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The history of Russkit — in ads


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#1 ravajack

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Posted 11 November 2010 - 06:23 PM

In 1959, 34 year old Jim Russell was looking for something to do on a weekend when a friend introduced him to a novel new hobby called slot car racing. Russ, as everyone calls him, was hooked.

Then, in early 1963 while refinishing a coffee table, some Behr varnish spilled on one of Jim's cars. He didn't notice until after it dried but the effect was dramatic. Ever the entrepreneur, Jim decided to market his discovery and a new product and company were born.

Russkit was incorporated in November of 1963 but its first product, Russ-Cote, actually hit the shelves in the summer of that year. Russell had quit his job as an accountant and management consultant in April to concentrate on getting a product line together for the new company so he started selling out of his car while he put together the financing and organization for the enterprise. The timing couldn't have been better as interest in slot cars was just starting to climb.

(More on the early days of Russkit here.)

The summer of 1963: The very first Russkit product, Behr varnish is filled in small bottles and re-labeled ”Russ-Coat”.

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In late 1963, the very first ad for the new enterprise Russkit appeared in the October issue of the Model Car Science
magazine: "Superleggera" (=featherlight) plastic bodies. (The same ad was run again in the November issue of MCS.)

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The next ad to be seen from Russkit wasn't until august 1964, this time in the Car Model magazine. And in color.
A future classic is introduced: The revolutionary pistol grip controller. Patent pending.

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Another ad, another magazine. Model Car & Track, September 1964. Pistol grip controller again. Hairy stuff.

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Another future classic: The Russkit 22 motor is introduced. Mabuchi becomes increasingly popular, and the small but
powerful motor is soon gaining huge momentum on the market thanks to the Russkit introduction. The first ad is seen
in Car Model in October 1964. (The same ad is issued again in Model Car & Track in November 1964.)

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#2 ravajack

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 11:15 AM

March 1965, Car Model and Model Car & Track: Tired of losing? Russkit's Victory Kit was the remedy.

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April 1965, Car Model, Model Car & Track, Model Car Science: Along came the Spyder; Cooper & Ferrari kits.

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June 1965, Car Model: Blueprint for Victory, another ad for the Spyder kits, Cooper & Ferrari.

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June 1965, Model Car & Track: Thumb numb, a split spread ad for the new ”Comfort Grip” Russkit controller.

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July 1965, Model Car & Track: The Blueprint for Victory Spyder ad in grayscale version.

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August 1965, Model Car Science: The Blueprint for Victory Spyder ad in a darker grayscale version.

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September 1965, Model Car & Track: Get Down to Brass Facts, stuff for the scratchbuilding buff.
(The same ad was run again in the November issue of Car Model).

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October 1965, Car Model: The 4WD ”Black Widow” was the Russkit way of getting rid of surplus stock of old "22" motors.

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November 1965, Model Car & Track: The ”Black Widow” ad again — in color!

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December 1965, Car Model: The ”Black Widow” grows larger, but the message is the same.

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#3 Steve Deiters

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 12:18 PM

Great pictures.

It never ceases to amaze me as I look back that at least in format the descendents of the Russkit controller are still the "controller of choice" in slot racing circles 45+ years latter. Makes you kind of wonder if the Cox controllers with the plunger that had "cooling fins" wouldn't have kept hangin" up on the controller halves or if the the Towerstat had switched to a Lexan case that didn't melt giving the nick name of "Toaster", things would have been different. Guess we'll never know!!

#4 Prof. Fate

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 12:19 PM

Hi,

As Philippe has observed, the "Black Widow" was a device to just sell off a lot of obsolete Russkit 22s! I have one I acquired in a trade that I like to drag out of the kids and "show and tell".

Fate
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#5 TSR

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 12:32 PM

Mike Morrissey designed the chassis for the Black Widow according to Jim Russell.
Philippe de Lespinay
 
"We are the D..., uh, the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile"

#6 don.siegel

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 06:23 PM

Not quite an ad, but a sort of advertorial, as there were so often in the slot car mags... Mr. Russell did nice work!

Don

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#7 don.siegel

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Posted 15 November 2010 - 06:25 PM

And I can't resist adding this one: Team Russkit!

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#8 ravajack

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 03:58 PM

February 1966, Car Model: all Eyes are on the Leader – parts galore.

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March 1966, Car Model: A new, smaller and less expensive pistol grip controller.

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April 1966, Car Model: Same controller ad as in march – only in grayscale.

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May 1966, Car Model: A classic debuts – The Carrera pan chassis sidewinder series.

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June 1966, Car Model: Mabuchi alternatives — the elusive ”24” and the more common ”34”.

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July 1966, Car Model: Big Gun & Small Gun –both trigger finger controllers.

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August 1966, Car Model: New heavyweight champion —The Carrera lightweight.

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September 1966, Car Model: The Carrera series again.

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October 1966, Car Model: The thumb is strong — the finger is quick!

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November 1966, Car Model: Track igniters for the scratchbuilder.

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December 1966, Car Model: The 1967 Russkit catalog is in the works.

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April 1966, Model Car & Track: The Small Gun controller.

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June 1966, Model Car & Track: Carrera sidewinder.

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August 1966, Model Car & Track: Another Carrera sidewinder.

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December 1966, Model Car & Track: The 1967 Russkit catalog ad.

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April 1966, Model Car Science: Trigger finger control.

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June 1966, Model Car Science: Carrera sidewinder.

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August 1966, Model Car Science: Another Carrera sidewinder.

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September 1966, Model Car Science: Another Carrera sidewinder again.

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December 1966, Model Car Science: An ad for the 1967 Russkit catalog.

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#9 Pete L.

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 08:35 PM

Bertil,

Really cool stuff...thanks for all the info and pics !
Peter J. Linszky

C.A.R.S. Vintage Slot Car Club

#10 TSR

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 09:23 PM

Bertil,
Please note that the Lotus and Chaparral body shown in the May 1966 ad were never issued as such in the kits. The Lotus shown on both this ad and the kit box (pictured on the MESAC track) was a quick and dirty mold by Von Klein just to get things going, while the Chaparral (also pictured on the kit box) was actually produced, but only as a bagged body kit. Both the Lotus and Chaparral bodies sold in the Carrera series kits were of a vastly nicer design, and the Lotus especially is one of the all-time greatest slot car bodies ever produced.
Philippe de Lespinay
 
"We are the D..., uh, the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile"

#11 Noose

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 09:34 PM

Great stuff! Tony and I raced in that NJ inter store league racing action back then. Wow.
Joe "Noose" Neumeister
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#12 TSR

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Posted 16 November 2010 - 09:48 PM

You must be OLD!!! :shok:
Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#13 Prof. Fate

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 01:45 PM

Hi

I have a couple surviving controllers with a lot of wear on them and a couple formula 2s that survived because I didn't use them! The regular ones, I have no idea how many times the resistors got replaced, but I just don't remember the self resetting circuit breaker. I am thinking I need to go look!

I have a Carrera, but not the threaded axle mount gear it needs. Sigh, a project for another time, too many old cars in need of restoration.

Fate
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#14 don.siegel

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 02:47 PM

I'm interested in your experiences here: I was a pretty active racer in 66-68, and I don't really remember seeing any Russkit controllers. They were all Cox, then MRC... can't swear to that, but I mostly remember the Russkit controllers from these kinds of ads. This was in Chicago, at a very local level...

Of course, by the time I started racing again, in 1975 in Seattle, it was all Parma/Russkit controllers.

Don

#15 Noose

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Posted 17 November 2010 - 03:50 PM

You must be OLD!!! :shok:


Yes, this is true.
Joe "Noose" Neumeister
Sometimes known as a serial despoiler of the clear purity of virgin Lexan bodies
Lexan is my canvas!
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#16 TSR

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Posted 19 November 2010 - 11:10 PM

I was a pretty active racer in 66-68, and I don't really remember seeing any Russkit controllers.

They began being seriously used by pros in 1969, after Parma bought the tooling from Russell and improvements in resistors and reliability were made, and after Bob Emott began sticking micro switched in them.
But even in 1966, Team Russkit members used them to good effect, and they were quite popular with top pros in the East, such as Howie Ursaner and Sandy Gross.
Philippe de Lespinay
 
"We are the D..., uh, the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile"

#17 tonyp

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Posted 20 November 2010 - 07:38 AM

I think for over the counter models the mrc at the time was the best controller. That is what we used until bob Emott showed us how to do up a good russkit. If I remember the originals had no wiper button just the metal arm rubbing on the resistor. And of course those cool trigger return springs that would always pop 3 feet before you were getting ready to break for the deadman.
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#18 Horsepower

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Posted 20 November 2010 - 08:51 PM

Don Which catalog was that color pic of the Russkit team out of? I know I have that same pic but can't remember which catalog it was in.

Gary Stelter

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#19 Prof. Fate

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 01:21 PM

Hi

The F2 controller had the strip wiper, the regular one was identical to the current parma entry level (sebring?).

In my case, with all the racing going on, I would sometimes go to tracks where I was not known as a "pro" and "poach" on the novices. Sadly for me, this often included a "payout" of some bit that wasn't selling locally. My first russkit trigger controller(blue handle 15 ohm) was one of these. Everyone liked the MRC and cox controllers. AND, if memory serves, the only resistor available locally was the 15 ohm. In the day, the MRC varipower with the parallel resistor was my controller of choice because I could easily not only replace the resistor with different ratings BUT also, change the rating. So, for some motors, the adjustment was 5 to 15, for others it was 2 to 5 for the rewinds.

After using the trigger on an old play car, I think one of my AMTs that I still bore you guys with, I rotated the MRCs to drive with my trigger finger.

Until I could get russkit/parma resistors that I needed, I usually carried 4 or 5 controllers. Which is why when P calls out something with period controllers, I show up with a box. I kept them all!

I tried modifying a Russkit to take MRC resistors, and ended up with a bizzarre device with the 15 ohm Russkit controller and switch selectable parallel resistors. Very unreliable.

Fate
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#20 TSR

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 01:42 PM

The best and rarest of the Russkit products were never advertised. more likely because of the time they came on the market. Most people have little clue of their existence, but these products are gorgeous. You will have to wait for the new book to see them... :D
Philippe de Lespinay
 
"We are the D..., uh, the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile"

#21 Horsepower

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 05:36 PM

AGAIN, THE BOOK TEASE! It's driving me crazy. I have a good mind to ring your door bell and run! :aggressive: :aggressive: :crazy:

Gary Stelter

"The world has become such a dangerous place, a man is lucky to get out of it alive." - William Fields

 

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you will see." -Winston Churchill


#22 TSR

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Posted 21 November 2010 - 08:33 PM

:laugh2:

Another three months or so and it will be in libraries... :D
Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#23 Horsepower

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Posted 24 November 2010 - 10:45 AM

I want it in my library! :D

Gary Stelter

"The world has become such a dangerous place, a man is lucky to get out of it alive." - William Fields

 

"The farther backward you can look, the farther forward you will see." -Winston Churchill


#24 ravajack

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Posted 29 November 2010 - 01:15 PM

January 1967, Car Model: Left-overs from 1966 — a last full-page, full-color ad from Russkit — featuring Dan Gurney.

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March 1967, Model Car & Track: First ad for the Russkit McLaren MkII.

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March 1967, Car Model: The first, last and only ad ever for the Russkit Chaparral 2D.
On this page also a rare portrait of the ”Russkit family”: Jim Russell with wife Mimi and their two children.

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March 1967, Model Car Science: The last ad ever from Russkit in MCS: McLaren MkII.

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April 1967, Car Model: Dan Gurney's All American Eagle F1 again.

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May 1967, Model Car & Track: The last ad ever from Russkit in MC&T: Dan Gurney's All American Eagle F1.

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June 1967, Car Model: The very last ad from Russkit in ”The Golden Era”: McLaren MkII. The same ad also ran in the May issue of CM.

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#25 don.siegel

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 08:34 AM

Another three months or so and it will be in libraries...

Philippe,

If you're still saying "library" instead of bookstore ("librairie" in French), you better send me the rest for proofing...

Don

#26 TSR

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Posted 30 November 2010 - 12:10 PM

Coming soon... but we have "Public Libraries" here, and this is what I was talking about, my ploy is to sell the new book to the US government for distribution in public libraries. After all, it they keep buying thousands of books from their own guys that would otherwise not sell a single copy to the general public from lack of interest so to make them a couple of bucks besides making them look more important than they actually are, I don't see why I should not be part of THAT gravy train! :laugh2:
Philippe de Lespinay
 
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#27 ravajack

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 06:20 PM

Eighteen months — one and a half year — was quite a long time in the fast pacing slot car racing era of the 1960s.
That's also how long it took for Russkit to re-appear in the slot racing ad department. But only for a short period of time.
And only in the Car Model magazine. The last bright burst from the Russkit supenova was only to last for just a couple
of months in the end of 1968 and beginning of 1969. The pistol grip controllers were also the only subjects of interest.


December 1968, Car Model: The ”Big Gun” 814 controller was a development of the old
Formula 1 controller that came in red, blue and black colors. The 814 had no color at all.

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February 1969, Car Model: Same ad again for the transparent 814 pistol grip controller.

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April 1969, Car Model: A development of the former ”Small Gun” controller, Formula 2.
With less than half the price vs the 814 it was aimed primary towards the home racing crowd and
he small scale H0 people. But still transparent casing like its larger sibling in the new formula.

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May 1969, Car Model: Same ad again for the revamped Formula 2 pistol grip controller.

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July 1969, Car Model: The first sign of new era: The Russkit controllers are now marketed by Parma.

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February 1970, Car Model: The Russkit ”Small Gun” becomes Aurora.

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March 1970, Car Model: The Russkit ”Small Gun” becomes Aurora — inverted.

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November 1970, Car Model: The end of an era. Russkit is no more — from now on it's Parma controllers. And still is today.

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Bertil Berggren
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#28 TSR

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Posted 05 December 2010 - 06:40 PM

In fact, Russkit was no more by the middle of 1968... :)
Russell had made an arrangement with Aurora and Parma to take over their controllers, while the remaining inventories were being liquidated at whatever Russell could get for it.
Philippe de Lespinay
 
"We are the D..., uh, the Borg. Lower your shields and surrender your ships. We will add your biological and technological distinctiveness to our own. Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile"

#29 ravajack

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 05:12 AM

Three excerpts from the US Patent Office files regarding Russkit.
Anybody heard of co-inventor Henry S. Rose before?

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Bertil Berggren
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#30 don.siegel

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Posted 07 December 2010 - 05:26 AM

Yes, Hank Rose was a partner and/or co-founder of Russkit - his name comes up in some of the books/articles about the company. I believe he's mentioned in Philippe's book, and he can probably tell you more about Hank.

Don





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