Having waded through all the scanning involved in digitising the huge archive of photos, negatives and plates kindly passed on by the family of the late Edgar Westbury we were able to spend some time sorting and attempting to assimilate all the car related material that had arrived more recently. What is remarkable is that between the various packages, almost the entire history of French, German, Italian, Swiss and British tethered car racing is covered, plus a significant quantity of commercially related information. Sorting it all was a mammoth task and we must thank the donors for sending it all to us, rather than consigning it to a skip. Unfortunately, most of it is in the language of the countries of origin, which makes anything other than pictures, names and dates hard going.
The entry and results lists and reports from a very large number of meetings make for fascinating reading as perusal of these charts the careers of many competitors, the changes and developments in cars as well as the ebb and flow of engines that were popular or successful at various times. Sadly, this material also provides a stark reminder of all those competitors no longer with us as well as the tracks that have been lost over the intervening period. Looking down the lists of competitors, we consider ourselves to have been very lucky in meeting two people that were at the 1954 European Championships and five that were at the 1958 event as well as having been in contact with others from that period. Inevitably, given that we are looking at over sixty-five years of tethered car racing, the personal contacts are diminishing rapidly meaning that it will only be archives such as these that can provide relevant information.
Going back just twenty years around 1/3rd of the top sixty drivers then are still competing including the leaders in Classes 1 & 4 Jan-Erik Falk and Thomas Finn but sadly neither the late Gualtiero Picco and Rolf Hagel from Classes 2 & 5. Of the top 60, just six represented the old Eastern Bloc of whom five are still very much active. Another twenty years or so and we still have ten competitors from the 77 Championships at Basel still racing and even from the start of the 70s, five names still appear on modern results sheets. Notable names from the 1971 EM are Werner Metzger, Lothar Runkehl, Fred Kirschner, Horst Denneler, Endre Bogden and Joseph Krasznai. Other names that will also be instantly recognisable although through the next generation taking up the sport are Meir, Zaugg, Duran, Bach, Arlautzki. Very helpfully, all cars are identified by colour although engine makes show SuperTigre top of the list, Dooling next, then Cox and a sprinkling of Rossi.
All this material can take us up all sorts of routes and taxes our limited French and German but does throw up an amazing variety of fascinating (to us) information and creates the desire to find out even more and hopefully locate contemporary photos of events, tracks and personalities from this bygone era, can anyone help? Having said that, we are indebted to David Giles who has been able to provide identities and backgrounds to many of the photos that otherwise have no captions.
The Album featuring Gems Suzor continues for another month, and such has been the interest and further information forthcoming that we are intending to produce an article dedicated to this most influential of tethered hydroplane racers. The Photo this month features the builder of the innovative Firefly series of tethered hydroplanes, Harold Puntis.
The Pitbox this month is another of those gems where we know exactly what it is, who built it and most of its history and background. We are featuring the second of the cars built by the late Doctor Rankin up in Lancashire.
Of the thousands of tethered cars built by enthusiasts over the years, certain elements are common to all of them, which did cause problems in the early days of the sport in Britain when very little hardware was available. Companies in the immediate post war period were very quick to start supplying the necessary items for builders as well as their their own products, and in a new article we are taking a look at one vital component, the gearbox.
The model engine sale at Gildings at the beginning of the month certainly gave food for thought and clearly illustrates the uncertainty of the engine market at present. Quality motors in boxes were still making good money, although similar but used versions could be had for very little money, at times less than half what might be expected. Inevitably there were some surprises, particularly Rossi 15s that went over £200 with premium. At the other end of the scale, ETAs, Nordecs and a Falcon that must make someone wonder why they paid more than three times that amount previously. There is still a noticeable trend for replicas to make more than originals, Tom Ridley Olivers being a case in point. Interesting to see a number of motors sold at the auction appearing for sale with a straight £100 mark up on the hammer price, and subsequently sold, quickly.
On the 9th of November, John and Brenda Underwood, along with Norman Lara and Angela Gullick visited Jim and Sue Free to confer on them both honorary life membership of the Model Hydroplane Club in recognition of their very long service to the Club. It is also understood that the MPBA has conferred this honour upon them as well.
Santa has been busy already with another fiendish Christmas challenge. This time it is a hydroplane related 'mazeword' with tickets to the London Model Engineering Exhibition for the first two correct answers after Dec 28th. A free drink is on offer as well, so get the 'little grey cells' into action. Thanks to Angela Gullick for preparing this festive teaser.
Adrian Duncan's model engine site is always a good read and last month he published a super article from Ken Croft telling the story of Bill Wisneiwski's first flight at Swinderby and the effect a tuned pipe had on the spectators.
Just a reminder that the regatta reports will be deleted from the site at the end of this month, so if you want your moment of fame to be saved for posterity, then please download the pages. With all the new material that has arrived since our last ‘spring clean’ we are taking the opportunity to work through all our pages, adding photos and additional information where available, correcting formatting and other errors and replacing the odd photo that has been deleted by mistake or become corrupted. Given that there are over 240 individual pages, we hope to complete this mammoth task by the spring, so please have a leisurely troll through the site to see what is new.
One of our contributors was lamenting that speeds for tethered cars and boats do not seem to have increased significantly of late, sometimes not even getting close to records set previously. Michael Schmutz pointed out last year that the cars had improved by around 100kph since 1966 but perusal of the results shows that 75% of this was between 1966 and 1986 and the remaining 25% at less than 1kph per year from then on. This is also reflected in the hydroplane world where the A3 record is now twenty years old and only the B1 class that has the advantage of using current F2A motors has advanced significantly. Delving closer into the increases in speed showed that between 1971 and 1977 each car class had improved by around 20%, but in 1977 the use of nitro, propylene oxide and all other forms of 'woofy juice' was banned leading to an immediate drop in speeds of 13-17kph, the 10cc class being least affected at just 8kph. It was into the next decade before the 1.5cc and 5cc cars were back up to speed, yet the 2.5cc cars were significantly faster within four seasons and the 10s had made up the loss in just two years and were a remarkable 20kph quicker on straight fuel than they were on nitro just four years earlier. Add to this there were increases in cable sizes as speeds exceeded the maximum set for each line, which was another contributory factor that slowed cars for a while. The hydro world also had a similar experience when nitro was banned and cables increased, but unfortunately, no records exist from that period to quantify the changes.
We published a superb article by David Giles back in 2012 on the development of the tethered car where he provides the historical context for every element of the cars that exist today. What does explain in some way the concern of our contributor is that by around 1982 the design and technology of the tethered car as we know it today was already established and by 1990, the same with hydros. There were any number of advances previous to these dates that did have notable impact, the glow plug that rendered the diesel obsolete, Schnuerle porting, disc valves, ABC cylinders and pistons that did away with piston rings, the streamlined body work, wheels retreating inside the body completely and possibly the most significant, the tuned pipe allied to a purpose built front exhaust motor. Hydros benefited from the same advances but hull design lagged behind until the arrival of the Mirov/Subbotin style boat in the late 80s that is still in universal use. In effect, it is old age, damage and decay, or the desire for new, rather than obsolescence that creates the need for new models, which is good news for some and depressing for others.
The only cars and boats that have seen disproportionate increases in speed are those that are using electric power and as mentioned earlier in the year, the fastest tethered car and hydroplanes in the world currently are both electric powered (unintended pun). Given that IC and electric power have been around for about the same length of time, the advances in motors, batteries and controllers over the last few years have been remarkable. NAVIGA has embraced electric power with one waterscrew and one airscrew class but as yet neither FEMA or WMCR incorporate them, although there are proposals for WMCR electric classes. There cannot be too many technical sports where there has been no significant development in the last forty plus years unless controlled by a foot thick rulebook to stop it? Whether this is good or bad is entirely a personal choice but it does show that those breaking the records that still stand were right at the top of their game at that time.
Our new Album celebrates one of the great names in International tethered hydroplane racing, that of Gems Suzor His career began before the First War and continued through to the 1960s, including regular visits to race in Britain for almost forty years, initially racing at Victoria from 1925 and then later at St Albans where he would lead a team of French competitors. The ongoing problem at the Verulamium Lake continues, much of it as a result of water extraction from the River Ver that made the national press in October. It is now five years since the last hydroplane event at the lake so we have taken this opportunity to update Malcolm Beak's article on St Alban's and add a gallery of photos that covers something like sixty five years of running there.
Both the Photo and Pitbox this month reflect the delights of running the website and illustrates just what items and material can turn up. The Pitbox shows a flash steam hydro that was famous in its day but not known to still be in existence until it appeared for sale, and an original Photo from the Westbury Archive of the same boat with its builder.
Following our comments about the number of traders at Old Warden in September, Steve Betney has commented that the regular swapmeets at Buckminster are now probably the largest in the country and very well supported as events in their own right. Unfortunately for us, they do tend to coincide with other events that we are committed to so we have yet to enjoy a troll round the stalls up there. Good news from Buckminster that with the profits from their BBQ and the swapmeet, the track fund is headed towards £6,000. Thanks to all who have contributed so far.
Gildings in Market Harborough are having their annual model engine sale at the very beginning of November, which this year includes the collection of Ron Draper, a member of the British team for many years and world power free flight champion in 1956 at Cranfield with OS engines. He was also in the British Wakefield team in 58 and British indoor team in 62, breaking the British record three times in the process. Over 500 motors to chose from in the sale catalogue.
We are lucky in having a number of prolific builders and restorers of tethered cars who are prepared to share their work and projects with us. This month, John Goodall has sent details of a Mercedes that he has completed and an insight into the methods he used to rectify some of the basic inaccuracies in the casting. What we have not yet figured out is the prototype that it was modelled from. Looks very much like a W196, but was the prominent air scoop too difficult for the pattern maker or is it what aeromodellers delightfully term 'stand off scale'? Thanks to John for the article and photos illustrating another superb example of his engineering and craftsmanship.
October the 6th was a dismal day in the east of England. Torrential rain and strong winds led to the cancellation of the regatta at Althorne, the final event of the 2019 season and bringing to an end a catalogue of cancellations or meetings at that venue where the wind was too strong to run all the classes. Worse was to follow as the owner of the lake confirmed that it would not be available for hydroplane racing in the future. Thirteen certainly proved to be unlucky as that was the number of seasons we were able to run there before being evicted. Althorne Lake often fell victim to the wind but on calm and sunny days saw large numbers of boats running with numerous records and personal best performances over the years. Sadly, from having around thirty lakes hosting hydroplanes this leaves us with just one venue where all classes can be run. Victoria is still available but with restrictions on the boats that can be used. Cerney, Old Ford, Bradwell, Milton Keynes, Hull, St Alban's and Rowden have all been lost within the last few years so now all roads lead to Kingsbury Water Park, an excellent venue that is almost completely unaffected by wind, although unlike Althorne, possibly a bit too much water at times. We take a look back at Althorne Lake over the time we have been running there.
Having seen the plethora of engines for sale at OW and the lots at the forthcoming Gildings auction, we are all too aware of the huge numbers of engines that are currently available or going to be coming onto the market shortly. It is going to be very difficult and somewhat time consuming for those tasked with disposing of the collections that are appearing as a result of the Empty Spaces that all too often feature in Pylon. We know of at least four sizeable, not to say very large collections that are having to be sold for this reason. Placing so many items is going to be problematic as is achieving a realistic price. This may also affect probate valuations if the collections are as big as we know some of them to be and that is without all the spares, tools, equipment and associated material that we all tend to gather. Not a job we would relish, having had to have done it once already although in a slightly different context where that particular market was even more depressed. How do you explain to a partner, executor or solicitor that items bought for the wrong side of £200 little more than a year ago and were still new and unused would be difficult to sell for just a tenth of that?
An interesting bit of news that we picked up in a casual conversation is that Prop Shop is back in business. Protean Designs have bought the business from Swan after the disastrous fire that caused its closure and it is now back in business under the Prop Shop name with the same extensive website and still showing the full range of hydro props. We have added a link to our Links page to enable potential customers to access this supplier.
Inflation or being hopeful? A Don Edmunds built 'Bonneville' car with a rear mounted Morton 5 and club prop has been on the market recently at around £10,000. A similar model was sold at the de Rancougne auction in 2004 for £2250, and that, along with many of the other lots, was thought to be over priced?
Not sure how it has quite worked out this way but it was another triple header for OTW with the final track day of the season at Gt Carlton, the Midland Model Exhibition and the hydroplane conferences on successive days. Again, too many conflicting events to make it to Buckminster. The trip to Carlton was blighted with roadworks, diversions, and yes, more tractors. If readers are beginning to believe we have an obsession with these agricultural giants, then heed the news that a vintage tractor sold on the 21st of October for a cool £310,000 plus fees. Henry Cole showed us just how much even classic tractors (ie. ones we used to drive) can command, £30,000 plus. Mind you, Henry's accounting system could come in useful as his profit and loss account does not take into account capital outlay or restoration costs. Reminds us of those collectors who keep secret accounts for their trading so the 'other half' does not know what is going out.
Midland Model Exhibition appears to be getting
more and more popular with the public but less so with traders, reflecting the
current problems in the retail sector. Seems you can sell the finished product
for several thousand pounds but struggle to sell components and tooling. We know
from local experience that almost complete locomotives can be picked up for less
than half the cost of the boiler alone, so no need to make anything now, unless
you enjoy the building process and have the facilities.
The final day of our 'tour' was spent in hydroplane meetings, reflecting on a season ravaged by bad weather and the loss of Althorne Lake as described above. There were also changes to most of the club and section contacts, with the retirement of Jim Free and Sonia Collins. In common with many clubs and societies, it is becoming ever more difficult to find people willing to take on positions, responsibilities and organisation, a comment heard several times during the weekend at each of our stops. Norman Lara produced the provisional calendar of regatta dates for next year, much reduced, unless another venue can be found to add to the list, any help or suggestions for a lake in the southern area would be very much appreciated.
The World Tethered Car Championships have just finished in Brisbane and a highly successful event it was by all accounts. Thanks to all who posted photos daily, even if results were hard to come by. We had been told a while ago that the Brisbane track was extremely fast and given a very detailed explanation of why this was so and why speeds could exceed those recorded in Europe for the same cars. That this was true came via the early news of practice speeds and round one that saw Tonu Sepp equal Picco's ten year old record and Ando Rohtmets beat it by a considerable margin. Ando has come close before but to beat it by 3kph is impressive and it means that the cable size for Class 5 has to be increased. There were no less than nine national records set in the course of the meeting and innumerable personal bests achieved. Much of the silverware headed back to Estonia and the Ukraine and full results are available on the TRCA website. They did have a bit of 'English' weather during the week though, our only contribution this time.
The ‘birthday’ of OTW is always a time for reflection, accompanied by a degree of amazement that, even after fourteen years, enough material comes along to continue publication. Indeed, it has been something of a vintage year on many fronts. The ‘discoveries’ keep coming and keep on surprising us. It has been thin on the hydro front for a while, but then along comes a named and instantly recognisable flash steamer from the 30s with an impeccable history, and a true ‘sleeper’ as there was no hint of its existence until it appeared for sale. An exquisitely built 10cc car and engine that was a tour de force of engineering but with no history and then GE Jackson’s car that he raced around 1949/50 when secretary of the MCA. This car has a racing record, contemporary description and details of its origins, as well as a photo of Jackson with the car, perfect provenance. The winning 2.5cc car from the 1987 European Championships turned up in Switzerland and several cars from Manfred Pfefferle’s extensive collection have also come onto the market. Roger Phillips used his Vector CF electric car to set a new world’s fastest for tethered cars at 357kph and news of a huge investment in time and money spent on the complete renovation and relaying of the track at Whittier Narrows in the US.
Inevitably there have been loses, the sad deaths of competitors, organisers and suppliers and long term illnesses that have brought an end to far too many racing careers. Always a cause for concern when venues are lost to model activities, as there are all too few facilities as it is, but it does appear that the proposed car track at the BMFA Buckminster facility is going to happen. (See 'Steve Betney' below for the latest) The ending of publication of the Retro Club newsletter after seventy issues left a big void, and we must thank Peter Hill for all his efforts over the years as it was the newsletter that sowed the seeds for the creation of OTW and by association, our own racing careers. That particular avenue was something that was entirely unintended and unanticipated at the outset, but travelling to meetings just to watch soon translated into joining in and competing and two very steep learning curves. That a British tethered car record would have been broken along the way would never have entered our thoughts at any stage, but that is the effect that cars, boats and the wonderful people involved can have.
The website and our own racing owes almost everything to those that have contributed, helped and been so generous with their time, so we offer our thanks to all those who have supported us in any way, sometimes on specific projects or one off items, others for continued assistance. Far too many to name individually, but acknowledgements on each article, photo or piece of information shows the depth of support we have enjoyed, which is very much appreciated.
As an aside, there is the inevitable amount of junk mail that arrives in the site’s inbox because any sort of filter would stop the genuine first time contacts that are so valuable and just to prove a point, an email arrived from India from a Doctor who had acquired one of Fred Westmoreland's engines, now well over 100 years old. Of the less desirable ones, the bank and BT scams are easy to spot for obvious reason and the offer of services and products easily weeded out. The latest and somewhat amusing ones, given the nature of the site, are those that are offering the services of ‘local lonely housewives’ although not couched in quite those terms and ladies with quite explicit needs, again not printable. Recently though there have been a few of the blackmail variety, ‘you have been caught doing very naughty things’ or ‘we know of some very nasty predilections you have’, which might just con some unsuspecting private person, but a website devoted to tethered cars and boats? Perhaps it is the word ‘tether’ that triggers the emails? Still a bit of an adventure opening an email from an unknown source though, even if the subject is recognisable, will it be a scam, or something much more valuable to us?
A bit further afield for the Pitbox and the first of three tethered cars that we know of, owned and raced by the late Georg Fausch, all similar in concept yet very different in detail. There is also a connection to the current Album as this car was present at that meeting.
If there has to be an end of season regatta, then the weather at Kingsbury Water Park was as perfect as it gets. Interesting action on the water with a very long standing record under real threat, an aged A2 that has been renovated and completed three perfect runs and four competitors with their best runs of the season. It may well have also been the 'swansong' for one of the most fearsome IC boats ever to be attached to a line?
East Anglia is the driest area of the country, and nowhere is this more obvious than at Althorne Lake. After several seasons of having to run with a second and higher launching platform due to the water levels, gradual depletion of the lake meant that had to come out three seasons ago. Now the water is down to the level of the lower platform, not seen since 2007, requiring that to also be removed and the pylon lowered as well. This did allow the September regatta to go ahead and we thank Norman Lara for photos and Sonia Collins for results.
Steve Betney has been keeping us up to date on the progress of the proposed tethered car track at Buckminster. After a few false starts and a degree of uncertainty it is now good news all round as the digger moved in last week as Steve's very detailed report reveals. Although a sizeable sum has already been raised, there is a great deal more infrastructure and equipment needed before the circle can be used and Steve continues to appeal for donations to enable the track to be in operation for the 2020 season. Thanks to Steve and all those involved for their enthusiasm and hard work that is making this all possible. OTW supports the venture wholeheartedly and has created a new page to accommodate this.
After the hectic International event at Gt Carlton last month, it was back to the normal, more relaxed, track day for September, except, the cars were not aware of this as they were running faster than ever before. Not only were the motors singing merrily, but the cars were also skipping about in a quite alarming manner, not always with happy results. Also offered everyone the opportunity to inspect the car and offer congratulations to Oliver Monk who broke Steve Turley's seven year old Class 4 record in Basel over the August bank Holiday weekend.
Another good turnout at the September hydro regatta at Victoria Park. Remarkable that the Victoria Club has just celebrated its 115th anniversary and has been the venue for hydroplane racing all that time, first running free on the large 'bathing lake', later tethered when speeds increased and then restricted to just the small boating lake when the entire pool was divided into three in 1937. Thanks to Norman Lara for providing results, photos and reports from these regattas and the only venue now where the public can see hydros in action.
Empty Spaces: One from each side of the Atlantic at the beginning of the month, and another sad loss at the end. Adrian Duncan had mentioned on his site just how ill Mike Patience was, which in itself was something of a shock, and hardly had this news sunk in before we were informed of his passing. A superb engineer and a great authority on models in general and certain makes in particular. We only met him at swapmeets and had the occasional phone call, but he came up with some lovely items, one of which was an early OTW restoration project. Our condolences go to Miles and the family. Another long time enthusiast lost last month was Paul Rossiter from Kent. We never met him yet were well aware of his extensive collecting activities via other correspondents, the odd email and his regular appearances as a buyer and seller on eBay as well as adverts in many national and international magazines.
Ted Maciag, Long time tether car enthusiast, passed away at home in Sharpes, Florida on August 24th, 2019. Ted had been in declining health for some time and passed away just 61 days short of his 80th birthday.
Born in California in 1939, he spent many years in El Paso before moving to California where he worked in the RV industry, worked for Garald Frymire and worked in the space industry. After retiring Ted moved to Clearwater, Florida for a number of years and then ultimately settled in Sharpes, Florida. Ted produced Model Race Car News for a number of years. Ted had raced tether cars on the El Paso track, Whittier Narrows, Anderson, Indiana and Cedar Creek track on Long Island as well as Sweden, Germany, Poland, Russia, France and Italy. The A.M.R.C.A. has lost a true friend ! Thanks to J.Phil Macdonald for this appreciation.
We met Ted Maciag at Basel in 2013 and shared a table each day where he would regale us with tales of tethered car racing, engine building, and anecdotes way beyond the realms of the model world. By the time we met him his penchant for jumping out of aeroplanes had done him no good and pain was an intrinsic part of his day, yet he kept digging in his bag and bringing out interesting items and artefacts as well as preparing his Kapusikov car. Needless to say, he had the beating of the sole British Class 1 entry that weekend. Another of the great 'names' that is no more.
Unfortunate news last season was that due to continuing ill health Paul Windross, the British flash steam record holder was retiring from the sport and that his fearsome boat was for sale. Now we hear that after an equally long period of poor health, Ian Berne who held the record on numerous occasions has recovered sufficiently to return to running a steamer, but having sold his own boats has solved the problem by buying Paul's record holder. It was Paul's regret that despite all his hard work over recent seasons he missed out on the first 130mph run with a steamer by just 0.67mph. Viewers on youtube may have seen Paul returning to Elvington, the scene of many previous motor cycle records, and getting his leg over a bike yet again although slightly slower than previous runs.
Seemingly the last sunny and hot day of the year at Old Warden for the final model event of the season. Lots of traders with untold numbers of engines and other items on offer. From discussions it would appear that there is going to have to be a seriously downward trend in expectations if significant trading is to be enjoyed again. The collecting world is currently awash with engines for sale, with many more likely to appear in the short term, very much a buyers market it would seem?
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.
Seldom is anything really new, more often it has just been forgotten about, and this was the case with the ‘bungee’ for launching hydroplanes, supposedly brought back from Bulgaria in the 70s, except it had been in use back in the early 1950s at Fleet Pond as photos from John Reynolds showed. We are also 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
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.
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.
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.
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.