Home     Updates     Hydros     Cars     Engines     Contacts     Links                              Contact On The Wire

The 'Spares Counter'

ERA Tethered Car Kit

Some months ago we were bemoaning the gradual loss of companies and individuals supplying items, parts and kits for building retro style tethered cars. Almost as the ‘publish button’ had been pressed, we became aware of an exciting venture by the Vintage Model Automobile Company, based at Ramsgate here in the UK.

Tony Wilkinson and his associates have put together a very comprehensive kit of parts for the 1935 D Type ERA tether car designed by Harold Pratley in 1947 and based on Raymond Mays’ full sized version. The car and its construction was described in detail in the Model Car Manual and based on components available from 1066 of Worcester with plans available from Drysdale Press.

The internet and ebay are currently full of replica American style cars that could, at a push, be converted to run as tethered cars, as did the late Euan Forbes with his Gilbow Miller. What sets this kit apart is that it follows the Pratley design, materials and construction so closely that it requires only a motor, a drive axle and minor additions to have it running as a tethered car.

The kit is well presented, with the rectangular box containing all the parts as sub assemblies in labelled bags, a comprehensive parts list along with detailed building and assembly instructions. In addition, a complete set of full sized plans is included to establish where everything goes. Pratley gave two options for rear suspension, radius arms and coil springs as with the 1066 MRC, or more scale looking semi elliptical leaf springs. The wheels and tyres specified were from 1066 and those supplied in the kit are very well made replicas. At this stage, there is nothing to stop building commencing, apart from a perusal of the plans and instructions of course.

Box and contents as presented. Parts bagged and numbered Components laid out

Whilst many of the components are CNC machined, some are water jet cut and do require the edges to be filed and polished and there are several holes to be drilled, but these are clearly marked and drill sizes specified. Anyone wanting to go a stage further could tap holes in the aluminium plate side frames and use screws rather than nuts and bolts. The great advantage of this kit is that there are alternatives along the way to suit the level of equipment, skills and intended use of each purchaser.

At the end of the build, there is a rolling chassis ready for a body, and here another set of printed sheets outlines the possible methods of construction and some practical tips. Even better, Tony informs us that a GRP body should soon be available, an option not open to the original builders. This was one of Pratley’s more popular designs with several cars having been built over the years, including one fitted with an ETA29 that sold for £2,500 in the Miguel de Rancougne sale in 2004.

Original model from the Prately plan with 1066 gearbox, wheels and tyres

Having what is essentially a well crafted tethered car, well suited to running in retro events, it is but a short step to motorising it, safe in the knowledge that the chassis, wheels, tyres and suspension are going to be more than adequate, unlike the imported replicas for sale. There are some lovely little additions to the kit as well, such as the rose jointed radius arms, which are a delight.

From our investigation so far, the only alterations required to the basic kit are bearings in the front axle mounts, plain or ball races, with the mounts machined out to suit, and rear mounts machined for bearings or an axle unit. Again, Tony is offering parts to suit if workshop facilities are not available.

Choice of engine is down to the individual and could be anything from a period spark ignition motor through ED and other diesels to something like a Frog 500. The ETA 29 would be a bit exciting, one imagines.
 Right: Four hours work and a complete chassis

A suitable centrifugal clutch could be fitted if desired, but direct drive would work equally well. Any of the commercial axle units from the period are OK, 1066, M&E, E&M, ZN, Electra, or a simple open Wreford/Weaver style with a pair of bevels from Muffets. Two or four axle collars will also be required depending on the rear axle used and a pair of tether brackets. Ignition components, a separate tank, and possibly a knock off would be needed if that is the route being followed.

One word of caution though, Pratley made a cardinal error in his design. He shows the rear axle secured into the axle mounts with grub screws, or onto the springs with U bolts. A look at the basic geometry shows that this will not work as the axle must be free to rotate in the mounts, or the suspension will lock up as the coupling tries to go up and down rather than rotate. This does mean that a full case axle needs to be free in the mountings, or bearings and collars fitted if a plain axle version like the E&M, M&E or similar is used.

Left: Six more hours and ready to run with Frog 500 motor fitted, driving through an E&M gearbox. Just awaiting carrosserie.

A long time since a kit of this size and nature has been offered for sale, and very moderately priced compared with the replicas on sale, so we are delighted to be able to review this offering from the Vintage Model Automobile Company. For further details contact VMAC direct or go to the Contacts page.

New Retro Tyres

Here are photos of the prototype tyres from the moulds machined by Retro Club member Dave Cunliffe. They are 3" and 3.5" dia, 0.25" at the rim and 0.5" at the hub. Made of 85 hard rubber, they are of the same quality as the modern FEMA tyres so should be OK for all retro-racing requirements.

Currently awaiting prices but they should be in the same ball park as the present Retro Racing Club tyres - they are produced by the same company. Update: Current price has been set at £18 per pair, plus postage. If interested contact Dave directly. speedysurf7(at)hotmail.co.uk We have now had a chance to see the tyres in the flesh and they are ideal for larger retro cars of the more racy variety.

Thanks to Dave Cunliffe for photos and details and his work in realising this project.

More Retro Tyres

For a long while, Peter Hill through the Retro Racing Club used to supply  a range of tyres suitable for running on vintage and retro style cars. This part of the operation was passed on to another Club member, Bill Bannister who can currently offer four different types of tyre in a variety of sizes. Unlike many of the tyres on offer which are made from acrylic rubber and suitable for display only, all of Bill's tyres are made from a rubber compound that makes them safe to run at any speeds remotely achievable in the UK.

Illustrated are two of the most common and useful tyres. The 3.5inch 1066 tyre was specified for many original designs as well as their own cars and as it has a solid bead can be used on pressed aluminium centres for low powered cars and aircars or machined hubs for faster and heavier cars. The 'Raylite' type below with the steel centres were standard for  all Oliver cars and many other twinshaft and small diesel engined cars. With six sizes from 2 inch to 4 inch they can be used on a whole range of designs and sizes of car. To compliment these there are two sizes of knife edged tyres for  front wheels.

Raylite rear 2 inch 2.25 inch 2.5 inch 2.625 inch 3 inch 4 inch
Raylite knife edge 2.06 inch 3 inch        
1066 3.5 inch          
Perry Rice 2.25 inch          

Prices range from £14 to £28 per pair, which includes postage (within the UK, overseas check first).

For details contact Bill Bannister
Unit 1A, Hecla Works. Mounsey Road. Bamber Bridge. Preston. Lancs. PR5 6LS (+44) 01722 338970

Tethered Hydroplane props.

The closure in January 2018 of the long standing supplier of tethered hydroplane propellers, The Prop Shop, has left users of these products in a state of limbo as no other commercial hydro props have been available until now. There were rumours of some being made in Bulgaria, but they were just that, rumours. Now, thanks to a lot of hard work and contacts within the hydroplane world, a range of props is now available. These are made in the Ukraine by multiple champions Andreij and Volodymyr Smolnikov. The props are custom CNC machined from both sides in the blocks as seen to whatever diameters and pitches are specified.  


The rectangular block  is a group of A2 in varying sizes and the circular block A3 props showing the machining from either side. A1 sizes are also on offer.  Props are available either as a block at a sizeable discount or finished and ready for use. The blades in the block are finish machined to very high tolerance, a matter of microns, with just a small spur at the tips and  more substantial fillets on the boss keeping them in position. For those without the facilities or know-how to make their own, this is a very welcome and timely alternative. For further details, prices and supply, contact Norman Lara. n.lara(at)btinternet.com

Dooling Arrow and Fairabend Engineering Restoration parts

The Dooling Arrow and parts from Fairabend Engineering were the top commercial cars and engines in Club and International use in Britain, almost from the time the first car arrived packed in a GIs kit bag. Original parts and cars can be found on ebay but for anyone intent on the restoration or rebuilding of one of these iconic cars, John Sanderson can supply almost every item from a pan or body upwards. Below are samples of pages from his extensive, 8 page, catalogue.

Pans and bodies Axles and gears Wheels and tyres.

Any source of wheels and tyres that can be safely run is valuable and many builds did utilise similar parts. For full detail, prices, shipping etc, contact John Directly at ParamourEngineering(at)comcast.net or via his facebook page

Chassis Rails and  McCoy style gearbox casing

From John Goodall comes these replacement chassis rails for the
  E&M Maserati  Contact John at BAMOPRO

Gary Barnes is offering these superb, CNC, machined gearbox cases on ebay.  Used in all his K&G  cars

New Twinshaft Car Motors

The name of Redfin motors and the man behind the operation, Alex Phin is already well established in the model aeroplane world for the range of retro motors he supplies. Now he is meeting the needs of the tethered car fraternity with the new Retro 15 twinshaft. This is similar in style to an Oliver Tiger but does not pretend to be a replica. It shares the same general layout with the flat mounting plate and cylinder axis angled up slightly. The crankcase is a super quality casting with the Redfin name and model name prominent. The internals are again not copies but those used in the immensely successful Parra motors. A peripheral jet venturi is another obvious departure although this could probably be changed for a 'curly' style one to allow the anticlockwise running that most commercial castings are arranged for. The quality of the Ukraine built motor is excellent throughout down to the dummy brake drums machined on to the inner hubs. Currently on sale for less than £200 this engine represents a very good option for potential builders. Go to the Redfin website www.redfinengines.com for further details.

Alex with the new motor Beautiful 2.5cc twinshaft The box says it all

There is more news of further developments in the pipeline. In addition to the motor, Alex is intending to supply both rear and front tyres to suit, a fuel cut-off that will be a boon to many of us and pan and body sets. This is a short while in the future and further details will be available as soon as we are notified, but engines should be freely available by the time this is published. Thanks to Steve Betney and Alex for all the details.