View from the Pylon
We have little in common with Formula one, apart from tethered cars being faster of course, what with their multi million pound budgets, hoards of technical staff, wind tunnels CFD computer programmes, telemetry etc. Tethered cars and boats are still very much at the ‘lick the finger and see which way the wind is’ end of the spectrum by comparison, so it was almost gratifying to see Toto Wolffe, Hamilton and Rosberg all admitting that they did not have a clue as to why their previously totally dominant cars were suddenly way off the pace. Further they were faced with the dilemma that we all know too well that if you did not know what the problem was, what on earth do you do to cure it? This can be even more frustrating if nothing has apparently been altered, leading to a great deal of head scratching. We have all been there, or are still there, and still no clues, but sometimes the answer is right there as some of the daft and embarrassing incidents that follow will show. Cars and boats both use straight methanol fuel, but sometimes it is not as straight as it might seem. 20:1 is OK as long as the person mixing the fuel has the maths right, the correct methanol and the correct oil, yet we have seen 5:1 mixes, double doses of oil where two different people have both mixed the same batch, oil that turned into toffee in the motor and even methanol that wasn’t. Taking engines apart is fraught with danger, especially when rotary valves can be put in 180degrees wrong and pistons back to front, but as it is coming up to Christmas a little story to ease our own consciences.
A friend of ours races a formula two sidecar and had his motor race prepared by a well-known concern. Fitted back in the chassis it was pushed back and forth without so much as a pop to encourage them. Ignition boxes and pick-ups were changed, still no signs of life, fuel pumps, even the bank of carburetters and absolutely nothing. By this time all were totally cream crackered from pushing the outfit up and down the road for most of the day, so it was on the phone to the race shop in high dudgeon who were sure of their work but might have made an elementary timing error so were prepared to take it back and check it all out. Much cursing as everything was taken apart and the motor removed from the chassis, only for the exhaust blanking plugs to glare accusingly at everyone from where they were still lurking in the ports. Cue acute embarrassment all round and even more cursing. No doubt we have all been in similar situations, even if not prepared to admit it, but at least there is a clear and obvious reason why it won’t go. The difficulty comes when there is no clear reason, something needs changing, but what, or does it? Well, the winter is upon us and it is time to ponder in the confines of the workshop and do something about it, if only we knew what that something was? Did Mercedes ever find out what was wrong, Suzuka and the remainder of the season showed that they had fixed it, or did it just go away as we often hope these problems will?
We kick of our winter series of articles with a fascinating insight into another, ultimately doomed, attempt to produce a British 10cc racing motor. Ken Smith has spent a great deal of time and effort putting together the story of the Speedwell and Ken Robinson, the person responsible for this and several intriguing other motors for his tethered cars.
A super car for our first Pitbox item and a finely engineered example built from a series of constructional articles in a British magazine back in the 1940s. Veering away slightly from boats to another long established trophy that has emerged, but this one has had two unusual sets of criteria for awarding during its life. The engine is a real rarity and very few will even be aware of its existence. It is probably the most complex ever to emerge from Edgar Westbury’s drawing board. Once again sadly, the engine and boat sections of Pitbox are looking somewhat bare, so items for either of these would be more than welcome. Still plenty of cars at present though.
Massive turnout for the Gildings sale last month and no real shocks, except for a bargain price Bugl, unless that is, you count volume mass produced small diesels that are still being sold for indecent amounts. Rumour has it that they are planning another sale in the spring. Amazing to think that 6000+ motors have passed through their hands since the sales started and have included everything from Gerald Smith's award winning radial through to the most mundane and a price differential of some £15,490 between them.
OTW was delighted to be able to visit Olly Monk early in November to view progress on the new 2.5cc car he has been describing in recent 'Ramblings'. In a very short space of time it has moved from a bare pan and body to a really elegant and sleek Class II car. It is only when reading the latest 'Workshop Ramblings' edition that the amount of major surgery and redesigning that has gone on can be truly appreciated. Olly also describes some very delicate 'micro surgery' needed to make a new Zimmerman valve disc. Another superb year's editions of this highly informative contribution and we are exceedingly grateful for all the photography and work required putting it together.
Also on the tethered car front OTW was delighted to be part of the annual BTCA get together and general meeting. It always highlights some of the incredible work being produced from the workshops of members, and a chance to more closely look at a range of items brought along.
Back in August, and regularly throughout the life of OTW, we commented on the price that spares have commanded on the open market. Ron Reiter did point out that if that was what was needed to complete a project, then the cost was justifiable. We could not disagree if the items in question came into the unobtanium category, but it is a different kettle of fish with parts that are neither rare nor hard to find or even abundant. This led on to idle speculation as to what might constitute the most expensive car that could be built from proprietary components sourced from eBay classifieds and auctions, and conversely what might have been the cheapest from the same sources? Many years ago a similar exercise was carried out for a well-known British car that is now regarded as a classic and the total cost to build the car from spares ran into many thousands compared with something like £840 for it ready to run from the showroom.
So, how much to build one of the most basic cars, the 1066 MRC with parts sourced from ebay and auctions. From the ground up there is the bare chassis at £285 and a set of wheels and tyres at £147. The gearbox was a mere £280 and connected to this was a clutch at £225. Bolted to the clutch was the most common of the 1066 motors, a Falcon at no less than £360. Obviously a body is needed to cover all this and going by the previous figures £232 does not seem out of the way, does it? Fuel tanks and battery boxes have never been seen, so these will have to be made leaving just a coil, condenser and plug, which together were a mere £58, something of a bargain. A grand total of £1587, which might tempt a few owners into selling if this price could be realised.
What about the other end of the scale though, are there any bargains to be had? Well, we have reported a few, so how about a complete and original M&E Special for less than £70, a more or less complete and original factory MASCO Kitten for £4.50, a complete and original M&E Wasp plus a 2.5cc teardrop in one lot for £230 (bit expensive that??) or the star buys, the original Stubbs MCN Austin GP car for £16 or the rarest of the M&Es for £1.50. SAS Auctions provided another great bargain with six clutches, four Russian school cars with motors, a stack of wheels and numerous other bits and bobs all for less that £100 including premium. It has to be said though that all of these relied on a bit of luck, knowledge and ferreting, but they were all there, just a question of finding them.
Our Pitbox car this month comes from John Lorenz and compounds a mystery, as this is the second example that we have featured indicating that it might be a commercial model, but so far, no one has offered any thoughts as to who might have been responsible. The engine is neither a mystery or an engine but another item from the Edgar Westbury collection, this time a dynamometer used for testing his engines. Another hydro, in fact a pair, has emerged via eBay and again, although we knew what they were, it took a little help and some detective work to fully understand their significance and origins.
Difficult to believe that two weekends in succession could prove so perfect for tethered hydroplane racing, but once again the final meeting at Althorne took place on an almost glass smooth lake, and in the sun. Even more remarkably, the good spell of weather continued for yet another week resulting in a record turnout for the last event of the season at Gt Carlton, and still the sun shone.
Steve Betney has sent us details of a 'roundtuit' that he has got round to, and apart from the miniscule size of the car he has created, the motor in it has a significant history as well. The building theme continues with a superb creation from confirmed Oliver enthusiast, Dave Cunliffe. Dave is renowned for the quality of his builds, especially as he does all his own casting and laying up of bodies. Thanks to Steve and Dave for all the photos and details.
The Midland Model Engineering Exhibition is usually thin on car and hydro related items, but last year we had a superb display of modern tethered cars from Roger James, followed by an equally impressive line-up of hydros courtesy of John DeMott this year. The last weekend of October was reserved for business with the Model Hydroplane Club AGM and the tethered hydroplane section conference taking place consecutively over the course of the day.
Gilding's annual aero engine sale at Market Harborough takes place on 7th November with over 600 engines available. For the Oliver enthusiasts there is the genesis of a collection with almost every model and mark on offer, and at realistic prices.
Owing to other commitments, Glenn Bransby told us in advance that he would not be at Luddenham for the Anniversary Championships and Harold King memorial meeting, so it was a lovely surprise to receive, via Doug Sinclair, a report on the day from Craig Tulloch. A sizeable contingent came down from Queensland for the event and full results are available on TRCAA and Speedmodelcar sites, but what was remarkable was that the first four in the 10cc Class recorded almost identical times in their two rounds. In fact Carol James' speeds were precisely the same at 326.967kph.
Another bumper edition, so thanks again to everyone who has submitted material. A couple of long standing projects have been completed and should appear over the winter now that event reports have thinned out.
Amazingly, it is now a decade ago that OTW came into being, following trips to tethered car championships at Basel in 2004 and Lyon in 2005. It was the struggle to find published information about tethered cars and hydroplanes that led to the website being set up.
Car related articles in British magazines faded out completely after about 1958, apart from Mike Beech and Geoff Sheppard’s attempts to generate some interest when Model Mechanics started publication. Hydros were slightly better served from the 1960s onwards, with occasional articles on major events until Peter Hill started writing regularly for Model Boats. For ten years or so there were regular regatta reports, historic articles, and all sorts of other related materials, but then a change in editorial policy put paid to that.
It was through frustration at the lack of current information and the realisation that something needed doing about it that resulted in an announcement from ‘her who must be obeyed’ that ‘I am going to start a website dedicated to tethered car and hydroplane racing’. Somewhat ambitious given the total lack of knowledge of how to create a website, no provider, a dial up modem and only a distant second-hand knowledge of tethered car and hydroplane racing.
Another major stumbling block was the lack of any original material and this was to be a primary consideration. It has been an overriding principle that anything published had to be based on original material, items or on personal contact. After something of a thin start and occasional updates, people started sending photos, articles, items of interest and snippets of information that were ripe for further research. Some of these research projects grew out of all proportion, and still material is coming to light, being added to articles and providing updates on items that we had previously featured.
By the time we visited Amiens in 2007, for the European tethered hydro meeting, OTW was established and being published on a monthly basis whilst material and photos were starting to arrive more regularly. There were also personal contact being made, either by those who had been, or were still involved, or relations of those no longer with us. These have proved to be absolutely invaluable and inspiring and have resulted in some of our favourite articles.
Somehow though, writing about and presenting material subtly morphed into active involvement, initially with vintage models, but moving on to current racing classes. The culmination of all this, and completely unintended at the outset, was competing at the 2011 tethered hydroplane World Championships at Chatellerault and the 2013 World event at Cestas. Even more of a surprise was one of us finding ourselves on the start list at the 2013 World and European tethered car championship in Basel. It has been a very steep learning curve on so many fronts for a decade, but thanks to everyone who has contributed photos, articles, items and reminiscences plus the immense amount of personal help that has been forthcoming, hugely enjoyable.
The Pitbox car this month, although not British, had a well recorded racing history in this country with American serviceman Joe Shelton whose Oliver we featured back in July. The engine we are featuring was obviously from a tether car and obtained by the late Euan Forbes many years ago appearing on his swapmeet stall regularly, but we still have no clue as to its origins. As if to illustrate just why we enjoy running the website so much, we have been contacted with details of a flash steamer that has not been seen since 1945. We did not know that it was still in existence and the current owner, who turned out to be the grandson of the builder, was not aware of what it was or even who had built it. A perfect Pitbox boat entry to celebrate our decade.
Funny old game this tethered hydroplane racing. After winning the A3 World Championship at Cestas in 2013, Gilbert Huguenin hung his boat up and said that was the last time it would run. Two years later, having not had a run at all in between, Gilbert digs the boat out of its exquisite carrying case for the World Championships in Bulgaria, one run, World Champion again and no one within 13mph of him, amazing.
Continuing on a similar theme and from the same venue, congratulations to Paul Eisner on winning the F2A championships having not competed in that class for a while. His winning flight of 302kph along with those of Ken Morrisey who has come out of retirement and Pete Halman won GB the team prize. Also showing that if you had it you have still probably got it were the results of a right royal dust up in the 10cc Class at Gavle, with numerous runs within fractions of a kph of each other from the 'elder statesmen' of the sport.
The two day meeting at Rowden Lake was a somewhat poignant affair as it was the final regatta at this lovely setting, but what an event, combining the normal two days with the postponed St Albans International. The weather cooperated fully, making it a thoroughly enjoyable swansong for the venue, even if a tad frustrating for those whose boats refused to rise to the occasion. Conflicting dates meant we were unable to attend the September track day at Gt Carlton. The fine weather ensured the best attendance of the year so far and some sparkling runs, but unfortunately a bit of carnage as well. Amidst the almost continual and torrential rain that was supposed to be an Indian summer, Victoria Park enjoyed a warm and sunny Sunday for the September meeting.
This month's tip comes straight from OTW and describes how to set fire to your workshop inadvertently. Eyesight not being what it used to be, magnifying glass used on lathe, low sun comes through window, focused by aforesaid glass, bench that holds lathe smoking merrily. Luckily the nose-holes are not quite as decrepit as the eyes so disaster was narrowly averted, but just goes to show. Perhaps it is retribution for those schooldays when anything and everything was likely to fall victim to a judiciously wielded magnifier?
Significantly more practical and helpful tips from Olly Monk in another of his extensively detailed 'Workshop Ramblings'. As well as further work on the Howlett/Oliver Alfa, which he described last month, he also illustrates just what happens when a vital part of a modern tethered car motor gives up the unequal struggle at very high revs.
Empty Spaces: We have just been informed of the death of Georgi Mirov, another of the highly successful tethered hydroplane racers from the former eastern bloc. He raced in every class, including airscrews, and amassed around ten European and World medals in his long career.
Phew, material is coming in thick and fast on the last two days of the month ensuring that there is no slacking on our part. First we had Glenn Bransby reporting on the Peter Larsen meeting at the Luddenham complex and outlining details of a new class they are trialling to try and encourage new blood, an excellent initiative. Next, George Sayell has been bashing the keys to get details of the final event of the year at Old Warden. OTW was able to stop off at Old Warden for the day as well and saw a very good illustration of what happens if the rules for restricted classes are not carefully worded. Vintage speed planes with modern state of the art motors, surely not what anyone intended at the outset.
From Old Warden it was on to Kingsbury and the same perfect weather for the last regatta of the season there and a lifetime's best performance for one competitor.
Following last month’s meeting at Kingsbury it is apparent that any mechanically based sport, especially if there is a racing element carries an inherent financial risk. The motor might go bang at any moment and could be anything from a total write-off to a few new bits needed, depending on your luck. There is also the risk of race created damage, but when we bemoan a broken conrod do we spare a thought for someone who has comprehensively stuffed a Ferrari 250 in a classic event, or tipped a recently renovated Spitfire onto its nose in a botched landing? Probably not, as a few millions will have a new one ready or the old one repaired. Konig racing engines came with a guaranteed power output quoted, but a stark warning that the guarantee expired as soon as the motor left the factory and we have seen a few of them self destruct in short order. There has to be an acceptance that if you race it then a total loss is a possibility, such as were witnessed at Basel earlier this year, but where it gets more interesting is the ‘investment purchase’.
The recession and collapse in market values threw up numerous examples of these where it had all gone wrong, but still we see unrealistic sums being invested that will leave the owner in negative equity for a lifetime. Why would someone pay the thick end of half a million on a wreck that need a similar amount spending on it, when the current (and inflated) value of one in showroom condition is less than half of the total? Not unusual apparently judging by adverts in specialist journals. We can all get caught paying over the top for something not quite as it seems, but to deliberately embark on a restoration that exceeds the possible return by four, or even five times seems somewhat odd. The numbers get even more astounding when it is not a restoration but a re-creation such as Audi undertook with their Auto Union GP car, George Beale with the six cylinder Hondas or the Jaguar E type ‘Lightweight’ recently feature in a TV documentary. The difference here is that there is no correct market value, just those with very deep pockets willing to pay whatever it costs.
A market value only becomes established if there are then attempts to sell it on when the result can be satisfaction, amazement or despair. It does go to show that there is the money, the desire and the infrastructure to build almost anything from scratch nowadays. Our unsung hero of the month needed a Gnome rotary engine for the full sized reproduction vintage plane he is building. 100 year old engines of this type are a bit thin on the ground and probably a bit delicate, so no more ado, he borrows an original, strips it down, has drawings made of every part and then a new motor manufactured to the exacting standards required by the aviation world, amazing.
We are staying in foreign parts with our engine this month, but although it was made in the US the name comes from much closer to home and has very personal connections. The cars, and there are two of them do hail from Britain and have the advantage of knowing exactly who built them, where and when. Happily, another hydro has surfaced and is the perfect find with a registration that led us straight to the Club where it ran and the person who built it.
Oh the irony of it? After the two day meeting at Althorne was abandoned without a boat being run, Norman Lara managed to rearrange a single day event the following Sunday and the weather was all we could have hoped for. Not only that but the frustrations of the previous weekend and the prospect of calm water made for an even bigger turnout and some close racing. Off to Kingsbury the following weekend and almost perfect weather, in spite of the forecast although there were a few who might have wished that they had stayed away given the tales of destruction. Unfortunately, in less than a month, another two day event has bitten the dust. As a result of an outbreak of avian botulism in the lake at Verulamium Park, the entire International regatta weekend at St Albans had to be cancelled although, thanks to John and Gill DeMott, the hydro event has been rescheduled to run alongside the two day event at Rowden Lake on 5th/6th Sept. Another casualty of the weather, along with many others that day, was the meeting at Althorne Lake on the 23rd August. The hydro fraternity can ill afford to lose five days of racing in the last month, fingers crossed for Rowden Lake.
The 64th European Tethered Car Championships was held in St Petersburg and was another triumph for Lembit Vaher who added a further two championships to his already impressive tally in Classes I and II. Tonu and Mart Sepp added another one each while Evgeni Soloviev was victorious in 3b. The closest result was in Class V where the CMB mentor to OTW, Christoph Zaugg was just 1.12kph behind winner Michael Schmutz. Our personal congratulations to Christoph on his silver medal as he has been such a great help to us. Full results on the speedmodelcar site as usual.
Following the thinly veiled hints asking for more details after we featured Steve Betney's lovely ERA last month, he has responded with a description of how he made and finished the body. Olly Monk has sent us another bumper edition of his Workshop Ramblings detailing further progress on his Oliver Alfa Romeo and some seriously delicate work on experimental needle valves. Thanks to Olly for these continuous updates on all his projects.
After a long hiatus through much worse than normal winter weather and a string of problems for Glenn Bransby, now happily on their way to being resolved, we are delighted to had a report and photos from Luddenham. Interesting 'older cars' keep being dug out so there is always something a little bit different on show, but it was a chance encounter in a car park with a Sierra 'Cossie' that will get many a car enthusiast slightly 'dewy eyed'. The 'Cologne Capris' were a bit more our era though Glenn!
Well, as we sit here waiting to press the 'publish button' it is somewhat ironic that for a second year running the summer bank holiday Monday, and that is a contradiction in terms, has a weather warning for torrential rain, thunder storms and the prospect of two weeks rain in a day. If the International Regatta had not already been cancelled, it probably would have been another abandonment, so the bad weather is not restricted to Australia, but it is winter there however.
We have commented in the past how issues that are contentious in the present have often been equally so in the past and some never go away. The Model Engineer kept throwing these up, almost from the day it was first published back in the 19th Century. Recently, George Sayell questioned the use of RC cars at Retro meetings, bemoaning the demise of the ‘engineers’, and in 1950, we find ME devoting a whole section of their editorial to discussing the validity of ‘kit modelling’. They resolved the matter with a wonderful compromise, coming to the conclusion that if the kit required a degree of ‘real constructional practice’ then that was acceptable. If, on the other hand, nothing more than a hammer and screwdriver was called for then this was ‘pandering to a natural laziness’. Where it got a bit more divisive was the assertion that if you had gone the kit route then you were not ‘approved’ as such and any achievements were in some way denigrated. Nowhere was this more evident than in the world of tethered car racing. Within a few years of the introduction of the sport, cars were available in kit form with various levels of work completed from the basic materials and castings through to put fuel in and go (RTR). Cars of all levels were offered in these varying forms, from the basic 1066 to the most competitive Oliver or Dooling, and given the time, skill level and equipment required to ‘do it all from scratch’ it is little wonder that so many took the so called, if expensive, ‘easy option’. It also explains the success of IKEA!
Back in the late 40s and early 50s, this created all sorts of aggravation and bad feeling, a fairly common state at that time it seems. There existed a considerable body of opinion that if you were not a Model Engineer and had not made it yourself, should you really be participating. At the other extreme, Gerry Buck was taken to task, for just that, how perverse. He was immensely successful having built his own cars and engines, but some complained that was because he had superior workshop facilities and equipment. (Click here for how Gerry reacted to this criticism) Dammed by one faction if you make it and win, dammed by the other if you buy it and win. Perhaps it is the fact that you are winning and the complainants aren’t, whatever route they have taken. Right through to the present, there are still those who resent success and have a ready excuse as to why it was you and not them. There is no doubt though where the greatest satisfaction must lay, as anyone who has ever built an engine from scratch will know. When it starts it is a good enough feeling but if it is competitive as well, then that is just magical?
New discoveries are getting a bit thin now but we have a rather nice car to start proceedings this month. Someone has taken a great deal of trouble and no short amount of skill to produce the pan and body of this scale looking delight. The motor is a long way from old or British, but is a first class example of an engine that has come to dominate one class of racing, even though the creator is sadly, no longer with us. The hydro offering is as last month, by association only and a trophy that had vanished from sight for many years.
Two refugees from the world of model aircraft who have started to practice the 'black art' of tethered hydros were remarking at Althorne just how much they enjoyed Olly Monk's 'Workshop Ramblings'. These are probably unique in that they are not instructions for building replica engines from castings, but descriptions and hints on all manner of engine, car and boat related engineering and modelling tasks that many would like to undertake but probably feel a bit intimidated by. Thanks to Olly, these are not perhaps quite as daunting now and will encourage more of us to 'have a go'. Another edition of his 'Ramblings' introduces us to a new project as well as the normal hints and tips.
The afternoon was as nice at Althorne as it was horrible in the morning for the first of the July meetings. Those that were put off by the weather missed an entertaining days racing once the sun came out. Again, the forecast was not good for the July regatta at Kingsbury, but it repeated the scenario from the week before becoming very pleasant. There are a few regulars who would probably prefer to forget the day after a series of 'unfortunate occurrences'. There were a few more of these at Gt Carlton during the Retro Club track day and the weather gods smiled on everyone who turned up. The weather gods were not feeling so benevolent over the last weekend of the month meaning that Sir Ben Ainslie, the Louis Vuiton Cup, tens of thousands of spectators and the Model Hydroplane Club all shared the same fate, event abandoned, putting the mockers on the two day meeting at Althorne Lake.
Difficult to believe, but it is now over forty years since Gualtiero Picco spent his holiday building the prototype of what was to become the OPS B20 twin. We even saw one running in a multi boat many years ago, complete with two Weston pipes. If ever both cylinders could be synchronised it made a wonderful sound yet we are guessing that most never got out of their boxes, collectors pieces from the start. The latest to appear for sale had an asking price of a cool £4,500, although, of course, the vendor might not get that. There is an old adage that the sum of the parts is greater than the whole and this certainly seems to be true at present. A set of 1066 wheels and tyres has just sold on eBay for £147, enough one would have thought, but then a chassis with Cressite wheels sold for £400ish. This is only remarkable when a complete Deason ERA with a very rare Majesco motor sold for not too much more and complete and identifiable other cars for around the same price. Skews values somewhat when this happens. A word of warning, a large collection of original Model Car News and Model Cars magazines have been liberated from the postal system, so if you are offered any of these on mass with no obvious provenance or explanations as to how they were come by, then please contact OTW or Peter Hill with details.
We are delighted to have three very different 'retro builds' to feature this month. From Steve Betney comes a superb version of Harold Pratley's semi-scale D type ERA designed in the late 1940s for Drysdale Press. As usual the quality of Steve's builds are without compare. Next is a very different type of car from Don Dickinson. This is a reproduction of a typical American style tether car, for serious racing and makes an interesting comparison with the English ERA from the same period. Lastly comes a Vic Smeed 'Scorcher' from George Sayell. This design was intended to be produced with the very minimal of tools and equipment and without resort to commercial castings. The chassis has been around for a while, but here George regales us with a tale of how he created a body for this little car.
Empty Spaces: We were saddened to hear of the death of Philipp Meier's father Walter earlier this month. Walter started running tethered cars in the 1950s and we were lucky to meet him at Basel earlier this year, still campaigning his cars. Walter was one of three people there that weekend who were present at the Championships in 1958 when it was held at the track. Our condolences to Philipp and family. Urs Bach has published a very fitting tribute on the speedmodelcar site
Following on from last month’s pylon we move to another aspect of preservation that, for a variety of reason, we feel particularly strongly about. Possibly the most impressive, and valuable display at the now defunct Pitsea Museum was the Marion Carstairs collection of trophies and memorabilia. She started racing the hairiest of full sized hydroplanes just after the first war, entering all the major competitions in Britain, Europe and the US. Following her death, some 30 trophies were donated to Pitsea making one of the most amazing arrays of silversmith’s art it is possible to find. What is remarkable in this modern day and age is that so many of these were ‘one off’ awards, or as was the tradition, became her property if won three times. This concept was prevalent in many sports, possibly the best known being the Schneider trophy although model boating continued this tradition with the fabulous Windermere and others. What most of them share in common was that even back in the 20s and 30s they were very expensive pieces, and therein lies a problem. With the current prices of silver, they are just too valuable. Most clubs, societies and organisations had any number of these trophies and it is sad and poignant seeing many of them ending up in auction houses, almost certainly destined for the melting pot. It also makes them exceedingly attractive to the criminally inclined for the same reason. Not only are many of these trophies works of art, but also the engraving reveals part of our collective history.
Nowadays we are faced with a slightly different scenario. Most trophies were sponsored by major companies, newspapers, wealthy individuals, or even by subscription and the quality, size and weight gives some idea of the cost. We know for example that our own Hastings Trophy cost 200 guineas in the late 1940s, and that is a modest piece. Most events would provide either full sized replicas of the trophies or smaller keepsakes, which can sometimes be an embarrassment, especially if you are even remotely successful at your chosen sport. However, as new sponsors came onto the scene they wanted to present their own trophies and awards, but in most cases, not prepared to make the same level of investment as in the past. This led to a preponderance of very tinny and garish cups and odd statuettes or related sculptures in mazak. We have met several competitors in other sports who have boxes full of these, and must even admit to having a fair few ourselves. Not that this is a new phenomenon as there were vociferous complaints about the quality of awards that we have found dating back to 1950.
Here then is the dilemma, traditional trophies that may well be far too valuable to have on the sideboard, but do look wonderful, or the modern (ish) alternative that might have a short life before ending up in the loft or bin as they have no resale value? Happily, we know what happened to the Cairstairs collection after Pitsea closed, but more immediately, what about all the tethered car trophies and the hydroplane awards that have vanished? Are they lurking in a loft somewhere waiting to be discovered or have they ended up as a silver ingot? More to the point, does it matter, well we think so.
The Pitboxes start with a gem of a car, not so much what it is, but its history. One of the influential figures in tethered car racing in Britain in the early days was an American serviceman, Joe Shelton. He ran regularly and extremely quickly both here and in Germany when he was posted there. This Oliver car and motor has an impeccable provenance, and we thank Ron Reiter for sharing this with us. The engine was and is a rarity and is another example of an enthusiastic British engineer trying to stem the tide of the imports. Not exactly a hydroplane but linked to them, and to our Pylon topic as well, is a selection of replicas and mementoes awarded to Stan Poyser during his long career that Steve very kindly dug out for us to photograph.
Talking of fast, there has been some extremely quick motoring by our Australian colleagues down in Brisbane, with Rob Buckley beating the 340kph mark for the very first time and setting a new national 10cc record at 340.973kph. John Walker beat the magic 300kph with a 5cc car for the first time also, setting a new 5cc National record at 302.114kph. Congratulations to them both and all the others who have have been making some exceedingly good runs at the meetings. Closer to home, three amazing runs by Aaron Monk at the Hannover meeting where he absolutely hammered the British 1.5cc record. Each run exceeded his old record by a country mile, so massive congratulations to him as he is now running competitively at the business end of the class, a remarkable achievement.
Quite a coincidence, having seen the beautiful 10cc engine at Kapfenhardt that Josef Krasnai had machined from scratch, that one of his AC Cobras turned up on eBay. He made just a few of these scale cars in the 1980s and the workmanship and engineering was exquisite. The last one we saw sold was 10 years ago from Miquel's collection and that made a tenner under £3,300. They are exceedingly desirable for the quality of work alone and this one 03/19 has an asking price of £5,500 or best offer.
What goes around as they say. The Aeromodeller was largely responsible for establishing the popularity of tethered car racing through its competition and car articles from during 1942, and subsequently until the arrival of the specialist magazines post-war. Thanks to the efforts of George Sayell, along with Bill and Pat Langley, the July issue of the new incarnation of Aeromodeller had a feature on 'RTP' cars and racing resulting from the May event at Old Warden. Always difficult to get material into magazines these days, so George's efforts are much appreciated.
An ironic little titbit gleaned from recent car meetings. In Tallinn, Evgeni Soloviev set a new European 3b record at 271kph, however lurking in the car was a Nova Rossi and not one of his own motors. Should this be telling us something? On the commercial front, a remarkable collection of cars is being offered for sale in the US, but as they are going through the hands of a dealer, they are not cheap and very few of them original. The only British interest is a nice and very early M&E Special on offer at £4,400. Just on 40 of the Exmouth products have now turned up of the 800 or so known to have been made, of which half are the Special version. Also not cheap, and definitely a case of reading the small print was a Movo for an asking price of just over £600. Before the 'buy it now' button is pressed it is worth noting that this was for an empty box only! This has since reappeared, still at the same asking price, a touch of reality required?
A change to a Saturday running meant that OTW were able to do a double header to the Retro Club for the June track day and Althorne Lake for the hydro meeting. Not quite Bordeaux and Basel, but far enough in a weekend. The weather was also somewhat contrasting with sun and strong wind on Saturday, and less wind but a long period of rain on the Sunday. Thanks to Peter Hill and Tony Collins for getting results to us smartly.