A One of a kind Ziroli TBM Story.
Back in the early 2000s, Nick Ziroli Jr. wanted to design something extra special to compete with at Frank Tiano’s Top Gun Scale Invitational event. Since he hailed from Long Island, the famous Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo/bomber seemed most appropriate.
Nick Jr. designed and drew all the working plans for the 1/6-scale TBM model. He went on to build all the plugs and develop molds to produce the fiberglass fuselage and engine cowling, and he vacuum-formed the clear plastic canopy and gun turret. Nick Jr. then tackled the very daunting job of designing and machining the functional folding-wing mechanism. Nick Sr.’s longtime friend Bob Walker of Robart Manufacturing agreed to build the scale retractable landing gear and also helped Nick work out the design of the wing hinge locks.
The finished Avenger was a sight to behold. Powered by a Precision Eagle 4.2ci gas engine, the TBM was all done up in the U.S. Navy colors of future President George H.W. Bush.
The Avenger impressed everyone with its torpedo drop demo flights. The only real issue with the new model was that the folding wing mechanism gave the aircraft a very high wing loading, and it was subsequently damaged during one of the flights at Top Gun.
Undaunted, Nick returned to the workshop, removed the folding wing mechanism, and switched to lighter plug-in outer wing panels. The second time around Nick refinished his Avenger in the colors of the British Tarpon I. All went extremely well, or so it seemed, until the model experienced radio failure shortly after takeoff for the halftime show. The model climbed out at a high angle, tip-stalled, and came down hard, seriously damaging the airframe.
Nick Jr. had no intentions of completing the Avenger plans or offering them (or molded parts) for sale, but close friend Tony Kirchenko of Setauket, New York really wanted to build one. So Nick Jr. sent the damaged landing gear back to Robart for repair while he and Tony laid up another fuselage from the mold. They cut foam cores for the outer wing panels, and some months later, a new Grumman TBM, powered with a Quadra 75cc gas engine, rolled onto the Skyhawks’ flightline.
Tony’s new TBM featured a fully detailed cockpit interior, a droppable torpedo from its internal bomb/torpedo bay, and a retractable tail hook. Tony’s Avenger was just as impressive as the original. After owning it for several years, Tony decided it needed a new home as it was just too big was always cumbersome for Tony to move around.
Enter Jim McQueen of Wading River, New York. When Jim heard that Tony’s TBM was for sale, he jumped at the opportunity. You see, this was not only a Ziroli-designed TBM, it was the only flying Ziroli Avenger flying in the entire world! There are no others. You can’t build one, because there aren’t any plans available. And you can’t buy one, unless you make a deal with Jim, and I don’t think he intends to let go of this one any time soon.
But, if you really want to build your very own 1/6-scale TBM Avenger, give Nick a call (631) 467-4765, or visit their website: ZiroliGiantScalePlans.com. Nick bought the rights to the Charlie Kellogg TBM design and he offers plans and parts for it, so you can build your very own.
Full-size American Airpower Museum’s Avenger piloted by Nick Jr.
BY SAL CALVAGNA | PHOTOS BY SAL CALVAGNA & RICH URAVITCH