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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.

20th A/B World Championships 2017
Pazardzhik, Bulgaria 24th/30th July


Report by Sonia Collins

We left a very cold and wet Stanstead airport arriving at a very hot and dry Plovdiv airport in Bulgaria. Team GB were back and ready for another World Championship, which is being hosted again in Pazardzhik. We arrived at the Hotel Trakia in the late, warm evening and the first priority was a cold beer on the hotel terrace! It was also special for me as many, including Katia and Vladimir Mirovi, had remembered it was my birthday and presented me with cards and gifts.

Team GB this year were Norman Lara, Tony Collins, Peter Dirs and Rick Neal. Apart from Rick, who was making his first appearance at a World Championship competing in classes A1 and B1, team GB are old hands and past medal winners. So, we start the week hopeful of a repeat of past successes. We hope too that Tony’s A3 will be able to reach the high speeds achieved in the UK.

As these events go the standard of modelling and engineering is once again very high. There are teams from Bulgaria, Germany, Armenia, Russia, Ukraine, and Switzerland competing alongside us. The same high standards are applied to the organisation, planning and management of the competition itself.

Dimitar Ganchev and his team have made sure everything is taken care of. Stuart and Heather Robinson were there as Chief Judge and Secretary and alongside Sandev Svetlomir did a fine job running the competition. Liberty Park in Pazardzhik is the venue, with its purpose built concrete hydroplane pool, club house and great catering facilities nearby.

Day 1 Tuesday 25 July

We arrive at Liberty Park in good time and complete the registration of all our models. It is so good to see all our friends once more. The competition starts at 2.45pm with the A3 class first attempt, followed by A2 class first attempt. Neither Tony or Norman get a timed run in A3. Only two competitors out of the twelve in A3 get timed runs. Better luck in A2, Norman gets a timed run at 153 KPH, second fastest on the day.

The opening ceremony of the competition takes place at the end of the afternoon. The town of Pazardzhik is very proud and supportive of this competition and this is borne out by the presence of the town officials and VIPs being present at the opening ceremony.

The weather remains warm and dry throughout the day and we end our day with a great meal at Bar Scorpio near our Hotel, which is the venue for most of our evening meals throughout the week.

Left: Norman launching

Day 2 Wednesday 26 July

We started the day with A1 and A1E followed by B1. Unfortunately, neither Peter, Rick or Tony get a timed run in A1. Again, the going is tough as out of the 14 competitors in A1 only 4 get timed runs. In the A1E first attempt Olesksii Smolnykov gets a fast 226.99 KPH run.

Next up B1, which is the largest class in terms of competitors, it has 21 entries. In training for B1 Rick gets a very fast run at 255.8KPH. So, you can imagine the disappointment as neither Peter or Rick get a timed run on the B1 first attempt.

After lunch, comes the second attempt for A2 and A3. Norman gets a run of 168.22 KPH in A2 third fastest out of the three competitors in this class to get a run. Disappointment once more for Tony as his A3 just does not want to know. But this disappointment runs throughout most of the teams as only three competitors out of twelve get a timed run on the day. Norman’s speed in A3 for this second attempt is 181.27 KPH. Fastest in A3 today is Alexander Ivanin from Russia at 211.27 KPH.

Day 3 Thursday 27 July

A wet start today, the only one of the week. With steady rain for most of the morning and a forecast for worsening weather with thunderstorms, the judges call all team leaders together to ask whether they wish to continue for the rest of the day. The decision is to continue as despite the forecast the clouds seemed to be clearing.

It is the turn of B1 and B1E first followed by A1. This second attempt in B1 sees Rick with a very competitive 234.987 KPH which coincidently is the same speed achieved by Hrachya Shahazizyan’s B1. In A1 second attempt sees Peter get a speed of 160.714 KPH. Neither Tony or Rick get a run in this class and the same can be said for the rest of the competition with just 4 timed runs out of 14 competitors, for sure this competition is proving to be tough for all.

After lunch, it’s the B1E classes third and A2 and A3 third attempt. Norman gets a speed of 178.218 KPH in A2. Normans speeds in A2 have steadily increased however, so we are encouraged by this. Frustratingly, nobody gets a timed run in A3. Never it seems has the tension been so great as boat after boat in this normally reliable class fails to get a run. With the change in the weather, and temperature and some concerns voiced with the fuel mixture that afternoon, it was clear that this competition was a challenge. So, we all hoped for better fortunes the following day.

Day 4 Friday 28 July

A hot dry start to the day but windy, so we had to tie down our team gazebo in the pit area as the winds started to pick up. Today is the third attempt for A1, A1E and B1E.

Tony gets his first timed run today in A1 at 157.895 KPH but Rick and Peter fail to get their boats round. The A1E Juniors failed to get any timed runs meaning that Anton Blinov is leading the competition on his first attempt run at 178.22 KPH.

In the afternoon fourth attempts for A2 and A3.

Again, Norman increases his speed in A2 and comes in with a run at 180 KPH. The fastest of the day in A2 is Andrii Smolnykov at 204.55 KPH. But disappointment once more in A3 class with just two competitors Babken Shahzizyan and Norman Lara getting timed runs. Normans speed of 188.679KPH means he is placed sixth overall at the competition. With just one more day to go for A2 and A3 there is mixture of anxiousness and trepidation at what tomorrow may or may not bring!

In the evening, a banquet was held at the Hotel Trakiya for competitors, officials and guests. There was a presentation by Kristof Jotov to Dimitar Ganchev for all the work and support over the years he has put into the boat club in Pazardzhik and organising the hosting of NAVIGA competitions. I was very proud to have been chosen to interpret and read out Kristof’s thank you speech in English to all gathered.

The food and refreshment was excellent but it was the dancing that really gets this celebration going. Vladimir Mirovi requested the DJ to play some belly dance music I took to the floor and was joined by guests and hotel staff. It was great to see so many people up enjoying themselves with the party going on to the early hours.

Day 5 Saturday 29 July

Today we had B1, B1E and A1 fourth attempts and the final attempts for classes A3 and A2.

For B1 class, the morning is the best day of the competition with 11 competitors out of 21 getting timed runs. Sadly, team GB were not amongst them. However, it is today’s speed 284.36 KPH for Babken Shahazizyan that wins him the overall competition in Class B1. Only one run for Martin Smbatyan in B1 Juniors but a good speed at 205.245KPH. B1E juniors and seniors have no success today.

Class A1 has its worst day in terms of the number of timed runs, only 3 out of 14, but yet again like B1 another winner comes to the fore in this fourth attempt in the shape of Andrii Smolnykov with his A1 speed of 211.020 KPH. Rick had a good run in A1 at 156.52 KPH but not fast enough to take him near to medal performance. But what a great introduction Rick has had to taking part in competitions, we were all very pleased for him.

So, what of classes A3 and A2? Well, no timed runs for team GB in A3 but Norman's A2 speed increases yet again and his final attempt run at 186.143 placed him seventh overall in the competition. Unfortunately, Tony’s UK speeds in A3 do not make an appearance in Bulgaria. However, we all enjoyed the event, taking part and being amongst our modelling friends once more.

Day 6 Sunday 30 July and the end of the competition.

Today was the final attempt for classes A1, A1E and B1, B1E.

In A1 Rick again brought his boat in with a timed run of 146.341 KPH but down on yesterday’s speed by 10 KPH. Again, low numbers of competitors achieving runs compared to the high numbers of entries.

It just shows what a complex and difficult sport this can be. For A1E however, the fifth attempt speed by Oleksii Smolnykov was the winner at 233.463 KPH.

In B1 it was the turn for Peter to get a run at 174.757 KPH.

The juniors remained competitive until the end but the winner was Bulgarian Kuzmov Zlatomir at 220.859 KPH. Fastest B1E was Farid Ismetov with the first attempt speed of 273.556 KPH.

The day ended with medals and certificates being awarded, followed by the closing ceremony with speeches from judges and officials. Another competition and another trip to Bulgaria over. Despite no medals team GB enjoyed themselves in the very good company of our modelling friends and we look forward to the next time.

Many thanks to Sonia for sharing her diary notes and photos


Class A3: Gold Babken Shahazizyan 220.049kph Silver Vladislav Demochkin 216.606kph Bronze Alexander Ivanin 211.268kph
Class A2: Gold Alexander Barbin 212.264kph Silver Andrii Smolnikov 206.186kph Bronze Vladimir Mirov 203.851kph
Class A1: Gold Andrii Smolnikov 211.020kph Silver Oleksii Smolnikov 201.794kph Bronze Vladislav Demochkin 180.180kph
Class B1: Gold Babken Shahazizyan 284.360kph NR Silver Hrachya Shahazizyan 282.575kph Bronze Anatoli Karavaev 281.690kph
Class A1E: Gold Oleksii Smolnikov 233.463kph NR Silver Andrii Smolnikov 224.439kph Bronze Vladimir Anfalov 214.541kph
Class B1E: Gold
Farid Ishmetov 273.556kph Silver Dimitry Dolgikh 268.657kph

Thanks to Stuart and Heather Robinson for the results.

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.

When you don't go boating

Almost every current hydroplane competitor has a number of other interest that can conflict with events, and in Dave Smith's case it is speed flying and vintage team racing. To the left he can be seen on the top step of the podium at the BMFA Nationals in August. He explains-

'I managed to win the Handicap Speed Event again (3rd time on the trot) at this years National’s. I achieved 99.9% of the record flying my NovaRossi Formula 21 model at just under 180mph, Paul Eisner was 2nd and Dick Hart was 3rd.'
Podium photo  by Robin Kane.

Dave Smith, number 1 Paul and Fred Get the coils nice and warm?

Paul Windross has had a torrid time health wise over the last year, which has kept him away from the lake with his flash steamer. He still avidly follows his earlier obsession of motor cycle sprinting and record breaking, although from the side lines only now. He continues to work on flash steam projects, and here he is seen with fellow enthusiast Fred Reeve, whose A class steamer they are running up. Paul does like to get them hot, just look at that steam pipe.

First new steamer for years Too much heat Too little oil Innovative engine design with belt drives

Thanks to Paul for photos and commentary

London Model Engineering Exhibition 2018

A sobering thought that this marked fifty years of us visiting the ME exhibition in its various incarnations, a landmark shared with one of the stallholders we spoke to. In turn we moved from Central Halls to the Seymour Halls, then out to Wembley and then Alexandra Palace. Over the years, the number of trade stands specifically aimed at model engineering has dwindled to almost nothing with most of the household names from the past vanishing forever. Memories of the first visit was the smell, coal fired locos indoors, diesel fuel from the races on the railcar track and the very distinctive meths from the smaller engines, heady days. Electric aircraft are still flying, but now RC polystyrene jobbies that do unbelievable manoeuvres compared with the RTP ones of days long gone by.

Why this dose of nostalgia, well visiting the ME is often a journey into the past as most of the model exhibits would not have looked out of place at any time in the previous fifty years. What has changed are the laptops, digital photo frames and as on the MHC stand, video projectors to give the public a far better handle on what goes on. The tethered hydro video produced by our ‘fast lady’ when not racing always had a ready audience where they could relate to the boats on the stand. Tony Collins and his band of helpers had brought together a series of boats that clearly illustrated the classes we run, along with a pole head and cable to ward off some of the odd questions.

Tony, Sonia, Norman, Sue awaiting opening.  Lt Cmdr Roberston's 30cc 'Pook III' George Stone's 10cc Rodney

Providing a stark contrast were the two vintage boats from the same period, Pook III a typical 30cc four-stroke and  ‘Rodney’ that was tiny by comparison. ‘Rodney’ and its sister ‘Lady Babs’ changed tethered hydros forever and left the likes of Pook as museum pieces at a stroke, not without a degree of controversy though as related in a previous article. Whichever flash steam boat is on display always draws a number of spectators as they find the whole concept difficult to visualize.

Blackheath and Victoria have developed quite different styles of boats over the years although transport difficulties prevent some of the more monster models being displayed. Phil Abbott has recently rescued another typical Blackheath boat from obscurity, ‘Michelle’, which he is in the process of restoring. The only problem is that he has more of these boats than steam plants, as they were made to be removable to see service in several hulls. He does have the original plant, which again is in the process of refurbishment. It would be great to see Paprika or Loki alongside one of the North Eastern steamers that are nearly twice the length.

We are currently scanning another tranche of the Westbury photo archive, so it was a great help to us to have Phil, Keith Reynolds, Jim Free, Norman Lara and Pete Dirs putting names to faces on a number of prints, as well as identifying boats and venues. The first time we have had a positive ID on another long lost venue, Wimbledon Common, home of the Kingsmere Club.

That's um what's his name All Alone Chatting to Dave Smith and Ray Cox

The restoration of the theatre and studios at Alexandra Palace is still ongoing so lots of hoardings, but what a lot of people and coaches there were. No doubt the snooker in the West Hall is a major draw now and the hospitality areas were teeming until the call went out for them to go in for the match, then we had the bars and food concessions to ourselves.

Nothing on the shopping list this year that any of the stalls could provide, so all too soon it was time to subject ourselves to the traffic chaos that is the Bounds Green Lane junction. Still raining, which might account for the fact that we never stopped until we arrived at the traffic lights, normally a 30-45 minute crawl. A change from some of the horror stories we have heard (and been involved in). Very positive comments from the Hydroplane Club stand and definite signs of interest from potential new recruits, so thanks to Tony, Sonia, Norman, Pete, Jim and Sue and all the others who helped ‘put the word about’