This text appeared in American Modeler, October-November, 1964, one of a series of articles on then well known model manufacturers (who happened to be regular AM advertisers).
Our first [visit is] with Hi Johnson at the Van Nuys (California) plant of Dynamic Models Inc., found him turning out a batch of new cylinder heads which he figured should boost the already potent output of his Johnson .35's. Hi is always ready to stop work and talk to "visiting firemen"—which he promptly proceeded to do. We were at the plant to get the story of its founding and the first experiences of "Mr. Dynamic" in model plane building. Seems H. J. found a design for a flying model in a rather ancient school library book. Being 1923—and in Northern Utah—there were no hobby shops nearby, so apple crates were cut up for the necessary wood, cement was made by boiling down pigs feet (he lived on a ranch), and the plane slowly took shape. Finished in late November, it had to be equipped with skis for the first trials. To his utter amazement the plane rose off the snow, travelled some 50' at an average altitude of 30'. Success!
After he entered high school he continued to build models until his Senior year when something in the same line, but much bigger, occupied his interest. With a few pals he constructed a full size "boy-carrying" glider, the first ever built in the state. It was taken out and flown on nearby dunes, left staked down at night. Why no necks or other human parts were not broken Hi doesn't know—but the parents of the budding aviators must have become more and more worried as the flights grew longer and more daring. For when the young fliers reached the dunes one day, they found their glider chopped to bits. As Hi quietly puts it, "That ended the glider phase".
He built his first gas model in 1939, a Fireball ukie with a Bullet engine, flown on the end of fishing line. At the time he had no idea of going into the model biz—this urge came after he had spent seven years as an aero engineer at Lockheed. Once out of big plane design and into the little ones, he found his engineering experience most useful. In fact he still treasures a dog-eared set of old NACA reports, refers to them constantly. Hi notes that up until the time Lockheed got into the very high speed (for that time) P-38, many of the planes he worked on operated in Reynolds Number ranges comparable to models and their props.
Late in 1945, Hi formed Burbank Mfg. Co., turned out kits for the Madman Jr. and Sr., Go-Devil Jr. and Sr., and Johnson built props. This firm was absorbed by Henry Engineering Co. (Veco Products) and Hi was a partner there before leaving to form KenHi with Ken Adams. Again the product was model plane kits, some of which are still marketed (Midwest Products is kitting the Johnson Cougar, may do some other old Johnson designs).
When the Ken-Hi partnership was dissolved, Johnson went to work for Litton Industries. This firm had considerable grinding done at the little plant of Henry Orwick, who was then producing the hot Orwick engines. Henry had decided custom grinding was a lots better business than making model engines, offered to sell Hi all his tools and Orwick engine parts at very low cost. Thus Hi found himself for the first time in the model engine business and produced 5000 copies of what was the first Johnson engine. Hi then went into a real study and development program on small engines, turning out, as he puts it, "a 20 gallon barrel" full of experimental jobs, until he finally had what he wanted. By this time money in the young firm of Dynamic Models had run out, and he had to take a full time job in order to eat, meanwhile trying to produce the new engine design at night. This soon proved to be a hopeless setup—he figured it would take some 10 years of day-and-night work before the model company could support him full time.
Fortunately at this juncture an angel appeared. Bill Jame50n with whom Hi had worked at Litton land who was VP and Chief Engineer at the time) put up sufficient money to get the model firm going on its own and Dynamic Models was finally on the way. Business-wise this was fine, but Johnson points out he has had little time for model building and flying since. In fact he hasn't done any competition flying in 20 years. Dynamic moved to its present location in '59.
In 1960 the concern bought out Holland Engineering and Bob Holland was added to the Dynamic staff. An extensive development program was started, one result of which was the Holland Hornet (which took more Nats places in 1962 than it had in '61 and has had continuous small improvements ever since). This, by the way, was the first engine of anywhere near this size with variable speed carbo Bob stayed at Dynamic till the end of '61, when he went into the Missile Division at Lockheed. But before he left he had designed a small engine of which Dynamic produced well over 100,000 copies, for a large firm then just getting into the model field. During the period these engines were pouring out of the plant, there were as many as 45 employees at Dynamic (the present average is 16) and they had to work in several shifts. Holland still does some consulting work and engine testing for Dynamic.
Most modellers don't realize that there is another Johnson holding a vital position at Dynamic. This is Stan, no relation to Hi, who joined the firm in '59 to help out on management problems. Raised in Northern California, Stan had studied economics, had worked in many countries in the farm equipment business. Starting in this line in Detroit, he went to Toronto, then to South America, living in 11 different places within the space of 10 years. Back in California, he worked first on a part time basis at Dynamic, then full time. Stan handles the business end-sales, promotion, advertising, pricing.
Another essential employee, who has been with the firm since 1948 is chubby, smiling Jack Garcia. Competitors in Combat, Rat Race, Team Racing and other speed events know Jack well; he is very active and very successful in these fields. Along with Hi, Jack attends every Nationals; while Hi takes care of "public relations" for Dynamic, considers new products they might manufacture, Jack takes along a good stock of engine parts, makes sure that Dynamic engines owned by Nats contestants are working at peak efficiency. Jack also handles engine hopup work at the factory, assists Hi Johnson in special jobs.
The engine range includes the potent Johnson .29 and .35's (which won all Combat categories in the '62 Nats, repeated again in '63, won many other places as well); there is a BB.36 in this series, with the Johnson AutoMix carburator, intended for R/C and other variable speed flying. Several factory hop-ups are offered on these engines. At the small end of the line we find the Holland Hornet, made in both .049 and .051. The Bulldog .09 is a compact and hot little job that may also be had with variable speed fittings for R/C purposes; it is a Hi Johnson design (with Holland consultation), very light for its power.
Dynamic accessories are very numerous, include countless sizes and types of control line cables, 4 types of glow plugs, replacement glow heads for several makes of engines, R/C wheel brakes and carbs. Still stocked is the Auto Pitch prop; however, replaceable blades with considerably more area are now made for this unit. The hub is sold separately, blades in several sizes are extra. This is not a variable pitch prop; it is intended to operate at only two pitch settings, one for normal flying, one for low speed.
Latter will allow "idling" at 5,000 to 6,000 RPM so no fussy carb settings are required. When in low pitch (can be adjusted to suit your plane and engine) the prop offers considerable air resistance—you can even set it to give negative thrust. This produces a steep glide, can take the place of flaps on an R/C plane—but does require a different landing technique.
In an effort to level out seasonal variations in the model plane line, Dynamic has gotten into the rapidly expanding slot racing car field. They started with wheels of several types, precision axles in a variety of lengths, and knock-off style wheel nuts. A large slot racing track has been built (atop Hi Johnson's office and shop) so that products in this field may be thoroughly tested.