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Where can I run my tethered car?

The Retro Racing Club
 and the
Great Carlton Raceway

One of the greatest frustrations for tethered car enthusiasts has the lack of opportunity to run their cars in Britain. If you were a member of the BTCA and raced either a modern FEMA car or a more vintage model, then there were the European tracks, but for the collector, home builder and fun runner there was little opportunity, unless you were prepared to risk the compass circle at Old Warden, and its propensity for wrecking cars. It was something of a red-letter day then, when it was announced that the inaugural meeting of Peter Hill’s Great Carlton Raceway would be on 12th June 2011. Initially though, the track would only be open to members of the Retro Racing Club.

Oliver putting the 'Goer' on the line Oliver's 'school car' post run The 'lightweight' flying high

The Retro Racing Club holds a unique position, having been set up by Peter Hill in 1996 to ‘Encourage the building and running of tethered racing cars of the more traditional type.’ This was later extended to include vintage tethered hydroplanes as well. Peter started by publishing a regular newsletter, which he is still producing, and then expanded the club’s activities by offering numerous drawings, castings, and a variety of tyres to assist those interested in building or restoring cars.

Almost a 1066 Conquest Steve's 'Ollie's Rocket Racer' Running as it used to be

Conscious of the need for a facility to run cars, Peter built a track at his home, which became the regular venue for Retro Club members for fun competitions and thoroughly enjoyable ‘days out’. Apart from the couple of portable poles that were set up on car parks in the South West, the track at Souldrop was the only permanent facility available in this country. This was used extensively until the end of the 90s, when a move to Lincolnshire brought an end to the ‘Souldrop Speedway’ and the opportunity to run cars.

There were promises and hopes surrounding possible sites for new tracks which all come to nought and the BMCC portable track did offer some facility until that group imploded so spectacularly. The only prospect on the horizon was that Peter did intend to build a new track when time and money allowed. Eventually construction did start, but an unfortunate series of health problems and family tragedies meant that the track was not finished until 2010.

Dick Roberts' sidecar             Peter Hill's 1066 MRC Faster than a speeding bullet?

The track at Great Carlton is 7 laps to the ¼ mile and with the pouring of a wide apron during the 2013 season offers the ideal and unique opportunity to have a run with anything vintage or vintage style, as long as a certain degree of common sense is involved speedwise. Since the Retro Club has been in operation, members have build dozens of cars of amazing variety, as well as rescuing and restoring original models, and here is a chance to try them out.

Beautiful Cleveland air-car Steve Betney starts the 'proper' way Hugh Blowers' Cox offering

The regular meetings have shown that the track is a viable proposition, and lets hope it encourages more people to run what they have, and build a few more suitable cars. To this end, Peter has opened the meetings to interested people outside the Retro Club. There will obviously be a charge for non-members that Peter will refund if they subsequently join the Club. If you have an interest in tethered cars, especially being able to run them, then it is certainly worth joining the Retro Racing Club. The quarterly magazine has a mix of new and old material, and probably most useful, an extensive 'for sale' and 'wants' section, a facility that we are unable to offer on the website. For further details of the Club and the long list of available plans, both for cars and tethered hydroplanes, contact Peter Hill by the power of electronic communication at  arty.pole@gmail.com

Proposed Track Dates 2018

After canvassing members, Peter has come up with the following dates for the coming year that avoid conflicting with most other events. They are not cast in stone, so circumstances may require changes, please check before travelling.

Saturday 14th April. Saturday 12th May. Sunday 24th June. Sunday 29th July. Friday 17th August. Sunday 16th September. Sunday 14th October.

Superspeed Midget Racer

Peter Hill's latest project is this 'Midget Racer' designed by Lloyd Babb, editor of the Rail and Cable News magazine in the States. The design was published in the early 1940s, a relatively simple car that did not rely on commercial components. Castings were available however for the friction drive bracket that incorporated a good old fashioned tap washer as the drive pinion. The Retro Club was also able to supply castings for the drive unit that has enabled Club members to build examples of this car over the years.

Wheels and tyres are reproduction ZN items that the late Mike Day commissioned from China and should be ideal for this O&R powered car. As Peter has shown here, life (and builds) need not be complicated and the car will be eminently suitable for the track. As this car shows, there is still time to get something ready for the new season and have a bit of fun up in Lincolnshire. We understand that there are at least five new cars being built specifically for running at the 'Raceway' and that another and even more hairy example has changed hands within the Club.


This was the name given to one of the first cars that the Olivers, father and son’ used to race after they started to build their famous engines. ‘Busy, was built in the late 1940s, a simple beaten out pan to accommodate one of the twinshaft motors they were producing. A two-piece top gave access to the tank and compression screw, while the venturis of the sideport motors stuck out through the cockpit side. Tyres predated the production Raylites and were solid rubber. The car was dug out of retirement for the trip to Sweden in 1949 and fitted with the newly created rotary valve twinshaft motor that was the prototype for the famous Tiger series. The RV engine was mounted on blocks with U bolts like the earlier Battleaxes and Nine-Ports rather than the cast foot of the production Tigers. ‘Busy’ was sold to Harry Howlett and became the basis for all the cast production Oliver cars, but then vanished.

Beautiful, hand beaten pan and body Jaguar twinshaft motor Replica, 70 years on

Late last year, John Goodall produced a very limited run of replica body sets for this unique car and four are under construction. Here is the first to be completed along with its replica ‘Jaguar’ motor and intended for use at Gt Carlton during the coming season.

A more detailed history of the Oliver marque was published on the website in 2017.


The first Retro Racing Club meeting of the year had overcast skies but no rain. The only changes to the track area was an extension of the track edge boarding by another 16 feet.

The turnout was good with fifteen attendees, including a couple from SAM, the vintage aeromodelling group, who it is hoped will return with cars at some time in the near future.

Keith Bragg with his ever improving aircar Dick Roberts & Jan Hunning Steve Betney's GM Firebird

Several new cars had their first outing, but the gremlins seemed to strike. However, Steve Betney’s unique GM Firebird with an Inline engine did get started and managed a few laps. Jack Bell’s AM 10 powered aircar also completed a circuit.

Oliver Monk, John Goodall, Jan, Pete Hughes R T Pole on horsing duties No, that's not the way to do it?

 Peter Hill’s ED Racer powered car lapped as consistently as ever, as did his 2cc project car in the high 40s, now sporting 1930’s style bodywork.

Always willing hands to help a newcomer get running. A newly built AM powerd pusher aircar

Oliver Monk’s Eureka twinshaft powered AC Cobra also ran well but the fastest recorded speeds of the day were from Keith Bragg’s alloy aircar with runs of 54.8 and 57.7mph.

Thanks to Peter Hill for report,  Steve Betney and Jack Bell for Photos.