no success in stopping the flood of them until one night he sat down and filled out one of the applications . . . truthfully, stating his occupation as "junior high school student," and his income as his meager allowance, etc. To bad we couldn't have seen the face of whoever opened it.

I don't know what happened to his RC-10. I think he had it at least until he went into the Army in 1998, maybe even after that.

Among his things when he died was a radio-controlled car. Still having fun. Now his nephew will enjoy playing with it.

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