Torpedo Boats, ELCO WW2 Torpedo Boats

This article was published May 17, 2012.

How a Nice Plastic Kit from the past could be a nice Radio Controlled Scale Model in the future...

Laying sick autumn 99, I was thinking of old projects from my early teenage period. Suddenly it come to my mind, US Navy Torpedo Boat PT167, that one with the very special colouring. Quick hunt round in the attic I found the box with the plastic kit I built at around age 15, for now more than 20 years ago.. This is a Revell kit probably out of sale, hopefully not making me a criminal publishing the front-picture below. The picture is so beautiful, I can't resist showing it here. This is something really nice looking forward to..


This first picture is typical of this type of camouflage. No set pattern was ever used. Bands of black and white (looks more like purple and white if you ask me) did vary in spacing as well as width. This type of camouflage is used to confuse the enemy gunners as it tends to break up the lines of the ship making gun-sighting much more difficult.


Interesting facts

Contrary to popular belief, the US Navy's PT boats were not made of plywood. They were planked in a conventional manner, the hulls being double-diagonal planked with a layer of canvas in between the layers. The decks were planked in a conventional longitudinal style. Plywood only bends one way, so the only place it could be used on the PT's was in some of the deck structures, specifically the gun tubs for the .50 cal machine guns and the radio room and dayroom. Elco, which built most of the US PT boats, set up an assembly line on which the hulls were built upside down, and then turned over for installation of the interior, deck, and deck structures.

Another popular misconception about PT boats is that they used the same V-12 aircraft engine that was used in fighters like the P-51 Mustang. The engine used in the P-51 was actually the Rolls-Royce designed Merlin that powered British planes like the Hawker Hurricane, the Supermarine Spitfire, and the de Havilland Mosquito. When the Merlin engine was later fitted to the P-51, Packard was awarded the contract to build this engine under license in the US. The Navy's PT boats did use V-12 engines made by Packard, but they were not aircraft engines. The Packard marine engine was derived from the V-12 engine they had developed for racing hydroplanes in the 1930s, particularly the boat 'Miss America X', which had four of these engines in tandem pairs. Packard's racing engine design had in turn been based loosely on the Curtiss Liberty V-12 aero engine, which was developed by Curtiss Aircraft at the end of World War I. So the only similarities between the engine used in the P-51 and the engine used in PT boats was the manufacturer, the number and arrangement of the cylinders, and the use of high-octane aviation fuel. In all other respects, the two engines were completely different designs. The Packard marine V-12 initially developed a maximum of 1,200 horsepower. Improvements made to the design during the war eventually resulted in the engine developing a maximum of 1,500 horsepower.

The two primary US manufacturers of PT boats during World War II were Elco and Higgins. While the two designs had numerous differences, they both used the same engine. Each PT boat had three engines. In the Elco design, the two outside or wing engines were mounted backwards in the engine room and drove their propellers through Vee-drives. The center engine was mounted conventionally, with a direct drive to its propeller. In the Higgins design, all three engines were mounted conventionally with direct drives to their propellers. The engine throttles were controlled by the skipper at the helm. The transmissions were shifted by the motor mechanic in the engine room. Communication between the helmsman and the motor mechanic was through mechanical shift indicators linked to the throttle levers, and by a sound-powered intercom system.

This text written by C. Marin Faure, email

Model Boat, Magazine

The November number 1999, includes a complete article with drawing in 1:32 scale. Call +44 01858 - 435344 for orders (Nexus House, switch-board +44 01322 660070, fax 01322 667633). Also, check out Modelboats Magazine Website, which has a shorted copy of the same article.