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The Galeota Beginner's Car

Retro Club member Gary Maslin set himself the task of building replicas of each of the seven 'pioneer' tethered cars that were responsible for starting this sport in Britain. He has now completed the first of these, which was also the first design to be published commercially. It represents the true beginning of tethered cars.

With the outbreak of the Second World War, aero-modellers were faced with a total ban on flying petrol engined model aircraft. In September 1942, by way of relief for those frustrated folk with their grounded craft and idle engines, the editor of ‘Aeromodeller’ Douglas Russell, published the plans for a simple, direct drive,  petrol engined tethered car.  Designed by A. Galeota, the car was named the 'A G midget model race car' and it's power source was a 2.5cc 'Spitfire' motor, manufactured for Model Aircraft Stores of Bournemouth by Rodgers and Geary of Leicester, better known for the Stentor.

With hardly any commercial activity-taking place in the model market, it was a case of making what you wanted or utilising what was to hand, and the Galeota was ideally suited for the times. The 18 ½ inch long car had a chassis of hardwood with reinforcements and cross members glued and screwed. The body of five wooden formers covered with thin plywood could also be easily made.

Intended for the 'amateur' who didn’t have the use of a lathe, the only other thing the constructor needed , apart from the engine and flywheel, was a Meccano set. The direct drive was through a spur reduction gearbox to a set of Meccano 3:1 brass bevel gears for the final drive. The driving axle ran in plain bushes (Meccano double-arm cranks) screwed to the insides of the side members. No clutch was fitted, and all the gears were run in the open. The driving seat and back were balsa covered in red rexine with the coil and condenser under the seat. Dummy instruments on the dashboard, a Meccano steering wheel and the wind shield cut to shape from the celluloid of a pocket watch. The switch and sockets on the tail are for a booster battery for the ignition.

In conjunction with this plan, the Aeromodeller launched a competition for the 'Two fastest tethered runs achieved by model race cars'. One of the rules was they had be replicas of full-sized racing cars or bear a distinct resemblance to a full sized machine. Divided into two classes, 6cc and 10cc, the real incentive was the ten guineas offered for the fastest times over a 10-lap circuit for each class. It was a considerable sum in those days and over two hundred people sent for copies of the full sized plans of the "AG" Midget Car. At two shillings each this hardly covered the prize money offered.

In the October Aeromodeller, D A Russell wrote reminding reader's about the competition, and that 'It is essential that a flywheel be fitted" to the car, so they must have had several queries on this subject  Also an additional rule had been added which stated that all model cars entered, must be insured under the new NGA (National Guild of Aeromodellists) scheme at a cost of two shillings and sixpence. Negotiated with Lloyds Underwriters, it offered £5,000  third party insurance, available through the magazine.

In the same article Mr Russell devoted a further two pages to calculations, proving that by correctly designing and building a model car that theoretically, speeds nearer to the American claim of over 100mph could be obtained.
Mr Galeota had claimed a more modest speed of 20mph for the Galeota. In 1947 ‘Model Cars’ carried a report of a Galeota built by Mr L Manwaring that had had slight modifications to its bodywork. Powered by a 3.5cc Atlas engine it had achieved a speed of 20-25mph. However it went on to state that ‘when minor problems with the switch contacts etc are ironed out’ it would be quicker.

The winner of the 5cc class was Jim Cruickshank with the first version of his Kestrel engined M G Midget, which achieved 40mph. Gerry Buck running his No. 2 car was first in the 10cc class with a speed of 45mph. The later Buck 2a and the Cruickshank MG joined the list of car plans offered by Drysdale Press another of Mr Russell’s companies. These plans cost fifteen shillings and sixpence, while the plans for the Galeota, now called the 'Galeota Beginners Car', had increased to seven shillings and sixpence.

Gary Maslin has made a great job building this car, and tells me the floor is covered in metal shavings as he is now well underway on his next project. Thanks to Gary for sharing the various stages of his work with us and for providing these excellent photo's.

‘Maslin’ SS100

After the completion of the Galeota car I decided to move on to the large scale Russell SS100, the main reason for this is that I had been able to acquire, through Ebay, the correct ash tray tyres in lovely condition as illustrated on page 42 of the Drysdale Press, Motor Racing in Miniature book of 1947.  Before I commenced the build I made sure I had all the parts required to complete the car.

Like all of the early cars, the count of commercially produced items in the SS is very low, for the simple reason that there were none. With the exception of the motor and associated electrics, everything else had to be made from scratch or adapted from other uses. Russell used a set of advertising tyres, along with a clutch and gearbox made for him by Bob Curwen. Gary started with a similar selection of bits for his mammoth build which was to represent the car in its final guise as seen above in the Bagley drawing.

As the car went through various stages in its life I had to make a decision as to which version I would go for. After studying all the magazines, photo’s, articles and books of the time I went with the model as it appeared near the end of it’s documented racing life. A lot more lathe work would be involved, (having just acquired a Myford ML 7 that was first used in anger on the Galeota) but the end result would be a much more pleasing and realistic model compared to it’s first published form. It is featured in the Aero Modeller of December 1942 showing open bevel drive, solid disc alloy wheels, fixed steering and powered by a Dennymite engine.

The build was commenced towards the end of 2007 a few weeks after the completion of the Galeota, the chassis was built as in the plan (obtained through the Retro Racing Club) The Ohlsson & Rice 60 engine mounted as shown, the original attached tank was removed and a new one made and soldered up as in plans, made up from copper tube 32mm dia with brass end caps and shaped collar drilled and tapped for the fuel filler nut along with the fuel tube entry hole. The tank was fitted with soldered tinplate straps and was bolted to the round cross member forward of the engine mounting. The centrifugal clutch and flywheel is of the 1066 design, being a perfect fit in the available space within the chassis, the drive end of the clutch is a slot and pin type driving a 5/16"dia steel prop shaft mating with an identical union at the gearbox.

The gearbox is to the plan dimensions machined from one piece of aluminium alloy, with a end plate of the same material, fixed by 8 x 6ba bolts and gasket. Internally the gearbox is a fully ball-raced differential with oil seals, as the gearbox is oil filled. This is a departure from the original design but I could buy the full differential set-up for less than the price of the 2 bevel gears!  As the unit fitted within the exterior gearbox dimensions, and of course differentials gears had been used in full sized cars for a considerable time, I allowed myself that luxury!

The drive to the rear axles is the same arrangement as used for the prop shaft the gearbox is braced by a 1/16"x ½" mild steel strip to the centre chassis rails by a rubber block as shown on the plan detail. The rear axles are mounted in ball races set in rubber blocks mounted to the chassis rails in mild steel housings again exactly as shown on the plan, just to be a bit more in keeping with my use of period materials all the rubber was cut from original full size 1940s Hillman Minx engine mounts! I didn’t have any SS100 Jag ones lying about!

As the plan only showed the early fixed front axle design, I copied the details and arrangement shown in the cutaway drawing on page 42 in the 1947 ‘Motor Racing In Miniature’ book, the springs are of tempered mild steel bolted to the beam axle cut from ¼" mild steel plate with the same steel used for the springs formed and soldered to top and bottom to create the beam section, time consuming but it looks right. 5/16" dia. king pins carry the ¼" dia. stub axles, the adjustable 1/8"dia. tie rod is mild steel and of a conventional design using left and right hand threads for adjustments!

The original car was built with traditional bodywork of aluminium sheet over an ash frame. The model's body was all wood with mocked-up detailing. Gary has stayed true to the methods with this complex ply shape. The radiator cowl and grill are a work of art on their own. True to prototype, each of the louvres has been made and attached individually, rather than punched as would have been done on the full sized car, and a rough count gives 232. That is serious attention to detail. The chassis is painted and the body just awaits the top coat when a final decision is made about the colour.

The major task remaining is building the wheels and here Russell's original started with a set of disc wheels before the more complicated spoked versions were fitted. Reproducing the wheels represents a monumental task as each dummy brake drum and hub have to be machined from aluminium bar. Although the spokes are only dummies there are still 48 of them in each wheel, requiring 96 accurately drilled 1mm holes.

Gary continues the story:-

The first completed wheel and tyre. Each wheel consumes 6 feet of 1mm stainless steel hard dental wire. (not including the ones that nearly had my eye out and are still hiding in the workshop somewhere)!

The chassis having had its final coat of ‘chassis black’ was ready for the electrical side to be fitted, coil, condenser, HT circuit along the same lines as my previous build the ‘Galeota special’ using 1940’s cloth braided wire. The booster sockets for an external battery are located in the floor behind the front nearside seat.

The cut off lever does not follow the generally favoured position of rising vertically, but is telescopic, extending horizontally at 90 degrees from the underside of the chassis when in use. The cut off lever and switch is again made from period materials, in this case the switch contact is a polished spring steel paper holder, the cut off lever itself is fashioned from an ex WD nickel plated veterinary needle circa 1944 (printed on the box).

The battery box is as plan, built with 1/8 inch ply and ¼ inch balsa housing 3 x 1.5 volt batteries. The lid has a small bakelite knob from an old radio, the electrical connections are thin brass sheet with wiring soldered directly to them.

The chassis was then completely finished, with the wheels and tyres being fitted and all the bearings, axles etc checked to ensure everything lined up and did what it was supposed to.

To maintain authenticity to the original as much as possible the original fuel tank was discarded, and a new one made from 32 mm dia. copper tube, 42mm in length with flush soldered end caps, mounting bands and screwed hex head filler cap.

These are the dimensions on the drawings and appear to be confirmed by contemporary photos. I have serious doubts that the car could cover more than a few laps of a track of equal size to the Eaton Bray track.

Russell eventually replaced the fuel tank with a dummy and used the Ohlsson plastic tank.

After much deliberation I decided on the body colour of light British racing green. The actual paint job itself consisted of two coats of satin black cellulose to the underside of the bonnet and bodywork. The BRG body colour was applied in seven coats rubbed down, in between coats, with 1200 grade wet and dry. Final polish achieved with TCut and Auto Glym polish.

The upholstery and interior trim.

The floor rubber, ( made from replacement running board rubber for full size 1934 Hillman Minx). Seats (balsa trimmed with real leather). Trim panels (leather over 1/16" ply). Transmission tunnel (1950's motor cycle over balsa). The cut out in the floor panel matches the rubber on the chassis on which are mounted the battery booster sockets and switch.

I then fitted with the previously completed items: leather seats, leather trim, door handles, grab rail, steering wheel, ribbed floor mats, transmission tunnel and instrumentation. The steering wheel was made up with brass plate and a 1/8 diameter brass rod. A dry run was carried out to make sure no silly mistakes had been made before being glued into position. The gear lever knob was made from a pearl from an old necklace, painted black. The hand-brake lever was fashioned from another nickel plated veterinary needle, the end fitting on the syringe having a pleasing handle shape, finished off with a dome-head black iron rivet glued onto the end to represent the hand-break release button.

Overall, I am pleased with the outcome, it had never been intended for this car to be a true scale model of the Gerald Wingrove quality, but to be as faithful as possible to Russell’s original model.

What none of the photographs convey is any concept of the scale of the car. It is half as big again as most tether cars
measuring just on 30 inches long. The images below of Gary with the car reveals the true size of the SS100.

Gary is to be congratulated on another superb piece of model making following on from the Galeota.

Text and photo's Thea and Gary Maslin.

Through debillitating physical problems and a total change in collecting interest Gary's project to build replicas of all seven of the pioneering designs stalled after just three superb examples.