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The Highs and Lows of a Model Powerboat Man
Jim Hampton

My earliest recollections of modelling was as a 10 year old kid in 1945 saving my 6d per week pocket money to purchase a small motor boat that I had seen advertised. I built that boat, all of 12" long with great difficulty and then saved many more weeks for the electric motor. The big day came; the torch batteries were connected- the boat launched out into the choppy waters of Southsea Canoe Lake, never to be seen again. Quickly decided that model boats were a waste of time and took up fishing.

Some month’s later my elder sister’s boyfriend presented me with a Keil Kraft Achilles rubber powered model aeroplane kit and showed me how to set out the plan on a board to build the fuselage and wings. Another lesson on tissue covering and doping and the plane was ready for flight. Knew nothing of trimming, only balancing the plane by its wingtips before launching it skywards. Seemed pretty good fun, so decided to save up again at 6d a week to purchase a Keil Kraft Ajax kit, a slightly larger plane. Still no knowledge of trimming, but the Ajax flew too well and vanished over the fence of Southsea Model Village, which was closed for the winter and had notices warning of guard dogs. Nobody had told me about putting my name and address on models.

Purchased four copies of ‘Aeromodeller’ and was won over by the picture and advert for the Keil Kraft ‘Scorpion’ powered model aircraft. Believe it was £2-7-6d, well beyond my savings of 6d a week so talked my father into buying it for my birthday. Soon had it built and proceeded to pester my father into getting a Mills 1.3cc diesel engine as a present for passing my 11 plus. Neither my father or I had a clue on starting small diesel engines, so that was another disaster.

Elder sister’s boyfriend had acquired a model air sea rescue launch and some members of Portsmouth Model Boat Club helped fit a Stentor 6cc engine on glow plug ignition. He soon decided model boats were not for him and I became the new owner. This engine started easily so a second Stentor was purchased for £3, secondhand from John Coxhalls local model shop, and work started on a 36" model Vosper MTB, soon completed and running.

Started reading Model Engineer in 1946 and joined Portsmouth Model Boat Club in 1947 while still only twelve. My father had now become interested and built a 4’ 6" version of the Vosper MTB using my Xmas present as an excuse for purchasing a 10cc Channel Island Special engine for it. A small free running hydroplane was built for the Mills 1.3cc engine and a second Thorneycroft air sea rescue launch equipped with a 5cc DC Wildcat diesel engine.

Picture above is Jim with Air Sea Rescue launch 1947, and below MTB 1948

By 1949 many free running I/C engined craft were running on the Canoe Lake at Southsea, mostly by us youngsters and soon the adult enthusiasts became worried about collisions to their mostly steam driven ships. At the next monthly meeting it was agreed that all fast I/C engined boats should be run tethered as in pre-war times at the Canoe Lake. Mr Caesar, one of only three remaining members of the old Portsmouth Model Steam Boat Club offered to find the pole and point out the socket location in the lake. I couldn’t see myself running MTBs and air sea rescue craft tethered round a pole, but saw this as a challenge and entered into the spirit by building a small hydroplane powered by a Frog 500 engine given to me by a non-active club member.

Never did get the pole located in the lake, but runs of 25mph were soon obtained by holding the tether line by hand. Attended Southampton model boat regatta, and after seeing Ken Hyder’s 5cc Dooling engined boat run at over 50mph decided to avoid embarrassment and not unwrap my model.

Portsmouth Club were now running coach trips to the MPBA Grand Regatta at Victoria Park and I was able to witness more hydroplanes in action run by Bill Everitt, Dick Phillips, Ken Hyder, Basil Miles and others so soon became hooked on circular course speedboats. Our coach driver Jim Bobey, who doubled as the coach firm’s mechanic, watched events at Victoria Park and also got hooked sufficiently to build a 15cc two-stroke engine and a hydroplane, going on to obtaining a McCoy .60 American engine.

My schoolwork suffered badly and I left to do an apprenticeship at a local engineering firm, starting on 31 shillings per week. 10 shillings for my home keep, 10 shillings paying off cost of a second-hand lathe and 11 shillings for clothes, overalls, tools etc. No cash for parties, alcohol etc in those days. I had little chance or cash to get a McCoy engine, so after reading Westbury in ME and studying engine tuning articles in Model Maker, set about carving out a couple of very crude crankcase patterns, one 10cc and the other 30cc.

A local foundry cast them in aluminium alloy and I spent the best part of a year machining up the 10cc engine, which proved reasonably successful in the hydroplane ‘JIM 1’. The 30cc engine and boat followed, but a mishap occurred at the Canoe Lake when a hook failed on the tether line, allowing the boat to break free and mount the bank.

By now I had become a member of the Southampton Society OF Model Engineers and enjoyed great times at their water, the Ornamental Lake on Southampton Common. During this time Ted Harris came into hydroplanes and we were able to work together. We both eventually did obtain McCoy .60 engines and were getting quite reasonable speeds around 70mph.
(Victory Cup at 1956 Grand Regatta)

I had now embarked on producing another 10cc engine, this time producing much better split patterns and core boxes in order to cast my own crankcases similar to Dooling, but much stronger to stand up to the rough use in hydroplaning. Ted Harris now had a small lathe so machined up the first set of castings and soon had the engine installed in a boat and running. My engine was only 70% finished when I was called up for National service during which time I met my future wife Cappie. The marriage took place in Southsea after I completed my military service and Ted Harris was my best man.

Picture above: Ted (right) and Jim (middle) along with Don Careless were featured on the cover of the Model Engineer for 4th June 1959 where they were photographed at the Canoe Lake with their respective 10cc and 15cc boats.
Below: Exquisite patterns and part finished 10cc engine. Casting carried out in the fire grate at Jim's parent's home.

It is now 1962, Jim Boby had passed away but Alan Osborne, Dick Tuck and Dave Winter, a junior, had now joined the Portsmouth hydroplane group and we were able to keep things going, attending the St Albans and Southampton events. Sadly running at the Canoe Lake and Southampton became more problematic and in the end tethered hydroplanes were actively discouraged and so the remaining enthusiasts formed their own club and kept running for several years with members from Hampshire and the south coast.

1957: 30cc hydro with home
built engine.

1958:68mph with McCoy engined boat Southampton Regatta.

 1963: 10cc hydro 'Cappie' McCoy series 20 engine

  Ted Harris   Alan Osbourne    Dick Tuck
       Jim Hampton            David Winter

During this time I did build new 2.5 and 5cc boats for Super Tigre engines and was fortunate to get the 5cc record at St Albans ( 28th Aug 1967, 72.0 mph with 'Noodle') and European silver medal with the 2.5 at Amiens, France in 1967 before packing up the hobby. I loved the hobby and was passionate about it before local difficulties overtook the sport. Since I retired from racing over 30 years ago I have collected model engines and now intend to run both ‘O’ gauge and gauge I steam locos in my back yard.

Silver medal European Championship Amiens 1967

'Tiny' the diminutive class A1, 2.5cc hydro

Thanks to Jim for putting all this together and supplying the photographs that illustrate the article.