The brainchild of Free Flight designer/competitor Bill J. Chenault of Dallas, Texas, the Pearl series began in 1971 with the famous Mini Pearl 1/2A for Cox Tee Dee .049/.051. The design requirements were simple: Chenault wanted a model that was as easy to build as it was to trim and fly, with a minimum of complications.
The Mini Pearl won the 1971 AMA Nationals at Glenview, Illinois and was named a National Free Flight Society Model of the Year for 1972. Thus began a design series that included the basic Pearl layout in larger sizes: the 450 "Midi Pearl" for A/B and FAI Power, the "MaxiPearl" AMA B/C, "Pearl Express", and"Mother of Pearl" for AMA C/D. Several of which were published in Flying Models magazine and most were kitted including the original 216 square-inch Mini Pearl.
In 1977 Jerry Murphy published his take on the Pearl, the "Pearl Trucker", in Model Builder, after campaigning it at the 1977 Riverside Nats.
In 1982 "Sweet Daddy Pearl" 808 was a NFFS Model of the Year (MOY) for Dick Covalt of Indiana. First flown in 1976, it held the Cat. III national record in D Gas, set in 1980.
In the mid-seventies a stretched and modified Pearl called "Pilfered Pearl" was designed by Jay Jackson of Salt Lake City. It enjoyed early success and eventually the deisgn made its way back to Texas where a new generation of flyers adopted and perfected it into a potent, contest-winning machine. These men were George Avila, Jim Summersett, Russ Snyder, Marvin Mace and Jim Hayden. The Pilfered Pearl was was named a 1987 NFFS MOY. It was made available from NFFS Plans service in 320, 404, 522, and 711 sizes.
Other competitors flew heavily Pearl-influenced deisgns in the 1980s-90s. These included Mark Valerius and Dave Linstrum.
Shown below is the one that started it all. A charmingly simple design named after the famous Texas brew, one of the prototypes promptly won the 1971 U.S. Nats, and a legend was born. This is the Model-of-the-Year article with Bill Chenault's description of the original MIni Pearl, from the 1973 National Free Flight Society Symposium Report.