The aircraft designer Al Mooney developed an improved version of the Culver Dart, to provide improved performance with a smaller engine. Originally designated the Culver Model L, the prototype first flew on 2 December 1939. The aircraft was named the Culver Cadet. Although similar to the previous Dart, the Cadet had a semi-monocoquefuselage instead of welded-steel-tube, and a retractable tailwheel undercarriage. The first variant (the Cadet LCA) was powered by a 75 hp (56 kW) Continental A75-8 four-cylinder horizontally-opposed piston engine.
The 1941 version was designated the Cadet LFA, introducing a number of refinements and more equipment, and was fitted with a 90 hp (67 kW) Franklin engine. Production was brought to an end after the United States entered World War II in December 1941, but the Cadet had found export orders, including to Uruguay, and had a new military role.
The Cadet was one of six models that Al Mooney designed during his eight years at Culver. He would leave to found Mooney Aircraft.
In 1940, the Cadet LCA was selected by the United States Army Air Corps as being suitable for use as a radio-controlled target. The first aircraft was designated the Culver A-8 (later the XPQ-8) and was based on the Cadet LFA, but had fixed tricycle landing gear. After successful tests, a production order for 200 was placed, and designated the PQ-8. Later, another 200 were ordered with a more powerful engine as the PQ-8A. In late 1941, the United States Navy acquired a PQ-8A for evaluation, and then ordered 200 in 1941 as the TDC-2. An enlarged and improved version was later built as the Culver PQ-14.
Several Cadets, with both military and civilian origins, are still (2012) airworthy in the United States, and some are preserved in airworthy condition by museums.
Initial designation of military radio-controlled drone version, later redesignated PQ-8.
LAR-90 (Army PQ-8)
Initial production military drone version, 200 built.
PQ-8 powered by a 125 hp (93 kW) Lycoming O-290 engine, redesignated Q-8A in 1948, 200 built.
PQ-8A redesignated in 1948.
;TDC-1:One PQ-8 for evaluation by the United States Navy.
Production version of the PQ-8A for the Navy, 200 built.
Helton Lark 95
Development of Cadet by Helton Aircraft Corporation of Mesa, Arizona. Powered by 90 horsepower (67 kW) Continental C90-16F engine. FAA type approved in September 1966. 15 Lark 95s delivered in 1966. Helton reported as out of business in 1971.
Helton Lark 95A
Modified Lark 96, with 2 feet (0.61 m) longer fuselage and revised tail surfaces.
Aero Systems Cadet STF
Plans-built "optimized" Cadet design, offered by Aero Systems of La Mesa, California, United States in 2010. The plans call for a wood and steel structure, with a 100 hp (75 kW) Continental O-200 powerplant, producing a cruise speed of 135 mph (217 km/h).