Home     Updates       Pylon Archives                    Page 23     Previous     Next     Contact On The Wire

December 2017

Regular facebook viewers will probably have seen the videos filmed in the Sitter engine and Sabbatini car collections, and the general response is ‘wow’. Amongst the material we have received this year are photos taken in another two collections, and it has to be said, that the size of these is beyond belief. Not only are the collections amazing in the sheer quantity of cars and items, but also for the way they are displayed, both of them in purpose built ‘exhibition’ buildings with galleries, mezzanines, showcases, and as in the case of the Sitter collection, everything impeccably labelled and recorded. As with much of the material we have been sent this year though, no idea at all to whom these collections belong to or even which country they are in.

We are great museum visitors in the course of our travels and have a pretty well established view of what we expect from exhibits, and to us, the two most important questions are, 1) what is it, and 2) the context, or why it is there? We visited a major aircraft museum earlier this year, and it was quite obvious that the powers that be there could not say no, and would accept anything and everything that was offered. The net result that stuff was piled everywhere, no theme, no order, little relevance, even if you did know what an item was, and worst of all, it was evident that there were not enough volunteers or sufficient funds to conserve what was there, let alone consider restoration. Visitors we overheard remarked that prized exhibits of just a few years ago were now, literally, on the scrap heap. That this was true we could see, as an artist was painting a picture of said heap, what a sad comment and legacy for all those that may have worked on, cherished, or financially supported those particular exhibits in the past?

Compare this with a more recent visit where a thoroughly knowledgeable guide gave us the history and context of each exhibit, before demonstrating many of them. What was even more remarkable was that every exhibit was meticulously restored and had a price tag. Not the first time we had seen it, and like a steam museum visited a couple of years ago, what a wonderful way of getting rid of what is surplus or not strictly relevant, and making some money as well? Better than most of the unrelated and tacky items for sale usually in the attached gift shops. How you explain a full sized jet engine when you get home instead of a nice tin of shortbread, remains to be seen though?

The sad fact is that from the individual collector through to preservation societies and national museums, there is just too much ‘stuff’, yet it takes a huge level of discipline, heart searching and justification to turn down the offer of the plane, boat, car, engine or whatever in the first place and an even greater level of all three to get rid of ‘the surplus’. So, for a New Year’s resolution, hows about having a root round, and pass on all those ‘roundtuits’ that you never will, the ‘seemed like a good idea at the time’ and anything else that has no real place in the collection or workshop? Might make someone’s day, and a bit of spending money into the bargain so you can buy more---------etc. Ah well, it’s a thought?

There were over 500 opportunities at the Gildings sale to spend some of this money you have yet to realise, or add a few more ‘I’ve always wanted one of them’ to the collection at prices that were modest in most cases yet holding up well for the desirables and collectables.

Racing and event reports over for the year, so a chance to publish some of the articles that we have been preparing. The first is a direct result of the Arthur Weaver articles and looks at the involvement in tethered car racing of the Wayne Myers Company who commissioned the REDeX Specials that Arthur built. Much of the information is thanks to Scott Clydesdale who has provided a great deal of original material and unique photographs.

The new Pitbox is another item that has come courtesy of ‘a large envelope through the post’ and features a pair of cars that were part of a valiant attempt by a number of people to re-establish tethered car building and racing during the late 1970s.

Norman Lara has informed us that the regattas at Victoria Park will cater for vintage boats at each event, so dust off those that have been on the shelves for years, de-gum the motor and give it a go. Wire bridles though, nylon and flax no longer the way to go.

Earlier this year in a Tight Lines item we gave details of the retro type tyres that Dave Cunlife was having made. We have now been able to look at the first production batch of these, which will be ideal for running on vintage and repro 5cc and 10cc racing type cars that used split hubs. Details and prices now added.

Oliver Monk has produced another interesting and informative edition of his Ramblings for us. The Moore Shadow is now complete and it looks superb. A rare car, possibly only four exist and this one is superbly engineered and finished. Oliver has also given us a glimpse of several more exciting projects that are destined for his bench, including two more Ian Moore cars, as well as a lovely Maserati. Lots of decisions about engines, wheels and tyres to come no doubt?

A piece of nostalgia for OTW. We have just received an email from David Moore to let us know that the very first tethered car we ever featured in 'Pitbox' is being offered by auction at Mallam's of Abingdon on Dec 4th. David had brought it to Gildings on the viewing day something like twelve years ago and it caused a lot of interest amongst those present. A very well engineered and original car based on an Electra 2A chassis, please take a look as the catalogue is on line and the £600-£800 estimate is somewhat modest given the nigh on £1,000 that little twinshaft car sold for on ebay.

An indication that next year's events are just over the horizon is the Model Hydroplane Club stand at the London Model Engineering Exhibition. Tethered hydroplanes have been on show at the ME since its inauguration in the various incarnations and again Tony Collins has gathered together a representative selection of current and older boats that represent the sport.

November 2017

There used to be something a little out of the ordinary about the pursuit of records that made heroes and national figures out of John Cobb, the Campbells, Henry Seagrave and others, yet today a few enthusiasts might recognise the name of Andy Green but that is about it. Sadly, the only time we might see a mention now is in the event of a disaster or tragedy, particularly pertinent with this year being the 50th anniversary of Donald Campbell’s demise. How many times must the clip of his accident have been played now? Perhaps he was the last in the line of the ‘record breaking heroes’? Now of course there is an absolute plethora of records for just about anything, and often with competing international bodies, different records for the same thing.

In the model world we attach certain significance to records as they are a mark of relative performance, but they are just that, relative. Rules change, classes change, so should there be new records every time this happens? This season has seen a number of tethered hydroplane records broken, with Pete Dirs finally eclipsing Martin Hamilton’s A1 record that had stood for no less than twenty two years and Jim Free making a B1 Sport go much faster than when it was called a B1R. The Sport 40 record however has been broken three times this year, yet is still slower than the corresponding Novice record with the same boats, odd?

It has been suggested, not by us we hasten to add, that if rules are changed to make the class faster a more equitable system would be to freeze the existing record and start afresh, recognising the achievement of the then holder. Conversely, if the changes slow the class down then anyone breaking the existing record probably deserves the accolade. Can lead to untold numbers of ex ‘records’ though, or does that make old records meaningless? F1 commentators are legendary for drawing unrelated parallels, with pole times and lap records being pointless, given the constant changes in tracks and regulations. Mind you, the ‘heroes’ moved the goal posts significantly as well when adopting jet power. Coincidently, this year the athletics authorities were proposing to disregard all World and European records set since 2005 because of the uncertainty of who was on rocket fuel and who wasn’t. Luckily the only doping we have to deal with is of the nitro and acetone type in the fuel?

The new Pitbox is again the result of someone contacting the website who had a collection of hydroplane related material that no one knew of. The hydro featured has been the subject of numerous unsuccessful enquiries over the years but has now reappeared some fifty years on.

Seldom have we been in the delightful position of being able to publish so many updates to an article. Following the discovery of a hitherto unknown Arthur Weaver REDeX Cooper Bristol last month, his daughter spotted another of his cars on the pages of Spindizzy, which was not attributed to him in any way so had passed unnoticed. Amazingly, after digging through her archives, she was able to come up with original photos of an early railcar, based on a Vauxhall. We now know it exists, but again, where is it?

Having scoured the garage for something to run, it was down the A12 to Althorne Lake for the final time this season, and a day that warmed up nicely with flat water for most of the day. Pretty relaxed all round with the A1 boats taking the honours for runs completed and the A3s the booby prize for the fewest, although there was one cracker.

Final Retro Racing track day of the year at Gt Carlton, a great turnout and a new track record. A pleasure to see Dick Roberts back in action who also gave us details of a host of interesting engines at the Gildings Sale on Saturday 4th November. Nearly 1,000 motors including a number from two important collection will be on offer, so dust off  the wallets and debit cards.

At Gt Carlton, Oliver Monk had brought along the Moore Shadow he is building. He describes progress on this very precise piece of engineering in the latest edition of his 'Workshop Ramblings'. Lots of helpful tips and set ups for machining parts as usual. Thanks to Oliver for another bumper photography session.

Sobering thought that without any expenditure on boats, cars or engines, we have knocked up something like 7,000miles this year on racing and related activities, with the last few on a double header weekend for the Midland ME and the tethered hydroplane conference. The Midland Exhibition was billed as a '40th Anniversary celebration', but given all the empty spaces and bare tables, one wonders if the national 'Model Engineering Exhibition' has had its day? The combined tethered hydroplane conference and Hydroplane Club AGM does signify the end of the season with the presentation of trophies and awards, but importantly agrees dates for the following season.

October 2017

Well, OTW is yet another year older, although at one stage in the midst of our technology crisis at the tail end of 2016, we did seriously wonder if that might have been it. Happily, after three months of angst, aggravation and bad language, it was solved, and all down to a very simple error in the directory for the site on the new server. It was a mighty relief when the IT technician phoned to say that he thought he had sorted the problem and could we do a test page? It was and we did, the page being the new look Pitbox. Something of a surprise how many of these items we managed to cover at three a month for nigh on ten years, but with a change to one a month, we should be able to keep going for a while and some fascinating items have since turned up.

The other foray into technology, and a very steep learning curve at a time of max stress anyway, was setting up the OTW facebook page, intended as a backup to let people know of the problems with the site. It was almost beyond belief, just how many, and how quickly people responded to new posts, along with the videos and updates from Ted Racer. All this was a bit new, especially when Norman Lara took a video at Alexandra Palace on his IPhone 17 and immediately posted it on Ted’s page, magic? After a few months it all begins to make a bit more sense as an additional means of communication with the possibility of instant replies. Remarkably, a video featuring Tony Collins and Jim Free at the International meeting is now close to 400,000 views. 

As always, what we can publish each month is down to all our wonderful correspondents, be they those contacting us with one off items or regular contributors, so thank you to you all. We would especially like to thank Oliver Monk for his racing updates and ever informative Workshop Ramblings, which we know are read throughout the world and provide inspiration, ideas, help and advice for many, including the mechanical half of OTW. Our major articles are almost always the result of a direct contact and the offer of information and material. This year we were delighted to be able to publish the ‘Arthur Weaver story’, a project we had in mind for years, but unable to explore sufficiently until his daughter Gwyneth emailed us and provide so much valuable material. Three more of Arthur’s acquaintances contacted us via the website with important information and photos, along with a similar number of personal approaches that produced further items and material. Added to this the invaluable help of John Goodall and the very generous donation of Arthur’s scrapbook by Gerry Buck’s daughter Gill, more than fourteen people have had direct input into the article, we just put it all together. This is really where the enjoyment comes from and what enables the site to continue, so we are grateful to every one of you.

The story does not end there either, as two weeks before publishing this, we received an email and photos of a previously unknown and unrecorded  Weaver REDeX Cooper Bristol that must have been part of the original batch. This would indicate that he built at least four of these remarkable cars, three for the Wayne Myers Company and one for himself. We have now updated the article with photos of the three cars that we have recently received.  Despite facebook posts as well our Album, the whereabouts of Arthur Weaver’s own green Cooper Bristol and the one featured in 'Spindizzies' remains a mystery. We know they are out there somewhere?

Pitbox this month continues the ‘celebration’ of our anniversary with an amazing engine that almost every engine collector must be aware of, but probably never knew still existed, and certainly never seen. Thanks to a very kind gesture by Richard Dalby at Old Warden we can now feature it and add to our ever growing list of ‘oh my goodness’ moments.

All roads led to Gt Carlton on the first Sunday of the month, and for once, those roads were almost clear of traffic. One of the best attendances for a very long while enjoyed some spirited runs and an impromptu new competition for extreme distances.

We learned several things of importance during the trip to the final meeting of the season at Kingsbury. An ordinary white coffee is now an Americano with 'room'. There must be gallons of squirty cream being used, judging by the incredible number of empty nitrous oxide bulbs littering the car park we stopped at, and they must have had a great time as well, with all the balloons. We are still no nearer having a firm idea of how to make a hydroplane engine run for the required number of laps at a sensible speed, and finally, Piccos defy all logic and reasoning.

In May we published a tribute to one of the great tethered car enthusiasts in New Zealand, the late Ken McIntyre. His son David has now added considerably to his previous notes with details and photos of most of his father's cars. Thanks to David for these updates

Very frustrating at Althorne Lake for the second two day meeting of the year. A conflicting event at Old Warden, a crop of injuries and the wind being much stronger on Sunday than forecast had a somewhat deleterious effect on the number of entries and boats that were able to run. The Gremlins that have been so evident all year were also out in force again, with damaged boats, mechanical failures, and of course engines that refuse to go, reducing the completed runs to just a handful.

Amazingly this brings us almost to the end of the season, with just one event left at Althorne and a last chance to run cars at Gt Carlton. October also sees the Midland Model Exhibition and the annual conferences, a sure sign that it's all over for another year.

September 2017

We have been delighted to receive a very large number of photographs of tethered cars from several different sources during the last year. What they all share in common is that they were taken relatively recently. Two sets were extensively annotated, so as well as knowing where they were taken we are pretty sure of the subject. Three sets, which amount in total to hundreds of prints, present something more of a challenge. Some we know where they were taken but not when, or the cars photographed. Some we can identify a proportion of the cars, others, not a clue of any sort as to even when or where and certainly not the cars. Another thing they all share is that neither the person who sent them to us or the person they got them from had any hand in taking the photos, and in all bar one case, no ideas as to their origins. This presents us with a number of fascinating avenues for research. What is the car featured, and by association, who built it, unless of course it is a commercial model. Who owned it when the photos were taken, and when was that, and most importantly, since they are all survivors, where is the car now, and how did it get there?

Contrary to accusations made in the past about other individuals and publishers, this is not about acquisition, there is not enough money in the world for that, but about preserving the history and provenance of each item. Unlike the art world either, it is not about enhancing values but sharing information to the mutual benefit of the current owner, adding to combined knowledge and even sometimes being able to let the owner know exactly what they have and some (all) of its history. It is also possible at times to undo the model equivalent of an urban myth, falsehood or rumour as we have demonstrated and illustrated in the past. We do admire John Lorenz for his very detailed histories of cars in his collection, often related in his Throwback Thursday features.

We would be delighted to have current information about any of the British cars featured in the Armes and Zausner books. We believe that some of the Spindizzy collection is now in the Ford Museum but can anyone help with confirmation of this and what is there exactly please? We would also like to trace Gerry Buck’s Rowell Sabre, the only original one known to still exist, as well as the Weaver Sunbeam car that was also in his collection.

Our Pitbox this month is somewhat unusual as it is not a boat, car or engine, but in a way is all three and the first one of its type we have ever seen.

The tethered hydroplane World Championships in Bulgaria occupied the last week in July, so August has been a very busy month with results from there, the tethered car European Championships in the Ukraine, and the combined St Albans speed meeting and MPBA International over the Bank holiday weekend. Added to that, the usual August hydro meetings at Kingsbury and Althorne and a Retro Club track day it will be something of a tall order to include reports, photos and results from all of them, but we’ll give it a go.

The march of technology! At the hydroplane championships in Pazardzhik, Oleksii Smolnikov became the holder of the outright speed record for tethered hydroplanes, but using electric power. His run of 233.463kph with a diminutive A1E boat beat the record set by the late Vadim Subbotin in 2004 with his A3. This was also the fastest run of the championships by a waterscrew driven boat, amazing. In addition, new records were set in B1 and B1E.

Sometimes though, we do have to be aware that technology is not infallible, so at the August regatta at Kingsbury, it was out with the stop watches when the electronic timing equipment threw a wobbly, but they were still electronic rather than clockwork so the true luddites could not crow too much.

Celebrations all round at Althorne Lake as Martin Hamilton's twenty-two year old A1 record was finally beaten. Congratulations to Pete Dirs who raised the record set in August 1995 by almost 2mph.

Another new record by a substantial margin as well as a quantum leap for one competitor were the highlights of a very successful two day event at Kingsbury Water Park over the Bank Holiday weekend. We are grateful to John DeMott, Arthur Wall, Dave Singleton and the Kingsbury Club for hosting the event following all the problems over the last three years at its traditional St Albans venue.

Following on from last month's information regarding the supply of components there is good news, and some not so good. Dave Cunliffe has sent details of the tyres he is having made that are suitable for relatively fast retro style cars, whilst Wolfgang Schmid has posted details on the speedmodelcar site of the timing device he is manufacturing. This is similar to the original version that Oliver Monk described in his Ramblings. Less good news, Dave Sheldrake having given up making the carbon fibre airscrew props and the current situation regarding Prop Shop supplies is unclear following their devastating fire.

Empty spaces: Word has reached us that Boris Mizor has sadly passed away. The name may not be immediately recognised but his air gauges bearing the BM logo are to be found in the tool boxes of untold numbers of car, boat and plane enthusiasts. 

August 2017

A couple of months ago we were talking of the use of technology within our sport for optimising or enhancing the performance of our cars, boat and engines, yet in the current era there are even more examples of technology being used in the manufacture of these. It was over sixty years ago that Stan Clifford produced and raced a hydro with a hull moulded from GRP and nearly thirty since the first all carbon fibre boat made its debut in the UK. GRP and later, carbon, have been in evidence for car bodies for many years but truly composite tethered car chassis are still in their infancy. Michael Schmutz has produced a number of Class V car bodies in carbon fibre both drape and vacuum moulded to clothe an aluminium engine and gearbox mount. 3D printing has been tried, and while fine for bodies could be used for chassis but would require industrial machinery, printing in non-ferrous metals along with some serious testing for strength and integrity. Roland Bendell, among others, has used a metal base or backbone clad in moulded plastic body sections.

CNC is now universal and not uncommon in the more exotically equipped home workshop, yet to see several tethered car pans or other components being machined at once is something of a marvel. Laser and water jet cutting, again once the province of industry only, is percolating down the line with at least one car chassis being water-jet cut from steel. Digital read outs on lathes and mills are now the norm yet it is not so long ago that the pre-digital equivalent, the optical collimator, was only to be found in the very best tool rooms. Tuned pipes have been produced by a variety of methods including fabrication, spinning, explosion and hydraulic forming or machining from the solid, but how cool is printing one? Saves on bins of swarf as well. All of these processes, when allied to suitable CAD programmes, can be wonderful aids to production of components.

The technology available now is marvellous and the degree of accuracy that can be worked to unbelievable, but the many tales of how cars, boats and engines were built with the most basic and rudimentary equipment is something that continues to fascinate us. No lathe, convert a sewing machine, use a bicycle and a fit volunteer, or even a belt from the back wheel of your motorbike to power your machinery and you are away. Apart from the philosophical arguments of the period surrounding the use of commercial engine, cars boats etc, the achievement of those ‘doing it themselves’ either through the parts being unavailable or unaffordable or just the desire to make their own is a vital part of the history of the sports.

Quite by coincidence we have become aware of The Vintage Model Automobile Company here in Britain that is producing kits for a well known vintage tethered car model, using some of the techniques outlined above. Tight Lines revisits Simple Simon of the 1940s and his ‘Production Line’ reviews with our look at this impressive new venture.

The Pitbox is close to the ‘holy grail’ for a 1066 enthusiast, a 10cc Falcon motor. They were advertised, along with a 15cc version, from 1946 but no one had seen one in captivity until two sets of castings were discovered just a few years ago. At last OTW has been able to handle one and photograph it. The ultimate find is still the 1066 hydroplane, proving completely elusive even after fifteen years of searching.

After a break of some thirty years it was decided to revive the Grand Regatta for hydroplanes at the July Althorne two-day meeting. Strong winds made it one day only, and mechanical carnage and assorted malevolent gremlins reduced the entry somewhat as well. Another series of events missing from the calendar for a while has been the Area Championships. With the loss of Hull, the Midland and Northern Area have been combined and were run at the July Kingsbury meeting, the first time the Hymer and Ayrshire Trophies have been competed for since 2010.

It's all a question of scale. After years of working on Konig racing engines and building a few with pistons around 54mm dia, machining new ones from scratch for a 1.5cc motor at around 12mm dia leaves us full of admiration. In his latest 'Workshop Ramblings' Oliver Monk describes the process and the set ups he uses to ensure absolute accuracy for these tiny components that are going to be whistling up and down the liners at well over 40,000 times a minute.

July 2017

Back on track now with publication around the first of the month and a bumper edition as well, so thanks to all who have contributed.

Amongst the paperwork and other material we inherited at the beginning of the year were a series of old ads for cars and engines for sale. Now, average earnings, rates of exchange and multiplication factors do have to be taken into account, but it does clearly illustrate when the major escalation in ‘collectability’ and associated value took place. That cars and engines were at ‘giveaway prices’ even up to the late 70s is well known, and many a collector, if they could be called that at the time, latched on to quantities of each for extremely modest investments, even more so, if they were ‘clearing out’ shops, works or workshops.

One can recall an M E Exhibition many moons ago where Mr C had a selection of cars for sale at what would now be termed ‘for nothing’ and even swapmeets would have very desirable cars on offer at eminently affordable prices even by the standards of the day then. On the open market, what we now drool over and fork out large amounts of liquidity for what could have been had at what now seems ridiculously low amounts. A model shop, not a millions miles away had cases of Olivers, Rivers and similar for a fiver a time and a rare M&E car for the princely sum of £1.50. One correspondent tells us of finding a box of tethered cars and related items in a model shop and having to pay £30 for the lot, yes a weeks wages in the day, yet they could not be bought for much less than 4 month’s ‘average wages’ now. It is ironic in a way that the silver Hastings Trophy that cost 200 guineas in the 1940s should now be worth a fraction of what a 1066 Conquest car is, whilst that could have been had for a 1/10th of the cost of the trophy at the time.

The ‘explosion’ when it happened resembled a model equivalent of the ‘gold rush’. It took a great deal of courage to refuse to sell a simple tethered car for almost treble what the real one in the drive cost. There is little doubt that ‘acquisition and auction fever’ was more than evident a few years back as the regulars at Gildings remember when stunned into silence by phone bidders going hammer and tongs at very ordinary lots. We have just seen an example of this at our local saleroom where an item estimated at between £2,500-£3,500 made £10,000 hammer price, £12,000 with fees. The clincher was that top notch examples by the same maker can be had retail for half the final price.

We have tracked down some Dooling Arrows sold over the years that illustrate the above clearly. Early 50s, £35 or £15 less the motor, Mid 50s £65 complete, mid 60s £12 with motor, early 70s £5 less motor, 80s £150 for two superb examples and by the millennium £1600, or one with a mag £2,200. A couple have come up for sale in the UK since then, one was offered at well over £3,000, (wishful thinking or what?)

The Album returned to the Chiltern Club track in 1954 and the European Championships, this time with the European competitors. We are delighted that one of those featured is still with us and is in regular contact. Having retired from tethered car racing around 1959 as a multiple champion, Roland Salomon then went into the relatively new sport of Kart racing before going the whole hog with Formula 2 cars. If all that adrenaline was not enough he was a regular rider on the famous Cresta in St Moritz taking his last ‘course’ on his 80th birthday.

The Pitbox item this month has connections with both the editorial content and the new Album as it was one of the cars in the ‘box’ mentioned earlier and also appeared at the 54 Championships.

Vast numbers of people there for the first Modelfly weekend at Old Warden,  and an impressive line of traders, probably thousands of engines for sale. The tethered car circle was in operation both days with several car and hydro men and women on hand. Deals were seen to be done that should ensure even more cars in future, there and at Gt Carlton.

An annual foray for us now is the OTW spring tour that takes in the Tell Race at Basel and Pfingstrennen at Kapfenhardt. Being our only exposure of the season to modern tethered car racing we had thrown caution to the wind with a new driver and an extra two cars to complicate matters.

Of course it was the hottest weekend of the year that coincided with a double header. On Saturday it was a track day in Lincolnshire with a visitor from Wales with no less than eight new cars. A quick reload of the car for Althorne on Sunday and almost perfect conditions for running hydros. Three remarkable runs including a new personal best for our 'fast lady' at over 130mph, and a maiden run at 135mph for Rick Neal with his new B1.

Delighted to receive another super edition of Oliver Monk's 'Workshop Ramblings' with details of further progress on the Shadow car. Oliver also gives us a great description of making a GRP body using a 'blue foam' core. This really is the way to go for 'one off' bodies. Thanks to Oliver for sharing all these constructional details and hints with us, especially the tools, jigs and fixings that make difficult jobs possible.

At the end of this month a team of four, along with supporters head out to Bulgaria for the World Tethered Hydroplane Championships. From Britain there is also the Chief Judge and Race Secretary. We wish them all a good trip and fingers crossed for some good results.