View from the Pylon
It is only looking back over the year from the depths of winter that it can really be appreciated just how much work and effort has been put in throughout the season by clubs, organisations and individuals to promote tethered car and hydroplane racing and put on events for everyone to enjoy. The Model Engineering Exhibition in January at Alexandra Palace always has a strong representation of hydros from the Model Hydroplane Club, Blackheath and Victoria, while the videos projected by Tony Collins always attract a great deal of attention. With the lack of coverage in magazines now, this is one of the few chances we get to showcase our sport and we are grateful to Tony and Sonia Collins for the time they spend organising the stand and dealing with the public. Roger James usually manages to sneak a hydro or car onto his club’s stand at the Midland Exhibition, and this year’s display was particularly impressive, so again thanks to Roger, Olly Monk, David Giles and Steve Turley for putting tethered cars and hydros into the public arena. The close season also sees the conferences and general meetings of the hydroplane and car groups, and again it is not always appreciated how much paper and organisational work the various officers have to do in the course of the year.
Much of this falls on the shoulders of Sonia Collins for the MPBA and MHC working alongside Norman Lara and Steve Poyser, whilst Olly Monk now looks after all the technical and administrative aspects of the BTCA. Peter Hill resolutely oversees the interests of the Retro Racing brigade, a task he has been carrying out for nigh on 20 years including building two tracks at his own expense. Without all the time these people are prepared to give voluntarily, the rest of us would not be able to go racing. This of course is all before a single car or boat gets on to the end of a line, each of which has to be made up to precise and exacting standards and there are only a couple of people able and willing to carry out this onerous task. Finally there is all the incidental work at the venues, preparation and maintenance of tracks, setting up pylons, timing gear, recovery boats and everything else required for a successful event. Now the events can start, but again there will have been someone responsible for entries either prior to or at the meeting, personnel required for timing and recording, changing lines, clipping cars and boat on and most importantly for cars, horsing. At the international car and hydro events we have attended there is also the added luxury of galley and canteen facilities to sustain us. At the conclusion of the day, everything has to be cleared away and tidied up, results sent off, rubbish disposed off and the toilets to be cleaned. Yes, it all has to happen, and more. It is a sad fact that the pool of volunteers, helpers and organisers is contracting, not the least because anno domini is unfortunately catching up, so we are eternally grateful to everyone who ‘does their bit’, as spending hours building the fastest boat or car in the world is a pointless exercise if there are no events to run it at.
Glenn Bransby informs us that his term of office as the President of the Australian Association has come to an end and he will be replaced by Tony Peacock. Glenn in turn is taking on the job as leader of the car group at the Sydney Society continuing the work of Doug Sinclair who has now stepped down from that position, so thanks to Glenn for letting us know of these changes. The photos of Glenn and Mark Osborne last month after a day's horsing in unbelievably high temperatures show just what some are prepared to put themselves through for others to race.
In a different way we also have to be grateful to all those who make and mend bits, either for sale commercially or to help out and certainly, OTW's involvement in racing would have been seriously curtailed had it not been for the unstinting assistance and engineering skills of a number of individuals.
The Pitboxes start with a car that was very much supplied ‘ready to race’ by one such person, although most of them did not stay in this condition for long. Our boat this month is tinged with a certain sadness, as it was the last of several record breaking flash steamers from Ian Berne. It is also, at present, the last Pitbox hydro we have in store, so help is needed here please. The motor popped up at Old Warden and is another fine example of an engine from the drawing board of Edgar Westbury that saw service in numerous hydros.
In a way this is an extension to an earlier Pitbox item as Robin Storey has very kindly disassembled his W.J. Smith Belvedere motor and photographed the components so that we can appreciate the engineering and design aspects of a motor that is now well over 100 years old. Appropriately, we have added this gallery of images to the Smith page. Similarly we have received a number of photos from Jim Jamieson who has been busy restoring the late Tom Clement's early hydros and sorting out the many engine parts so that they can be rebuilt. Some of these have appeared as Pitbox items, but again, we are adding the gallery to Tom's page.
With the competition season well and truly over we leave event reports behind and are delighted to have a series of Work Bench style articles from Steve Betney. Steve is a consummate modeller and has built a number of superb tether car replicas, including the Basil Miles ED, which is the first to be featured, with part I being published this month. Still in the workshop, Olly Monk has sent us another of his 'Ramblings' that illustrate the level of detail work and engineering he is carrying out in maintaining and developing his and Aaron's tethered cars. This month he includes machining tuned pipes from scratch, an operation that converts the maximum amount of original material into swarf.
Following on from the sad death of John Benson last month we have our own appreciation of his incredibly long involvement with tethered hydroplane racing and have updated the article he wrote for us in 2008. The official anthem for the 100 years commemoration of the outbreak of WW1 is the Green Fields of France, written by Eric Boggle. In the chorus there is a line that runs 'and did the rifles fire 'oer you as they lowered you down', which they did for John as a purely coincidental, but perfectly timed non-stop fusillade of fire from a nearby military range coincided with him being laid to rest.
Excellent news from Tony Martin is that the Science Museum in London has agreed to add his late father Bert's flash steam and other engines, along with related material to their collection. As far as is known this is the first time that any major museum or collection has been prepared to take items of this nature. We are frequently asked about this possibility by relations that have cars and boats that they would prefer to donate rather than sell on the open market. The answer is usually that they are not of sufficient 'scientific' or 'historic' interest to warrant inclusion, so well done to Tony for finding a permanent home for the items illustrated in the long and detailed article prepared by Bert Martin and published here in 2009.
Not too much of immediate car or boat interest at Gildings sale although a set of four absolutely pristine 1066 wheels, tyres and brake drums for £40 must be the bargain of the decade, especially when the lot included three E&M versions as well. There was one complete car that was something of a mystery, but if the motor was what many of us thought, then at £280 it will be another bargain. The box of assorted bits included a 1066 clutch, a couple of E&M body castings and a home made gearbox, so was probably a bit expensive by the time fees were added. It is worth having a look at the sale results to get an idea of where values are currently for motors. Interestingly, none of the set of home built ones met their reserve, whilst doorstops are still not making a lot.
If any of you have tried to access Adrian Duncan's model engine site recently you will probably have failed as technical difficulties have rendered it unworkable. Adrian tells us that he has now changed his provider and that from December 1st his new URL will become active. The links page entry has been changed appropriately.
Update 10th Nov: Empty Spaces. The entire model boating community will be saddened to hear of the death yesterday of our longest standing competitor, John Benson. John started racing tethered hydros in the 1930s alongside his straight runners and his last regatta as a competitor was at Rowden Lake in September this year. Our condolences to Joan, Rick and the other members of the Benson family.
During the summer Steve Poyser gave us a very large pile of Model Engineer magazines that his late father Stan had collected. What is often forgotten is that from the end of the 19th Century this magazine was the primary source of race reports, club information, technical matters and all manner of material relating to the racing of model boats. English Mechanics, Marine Modelling and other magazines did cover the same ground for a while, but not in the same depth as ME. This was due in the main to the enthusiasm and interest that the Marshall brothers had for the sport from its inception, continued by Edgar Westbury through to his retirement. Like OTW though, the pages did rely on continual input of articles, reports and letters from the competitors and experimenters of the day. All of this material is a vital historical record, but closer perusal of the pages of ME can provide a fascinating insight into the way the sport developed and changed and the thinking of those involved, although there could be a great deal of disagreement along the way. The editorial notes, letters pages and club news can provide all sorts of little gems that the reports and articles miss out. Amongst these are several references to noise and silencing, a subject that we have dwelt on in earlier Pylons, but what has proved interesting is the variety of ingenious, dubious and basically unworkable proposals and rules that have been instituted. Having specified that ‘a silencer must be fitted’ and later an ‘effective silencer’ there were numerous attempts to specify how these devices might serve their purpose before Mr Decibel came on the scene. A 90degree change of direction, a chamber five times the volume of the cylinder, (some interesting mathematics involved here) outlet no bigger in area than the area of the exhaust in the cylinder wall (projected area or actual, and who is going to check it) and finally the outlet to be no bigger in area than the inlet venturi. Over the years any number of weird, wonderful and complex ideas have been tried, but as we have seen at recent championships even a quite severe and standard restriction on the exhaust outlet can have boats producing wildly different noise levels. So, even after 75 years of trying, we still have not really got it sorted, but unfortunately, there is no weekly or monthly magazine where views or technical information can be shared, which is a great pity. Happily, there are still 75 or so years of MEs to provide amusement, but that is not much good if you need to know how to build a tethered hydroplane or where the next regatta or meeting is. For that, it’s now down to t’internet.
For our Pitbox hydro this month we have that most delightful of finds, a Boat with a name, registration number and history and very closely linked with last month’s boat. Our Engine is a late replacement with photos and details of an amazing discovery from the very earliest days of model boat racing that has come to light, remarkably the second such motor to turn up in a matter of months. The Car is a genuine and original Oliver, but with an intriguing engine installation.
A last minute decision saw Oliver, Aaron and Debby Monk, along with Steve Turley head off to Poland for the Grand Slam Finale tethered car meeting. A great deal of time and money has been expended there in the last couple of months putting a roof over the track, probably a wise precaution with the extremes of weather we are having at present? Pila was also streaming speeds live so that we could keep track of the event all day, and what a remarkable tale unfolded for those of us back home? The final meeting always has double points, which meant that Aaron Monk finished in first place by the smallest of margins, winning himself a trip to Australia for the Brisbane and Sydney International meetings next April.
It would be difficult to believe that two successive Sundays in October could be so perfect for the final meetings of the domestic tethered car and boat seasons. Even more remarkable given the appalling weather leading up to and following each event. A delightfully sunny and windless autumn day greeted competitors at Althorne Lake for the last chance of the year to run tethered hydroplanes. The conditions were as near perfect as could be desired so there were high expectations all round, but all did not go quite according to plan. Just a week later and another weather window between storms was the order of the day at Gt Carlton. The promise of a fine day and a last smell of diesel was sufficient reason to trek across the Fens.
We may have been experiencing an unseasonable 'heat wave' here recently, but spare a thought for those at Luddenham for their Open Day on the last weekend of the month. The temperature and humidity made finding settings difficult enough, but for the poor horsers it must have been seriously draining.
You will notice that the name of our long standing 'Aussie Corro' Mark Mansell has been missing from these pages for a while and he tells us that he has returned to full sized motor sport with his classic and vintage bikes and Karts. We always appreciated Mark's in depth essays on engineering and philosophy and his forthright opinions on subjects many and various and will miss his often bi-monthly contributions. Thanks Mark for all the material you sent us over the years and enjoy the buzz of the motors just behind your right ear.
Quite a bit of activity on the commercial front with Gildings publishing the catalogue for their aero engine sale on the 8th Nov. Something around 1000 motors in total, probably more than we have ever seen there and some very desirable items too. Ebay played host to the sale of the late Geoff Sheppard's cars during October, including the prototypes of the two he designed for the short lived Model Mechanics magazine. These plus hand beaten scale Mercedes and Ferrari bodies sold very modestly whilst 'Sparky', the C class car of Bob Dixon's, which has an absolutely impeccable provenance and recorded history made just £770. Not a pretty car but it is in the magazines of the time and featured on newsreel films as well. Something of a cautionary tale though. The M&E Special that was sold at Christies in 2004 and more recently on ebay turned up yet again, but this time it was so obvious to those of us in the know that it was a scam that no one would be taken in by it, would they?
Somewhat unbelievably, OTW has arrived at another anniversary. Yes it is nine years since our first tentative steps into web publishing, and the continued expansion of material is thanks primarily to the continued interest and contributions both from regular readers and those who happen across the site for whatever reason. This ‘first contact’ can provide some fascinating stories and has led to longer-term involvement with the site for which we are always grateful. For technical reasons we do not have a ‘hit counter’ so it is always gratifying to hear from around the world of people who look at the site and enjoy its content. It has been a pleasure to find out just how much Olly Monk’s articles are appreciated, as they present something of a unique commentary on engineering as well as preparing and running modern tethered cars. Mark Osborne’s detailed breakdown of building a Class V car and the speeds it subsequently achieved has provided another inspiring perspective whilst proving that ‘it can be done’. Thanks to everyone who has provided material for the site during the year, it is what allows us to keep producing the editions. Especially true again this month with the vast amount of material that has arrived to make it yet another bumper edition.
As well as recording what has and is going on in the world of tethered cars and hydros, it would also be wonderful to think that OTW might have sparked some interest in becoming involved with the sport in some way? One half of the OTW team will bend ears at any given opportunity on the subject of getting new people and new gear on to the tracks and in to the lakes. Back in his April Ramblings, Olly Monk identified the fact that there was little new or young blood coming into our sports, and a look round any regatta or track meet reveals a distinctly aging group of competitors. Yes, there are a few youngsters becoming involved, but these tend to be ‘sons of’ as these are both difficult disciplines to get started in. When in ‘pondering mode’, which we often are, we wonder if the major disadvantage is that cars and boats are all single competitor, time trial type events. It was most noticeable at the winter Olympics how the parallel and multi competitor events grabbed the attention of the younger participants, with the older ‘against the clock’ or ‘how far’ type seemingly for the purists. When Mark Cavendish bursts out of a pack that are already peddling as fast as they can and then goes even faster, that is exciting, but watching Bradley Wiggins’ legs go round for 50k on a time trial is hardly riveting, as all that matters are the figures displayed on the screen. No figures, little excitement. Is it then the excitement and adrenaline aspect that we are missing with the cars and hydros?
Rail racing in the States dealt tethered cars a mortal blow as did the indoor railtracks over here, although they lasted a little longer, but it was Radio Control that changed model based sports forever. Remarkably, the radio control of model boats had been demonstrated in 1898, but took considerably longer to become a practical proposition. Radio was responsible for multi racing, speed, and changed model yachting totally, although, like so many other similar sports, the vintage group has a very strong following. It does make straight running something of an anachronism as well, again still very popular as regattas in the North East confirm, but those who pursue that pastime are in the same boat as us in a way, (awful and unintended pun) although the outcome of each run is more obvious. Is there then still a place for the ‘single runner’ type of event, well yes, but they will probably attract very different participants and spectators. We like to think of them as more ‘cerebral’, plus they can be enjoyed to an equal level by those of us not in the first flush of youth or challenged in the fitness or mobility stakes. More of a problem though for many modelling and motorised sports is the lack of exposure and opportunity through ever decreasing numbers of venues available. People have to see it to want to do it, or is that a too simplistic view? Thankfully exhibitions, and club stands can help address this, so we are grateful to everyone who ‘puts the word about’ in whatever way.
The first of the Pitbox items came as a result of one of our regular contributors having a trawl through the more obscure categories on ebay whilst feeling sorry for himself after a painful visit to the dentist. What he found were two 1930s hydros, one of which was instantly identifiable through the name and registration number, whilst the other was photographed in 1934, but with nothing to help us pin it down. This is the first of these Wicksteed boats we are featuring over the next two months. For our engine we are breaking with tradition and removing the motor from the Pitbox hydro, and before anyone accuses us of total hypocrisy, it was done digitally rather than with spanners. For the car we are coming up to date with another of Steve Betney's superbly engineered replicas, this time an 'Oliver' Alfa Romeo.
Massive congratulations to Aaron Monk who broke the British 1.5cc record in both his runs at Hannover in September. He has now broken the record in four of his last five runs, taking it from 219kph to 231kph in little more than a month. The feeling is that with modern damped suspension it could go even faster yet, so look out for future 'Workshop Ramblings' to see how it all develops. An update now shows Aaron 4th in the Grand Slam standings, a magnificent performance. Congratulations are also due to Olly Monk who broke the British Class 3 record twice at Hannover as well. Father and son breaking national records four times in one meeting must be a unique occurrence. Olly has very kindly sent us reports on both these magnificent achievements as well as the meeting that he and Steve Turley attended in Vilnius earlier in the month. We are most grateful for both these interesting and informative pieces of work. Full results as usual are always available on the speedmodelcar site but these do not give a clue as to all the work and effort it takes to get a modern tethered car running quickly and what actually goes on at a meeting. The tethered car calendar has been cut short somewhat with the cancellation of the event at Lyon and also Monza at exceedingly short notice, leaving the Grand Slam finale in Pila as the last major meeting of the season.
The final meeting of the season at Kingsbury Water Park was notable, primarily, for two blown flash steam boilers and a very expensive 2.5cc speed motor that now languishes at the bottom of the lake. Some exceedingly fast runs and spectacular pieces of aviation were some of the highlights from the two day meeting at the lovely Rowden Lake, which doubles at Gill and John DeMott's garden pond, but what a pond! This meeting incorporated the events from the St Albans International meeting that had to be abandoned through appalling weather.
During the preparation of the article on Eaton Bray, we were delighted to meet Douglas Russell's Granddaughter Shirley on several occasions. Shirley had in her possession much of the superb artwork by Rupert Moore that graced the front cover of Aeromodeller for so long, as well as a great deal of original material from Russell's publishing companies. It has been her intention to make all this material available to a wider audience through postcards, greeting cards and other media. She has now sent us numerous examples that include reproductions of the Rupert Moore paintings, book and magazine covers, aircraft profiles and so much more.
On the commercial front, most items from 1066 used to be dismissed and could be had for commensurately small sums of money. How things have changed? We have found it difficult to believe the prices that even the lowly Falcon have been making recently, and another sold on ebay for a 'mere' £190 would indicate that these are the new collectables. (or sellables if you have a few on your shelves) An uncut MRC body at £123 was not cheap either, considering that they used to be available by the stack. Perhaps the owner of the shed 'somewhere in Kent' rumoured to be stuffed with surplus 1066 material is sitting on the proverbial 'goldmine'?
Old Warden used to be a mecca for running vintage style tethered cars, but the gradual deterioration of the compass circle and the unfortunate demise of so many of the regular attendees over the recent years has left Bill and Pat Langley working tirelessly to keep things going. There is no doubt though that there is still a huge interest in the passers-by the moment a car starts running. It has to be said that it is a long time since there have been such huge crowds on the airfield for a model flying day.
Well, August was another bumper edition, so once again, thanks to everyone who contributed items or articles. We have delayed publication of this edition as there were two events on the last day of the month and a great deal of material from these has come in overnight. Grateful to everyone who has pounded their keyboards in order to get the reports and photos to us.
Often, as we work our way through magazines, books and photo archives, we ponder on what might have happened to many of the cars, boats and motors that have been featured. With commercial cars there is little chance, as there is no way of telling one from another, or how many have actually survived. We do know, for example, that around 800 M&E Chassis were built and that we know of around 40 currently, but only one has any provenance of any sort. Just one 1066 Conquest and one MRC exist with a racing history, although there are many more original and not so original in existence. It is when the item is named or distinctive that it gets more interesting as there is some chance of establishing a history or identifying it if it turns up later, like the car built by Mr Lindupp in 1947 and then not seen again for 65 years. At least now the current owner knows what it is, even if they have no idea where it has been in the intervening period. Sometimes the reverse is true and we know exactly where a car or boat has been throughout its entire life, as with Gerry Buck’s four cars and three of George Stone’s boats. However, how the fourth one came to be on eBay is still a mystery to the family. What is fascinating is when there is a trail, or part of a trail that can be followed or completed as with John Benson’s Orthon loaned to another Club member in the 1950s and not returned, or even Groves’ miniature flash steamer missing only 20 years or so from its 100+ year life.
Our Pitboxes exist to record items that have come to light, identified or not, yet there is always the tantalising possibility of a car or boat that we know to have survived actually surfacing. It seems that there are now quite distinct paths, that seldom cross. The first is the cars and boats that are well recorded yet vanish into collections, never to see the light of day again until finances or mortality decrees otherwise. The second is the lucky purchaser who unknowingly buys something that has history, or even better a degree of importance, such as the Gascoigne MG, the FRC prototype or Walker’s Boxotrix. Following in the footsteps of Peter Hill, we have been able to help identify several of these over the years and that is always exciting, hopefully for the new owner as well, although this does not necessarily enhance the value. Sadly there are always the cases where no amount of research or trawling through records reveals an identity, but at least the item is now recognised and recorded. We end up then with three existing scenarios. 1) We know where it is and what it is but cannot make contact or get any photos, eg Ken Hyder’s Slipper. 2) We know it exists, but do not have any idea as to where it has gone, eg Basil Miles’ supercharged Barracuda motor. 3) We do not even have a clue whether it is still in existence, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if it had, and came to light, here thinking of Bert Fort’s or Andrew Rankine’s boats and engines. For this reason we always welcome photos, either for Pitboxes or other articles, so that what is out there and known can be recorded, and that which is as yet unidentified can hopefully be tied down. We do know that all Arthur Weaver’s immaculate tethered cars survived as did most of Carl Wainwright’s famous designs, but does anyone know the current whereabouts of any of them?
The Pitboxes kick off with just one such ‘gem’, a car that was photographed extensively in the late 1940s and then not heard of again until two years ago when it appeared on eBay. The engine this month is staying with the flash steam theme, but this time a B Class motor, built several years ago but never made it into a boat. The hydro is actually a revisit as we first saw it a few years ago, just as it had come of the water in the 1970s, but now it has been very sympathetically restored by the same person responsible for ‘Gladys May’ in last month’s Pitbox.
Our Photo this month featured Otto Stroebel whose tethered hydro and tethered car racing careers have been equally successful, and so far spanned some 55 years. Otto was also in the Ukraine for the recent European Championships and featured in a clean sweep of places in Class V for the western European competitors. Class I and II were again the property of Lembit Vaher who added two more Championships to his already impressive tally, while the Sepp brothers Mart and Tonu annexed Classes III and IV. Michael Schmutz added his name to the list of Class V champions, a remarkable achievement. For full results go to the speedmodelcar site as usual.
Rob Bamford has been trawling through the family archives again and has found a certificate from the 1953 ME Speedboat Competition awarded to his late father with the B Class JAB III. This has been added to the Jim Bamford page.
At Kingsbury Water Park on the first weekend of the month, the weather was as good as it gets for racing, so it was a pleasure to see six completed runs from flash steamers, with five around their previous best speeds. The rest of the entry experienced very mixed fortunes as seems to be the norm at present.
It is not often that the cancellation of a meeting can be fortuitous but in the cases of Gt Carlton on the 10th and Althorne on the 17th the weather would have put the mockers on them anyway with ex hurricane Bertha doing her worst across Lincolnshire. Apparently a B1 could have run quite happily on the track, such was the intensity of the rain? No such problems for the August track day on the very last day of the month and something of a landmark with a refreshing number of wheel driven cars.
The weather was more cooperative in Sydney for the practice day at Luddenham. Glenn Bransby brought us up to date on what was happening on the track as well as lamenting on the problems he has experienced running his Class V car. His report also gave a fascinating insight into the question of whether to run A grade cars in practice meetings or save them for when it counts. How lovely to have this option rather than have to travel to Europe for a competition with a car where you do not have a clue if it runs or not.
At Kapfenhardt Aaron Monk's extensively re-engineered 1.5cc car was still in need of further modifications, which Olly Monk detailed in previous 'Ramblings'. With these carried out and a training session with Swiss 1.5cc Guru Phillip Meier, Aaron promptly broke the British record twice at the Basel GP. Congratulations to Aaron and Olly for what they have achieved with this car. Full details and all the latest from Olly's workshop in his 'Ramblings'.
Some while ago we posed a philosophical question as to 'whether the future is electric' given the development of those classes in tethered hydros. At the recent European Championships in Pazardzhik that question was firmly answered, certainly in terms of outright speed. The first two boats in A1E, the smallest and lightest class, would have won every IC class, up to and including A3. The A3 class was a happy hunting ground for Gt Britain, with Norman Lara getting the silver medal and Tony Collins the bronze. Congratulations to both of them, especially Tony, the only IC runner to manage five runs, all within a few kph of each other.
The infamous English bank holiday weather struck again in August, but this time with such a vengeance that the International Regatta at St Albans was abandoned after just three runs. Not wind, but the torrential rain that affected most of southern Britain for nearly 24 hours.
It appears that the recession might well be over, at least in the realms of classic cars and bikes that is. There were certainly a few raised eyebrows recently, when a 1000cc Vincent motorcycle sold for the small sum of £91,000 at auction. This was significantly higher than similar models had sold for, and even more remarkable as it was in bits. Yes, it was the familiar story, taken apart many years ago with a view to restoring it only to descend into the ‘roundtuit’ category, which the owner obviously never did. There then comes the question as to what has gone missing, been mislaid or even appropriated for other projects? It is something we find somewhat frustrating, as members of the tethered car and hydro community, past and present, are not immune from this habit, although probably with the very best of intentions. We have come across instances where some part of the disassembled item has been stolen, lost in house moves, thrown away during a periodic clearout or is ‘somewhere in the loft, shed, garage, workshop’ but can’t be found. Mind you there have been occasions when the complete car or boat has gone ‘missing’, but that is a topic for another Pylon. We have had occasion to visit the workshops of a few serial ‘takers apart’ and it is very hard to keep our counsel in these situations, as by this stage there is little likelihood of all the components for the car, boat or engine being reunited, even if they could all be found and identified. Where it all goes horribly wrong is when the only person who knows roughly where all the bits are and what (or even who) they belong to is no longer with us for whatever reason. Sadly there have been several occurrences of this recently, where a third party has the unenviable task of sorting it all out. If we are lucky, then it is someone with knowledge of what they are looking at and who will take the time and trouble to sort out as much as they are able, but often that will be ‘best guess’ unless there is some evidence that will help them along. Happily this is the situation with two estates that are currently being disposed of. The worst case though is the other end of the scale such as we have seen on eBay where the items are sold off as they are found or lotted up with other pieces that look the same. Nothing more galling than seeing the gearbox, wheels and chassis of a car being sold in separate multiple lots, except that is, seeing the item ‘loaned’ some time previously up for sale.
A plea then, even if there is not the time or inclination to reassemble the whole shebang, at least put all the relevant bits together in a box or bag, preferably with a label, and then at least if you do not get ‘roundtuit’, it gives the poor soul who has to sort it out a fighting chance.
The Pitboxes start with a boat that we knew of, but did not realise still existed until located and restored by a ‘knowledgeable third party’ as described above. The engine is a modern A Class flash steam motor that has been languishing in various workshops for 30 or so years. The car scheduled for this month’s inclusion was another M&E that had turned up in the US, but that did not come to fruition, but luckily we have a substitute from the same manufacturer much closer to home. We are also adding a ‘Special Item’ to the Rowell discoveries page, thanks to Mark Osborne, who has sent us photos of an exceedingly rare Rowell Rapier, only the second ever discovered with the original two piece aluminium body shell that is a masterpiece of sheet metalwork.
Quite remarkably, this month celebrates yet another outright tethered hydro record, but this time with an A3 boat. Norman Lara's new record set at the first of the two Althorne meetings this month broke another landmark by achieving over 140mph with a waterscrew boat for the first time in this country. Thanks to Steve Poyser for delivery of a huge contribution of reference material for the archives. We hope that Norman can repeat this run during the European Championships at Pazardzhik in Bulgaria this month. Along with Norman we wish all the British team a safe and successful trip.
Rob Bamford has contacted us after discovering letters from the MPBA to his father Jim. We have added these to the 'Hero Rediscovered' page and taken the opportunity to add some further original images from the Westbury archive. Photos from a previous Album that featured the opening meeting at the Surrey Club track have been added to the Surrey Club page.
Some good news from Adrian Duncan over in Canada is that the future of the late Ron Chernich's website MEN is secure for the medium term, but that as one of its major contributors of extremely detailed articles he has now set up his own website. Adrian has made a clear statement about what he is trying to achieve and there is no doubt that there is a need for a site such as his that deals primarily with engines. It is a commitment as we know so we wish Adrian well with his venture Adrian's Model Engines. A link to the site has been added to our links page.
From Philipp Meier in Switzerland we hear that the rebuilding programme for their clubhouse at Witterswill that caused the cancellation of their Tell meeting is now nearing completion and that everything should be in place for the Basel GP in August.
It is now 90 years since the MPBA was formed in 1924, some 16 years after tethered hydroplane racing came into being. However, the Victoria Club is older still, having been set up in 1904, which makes this year their 110th anniversary. To celebrate this landmark, the Club held an Anniversary Regatta last month for all disciplines.
Recent sales of model related items seem to challenge the opening statement, as price for cars and engines still appear to be well below their previous levels. A very nice Gerald Smith motor made only around half of what it might have done a few years ago, or have so many appeared that they are not now quite so rare as they were?
July has been a really busy month with events every weekend. From Althorne it was straight off to Kingsbury for their July regatta and a few more tales of woe to keep an ever present theme going. There must be far more time being spent in the workshop than there is racing at present. It must have been some cruel coincidence which decreed that the inaugural two day meeting at Althorne Lake would be on the same weekend, and right in the middle of storms of biblical proportions that have made the national news.
Olly Monk has been busy in his workshop over the last month or so we are delighted to see the fruits of his labours in another fascinating edition of 'Workshop Ramblings'. He brings us up to date with the ongoing rebuilding of the 1.5cc car, which now bears little resemblance to how it was a year ago. Thanks for these articles, which we know are read all over the world.
The weather looked significantly better in Lincolnshire than it did anywhere else on the last Sunday of July and so it proved as we enjoyed a delightfully warm and sunny day at the Gt Carlton Raceway for the monthly 'track day'. It was a pleasure to see several new cars as well as some superb model making. The A47 also provided us with some amusement, which is far from normal on this drag.
Can’t believe just how much material we published last month, so a very big thank you to everyone who contributed.
Re-visiting the Surrey Club and the Christmaspie track in the current Album reminds us of how public attitudes to noise have changed over the years. The Surrey track was on a private tennis court in a village, and whilst not surrounded by houses certainly had several nearby. As can be seen from the photos, the proximity of the houses and the ‘interested spectators’ peering over the hedge surrounding the track, perhaps it was not in the ideal place? In the end it was noise and their unwillingness to restrict the number of events there that caused the track to close, and having been around McCoys, Doolings and similar running on open exhausts it is hardly surprising looking from a modern perspective. It is also difficult to believe that many major cities had speedway tracks bang in the middle of residential areas right through to the 60s with no talk of silencing. Flying control line planes on the local rec and common was also quite acceptable, but try that now and you would be in dire trouble within seconds. Looking back, tethered hydroplanes were one of the first model sports to be required to fit silencers, first by the London County Council and then universally by the MPBA. Now of course, everything except F1 cars and the Toyota Prius has to be silenced, and both of them are so quiet you could be run down without knowing. Strangely, one of the complaints about F1 now is that it is so quiet that ‘the excitement’ has gone. It is a subject that has been open to continuous debate, argument, legislation and even violent confrontation at times, but one person’s noise is another’s music.
Listening to a Class 3 tether car winding up to 40,000+ rpm is spine tingling, but a Class V at 30,000 is deafening, especially at a covered track. How the Pioneers and other early runners got on when they were racing indoors can only be guessed at, and there were significant numbers of spectators as well. Silencing techniques have had to evolve, as ever more stringent limits have been set. Some of the so-called hydro silencers were nothing more than tubes clamped onto the exhaust manifolds with the ends flattened or a smaller tail pipe, but that was what the rules of the day required, one 90-degree change of direction. Even commercial ‘quiet pipes’ still being sold adhere to this basic design, with nothing inside that could in anyway be described as silencing and some don’t even manage the change of direction either. What is vaguely amusing or irritating is when a variety of disciplines are sharing a common venue, yet have very different noise and silencing regulations. It is when it gets to noise measurement though that the problems really start, as what appears to be ‘noisy’ when the meter is consulted may in fact be ‘quieter’ than something deemed acceptable. Paul Windross took his steamer up to Elvington to do some demonstrations, and for the bikes they put the meter just 8 inches from the exhaust, probably a better way of measuring than having it 50m away where trees, buildings cars, people etc can significantly affect the readings.
The Pitboxes kick off with an engine that was an absolute gem of a find, courtesy of a scrap yard local to the very happy new owner. The hydro took everyone by surprise when the eBay listing ended and the phones were soon ringing with ‘you will never guess’ and ‘how much?’ The car is yet another rarity being only the second example known and the only one still in original condition, although it effectively vanished for around fourteen years when it was sold to the US in 2000.
OTW took the opportunity to join one of the largest British contingents seen for a long time at an international tethered car meeting, travelling to Kapfenhardt in Germany for the Pfingstrennen. Should have been a double header with Basel, but that was cancelled through ‘over running engineering works’ in building the new clubhouse and facilities.
By way of contrast to the 200+ mph speeds at Kapfenhardt, and it has to be said, the weather, the June track day at Great Carlton was somewhat more laid back, and a sight cooler. News comes from Brisbane of the new Class V car that Mark Osborne described last month putting in a storming run of 335kph, showing 340 by the end of the timed laps. Congratulations to Mark who has proved several points along the way.
Not quite sure we can believe it, but Althorne Lake enjoyed fine weather for the second regatta in succession. The first regatta of the Season at Kingsbury Water Park was also blessed with superb weather and a massive entry. It also produced a new outright British tethered hydroplane record after a gap of something like 16 years.
On the commercial front, we do try and keep up with what is happening in the market to gauge where prices are going in general and for specific items in particular. Peter Hill has told us of a BRM railcar built from parts supplied by Henri Baigent that sold for £1400, which must be something of a record, whilst four modern (ish) tether race-cars have recently been sold, all around the £1,000 mark and with spares packages. The bubble definitely seems to have burst with engines though and vintage tethered cars don’t appear to be making what they were either, yet original spare parts are holding up well. It is certainly a case now of the sum of the parts being more than the whole!