1959-1960: The Missile Tor
From Alessandro’s passion for flying, the Tor missile was born, a toy missile which took advantage of the launching mechanism with an elastic sling and can reach a hundred meters of height. Alessandro applied aerodynamics by inventing a mechanism to offset the opening of the parachute o the time it would start to fall back down to the ground, without damage to the missile.
Here are the words of Alessandro Quercetti in regards to this:
“How did this idea come about? The spark was a small doll that could be shot with a sling; it could reach the first floor, more or less. A tier held the small puppet and a little folded-up parachute, when the tier untied itself, it would let them loose. It was the period of missiles launched by the Russians; lacking means of recovery, they would often go lost, burnt during re-entry.”
The description coincides perfectly with Eolo Paracadutista, a flying toy which had a discreet success, made by Aerogiocattoli Giolitto di Torino, founded by that same Roberto Giolitto who we have already mentioned in the elastic-driven air model contests of the Thirties. Another example of flying toys, made by the same Turin firm, is the Astronave Medusa (Medusa Spaceship), perhaps the first example of a missile to launch with a sling, using a parachute to return to the ground without damage to the summit capsule.
The success of the Tor was so great that the newspaper Unità wrote, in 1959:
“A toy-missile to be thrown with a sling Astronaut scientists are greatly embarrassed: the toy has in fact solved one of the toughest problems of missile technique: the recovery not just of the nose cone, but of the whole missile… It is true: the Soviets have already given some proof of getting dogs and bunnies back in one piece after a launch into the high spaces of the stratosphere.
The Americans have also attempted, although with a few failed attempts, however a monkey at least made it back alive. Yet the toy missile is something that is both enchanting and astonishing at the same time. It is the last novelty for the young ones, who unlike the past generations, find themselves benefitting each day from the progresses of technique.
The missile we speak of (albeit the odd joke about the real ones) is a cone with a 25 millimeter diameter and 25 centimeters long. It is thrown by a common sling with an elastic band. A strong lad can easily ‘shoot’ his plastic missile at least 50 meters up into the air, by means of the rubber band being hooked to the two winglets just below the nose cone.
How do you retrieve it though? The beauty of the toy missile lies precisely here. The cylindrical part of the missile, up to the area where the two winglets for launching it are located, is sliced horizontally and opens just enough (via a lever at the end of the missile) to let out a nylon parachute. Now when it is launched, the air pressure keeps the two halves of the cylinder held together: however once the missile starts falling back down to Earth, this pressure decreases naturally and the lever flicks down, opening the cylinder and out pops the parachute, allowing the missile to glide softly back to the ground, preventing the missile from being destroyed.
The parachute is then easy to fold back up and placed back inside the cavity, ready for a new launch. The toy missile, which has just recently appeared in shop windows in Milan, is sold for the price of 500 Lire. It comes with colour decals which the child can add on to his liking in order to give it a more exciting look. There are two types on sale, to be precise: a nylon parachute version, and one with rotating wooden blades.
The principal is identical for both: if one chooses the version with blades, when the missile starts falling, the wooden horizontal blades spring out instead of a parachute, depositing the missile on the ground in a similar way to a helicopter. The price is the same. Even more than children, this novelty has enticed the fancy of many parents, who have tried out the missile’s antics, surrounded by a group of envious youngsters, ready to criticize each failed launch. [Grom]”
Today the Tor is still in production after over 50 years and is the Quercetti toy which enjoys most sales, with 14 million pieces distributed worldwide.