Sad news for those of us who are fans of historical rockets and things beyond "three fins and a nosecone" type rockets... Dr. Zooch started his company off with a desire to "rebuild the kits of his youth" that were lacking or not quite "all they could be" and improve them... most notably the Estes semi-scale BT-60 based Saturn V (K-21 kit number IIRC). The original was rather hard to build and flew "like a turd" (IIRC it was mentioned) and looked rather shabby. Wes redesigned and refined the idea and came out with a beautiful looking small Saturn V that was a great flier. Over time he added to his offerings, designing an entire "ant scale" lineup, and featuring his own unique cartooning skills and sense of humor as he crafted his instructions for his kits, guiding the builder through those instructions with the wise-cracking eponymous "Dr. Zooch", an ant-scientist developing rockets for his Crumman bretheren to go searching for treasures and invaluable resources like "used chewing gum" (what else WOULD ants look for??) Soon there was an entire fleet of Dr. Zooch creations, from Saturn IB's, Sputniks, Soyuz's, and Space Shuttles, to more unique and imaginative kits like the Lifting Body Shuttle, even SLS and Mercury Atlas's and Atlas/Agena's and his version of the Thor/Agena. Wes was challenged to make a better version of the Vanguard Eagle at a space conference in New Mexico back during the X-prize days, doing more justice to the rocket by making it a two-stager (like the prototype) and more realistic looking than the Estes X-Prize version. He came out with some "fun" kits too, like the Dr. Zooch "Gumball Lofting Vehicle" (GbLV) designed especially for kids (and kids at heart) wanting to fly small payloads inside the plastic toy containers disbursed from Gumball machines, fitted of course with their own parachute and coming back to Earth like a Soyuz capsule...Wes Oleszewski
To all of my friends and customers in the model rocket world... during 2018 Dr. Zooch Rockets will cease operations after having been in business for 14 amazing years. As of Friday, March 25 I have notified all of my retailers that I will no longer be taking orders and will be busy clearing the huge back-log of pending orders.
The reason for this is singular... it for my own personal health. As some of you may know I have suffered with three bad disks in my neck since December 2014. I was not then and am not now a good candidate for surgery, I have been going through pain management and physical therapy with good results... until I go back to the activity of filling boxes with rocket parts. Three times now that repetitive motion has aggravated my neck and caused the pain to return resulting in another spinal injection. Now I have a choice, either delete the repetitive motion, or go under the knife. My choice was to simply close the company.
Dr. Zooch has always made a profit- often very slim, but still remaining in the black. I have zero debt, because I always paid for everything I needed up front. So, it has been a great 14 year run and a lot of fun along the way. My thanks go out to the guys who gave me my start among them being Tim Van Milligan and Pat McCarthy both of whom went to Embry-Riddle with me and are charter members of the Avion mafia. One of the most key people all along has been Bill Saindon of Balsa Machining Service, whose custom parts and countless "rush" deliveries helped make my little company go. Thanks also the the MDRA, my home rocket club where nearly all Dr. Zooch flight tests took place.
Now, of course, what about me. No worries, the rocket company was a part-time gig anyhow. My 24th book will come out this April and my author's career is chugging right along- this'll probably be my second best-seller. Just visit Amazon and under "books" search my last name, "Oleszewski" I'm the only Oleszewski in that area- so most of my work pops up. I can also take time now to build and fly rockets just for fun again. Thanks to all of my Dr. Zooch customers- you are all super.
Wes's kits were innovative, coupling the use of paper modeling skills and building methods (pre-printed paper wraps glued to the outside of the rocket's structural tubes) to greatly simplify finishing and painting (usually eliminating it entirely) and creating quick and easy details (printed already right onto the wraps) and using some simple detailing (like cable tunnels and such crafted from bits of balsa, bamboo skewers, sanded dowel rods, etc) to make a small-ish "ant-scale" semiscale model rocket that looked FAR bigger and more impressive than it's somewhat diminutive BT-50 to BT-60 size component tubes would typically be considered to be... and to produce a kit that was an excellent flying rocket when done, and to do it for a price low enough that the rocketeer wouldn't be paralyzed with fear of "messing it up" or having to invest SO much time, effort, and skill into completing the kit that they'd be afraid of flying it for fear or losing it or having it 'rotting on a power line or in the top of a rocket-eating tree"... and if that fate DID befall it, Dr. Zooch always stood at the ready to "sell you another one!" His kits were also well capable of receiving extra attention from more advanced craftsmen who wanted to really make the rocket pop, by adding their own details and 'extras' to it to make a near "museum-quality" rocket that was STILL an excellent flying model rocket!
I had the privilege of being a Dr. Zooch Rockets "beta-builder" for a few years and built many of Wes's kits before they were available to the general public-- found problems, omissions, or errors in the instructions or other things that might prove to be "gotchas" when the kits were released for general sale, and reported all those things back to Wes to amend or address as he saw fit before releasing the kit... and, with his permission and blessing, do a number of detailed "build threads" of the kits on the various rocket forums of the time, to provide an easy-to-follow "visual guide" to building the kits, heavy with detailed step-by-step walk-throughs of building the kits and lots of pictures, to final "glamour shots" of the finished product, hopefully to help in some small way to drum up interest in the kits and perhaps even increase sales a bit... having been in rocketry off and on for most of my teenage and adult life, I can say without reservation that Dr. Zooch's kits were some of the most innovative, interesting, and cool kits I have ever built, and BY FAR the greatest value in rocketry in terms of "$$$/fun" ratio... Dr. Zooch's motto was, "If rocketry isn't fun, you're not doing it right!" and that's what every one of his kits embodied-- having fun, learning a little along the way, and hopefully improving your skills and abilities as a modeler and rocketeer as you went along-- and doing it all for about $20-30 bucks a kit!
Wes and Dr.Zooch WILL be SORELY missed... we can only hope at some point we might see Dr. Zooch return...
As the second "Golden Age" of model rocketry has seemed to falter and stumble over the past few years-- first with the loss of Carl McLawhorn and Semroc shortly thereafter, and the loss of many other good vendors and rocketry companies (such at The Launch Pad, Red Arrow Hobbies, etc), and others drifting into malaise or uncertainty (as both Quest has and Estes is in the middle of), it is truly sad and disheartening to see another fine rocketry company like Dr. Zooch shutting down...
Later and thanks for everything, Wes! Best wishes and best of luck to you and here's hoping your health improves!
OL J R