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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

A couple of current projects.

The first of these cars  is based on what was going to be a Pitbox item, but in the meantime it has been sold on and a body added. The original chassis was built in the 1940s by the then owner's father and featured a most unusual clutch arrangement for the ED 'Penny slot' motor. The new ply and balsa body is in the style of 1930's Brooklands aero engined cars and has yet to have exhausts an other accessories added. The other car is very much a 'retro repro' with Retro Club Oliver castings and an Ian Russell 'Rustler' Oliver Jaguar reproduction motor. Tyres are modern 'Raylite' style with correct lettering that are produced to order in Hungary.

1940's chassis, gearbox and ED motor with new body

Reproduction Oliver

Springtime in the Wolds
April Track Day

Sting sung about his ‘Walk through fields of gold’, but for us it was a drive through unending fields of the ‘orrible yellow stuff. Even with pollen filters in the car the smell is all pervading, even overpowering the diesel fumes on the way home. First meeting of the season and a chance to see all the work done on the track over the winter in lowering the infield and how that would affect the running. What we were not aware of was the progress Peter had made on putting a wooden barrier around the track edge to contain errant cars and departing bits thereof. Not all the way round yet but getting there. Also in the spirit of the retro theme was a scale section of fifties pits on the far side of the circle. Not often a candidate in a general election spends a day at a tethered car meeting yet the Iconic R T Pole, candidate in the Louth and Horncastle constituency, was on hand all day. If this alone was not sufficient enticement, it was by far the nicest day of the Bank Holiday weekend.

To mark the occasion, the venerable OTW Speedster was brought out of retirement. This car was run regularly at Souldrop and not in its first flush of youth then, which gives some indication of its age, though the design dates back to the 40s and the ED Comp Special is definitely from that era. A tweak on the twiddly bits seemed to give it more urge than ever before, so even more tweaking resulted in what for that car must be a record run at 34mph, probably for a seventy year old engine as well.

Vintage Speedster & ED MKII Lightweight flyer 'Modern' 1066 MRC

The ‘Goer’ reeled off its customary fifty or so laps at a steady 42mph, but was soundly beaten in the marathon stakes by Peter Hill’s ED Racer aircar named after the four office chair wheels it runs on. After a couple of false starts it set off on a run of epic proportions primarily due to the endurance sized tank.

At around 25mph it must have completed about five miles, just as well Peter did not fill the tank.

Right: The two 'marathon' runners

Pete Hughes had lengthened the chassis of his beautiful little aircar to try and make it a bit more stable, but at 42mph it looked like an accident waiting to happen so a further extension is planned. A second run added to the work list when the commercial engine mount gave up the ghost leaving the engine with variable down thrust, only limited by the prop hitting the pylon. The very rare and British made King Cat diesel is a powerful little motor, although Pete would like to source another as a back up. It is Pete’s little 049 cars that have really benefited from the infield being excavated, as the very low tether arms are now not being snagged by grass. His Prop Rod ran lap after lap without any signs of falling off, and at 30mph as fast as I have seen it go. Just shows what these freely available cars will do. Pete has also become something of an expert at grafting Testors running gear into his own chassis, his latest being a Bill Bannister style channel section. The little Wen Mac trundled round at 30mph and we are promised a body for the next meeting.

Prop Rod running well Transplanted Testors King Cat air car

One of the newest member John Huntley all the way from Aldershot had been busy over the winter building a Vic Smeed based Scuttler aircar. This 1954 design was intended for motors of the period from 0.5-1.0cc so a modern and poky PAW 1.49 might prove interesting? Once the engine was persuaded into life, the effects of such a short wheelbase and powerful motor were evident as it was incredibly lively, falling off the track within yards of launching. The tether system on these fun designs are not really suitable for a full sized track, so although the potential is there a bit of work is needed. Much like the E type Jaguar there is the standard ‘Goer’ and its lightweight stable mate still with a 249 PAW of similar vintage. A pleasant surprise to see it lapping at over 50mph for the first time and wondering what might be the result if a more modern product from Macclesfield was fitted?

Earlier in the year, Peter Hill obtained the parts for a true retro replica, a set of castings for an Oliver Maserati and an Ian Russell Jaguar twinshaft. It sat on the table for several hours before the urge to give it a run overcame him. It took a while on the starter before a suitable compression and fuel setting was arrived at, but then it was down to a push stick and a horser. A quick shove and a couple of laps horsing and it was away quite happily. Some things are best left unsaid as Peter found out to his cost after commenting that none of the cars had yet lost a wheel. So would the stop boards work? Well, yes they did but on the next lap the car hit the missing wheel flipping it into the undergrowth where it almost defied a mass search. A second run produced the same result in almost the same area, Loctite needed, but the Jaguar proved to be an eminently suitable unit for the track, pity I sold mine?

John Huntley's 'Scuttler' Peter & Hugh assist John Jaguar powered 'Oliver Maserati'

So that was about it, several sparkling runs, a couple of cars that show real promise and the work on the track paying dividends.

Hot Wheels.
 June Track Day

Not only hot wheels, but hot everything else as well as we were all experiencing that most unusual manifestation of British weather, a heat wave. If we were wilting somewhat, every car put on the track seemed to revel in the temperature with a series of very good runs, including some personal bests. A welcome visitor was long time Club member Dave Cunliffe, all the way from Newport with a bootfull of beautifully engineered cars, several of which had never run. Dave is a great enthusiast for Oliver engines so many of his cars have original Oliver motors.

First off was a large aircar with a MVVS motor, and off was the appropriate term as it performed all sorts of aerobatics, right from the launch. Investigation showed a very high bridle attachment coupled with a very wide track was causing the outside wheel to hit the boards lining the track, one down. Sticking with the aircars, the Goer was hitched on, but glory be, it did not complete its normal interminable run as metal fatigue finally got to the aluminium tank mount, but not before it made its customary 42mph.

The venerable 'Goer' Checking the 'angle of dangle' Fuelling up the 1066

Next up was the first of Dave’s homebuilt cars, a lovely, long and pencil slim twinshaft model, in a pan he had cast himself. The motor started with ease, off a push, allowing it to be horsed up to a very respectable 52.33mph, how much faster it would go we will never know as it succumbed to the departing Raylite syndrome that we have seen before with the outside crank nut coming undone. With no idea quite where the wheel came off, searching was somewhat futile, so another aircar, this time the PAW powered Lightweight Flyer. Still looking for the optimum setting for these diesel things, a tweak on the needle had it exceed its previous best by a large margin, notching up an impressive 57.69mph, and with more to come, possibly?

With things going so well, the venerable ED Comp Special in the ex Ron Cringle Speedster was fired up and that trundled round happily at 26mph, only to be beaten by Peter Hill’s Office Chair Special at 28mph. If this were about half the weight, the ED Racer would not have quite so much to do. Another of Dave’s own cars, this time a replica of a F1 car that he had again made patterns for and cast. Instead of an Oliver, a so far unrun Eureka was lurking in the back, which responded well to a quick prod on the starter. With the top screwed on, a quick push showed just how good these motors are as it made 56.25mph, although somewhat lively, in spite of front suspension. Tailskids are a definite must for these small cars.

Dave pushes off his 'Rapier' replica F1 Chassis with Eureka motor Sleek bodywork, ready to run

With all the excitement it was time to seek out the shade and partake of lunch and an ale. Dave had decided not to run his Tiger Two Five or Beretta Rosso, but having given it a trial at the last meeting, Peter put his little Oliver Maserati with the Jaguar twinshaft on the track. With the wheel now secured by one of Mr Nyloc’s finest it went away on the second push, circulating at a steady 30mph showing just how useable these Ian Russell replicas are.

Just a couple of cars left, the 1066 MRC that isn’t, which responded second tug to the new starting cord Peter had donated and looked the part lapping at 24mph. These Retro style cars do seem to be the answer as they were what were originally on the tracks in the 1940s before the pursuit of speed relegated them to the shelves. Just to claim a run with every car, the tiny Cox flyer was put on, no nitro fuel in the box, so straight in the tank and a respectable 34mph. The standard glow plug instead of the expensive Cox glow head seems to do the business and last a lot longer.

ED Racer powered 'Office Chair' Dave Cunliffe and Peter Hill Cox Powered 'Flyer'

Everything run, good speeds, slightly melting, so off home for a quick change, cars out, boats in ready for Althorne the following day and hope we hadn’t forgotten anything too important. Thanks to Peter and Ann for their hospitality and to Dave for making the trip, his first since the days of Souldrop.

Marathon Running. The cars, not us that is.
September track day

Where was everybody? Not referring to Gt Carlton though, as this was one of the best attended events for a long time, but the A47/17, usually best avoided at this time of the year, yet almost deserted both ways. Even the one accident that required the air ambulance and might have created havoc, occupied a lay-by and adjoining field. Given that, we were still the last to arrive, with activity already well underway, and it was not the caravan we followed from Boston that held us up, we could not catch it most of the time. When it did turn off 3 miles from Peter’s, the towing vehicle was revealed as an Astra estate.

With Dick Roberts sidelined due to the human equivalent of a broken connecting rod it was a pleasure to welcome ED guru and SAM treasurer Kevin Richards to the fold. We do hope Dick is back on his feet soon to defend his track record, which may yet be in some danger, and this brings us later to an interesting point of discussion?

Right: The pensive and contented horser. How much longer will the fuel last?

First up was Steve Betney’s vintage ME Speedster with its equally vintage Eifflander Special motor, lapping at a constant 45mph. This was followed by Pete Hughes’ aircar with a Kingcat motor, skipping round at just over 30mph. At this point it was suggested that attempts be made on the mile record for the track, so the ‘Goer was hitched on and recorded 34.5mph for the twenty-eight laps. It did a lot more but we stopped counting and timing. Peter Hill then decided to have a bash with his ED Racer powered car, hardly a fair fight as it has a tank that takes half a bottle of fuel. One mile, no problem, two miles completed at and average of 26.5mph and then on to three miles, but by then the kettle was on and counting stopped, so new records set in both these ‘marathon distances’.

PAW powerd 'Flyer' Pete's Kingcat GM 'Firebird' Inline motor

It was our first view of George Sayell’s ‘tea tray’ that got faster and faster whenever there was anyone brave (foolish) enough to wind in a needle that is far too close to the prop. Whoever invented the front induction motor obviously never used one, or had permanently bandaged fingers. With some chassis refinement, this could be a very potent beast, which brings us to the discussion point. With the plethora of 2.5cc glow motors around, there is little realistic limit as to how fast an aircar could be made to go, which has all sorts of philosophical and safety implications? This was reinforced by two cars, Keith Bragg’s new and superbly engineered glow version that easily beat the 50mph mark before falling off the track, as did Hugh’s lightweight PAW diesel at a similar speed.

Keith Bragg's new aircar Clutch, cord and ED MkIII George Sayell and 'Tea Tray'

No problem with the faux 1066, given that the piston in the MkIII ED rattling up and down the bore hardly produces enough power to haul the car round, but it does look the part. At the other end of the spectrum was Oliver Monk’s Cobra, powered by a modern Eureka twinshaft motor. Pushed off in the traditional way, this lapped consistently at just under 40mph for another ‘marathon’. Peter Hill dug his ‘project’ car out for a final run before re-engineering it into its final form. With a pull start and clutch it is easy running and far from slow at 40mph and achieves what Peter set out to prove with the viability of the Kyosho unit. Cheap building and reliable running, although both Mr Sayell and Mr Hill should consider visits to the silencer shop?

Last up was Pete Hughes with one of his Testors conversions that went away well with the motor singing a lovely tune until something in the bottom end gave up the ghost and it all went very quiet, very suddenly. Pete is getting these motors to run so well that he is finding rods and shafts are the Achilles heel, but one questions out of the millions that have been made, how many were ever ran at all, yet alone at top revs?

Kevin Richards, Steve Betney, Oliver Monk George and Peter Hill Hitching on for the 'maiden flight'

An excellent day all round, although it would be great to see a few different cars on occasions. Unfortunately, Steve Betney’s ‘Inline’ powered ‘Firebird, which is very different, never made it onto the track due to problems in the drive train. The kit built C type ERA described previously was available for people to have a poke and prod at, but is still awaiting a clutch and body before its maiden run.

Thanks to Peter for ‘hosting’ and Keith for continuous supplies of tea and coffee.  Thanks also to Steve Betney for additional photos from the event.

Autumn mists and mellow fruitfulness?

Well, thick fog actually, and it all looked so good with clear blue skies and temperatures headed up towards the 20s, until we crossed the border that is. The fog did clear as we reached the Wolds leaving heavy cloud and a meagre 12 degrees for much of the day. This did not put off the members though, who were out in force with a multitude of cars. After groping our way through Lincolnshire, we were the last to arrive, missing the first casualty of the day, Pete Hughes, who had managed to head butt the track trying to outpace his car. Something of a pattern soon started to emerge with the ‘old faithfuls’ trundling round happily, whilst all sorts of mayhem and failures dogged the rest.

It was wonderful to see Dick Roberts and Babs, as Dick has had a particularly difficult year, but he was back with even more improvements to his automotive equivalent of a traditional, one way, flying proa. The most obvious was the CS replica engine being replaced by a real Oliver, sporting the tiniest of 6-inch props. The running wheels are now smaller diameter with the outrigger on the tether arm well clear of the track when the car is up to speed. Changing the direction of running has also made a huge difference to getting it away, and away it certainly went. With Steve Betney and Kevin Richards as pit crew it set a new record on its first run at over 60mph and upping this twice on subsequent runs to leave the record at 62.5mph. Marvellous what a bit of lateral thinking can do, congratulations Dick.

Dick, right, with 'pit crew Starting the 'Olly' 60+mph 'proa' flying perfectly

Once again, Steve Betney’s beautiful GM Firebird suffered problems trying to start the Inline motor, but it was his sumptuous Ferrari that had peaked everyone’s interest. The story behind the car is fascinating enough, whilst the realisation was to Steve’s usual impeccably high standard. The model is of a 1952 Ferrari 500 GP car manufactured by MLB for the Toschi distillery to be presented to Ferrari drivers, team members and dealers as gifts. One version had a bottle of cherries in liqueur in the lid. At 22" long it is a serious piece of kit and was designed to be turned into a powered toy car with a compact clockwork motor mechanism, after the ‘grown ups’ had quaffed the booze that is. A complete car sells for around £2,000 and with its bottle intact considerably more, but Steve managed to get the pan and wheels for a sensible amount. As a motor he has gone for a Saito 45 four-stroke, driving directly through a 4:1 set of bevels. He had to build a new body for the pan, making a very impressive model, although a few teething problems did manifest themselves, primarily the gear needed for push starting a glow motor with remote battery.

Saito 45 instead of liqueur Motor and drive train Steve attaching the lid

John and Angela Huntley had made the trip up from Aldershot with a very traditional but well built ME Speedster and a very experimental electric air car. The Speedster is exactly to the instructions, even down to the use of a spinner as the nose cone and the two pieces of angle for mounting the AM motor. John uses his, very effective, MkI finger for starting, although every launch ended up in the car falling off the track as soon as the horsing stopped. The very soft tyres may have contributed to this, although there is still a degree of discussion as to the best way round to run an aircar. His electric model showed great promise, even if the manner of operation was a bit futuristic for the traditionalists. The battery is plugged in and the gubbins bleeps to say all is well, then, er nothing until the ESC ramps up a while later for the run before turning itself off and sitting there looking smug. Again some work is needed on the wheels to ensure that it stays on the track.

Jan Hunning running an Ohlsson 60 Admiring Oliver's Shadow George Sayell and John Huntley

Of the regular runners, Peter Hill’s project car has gained fully damped front suspension that has calmed it down even further, now running in the mid 40s with bodywork threatened (and a silencer?). Pete Hughes’ Kingcat fell over on the first three attempts until we realised that it was a much heavier cable than normal that was actually tipping the car over. Hence, horsing started halfway to the track before a hasty retreat as momentum took over. George Sayell’s ‘Tea Tray’ shows a remarkable reluctance to get underway but is very effective when horsed into life, getting into the 30s. ‘Girl Power’ is one of the most reliable wheel driven cars and did not disappoint, running happily in the high 20s.

Another returnee was Jan Hunning who we have not seen for a while. The RYTM motor in his Russian school car is the easiest starting I have ever seen, one spin of the tyre and off it goes. Given the lightness of the car, Jan is cautious with the settings, yet it was over 50mph for its run with lots more power available. Sadly, the steel supplied in the kit for the front axle plate succumbed to fatigue with the errant wheel landing conveniently at Jan’s feet but the car in a slightly less happy state in the in-field.

Jan and Peter examine the damage Fatigue failure Full front suspension on project car

Joining the ranks of Lembit Vaher and Michael Schmutz, although at about a tenth of their rotational speed, and a minimum of laps before falling over, Hugh Blowers horsed his lightweight PAW to a series of runs just under 50mph. Oliver Monk had brought his lovely Moore Shadow to show progress on the build . Oliver has been describing the building of this lovely  car in his 'Ramblings' over the season. He also had a SMRU car to run, although Peter Hill reckoned he had only ever got his to run once on the track, and despite numerous attempts, Oliver failed to get the PAW to start on a push. Considering how easily the Eurekas, RYTMs, and Olivers start, the Macclesfield motors can prove exceedingly frustrating in cars.

The only person not mentioned so far is Keith Bragg, although he deserves the most praise, as he was on almost constant tea and coffee duties, as well as timing and recording when not brewing, thanks Keith. So ended another season at Gt Carlton, not quite so much blood spilt as in previous years though thank goodness. It would be nice to see a few more vintage type wheel driven cars, and from boxes seen in the car park, there are a few underway. Mind you, there was talk of even more devious aircar models in hand; so next year could be fun. Keep building and thanks to Peter for the use of his track.

The magic of electrickery Speedster as designed by Galeota Tea monitor

These jottings would not be complete without a traffic report, and after the caravan last time it was 38 tons of artic picked up at the Louth roundabout and followed nigh on to King’s Lynn, well, when I say followed it was because we could not catch him until the only piece of dual cabbageway. Difficult to believe, no, as our trucker friend from Lincoln tells us his Mercedes wagon will spin the wheels in the first twelve gears when running light.