Home     Updates     Hydros     Cars     Engines     Contacts     Links                Contact Retro Racing Club

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. 

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 that ran to seventy issues over twenty two years 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. If you have an interest in tethered cars, especially being able to run them, then it is certainly worth joining the Retro Racing Club. 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

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.


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.

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.

June Track Day and garden party

What could be nicer than the shade of the willow trees, a large patio umbrella, wall to wall sunshine and an adjacent track to run on. Well, what was not to like, the recipe for a perfect day’s sport and a garden party to boot. The cars seemed to revel in the conditions as well, with most performing faultlessly throughout the day. The 0.49s in various Cox and Wen Mac guises ran out tanks of fuel at impressive speeds, while Peter Hill’s wonderful scale Leyat positively revelled in the change to an 8x6 prop, recording its fastest speed ever.

PAW aircar 47.6mph Cox Prop Rod 23mph Cox aircar 38.6mph

It was Colin Chapman whose mantra was ‘to simplicate and add lightness’ to cars, but I have a feeling that too much lightness has been added to the OTW cars as Keith Bragg pointed out the lack of alignment of any of the four wheels of the Cox car and a large bend in the chassis of the larger PAW one. Retirement or re-engineering, that is the quandary, or a bit of lateral thinking?

Pete Hughes and his wife had made the trip over from Leamington with a boot full of cars. Pete started his career with commercial Cox and WenMac powered cars and has now got these running reliably, including the fearsome PropRod. Cars with whirling props are bad enough, but a pusher prop at the back is ripe for nipping fingers. The little motor started easily and set off happily on a prolonged run. His KingCat car proved a little more contrary as it kept falling over on launching, eventually cured by the horser holding the cable back and trailing the car, most odd. A change of geometry required.

'Green Frog' 45mph BAB car inaugural run Peter starting the Leyat 32mph

Peter Hill gave his ‘Green Frog’ spur drive car a run, and after a couple of seasons of development now appears to be most reliable. Like most motors though, the heat of the day required the needle settings to be leaned off somewhat. Last up in the morning session was a trial run of Peter’s BAB car. The Ohlsson was persuaded into life with the traditional starting cord, promptly rendering the helper, me, deaf in one ear. My goodness, a 10cc motor on an open exhaust does bark somewhat. What was apparent was that the spring on the friction drive was not up to the power of the motor, so a couple of on-site mods took place to add an extra spring. This did seem to work, although the driveline had developed a severe vibration that unscrewed the shackle pin just as the car was launched, giving it a short and straight run before connecting with the trackside flowerbed.

It was getting around to lunchtime whereupon a genteel degree of Britishness crept in. We had already feasted on large slices of a magnificent Victoria sponge supplied by Pete and Lynn Hughes but the scene became even more reminiscent of an upmarket garden party with Pete’s mobile bar, well stocked with gin and tonic. There were also glasses of chilled white and a Stella or two to accompany the wonderful variety of food. Hand made pork pies, black pudding scotch eggs, salads, delicate sandwiches rounded off with coffee and tea by courtesy of Ann.

Keith Bragg horsing Petes and the KingCat 37mph WenMac dragster  with and without plug 29.5mph

Eventually it was thought politic to run some more cars so Pete had a go with his custom dragster with a transplanted WeMac motor and drive train. This was going well until the glowplug exited vertically and into the undergrowth, never to be found again. A vintage KLG soon had the motor singing again to record one of its best runs. The Leyat with its MK motor had been in the habit of slowing during a run, but with the 8x6 prop it was away at an impressive speed, which it kept through to the end of an unusually long run.

Recently, a large number of tethered cars have been appearing on eBay from the Baltic States, Russia and the Ukraine. These vary from the school cars with RYTM motors in standard and modified forms, several of the kit based bevel drive cars and home built spur, bevel and twinshaft cars, including some with F1 bodies and sprung front suspension. They represent a relatively cheap and quick way to get something on the track, so it was interesting to see some of them that have made their way over here already.

Ready to run imports, plenty to chose from on eBay.com

The only, and uncharacteristic failure of the day was Peter Hill’s ED Racer powered car. The normally ultra reliable motor refused to respond to enthusiastic flicking, numerous applications of a starter and a lot of cursing and head scratching. Not so much as a pop to give encouragement, the final insult being the spinner unscrewing and vanishing, along with the prop. This may well have been recovered, but by then it was time for us to start the trek back home, none too soon as it transpired.

The A47 is notorious, and past reports have told of various trips through rural Norfolk in light of accidents closing the road. As befits Retro members, we do have a piece of old fashioned technology known as a map, so we had a rough idea of where the narrow country lanes were taking us, unlike the sat-nav reliant. Single-track roads are not too bad when the diverted traffic is heading in one direction, but when the westbound traffic, including 38tons of Tesco artic is also diverted down the same road, chaos. Back on the main road eventually and happy to have avoided most of the trouble when yes, road closed again but this time the slip road we needed, so off down the dual carriageway until the next junction and then all the way back.

Did eventually make it home and thanks to Peter Hill and Ann along with the other Retro members on hand it would be difficult to envisage a more enjoyable or convivial day.

If it’s Friday it must be Gt Carlton.

August Track Day

The odd choice of day was to allow those attending the SAM midweek event at Buckminster to take in Gt Carlton without the need for another long round trip. Although we try to avoid the roads of Norfolk and Lincolnshire in August, the Friday seemed significantly less busy than a Sunday. Allowing for the traffic that did not transpire, we arrived before the kettle was even on, a first for us, so it was a chance for a chat and to have a look at the goodies that John Goodall had brought along. He did have a lovely hand built car and 10cc motor that he was in the process of restoring along with a number of cars that were for sale, but not for long as they were snapped up in double quick time. He also unveiled his, distinctly ‘left field’ track day special. This was intended as a wheel driven alternative to Dick Roberts’ record-breaking ‘sidecar’. Drawing on his aeromodelling experience, the body was the fuselage of a plane, with an anhedral tail plane, but instead of a prop at the front, a sidewinder mounted Oliver drove a single large wheel via a chain and sprockets. Two smaller wheels fore and aft gave it some longitudinal stability, while the large drive wheel had fully damped suspension. The success or otherwise of this design has yet to be established as a few tweaks are still needed.

Dick Roberts had brought his very fast ‘proa’ along, but this proved reluctant to start until some new fuel was tried, but even then it refused to run properly. Most odd, until the engine was turned over that is, which revealed a total lack of compression and a very worn Oliver bore and piston. Steve Betney did not have much more luck as the four-stroke motor in his large scale Ferrari refused to fire up and the unusual OS lay down motor in the Lotus showed no signs of life either. Time for the ‘Goer’ methinks. Fill it with fuel, prod of the starter and fifty or so laps in the 40mph region, totally reliable, but totally boring and a tribute to the products of the Eifflanders.

Jan Hunning John Goodall's 'projectile' Any ether in that fuel Dick?

Less boring was Jan Hunning’s Russian school car. This starts so easily and a quick push has it bounding round the track in the mid 50s, if a little lively, but then these cars are still lively on an FEMA track. Jan had more runs than anyone else as a quick squirt of fuel and it was ready to go again. Small tweaks on the compression and needle had it up to 57mph when it got a bit too lively and flipped over, running quite happily on its back, but adding to the ‘war wounds’ on the tail of the body.

By 12.30, the hunger pangs were setting in so Peter intimated that it was time for a lunch break and a discourse on the technical differences between a Melton Mowbray pork pie and a standard one. Peter also used the break to convene a Retro Club meeting to inform members on Club and track matters and allow Oliver Monk to update everyone on the development of the circle at Buckminster. In both cases, it is ‘watch this space’ for further news as it becomes available.

Reluctant Oliver General meeting called to order

Suitably refreshed, it was back to the track where John Goodall was tuning a very nice Pumpkin with a twinshaft motor, which sounded very nice, but like many twinshaft motors needed a touch of Loctite on the crank nuts. Many early cars used handed nuts as in full sized practice, but most modern motors have two RH threads. Starters do have a habit of unwinding these, and the spinners on the aero engines suffer the same problem, vanishing into the undergrowth. A touch more needle on the second PAW aircar had that up into the 50s for enough laps to get four timed runs and then more, all on a tiny tank.

John Goodall's Pumpkin with aero motor converted to a twinshaft

Not seen for many a year was Peter Hill’s Wallace and Grommit rocket car with its pusher motor now ungummed after a very long lay up. Grommit had his hand firmly on the ‘rocket booster’ lever, but this did not seem to be connected to the motor as the car trundled round at a leisurely 25mph until it fell off the track. Peter also gave his Green Frog project car a run even if it too proved reluctant to start owing to the motor being completely flooded. At just under 50mph the motor still has some go in it so larger tyres are planned. Last to run was Oliver Monk with his Eureka powered AC Cobra. These twinshaft motors are freely available and cheap, yet start and run exceedingly well, the Cobra ideal for nominated speed as it does 31mph with clockwork regularity.

Peter on horsing duties Wallace and Grommit car with Green Frog Grommit ready to roll

With a long list of casualties and non-runners and long journeys home for most, activities came to a conclusion around mid afternoon. A degree of frustration for some, determination to build something new from others and a chuckle for us all at Peter’s new, Hornby based, O gauge railway, we are still all children at heart. Another fine and enjoyable day at Gt Carlton and nary a traffic jam until ten miles from home, something of a record for us.