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January 2020

OTW would like to wish all our readers and correspondents a happy, healthy and successful 2020. Two decades into the new century already and only just got over the millennium bug.

Recently, a number of photos have been posted of tethered cars that have been customised and finished to concours condition. An auction catalogue showed a collection of cars that all had fantastic paint jobs and graphics, plus chrome and other decoration that definitely put them in the showpiece or shelf queen category. We have commented on this trend before and it still rankles when a nice, genuine and original car receives this treatment, so losing any traces of patina, use or previous history. Of course, there will be some cases where extensive renovation or restoration is a necessity, but we believe a degree of caution should be exercised in these cases so as not to create something that ‘never was’. Our overriding mantra in renovations or restorations is ‘that if it does not have to be done, don’t do it’. Basically, this describes conservation, if that term can be applied to models? Between, the ‘do nothing’ scenario and the necessity of a ground up rebuild lay all manner of decisions and considerations. Restoring what is there is relatively easy, but it is when it is ‘not there’ that the head scratching starts, whether we know what it was in the first place and can get a replacement or is it a case of replicate what should be there if not, or even worse, have to guess what it might have been?

We were recently witness to an interesting case where a missing part had to be replicated, but a bit like a tethered car with three wheels, the fourth should be no problem as there were three to copy, except that is not what happened. Rather than study and copy the existing three examples, the decision was made to retain the correct external appearance, but make all the components differently, the method of fixing and attachment completely different and then add bits to disguise what had been done. Beggar’s belief really as it was not a matter of cost, ability to reproduce, or availability of information but an intellectual decision that will exist in perpetuity to confuse future generations. What we have yet to consider are the recreations that start off with just the minimum of original components that justify calling the finished product something it isn’t or the total replication, which is a whole different ball game. A very thorny subject with so much material coming onto the market at present is it original, partly original or effectively new, something that can affect the value dramatically, but that is an entirely different question.

This month’s edition is very much on a theme as the new Album presents some of the restorations by Retro Club members that represent varying levels of the questions posed above. The Pit Box is of a track fresh car, probably up to fifty years old but that has had numerous incarnations through its racing career and should remain as it is for a specific reason, rather than be retro restored to what it once may have been.

The Photo takes us back to the era of the first war and the earliest image of a hydroplane running on the 'circular course' that we know of. We do have one that could be earlier still, but cannot confirm the date as yet.

For the new year we are posting the first of a new and occasional series of Retro Reprints. Over the seventy issues of the Retro Club magazine Peter Hill published an amazing number of articles on various aspects of tethered car racing and associated history. With the demise of the magazine, Peter has kindly allowed us to re-publish some of these for a wider audience. Word of warning though, these will only appear for a couple of months each and will not be archived on the site, so if you want to keep them for future reference, download them. The first is one member’s personal view on restoration and their philosophy, illustrated with contemporary examples. These articles have had to be re edited to accommodate the landscape format of a website and because readable scans would use huge amounts of webspace. Thank goodness for character recognition software though, and as a bonus, most of the photos are now in colour.

The search for another hydro venue continues. Some years ago, Model Boats reported that the Cotswold Club had lost their water, leaving only six venues, plus Victoria Park. Now, sadly it is just the one, plus Victoria? Excellent news on the new car track at Buckminster, which was poured on the 16th of December. The horsing circle has to be finished and the apron poured but the track surface is reckoned to be flat to the mm.  The European tethered car championships return to western Europe this July with a contingent of British drivers and supporters already booked for the trip.

The last few seasons have been somewhat difficult for the Sydney Club, not least the weather, which is still making International headlines. Unfortunately, this meant we lost the regular updates from Luddenham, so we were delighted to receive news and photos from Glenn Bransby. His page is now up and running again with a selection of photos from the track and the recent World Championships in Brisbane. To illustrate the extremes of weather they have been experiencing, the lake that they were hoping to run hydros on has gone from being far too deep to get a pylon in to bone dry. A somewhat dilapidated video cassette of the 1998 World Championships has been loaned to us, that features many vintage cars being run. A bit of technological jiggery pokkery has enabled it to be transferred to DVD for posterity.

Although we have taken off the race an track day reports, there were so many interesting cars on display during 2019 at Gt Carlton that we have put together a gallery of some of the more exciting items that have appeared as well as some new and exciting cars for 2020. There is also a set of photos of the track taken from a drone.

A very public manifestation of the topic we discussed in Pylon in August last year regarding one party holding another to ransom over a part. Well, this one made the International press and concerned a gearbox. Having obtained a very rare and extremely valuable car sans original gearbox, the new owner tried to negotiate for said original item. Price, a cool half million dollars and you arrange collection, too much, then you don't get it, and so far, he hasn't. Mind you, what's an odd half million when the car cost thirty seven of them?

An addition to our occasional updates on tethered car track with more photos from Lyon and another French track that has now been demolished for good, Dieppe. Luckily OTW was able to photograph it before the diggers moved in. Does anyone have any photos from when the track was active please?

The answer to the Christmas quizword was Coniston, scene of the annual powerboat record weeks and Donald Campbell's unfortunate demise. Did you get the right answer? No, neither did we, only John from Essex worked it out. Mind you, we did not even have one of the answers, although our (still correct) word did not give the right letter. Thanks to Angela and Norman for this teaser. Score draw at present between OTW and them.

Empty Spaces: December did not start well with news of the sudden deaths of two very long standing tethered car enthusiasts.

Keith Bragg: From the early days at Souldrop through to the last meeting of the season at Gt Carlton, Keith was one of the most regular participants, even during the latter days of his declining health. He was a consummate modeller, especially in the area of model boats where he built display models on commission and restored untold numbers of boats and yachts of every description. His modelling skills extended to model railways, aircraft and tethered cars, which is how we first met him at a Halton exhibition, many years ago.

As well as building numerous aircars, including Redair in 1996 that exceeded 35mph with a PAW 1.5, Keith built superb bodies for vintage chassis that had come his way. Such was his skill that he was a competitor at International level with his scale boats, travelling to Poland in 1995 for the NAVIGA championships with a steam launch. A member of several clubs, Keith was also the treasurer for the MPBA for a while. A lovely man and a superb modeller who will be sadly missed, our condolences to Barbara and the family.

Dieter Hecht: Dieter's involvement with tethered cars spans well over five decades. The first record is of him becoming DMMC Junior 2,5cc Champion in 1964 at just under 140kph, joining the Hannover Club in 1965? He travelled to many world and European championships including Anderson Indiana in 1974 where he came 3rd in the 2.5cc Class. He appears regularly in race reports from 1981, firstly with an Arlautzki car and Rossi motor, and then a Denneler car and Picco, which was much more successful, becoming the German Champion for the first time in 1983. After a serious illness he returned to the sport, incorporating his own ideas, which netted him three more German Championships and a European Championship in 2012. His German 10cc record of 337.518kph still stands. Besides the tethered cars he became an official scrutineer at motor cycle races and was the race organiser for the 1976 EC at Hannover.  To honour his involvement in motor sport, the ADAC awarded him the Golden Ewald Kroth Medal with wreath and the ADAC badge of honor in silver.  Thanks to David Giles for his memories of Dieter.