The Society of Antique Modelers

Who we are and what we do

Do you love building and flying your own classic model airplanes, from the earliest antique models that got our hobby off the ground to the Golden Age of model aviation in the 1950s? Do you enjoy camaraderie with others of like mind who have similar hobby interests? If you can answer yes to either of these questions and you love balsa and wood construction, catching thermals, and gently floating around in the air, the Society of Antique Modelers (SAM) might be for you.

Past avid modelers Lee Freeman, John Pond, and Martin Schindler (all now deceased) sparked SAM into being in 1962 to revive the early days of model aviation and to set up guidelines for Old-Timer competition. These guidelines are now the basis for the SAM competition rules that govern most of the Old-Timer contests.

jim correl and his goldberg valkyrie
02. Jim Correl and his Goldberg Valkyrie that was built in 1984 and still in perfect condition in 2021!

There is one rule book that presently follows the 2020 rules, and it’s scheduled to be updated by 2025. When you join the organization, a copy of the rules is sent to you with your membership card. SAM has been fortunate to receive management and guidance from a strong team of former and still active SAM presidents.

Our experienced members include many who are considered some of the best builders in the world. The list of past and present members who are and were giants in our hobby would be too long to print here. A few key names that you might recognize include Sal Taibi, Frank Zaic, Carl Goldberg, Herb Kothe, Ed Lidgard, Chet Lanzo, Joe Dallaire, Bud Romak, and Leon Shulman. They all had an impression on us one way or another, and there are many other giants on whose shoulders we stand.

At age 93, Bud still actively flies and competes with us on a regular basis. We also work with younger groups, and many father-and-son or father-and-daughter teams also. Our wives or relatives often time for us at contests.

SAM encompasses youth and modelers who are still young at heart—men and women ages 11 to 90, and some are older than 90 years old! We have more than 800 members in chapters from all 50 states and Canada, plus chapters worldwide, from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Slovak Republic, and Sweden. Many of these SAM chapters sponsor competitions, flying for fun, and probably a good deal of friendly discussion.

SAM offers both Free Fight (FF) and RC events and rules. Originally, members were FF only, then as RC developed, the SAM members embraced RC as "RC Assist." Today, there are more RC pilots than FF modelers, but we love both genres.

The vintage models flown by SAM members are those designed, published, or available as kits during the decade of the 1930s to the beginning of World War II. For many years, SAM models had a cutoff date of 1943. With our ever-changing membership age being younger, the cut-off date with the 2020 rules was increased to include models up to 1951.

It was a time when practical model airplanes were developed and made available so that anyone could build and fly one—and hundreds of thousands did.

the cake made for the 2021 sam
03. The cake made for the 2021 SAM Champs banquet.
a modeler gets ready to launch
04. A modeler gets ready to launch a Lanzo Bomber at the 2021 SAM Champs in Muncie IN.
the lanzo bomber takes off
05. The Lanzo Bomber takes off.

We know where the balsa and building supplies are, as well as laser cutters for what are called short kits. One of the most extensive kit product lines is produced by Bob Holman, of San Bernardino, California.

One of the most popular Old-Timers and best flying models is the Lanzo Bomber. It is often said, "The only model that beats a Bomber is another Bomber."

After the aircraft are built, the next step for some SAM members is competition. The annual SAM Champs takes place in the US, but is open to worldwide SAM chapters, including many in Europe.

Multiple area, regional, or chapter contests also regularly take place. One of the favorites and most well attended is the Southwest Regionals, held in Eloy, Arizona, in mid-January. The contest has been held in Eloy for 51 years, and pilots count on experiencing balmy weather for this three-day event. FF has crossover with AMA events.

The 2022 SAM Champs are set to be held October 17-21 at the Eldorado Dry Lake in Boulder City, Nevada. Come and see us or consider entering the contest. You need to be a current AMA member to compete. If you have never been to Las Vegas—or have and love it—the contest is only 30 minutes away from the strip. The Nevada weather at that time averages 75° F.

For the FF enthusiasts, the Dry Lake—which is roughly 2 × 4 miles with no obstructions—is the only site for the SAM Champs at which the rule book Texaco Gas event is flown. Smaller sites (including the International Aeromodeling Center in Muncie, Indiana) are not conducive to these events. In those contests, we run until the engine is out of fuel, and then glide for as long as possible.

a view of the sam champs concours
06. A view of the SAM Champs Concours d’Elegance, where the best-looking airplanes are voted on by the members.
Another picture of the Another picture of the Concours d’Elegance judging. d’Elegance judging.
07. Another picture of the Concours d’Elegance judging.
tandy walker
08. Tandy Walker’s Cleveland Cloudster is in the midst of construction.

At the annual SAM Champs, the final night of the contest includes an awards banquet. The winners of the Concours d’Elegance, or "beauty" contest, that is held earlier in the week are announced, and the main event champions are named. The Concours winners are models that are a delight to behold and must also have been flown at least once.

Many of our members publish information in group emails, on RC Groups, or other places. They share the progress of their aircraft’s construction and many building hints. Currently, our most popular builder is Tandy Walker, of Texas, who makes meticulous models.

As with other organizations, SAM also moderates an online chat group and Facebook page that are dedicated to our own topics. SAM is an AMA Special Interest Group (SIG). As a SIG, we charter our own contests, but they are open to any AMA members.

In Model Aviation magazine, the author of the bimonthly "Old-Timers" column is Bob Angel, a SAM Hall of Fame member and tough guy to beat at the contest level. His column is always instructional and fun to read.

Another publication available to SAM members is SAM Speaks. This newsletter is published multiple times per year and is available online.

We have captured documentation, photos, manuals, plans, and magazines and put many into digital format to save forever. One of our members and SAM Speaks editor, Roland Friestad, offers these to the public on his website. You can have, for instance, every Model Airplane News from #1 to 1970 on a few storage cards, and not take up half a garage!

Included with this article is a montage of photos to encourage you to join SAM and be with us on the field, at gatherings, and just have plain fun. Thermals, fun, and friends …


jack hiner and his lanzo racer
01. Jack Hiner and his Lanzo Racer—all 12 feet of it!



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