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September 2019

Thanks to all those who commented on the question raised at the end of last month’s Pylon and some waxed lyrical on the subject. The consensus was that it can never be justified if profit is the motive, yet circumstances still lead to items being scrapped, which can have the unintended consequence of enhancing the value or rarity of what is left. There is also a less sinister but nonetheless equally frustrating and annoying scenario where items are destroyed purely in order to stop anyone else having or benefiting them or the technology such as carried out by Honda and Ferrari for many years. We have seen examples of this closer to home unfortunately, where entire collections were destroyed, by the express instruction of the owner, not for any financial reason but to deny anyone else the ownership or use of the equipment.

In these cases though a substantial loss can be incurred and could prove to have legal consequences if an estate is involved. Even worse was a local news item that showed a large collection of engines being cut up so that they could not be sold on, difficult to understand the logic here? This does of course presuppose that they would be a ready market for said items or collection, but sometimes the sad fact has to be faced that there is now far too much ‘stuff’ out there but those are not the cases that we are considering. In the commercial world, artists have a penchant for destroying their works, whilst factories, manufacturers and designers have an established practice of smashing moulds, jigs, dies etc after a limited run of the item has been produced and we are not talking of those companies that advertise in the colour supplements each week. The certificate of authenticity that they all promote is worthless, as is the item usually. On the local antiques ‘phone in’ a lady was enquiring as to the value of the figurine she had bought from such a company for around £120. ‘How much was the postage’ the expert asked and on the reply of £5.99 said that sadly that was probably more than the item was worth.

An even more devious variation of the theme we are discussing is the subtle buying up of whatever example of a particular item that appears and then squirreling them away secretly, either to create a false market or provide exclusivity for the person ‘with the barn somewhere’. Mind you, it is always amusing in these circumstances to see the ‘biter bit’ when boasting that he had ‘the only one ever made’ only to have the two people he was addressing pointing out that they too each had ‘the only one ever made’. Transpired that there were at least a dozen of these ‘unique’ items. It is a dangerous game to play and has cost some absolute fortunes in the past.

The new Album this month is series of photos from 1978 and the European Championships held in Gavle, Sweden. We are grateful to Justin Cookson, David Giles  and Eric Offen who passed us large packages of car related material during their ‘clearouts’. Lots of fascinating information, memorabilia and photos that we will continue to publish.

Seldom is anything really new, more often it has just been forgotten about, and this was the case with the ‘bungee’ for launching hydroplanes brought back from Bulgaria in the 70s. Except it had been in use many years before as our Photo this month demonstrates.

Earlier this year we were contacted by someone who was clearing out his garage and rediscovered a number of his father's tethered cars. The Pitbox item is the first part of this fascinating ‘garage find’ that had its origins in the late 1940s and happily avoided the skip.

After a hard day's hydroplane racing dear Doug Willey would ask 'would you like a story or a saga'? Inevitably it was the saga that got the vote, at which point he would keep us enthralled for hours with tales, all in his delightfully broad accent. Most of them had the basics in fact, but like any true raconteur, 'it was the way he told them' that made the evenings so enjoyable. Our trip to the Midlands for the August regatta at Kingsbury Water Park was something of a saga yet we came out of it with our sense of humour still intact, just.

We have mentioned this before, but it is a sign of the times that both the fastest waterscrew and airscrew boats at the recent World Hydro Championships were electric powered. Norman and Angela kindly posted photos, results and comments on each days activities on Facebook and have now distilled these into a report on the event at Pazardzhik in Bulgaria. Sadly, the British returned with a considerable amount of scrap in the boat boxes although Steve Poyser did record his best run ever in A1. Somewhat puzzling to all there was the relatively poor performance of the IC classes, fuel, oil and atmospheric conditions all being considered possible culprits, or was it the famous 'sticky water'?

Unfortunately, there is something of a theme developing over meetings at Althorne Lake. Yet again the planned event had to be cancelled as gales hit most of southern England creating chaos all round and causing huge numbers of events, large and small, to be called off. The only people that seemed to be happy were the Americas Cup style catamarans at Cowes that were reaching over 55mph with equally spectacular and expensive upsets along the way. Almost unbelievable how many meetings have fallen victim to wind conditions in the last two seasons. Prospects are somewhat better at present for the two day St Albans and International Regatta at Kingsbury over the Bank Holiday weekend.

Given that the wind had not abated much in a week it was a pleasant surprise to find that the scheduled hydro event at Victoria Park could go ahead. Norman Lara has put together a list of runners and speeds achieved and also pointed out that Victoria is an ideal location for interested parties to 'have a go' with a tethered hydro. Also good to see a couple of vintage boats in action and the first run for an electric boat for a while. Rumour has it that a very quick A1E is due to make a debut this month. Embarrassing if it beats the IC boats as the Smolnikovs have a habit of doing?

Steve Betney has kindly pointed out that the Retro Club page and track day reports are not easily found other than from the Update or Pylon pages. This does happen occasionally as we see all the pages as a list, rather than a website so miss out these subtleties of access. We have added links to the tethered car Racing Page and the main Car List so the Retro Club can now be found in four different locations. 

Auction antics: A while ago we were sent a link to an auction in California of a large tethered car collection. It had not originated from anyone that we knew of, so were intrigued, especially as many of the cars looked like reproductions or heavily customised versions of original cars. The results of the sale beggar belief and there seems no logical explanation for the prices realised. There can be no rationale for a volume production car making over ten times what it could be had for from eBay during the same period. The only explanation can be that they were being sold into a market that was not inhabited by tethered car enthusiasts and that the prospective purchasers had no real idea of the value of what they were bidding on. Perhaps a severe dose of auction fever overtook a group with (very) deep pockets? Previous experience has shown that the chickens come home to roost when attempts are made to sell the items on. One of our regular contributors did question 'where this leaves the tethered car market' and we would suggest exactly where it was, as those in the know will shake their heads in amazement and those that paid these exorbitant amounts will be looking at a heavy dose of negative equity in due course. The mind really does boggle at times. 

Unbelievable, August bank Holiday weekend in Britain and it is sunny and hot, very hot, breaking records on consecutive day. Excellent news for OTW that was embarking on a triple header, Friday to Gt Carlton for a track day and Kingsbury for the St Alban's Speed meeting on the following day and the International Regatta on the Sunday. What an incredible day it turned out to be in Lincolnshire with the biggest attendance ever, including a group from Italy, and the most amazing array of rare and historic tethered car items ever seen together. Add that to a mini swap meet and there is the recipe for an unforgettable day. The meeting at Kingsbury was very much a case of 'what might have been for many' and personal success for four competitors who topped the results lists each day. Not a happy weekend for some though with broken boats, damaged motors and engines that just refused to run consistently or continuously.

Commiseration to Roger Phillips who posted pictures of his Vector CF car that shows what happen when  an electric model goes wrong and the disastrous result of a couple of hundred amps not going where they should, a very expensive barbeque. The same meeting was a triumph for Roland Bendell who broke the American record with a composite car that he designed and built himself and has developed over the last few years. 337k is impressive for any 10 and especially for this car that we first saw in Basel back in 2015, a great deal of lateral thinking and engineering involved along the way.

August 2019

A chance conversation with an enthusiast from the other side of the world brought us back to the thorny subject of engines being separated from cars and boats for whatever reason. It was understandable in the past when engine breakages occurred, chassis or cars became outdated or things were taken apart and spread around workshops, never to be reunited. Although, through a bit of knowledge and a lot of luck, some of these earlier separations have been reversed, one of the great joys of what we do. A well-respected car and engine man sheepishly admitted to having sold on some vital parts of an important engine that he owned, not realising what they were, until several years on that is. Through to when collecting really took off, cars and boats were almost valueless, yet engines were already appreciating, leading to more separation. A member of the modelling press recalled Dooling Arrows being bought for a tenner, the engines taken out and then the cars scrapped, ouch.

It was not this aspect that our friend was referring to though; it was the thoroughly unsavoury act of holding to ransom owners of one piece of the item by those that were in possession of other important bits. We have seen some examples of this on ebay and the even more unpleasant behaviour of dismantling a complete unit and offering the parts as separate lots. The suspicion is that someone unscrupulous enough to do this in the first place will also ensure that the bidding is rigged sufficiently to get a monster profit? What to do though if, by good fortune, you find that you have a hull, car, engine, or part thereof and discover someone else with the missing elements? The only sure thing is that you cannot both have the complete original so several scenarios can ensue. If it appears for sale or the owner is happy to sell, then a deal can be arranged. Sometimes one party might even realise the importance of the item and donate it or sell at a much-reduced price. It may be possible to arrange a two or three way deal so that all the parts can be put back together. But what happens when one of the parties involved is fully aware of the importance of what they have and how badly it is needed and then proceeds to squeeze until the proverbial pips squeak, either to make a large amount of money or force you into selling your bit to them, at which point, roles are reversed. Our friend quoted two examples where the asking price ran into tens of thousands of dollars for the original part, both sides well aware what the finished engine would be worth. When do you say no, and then does ‘bloody mindedness’ make sure you keep your bit so that the person that tried to hold you to ransom does not make a killing either.

The final, and to our mind totally unacceptable, ploy was to lend the builder the part so that they could take patterns from it to finish their project, but then it would have to be smashed so that the engine could never again exist in original condition. In trying to reunite original parts, we have seen the very best and some of the worst human traits displayed, happily, almost always the former. This brings us to the final question, is it ever right to destroy significant historic items to preserve the rarity and value of those that remain?

Pitbox this month is a bit special as it is that rarest of cars, one that can be identified and its origins, owner and racing history traced and documented.

The mention of Jozsef Peto and his six championship wins in succession last month piqued interest as to whether anyone else had equalled this achievement? Amongst those who have managed five are Jan-Erik Falk and Boris Afanasiev. Remarkably, Afanasiev and Kapusikov between them wracked up fifteen consecutive 1.5cc titles and two world championships from 1987 to 2001. As to whether anyone had beaten Peto, the record of Lembit Vaher is unsurpassed. He had seven consecutive wins from 2009, but an unprecedented achievement in doing the 'double' at the very same meetings winning both 1.5 and 2.5 classes on each occasion. Add in the World Championship and that was eight double titles consecutively. By our rough count Lembit and Jan-Erik are way ahead in individual wins with well over forty between them. Fred Kirschner has compiled a complete list of winners for the RGS website.

A couple of updates by courtesy of Peter Hill, who points out that the photo of Dick Cooper's vintage hydro last month was almost certainly taken at Old Ford and at its fastest, 88+mph, was fitted with a McCoy motor. The mystery Pitbox hydro he believes came from one of the North East clubs, possibly South Shields. Thanks to Peter for keeping an eye out for these errors or incorrect information. In our defence, in each case the information was passed to us with the photographs. As we have found just this last month, even primary sources, as they are termed, can be wrong, but remain so until new information is forthcoming, even if it takes sixty plus years. What prompted this, well, Steve Betney kindly passed on an article by a local historical group about the Derby Club track at Raynesway. Contemporary reports in Model Cars stated that the Club lost its track to a road widening scheme in 1951, yet ten years later, there is the track still in existence as the OS map shows. The suggestion in the article was that it may have been noise that caused the problems or was it that the track was left in isolation and no longer useable?

Bitten to death, frustrated and for one unfortunate, somewhat wet. Not only exceptionally high water at Kingsbury for the July regatta, but ravenous bugs and with three notable exceptions, engines that refused to play. Those that did come away smiling were Tony Collins having christened a new boat with two good runs, Ron Hankins with a perfect record of six starts and six successful runs and Bob Kirtley with his first run of the season but a blown boiler to show for it. For the rest, lots of head scratching, and not just from the hoards of hungry mossies.

Neither Julie or Alex on the local forecast gave any realistic hopes for the scheduled regatta at Althorne on the 14th and so it proved. The northerly winds that have been running down the east coast present the worst possible direction on the lake, leaving just a few hardy souls to risk their boats. Frustrating for all, but especially for all those headed out to Bulgaria chance to iron out any problems and get boats into top tune for the forthcoming World Championships. The water in the purpose built pond there is always absolutely flat but that does lead to 'sticky water' syndrome. Some believe that this a fallacy, yet flying boats, full sized hydroplanes and models have suffered from it for years. Getting 'unstuck' and 'over the hump' could prove very difficult and even impossible at times.

On our return from Hannover last year we had an extra box in the car. In the latest of his 'Ramblings' Oliver Monk update us on the progress with the contents of the 'box' as well as ventures into the realms of CAD and CAM. There are also timely reminders that running modern tethered cars can create a great deal of work between meetings. Thanks to Oliver for these continuing glimpses into his 'workshop' and the handy hints.

The weather fell apart somewhat over the final weekend of July, not only causing major disruption to the Tour de France and many other events but also making dodging the rain of prime importance at the European Tethered Car Championships in Pecs, Hungary. Videos were posted of all hands to the pump covering the track and photos of a very wet and miserable presentation. In between there was some very close racing and Ando Rohtmets coming within a whisker of beating Gualtiero Picco's ten year old Class 5 record.  The Eastern European nations dominated Class 1 with only Philipp Meier managing anywhere close to them, Rain Teder, Lembit Vaher and Andrii Yakimiv sharing the podium as last year. Class 2 did have a change in fortune with Lembit adding another Championship to his already impressive tally. Volodymyr Smolnikov moved up two places for the Silver and Gyoergi Bondor in third. Andrii Yakimiv added another Class 3 title to his CV with Mart Sepp making a welcome return in 2nd. After the comments about the age and experience of some running in 3b the winner was very definitely at the bottom edge of the age spectrum. Galaina Solovieva won by a massive 7kph, beating a certain Evgueni Soloviev into second. The similarity in names might give a clue as to her association with the sport? Toenu Sepp and Tiit Luman moved up one place each from last year in Class 4 with Anette Besang putting in the fastest run on day three to occupy the third step on the podium. The seven runs over 335kph on day one in Class 5 decided the finishing order with Ando the only person over 340kph. On day two he upped this to 344.110,just short of the 344.959 set by Picco in Sydney in 2009. Michel Duran in second and Peter Arlautzki in third were separated by just 0.4kph at over 338. Full results are now available on the speedmodelcar website.

July 2019

No matter how good a handle you feel you have on a manufacturer or a particular model, along will come a version or variation that is new to you to put the proverbial amongst the pigeons. Oh the joy these can bring to the dedicated collector when one turns up, or conversely the annoyance as you thought that you had ‘one of every size in every colour’, but now you don’t. Then comes the inevitable search, firstly to confirm that this was indeed a recognised variation and secondly, to find one. Then you discover, to your cost, that the red box is immeasurably more valuable than the blue, or that the two bolt head can command many times more than the three bolt. The value is not really the issue to us, just knowing what did exist in order to record and increase the combined knowledge. There are also the subtle differences or idiosyncrasies lurking to catch out the unwary like 1066 producing 4" tyres but with the same 6.00 x 16 wall marking as the much more common and smaller ones. The same company also had different logos at stages in their short existence, used several versions of labelling on the car and engine kit boxes as well as advertising things that do not seem to have existed, or did they? Even for this company, there are a bewildering number of alternatives of the same basic products. This appears to be where the obsession and compulsion begins to creep in and the pursuit of the unobtainable begins. Every motor made by ED, enough of a challenge. Every mark and variation, just about possible for one type, but impossible for the range. Include the more obscure like the Condor, just about, or the Fireball, yes, it did exist, and the task becomes all-consuming. It does concentrate the mind if the object of desire is a rarity, such as we discussed last month, but then there are the odd occasions when it just falls into your lap, and then you cannot quite believe your luck? Yes, the 1066 tethered hydroplane still evades us.

The Pitbox this month is something of a mystery. We know what it is, who owned it but have no other information other than what can be determined from photos. Even the son of the original owner has no further information.

Another manifestation of our favourite gripe, and we quote, 'a very rare and increasingly difficult to find vintage model diesel engine'. All very well, except that it happens to be a current production PAW?

Difficult to believe with all the rain that has been falling over the last few days that we enjoyed twelve days of hot and sunny weather on our annual 'spring tour' to Basel and Kapfenhardt. Something of a landmark for one of the OTW team with a first place and a new British record. The rain did relent though for the first regatta at Kingsbury. Three very happy competitors and a new class record into the bargain.

Sign of the times with the news from the US that Roger Phillips has set a new outright, American, record for tethered cars at 210mph or 337kph in new money. An achievement in itself, but this is the latest development of the Vector electric car, with carbon fibre construction that puts it within the Class 5 weight limit, unlike the previous incarnation. Still a bit to go to beat Picco's record but with the fastest tethered hydro in the world also electric, it shows where we are headed. Nothing quite replaces the sound of an IC motor winding up to peak rpm though.
Stop Press:
On 23rd June Roger and his Vector could lay claim to being the fastest tether car in the world with a quite incredible run at 222mph. Watching the youtube clip, the readout flashed up over 350kph, the final speed being 357kph. An amazing achievement for Roger and all the guys that helped in the design and building of the Vector CF. We seldom include photos in Pylon, but this landmark achievement deserves recognition.

Not quite so fast at the June Retro Club track day but a goodly turnout and several new cars making their debuts. Them as would start ran well with some new personal bests, but still, some of the motors refused to play, causing a great deal of frustration in some quarters. Oliver Monk updated all those attending on the current situation regarding the proposed car track at the BMFA facility at Buckminster. What an incredible investment in time and money in the States on the resurfacing and complete upgrade of the track at Whittier Narrows. It is great news to hear of investment in a track rather than news of one closing. Facebook has several posts on the amazing amount of work being done there.

Amongst all the car related material that arrived in a series of packages was a newspaper article from 1979 featuring the European Championship at Lyon. Sadly, the track is no longer in use so we reproduce the photos as a reminder of that excellent facility. We thrive on coincidences and this material also included a set of plans for Jozsef Peto's 5cc car. The Hungarians almost had a stranglehold  at the European Championships in the 2.5cc and 5cc classes for several years in the 60s and early 70s with Peto winning six on the trot from 68-73. Just a couple of days later, Michael Schmutz posted a photo of a set of framed drawings for the same car, but then the results from Pecs were posted, and there was Jozsef Peto competing, still with his number 48 car.