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
through ED and other
diesels to something
like a Frog 500. The
ETA 29 would be a
bit exciting, one
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.