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View From The Pylon

May 2021

Update: Good news all round as the first UK tethered car meeting of the season at Buckminster went ahead on the 25th April and the first Retro Club track day of the season is scheduled for May 15th at Gt Carlton. Tethered hydroplane racing should commence at the new lake near Maldon on Saturday May 22nd.

One of the most common pitfalls we come across, whether it be on eBay, in adverts or on numerous TV programmes is the use of the word ‘unique’ and all its variations, pretty unique, fairly unique, quite unique etc. Unique means one thing and one thing only, it is the only one. Now how does that relate to our interests? Firstly, if it was a commercial product that actually made it into production, then it is hardly going to be unique, just that no others have come to light. With engines, if dies were made with the attendant costs, then any version found is unlikely to be the only one. Cases in point are the 1066 Falcon II that did not appear to ever be marketed, yet, as we now know certainly existed, as is the case with the final development of the Conqueror where three and a set of castings have now emerged. There are even more intriguing cases such as the prototype Nordec Series II Special we featured a while ago, as contemporary reports confirm the existence of the version we have seen, but no idea of how many were built and there were plans for a production model, but no clues as to whether this actually happened, until one turns up, that is. So there is a subtle difference between ‘unique’ and the only one known to exist, yes, it might be, but probably not. The fabulous line up of Oliver engines we featured in March is another case in point and is almost certainly a ‘unique’ collection but not of unique engines as we know that there were more produced, but not a single other example of any of them have been recorded. The only Oliver of the period that could be claimed to be ‘unique’ was the one fitted to Busy for the trip to Sweden and that was, although John Goodall has now produced a one off replica.

Tethered cars and hydro’s are a bit different though, particularly with hydro’s as almost every single one was built by the owner to be used and few were ever duplicated exactly. There were thousands of tethered cars produced commercially and probably an equal number home built by enthusiasts, so many of those will be one offs and even most of the commercial ones will have individual touches that make them easily identifiable.

Some may be of the opinion that this is all somewhat pedantic, yet we consider that it is important for a website such as OTW, and other prime sources of information, to present material accurately and not to ascribe any false claims or provenance that might affect historic accuracy. We have no qualms with someone benefiting financially if ‘uniqueness’ is a true claim, but not when it is just a word thrown at any odd or unusual items that turn up on eBay or in a TV programme.

Talking of TV programmes and disinformation it is obvious that no restoration programme or 'expert' should ever be let lose near a tethered car. What Henry Cole and his confederate did to the ETA car on 'Find It Fix It Flog it' was a travesty, especially as they had all the contacts and information to do the job properly, but the treatment of the M&E Wasp on Repair Shop was inexcusable.  Rather than raving about the privilege of working on a hand crafted car, a bit of research would have revealed the truth and that ED that was shown to be a runner was the original engine. No, wasn't correct for the car according to the 'expert' so it was discarded and replaced with an electric motor, urgh. Slightly more amusing was a test at Brooklands to see how effective a huge 'can' silencer was on an engine. 108.9dB on an open exhaust and 108.4dB with the silencer, an imperceptible difference on the meter but a vast difference in the perception of noise. Ie. it may sound quieter but it 'aint.  

Given that there has not been a model exhibition of any sort for well over a year, the new Album looks back at Alexandra Palace, Old Warden and Leamington over the years. Will they be able to return or will they go the way of the ME Exhibition?

Our Photo goes back to 1969 and a record breaking boat where the exhaust still came out the side. The Pitbox is actually a double header and two cars that have not been seen since the 1950s when all sorts of wonderful ideas were being tried to create a ‘faster Oliver’.

As the lockdown continued, so does the Saga from the garret with Part 2, which brings you up to date on what has emerged, a sort of trilogy in two parts.

A new addition to the Car Archive is a series of prints from the late 1950s by multiple champion and record breaker, Roland Salomon. These were photographed in situ in his superbly annotated albums during the European Championships at Basel in 2013. It was extremely hot and sunny and a difficult exercise, but by the power of Photoshop we can feature some rare (if not unique???) images.

There is a clear distinction in our minds between builders and modellers and we admire the latter who having built a perfectly functional car or boat then add untold amounts of scale like detail. The builder of the Auto Union featured in the second helping of the Lockdown Saga has admitted to us that he was shamed by photos of a similar model sent by Wolfgang Schmid, which featured scale suspension, cockpit detail, cut louvres and the correct number of upswept exhaust pipes, sixteen in all. Amongst our correspondents we have a large number of talented builders and modellers who submit material for publication giving all sorts of useful hints, guidance and techniques that assist us all. John Goodall has kindly provided further  suggestions to his already extensive range of ideas for adding scale detail with a natty way to make scale windscreens and flyscreens, an essential accessory on almost every racing and sports car for many years.

Steve Betney has now confirmed details of the two competitions that will run at Buckminster during the season, the Dick Roberts trophy for aircars that will now be held at the Retrofest in June and the Redfin Trophy for 2.5cc twinshaft aircars that will be competed for at both the Retrofest and the Octoberfest. Both competitions will feature a combination of speed, concours presentation, design and technical innovation to give the widest variety of models a realistic chance to win. All details, including car and engine regulations are available on the SAM website.

News has been filtering in over the winter that an entirely new tethered car track was under construction in the Bristol area. Paul Harris, a regular visitor to Old Warden has now completed the project and has very kindly offered to open the track to visitors on occasions. Videos have been posted on youtube showing the track with cars running and from these it looks a great facility. How wonderful that there are now three tracks operating in the UK. Search for 'tethered cars running on Paul's track'.

Any news of spares and newly produced tethered car items is always welcome so we are delighted that Bill Bannister, who already markets a range of retro tyres, has added a universal spur mount casting to his range, which should be of real assistance to potential constructors as these are becoming increasingly rare and difficult to find. Details of these and his range of retro tyres are available on the Spares page. Pavel Sarigins usually has listings on eBay.com for tethered car wheels, tyres and titanium for bridles, as well as twinshaft, aero engines and varied spares. Locate him as p12man. On the subject of eBay. our combined flabbers were gasted as a standard RYTM twinshaft, advertised for spares only was up to £108 after just four bids. Never does to try and second guess what something will make once it hits the listings?

Two very important additions to the Market Place this month and the chance to buy a a pair of Oliver based cars cars with real history and provenance, one of them extremely well documented in contemporary magazines. Now that the Market Place is in operation the Spares page has been rejigged slightly and is now reserved for spare parts and items that are available on a regular basis, commercially or otherwise, rather than one off sales, which will continue with the ads on the Market Place. Several items on the spares page have fallen off the list, hence the changes.

The track at Buckminster opened for the season on 25th April following the unfortunate cancellation of the SAM Springfest. Too many cars to count but well over 40 in total, many were new build or new to the track, which made for a fascinating if somewhat busy day for all. See John Wells' videos on youtube for a taste of the action.

More good news on the tethered car front is that Peter Hill is hosting the first Retro Club track day of the season on Saturday May 15th at Gt Carlton in Lincolnshire. No charge for using the track, tea and coffee on tap, and now the only scheduled meeting in May, come and have a run.

Last month's Aeromodeller had the first part of an incredibly detailed and fascinating article by Chas Taylor describing how he became involved in producing his famous glow plugs and the business that developed from the obvious success of these gems. Personal experience gained after Roger James pointed us in the direction of Taylor plugs confirmed the longevity and performance of the plugs. It was a sad day when production stopped but the power of ebay along with a stock of once used plugs produced enough to see out another couple of seasons. Looking forward to part two of this lovely story. 


April 2021

Update: Following the unfortunate cancellation of the European Championships scheduled for July in Basel, the PSMA has offered to run the event in Poland at Pila in September in the hope that there are no further travel restrictions in place. The FEMA calendar has been updated with more meetings added although it is not yet certain that these can go ahead. It is anticipated that the tethered car events in the UK should be able to go ahead from the 25th April and tethered hydro meetings at some later stage, but again we wait for confirmation that this is going to be possible. As previously mentioned, travel and Covid restrictions mean that several early season events have already been cancelled by default. We can only update our calendars as we receive information so please check what is on and what is not.  

Collecting as an obsession and way of impressing the neighbours has been rife for centuries, as most of the stately homes of the country will attest to. The acquisition of works of art, legally or otherwise, filled named castles, palaces, mansions, halls and houses, often bankrupting the owners in the process as they strived to be one up in their social circle. The figures involved seemed astronomic by the standards of the day and mind boggling now with the escalation in values. Death duties and the dying out of lines of succession caused many of these collections to be broken up, spreading items out to a wider audience, sometimes at ridiculously low prices.

It is difficult to be precise as to when the collector arrived in the model world as those who built and used their models dominated for many years. It was the demise of the tethered car scene in the UK that established the first tranche of collectors who bought up anything and everything that became available, surplus stock from companies that were closing, entire stables from retiring fellow competitors and later clearing model shops of car related items. At that time, the stuff was there for the asking or at scrap prices but by the late 60s and early 70s there was an increasing market as the concept of the collector began to grow. Several companies sprang up that specialised in sourcing and supplying models of all sorts to individuals and museums until the explosion of the collecting culture and values that we know so well.

A sad fact of life is that the generation that started the trend have been exceeding their life spans for a while now and even some of the second generation have shuffled off, leaving huge quantities of models and associated stuff to enter the famous ‘Contiuum’. Values have fluctuated widely throughout this process, but as a couple of instances recently have shown us that there are still incredible bargains to be had and at the other end, amazing profits. A really important tethered car was advertised for a while yet cost the lucky purchaser just £50. At the other extreme came a shock, very close to home, as a Unimat SL lathe made over £400 at a local model auction, plus the 22% of course. Now, at £37 complete with all accessories from Elliot as a first machine and languishing under the bench for twenty years, no clue that values were escalating, hence the amazement at someone paying £488 for one.

Well the surprises have come thick and fast as one of our regular correspondents managed to sell his for £600, also confounding us in the process. As was seen in the current Retro reprint, much work can be done on small machines, as long as patience, forethought and a bit of cunning can be factored in. The SL is hardly the first choice of machines for all sorts of reasons, so one can only assume that they have been elevated to the exalted ranks of ‘collectors items’, who’d have thought it? There is a school of thought that reckons people buy and collect items that they had in their youth and retained a nostalgic interest in, yet the current generation of tethered car and engine collectors would have had no connection whatsoever and as for nostalgia, well, who can really get nostalgic about the unreliability and rusting qualities of what are now termed ‘classic’ cars and bikes?

The Pitbox is such an exciting discovery as it is just the third of these British 10cc-racing engines to be discovered and the only one in what we believe to be in complete and original condition.

The recent Album looking at some of the many items in Miquel de Rancougne's collection raised a question as to how many photos we actually had? No idea in truth, but it runs to five lever arch files, two wallet folders, a flip album and two computer folders, ie, a lot!

As we come to what we hope will be the final lockdown of the Covid era, a Retro Club member has reflected on just what and how much has emerged from his garret workroom over the period. A lot to assimilate in one go, so like the Millennium Trilogy, the Lockdown Saga will come in parts but hopefully not take as long to read?

The Market Place page continues to brings results, so thanks to Oliver Monk for the original suggestion. This month, a truly amazing engine and a series of car books for sale. There is however an age old saying that 'if it doesn't sell then it's either no one wants it or it's too expensive'. Probably equally true here and as we have seen from eBay lately, the market has been very fickle over the last year or so and items that might have sold well previously have been sitting there with no bids, despite relatively low prices, whilst others have exceeded even the wildest expectations, see below.  

Back in 2012, David Gilbert sent us photos of a lovely and original Oliver Mercedes that had been raced at Osset. It appeared on eBay in March with a starting price of £1500 and immediately attracted bids that took it to £2,600 with time still to go. News from the US that a portion of the Spindizzy collection has been put on display at the American Museum of Speed in Nebraska. More of the collection is at the Henry Ford Museum, but not on display, whilst the remainder, less what has appeared on eBay is so far unaccounted for but is believed to have been shipped abroad?

Long Lost Lakes returns with a trip to Hampshire and Southampton Common, the site of many regattas for two decades.

If current progress is maintained with the lockdown roadmap then events should be able to go ahead at Buckminster as planned. Steve Betney has provided more details of the two competitions that are to be run for aircars and twinshaft powered cars. These have been added to the Buckminster page alongside the 2021 calendar.

A welcome return to Oliver Monk and a new edition of his Workshop Ramblings. Like most of us, the pandemic has caused a significant shift in focus for workshop activities and here Oliver updates us on some more of his projects, along with a host of hints and tips on how components can be made easily and machining operations carried out. Oliver has been publishing these 'Ramblings' since 2014 and we are most grateful to him for all his work during this time. It is well worth having a trawl through previous editions as there is a myriad of useful information as well as the results of a wealth of experience and thought that has gone into solving problems that we all face during our building activities.


March 2021

Update: Well, it appears that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, although it is an exceedingly long one. Boris' announcement on the 22nd gave us hope that some events may be possible later in the summer. But if he giveth with one hand he taketh away with the other as continuing travel restrictions means that none of the early season car meeting will be possible for British competitors, so for a second year running the 'spring tour' is cancelled. Less than 24 hours later came the news that with the current uncertainty the SMCC had no option but to cancel the European Championships again. Our commiserations to them for having to make this announcement for a second year. Only time will tell what sort of international season is possible, but for most of us, that is it, before it even started. A letter from FEMA published on the 25th indicated that there would be no GS or European trophy events this year and that any meetings might well be on a local level only. Similarly, until the restrictions regarding travel to and within the EU are lifted, a question mark must also hang over the NAVIGA championships as well. For enthusiasts within the UK, the Buckminster Tether Car Group postings on Facebook may give some hope for events later in the season? 

When it was anticipated that Buckminster would be opening there was a deal of discussion and speculation about classes of cars that could be run and what regulations should apply? At the most basic level there has to be regulations that assure safety and these are primarily down to cables and attachments that ensure a safety factor of two at the fastest speed that might be attained by a particular class of car. The modern cars are easily dealt with as FEMA publishes a set of rules that applies to them and the infrastructure, but with modern cars there is a commonality in design and speeds. When it comes to retro and home built cars the situation is entirely different. The MCA in the 50s specified cables by pounds of breaking strain per pound of car weight, and interestingly increased this figure if there were spectators present. Of course, to a point this ignored the small matter of speed, but as it is the square of the speed that goes into the formula, it becomes increasingly important. Jan Erik Falk published a graph that shows a car at 100kph is exerting just under 8G but at 200 it is 31G and at 300, 71G. Ando’s car was exerting over 95G when he broke the record, so even at the speeds our retro type cars are running, choice of material, fixings and construction must be born in mind.

Regulations also exist to give a level of control over performance, which they mainly fail at, as competitors and teams will always look for an advantage. We often hear of ‘the level playing field’ but this seldom exists and that is where every individual or team must decide at what level it wishes to compete, which is probably the most appropriate approach in terms of retro racing. David Giles has told us often that the aim should be to achieve the best speed possible with whatever model you have, and this sounds a pretty good philosophy, as long as the individual is happy at that level of performance? Where it all goes wrong is when competitions and prizes are involved. A number of trophies in the model car and boat world are awarded for the fastest speed at a meeting or over the season, which effectively rules out probably 95% of those taking part, most because they are running in smaller classes with lower top speeds and the rest because their car or boat just ‘aint quick enough. This has been evident for years in almost every motorised sport on the planet and all sorts of wheezes have been tried to allow all entries to compete against each other, even with wildly different performances. Early events awarded points for build quality or scale appearance and even how many home built components were used in the construction. Nominated speed has been around forever and some models are so consistent that speed can be specified to the nearest 1/10th kph.

An alternative that has been used in full sized sport for many years is a variation on an Index Of Performance and is what is in place for the Windermere Trophy, which was for the boat that exceeded the current class record by the greatest percentage or came closest to it. This evens it out across the classes, more or less, but could be extended to every car if some form of competition was envisaged and takes into account the David Giles principle. Yes, you may put a Parra or K12 in your 2.5cc aircar and it should go much faster than the PAW or ED, but you do it for your own enjoyment and satisfaction, not to render other’s cars and equipment redundant and it also negates the need for complex rules or escalation in the number of classes. The latest AMRCA publication shows 28 classes and plans to subdivide even further. It is virtually impossible to have a so called ‘level playing field’ when cars being run can range from seventy year old 2.5 diesel power to 10cc tuned pipe motors. Serious plans are afoot however to incorporate a competition based on some sort of index of performance into events at Buckminster later this season.

It is strange to think that the UK has only ever hosted two European Championships, tethered cars in 1954 at Woodside and for hydroplanes in 1975 at Welwyn Garden City. As was normal at the time, the NAVIGA championships were for every class of model boat, a huge undertaking for the organisers. Pitbox has unearthed two pieces of memorabilia from 1975.

Phone calls with Peter Hill can cover a lot of ground and is a very fertile forum for coming up with ideas of something different to build for running on our tracks. Following one such conversation a few years ago, one of the Retro Club members penned an article of ‘possibilities’ for new projects. The new Retro Reprint is from 2016 with all sorts of thought provoking ideas, some of which are no longer just ideas.

Thanks to the generosity of so many people that have contacted the website over the years, we have become the recipients of untold quantities of archive material, much of which has featured in the Albums and then been added to relevant articles. Even more of it though stands alone and so from this month we are adding Photo Archive pages that will present as much of this material as we can. We do not share the IT capabilities of the SMCC with their incredible Foto Archive presented as slide shows, so our photos do not move, but as far as possible they are captioned. The first of these is from Joe Riding's scrapbook with photos and newspaper reports from events he attended. The newspaper reports present a very different view of the events compared with the more technical language used in the model car magazines.

If the lockdown was not restricting enough, a week of snow and sub zero temperatures has precluded normal activities so allowing several days of housekeeping on the website. Like Topsy (not Gerry Buck's famous car) some of our pages have outgrown their original sparse beginnings as more material has arrived and been added. We have re-edited the page on tethered car tracks and have now created one page dedicated to UK tracks and a second to European tracks. It has also allowed us to add details of another of Britain's long lost tracks, that of the Bolton MES in Leverhulme Park, Darcey Lever.  

For some entirely unknown reason, the phone and email were exceedingly busy during the period that storm Darcy stopped even the allowable daily exercise. These produced very valuable information on a project that has been stalled for years, another exceedingly rare British motor and a selection of so far unseen tether cars, all of which will be revealed in the following months. Thanks to everyone who has contacted OTW with this material.

The suggestion from Oliver Monk to include a Market Place page for free ads has proved to be a instant success with several sales immediately following publication. Indeed, one advertiser not only sold the advertised items but also the portable car track that he had intended to offer for sale in March. Recently added items include Oliver cylinder fins, an aircar and a most unusual Merco twinshaft motor. Sadly, one of our advertisers was targeted by a scammer, a problem we all face far too regularly, so please 'be careful out there' as someone in Hill Street Blues used to say each episode.

Amongst the thousand of engines that have been manufactured there are a few that could be considered to be iconic as they changed the course of tethered car, hydro and aeromodelling completely, One such is the prototype Oliver twinshaft that was installed in the 'Busy' car and used in the Anglo Swedish races in 1949. This one engines spawned the entire range of Oliver Tiger engines that dominated for so many years, yet there was only the one ever built, and that vanished in the early 1950s. John Goodall recently produced a series of body shells to build replicas of 'Busy' but every one of those has had to be fitted with an alternative to the hastily built disc valve motor, until now that is. Having located some exceedingly rare examples of Oliver twinshaft engines, John decided to compliment his 'Busy' shells with a replica of the prototype engine that became the Tiger. OTW has been aware of this project for a while, but we are delighted that it is now complete and that John has, very kindly, produced a very detailed article describing the inception and build of this 'one off' Oliver motor. Thanks to John, we are also able to publish what we believe to be a unique photo and treat for all Oliver enthusiasts, a line up of all of the early Tiger twinshaft variants. Why unique, well these are the only examples of each that are known to exist. If there are others out there then both John and OTW would love to know.

Empty spaces: Thanks to Philipp Meier for passing on the news of Adi Malik's death We first met Adi at Lyon in 2005 and last saw him at Kapfenhardt just a day before he was taken ill. He was great company, incredibly knowledgeable and helpful and amused us by pointing out that he was named Adolf after his grandfather, not 'the other one'. We are indebted to David Giles for the following appreciation.

2008, Photo by Herbert Tinauer 2017 Birthday presentation A last photo with David Giles

ADI (ADOLF) MALIK  An Appreciation

In February 1977 I had the great good fortune to meet a remarkable man who was to have a considerable influence on my model engineering life. As recounted elsewhere, I had moved to Munich with my young family to take up a post at MTU Aero Engines and was aware that tether car racing was very much alive in continental Europe.

With the help of my late friends Tony Higgins and Arne Zetterstrom, I was given Adi’s telephone number – by coincidence he happened to live in Munich - which resulted in a meeting which started a friendship which with it’s inevitable twists and turns was to last for well over 40 years.

It soon became apparent to me that Adi was a highly respected figure in the field of model engine tuning and blueprinting both in the disciplines of control line team racing and tether car racing. He introduced me to the world of modern tether car racing, and was so generous with his time and expertise that we were able to form a working relationship which resulted in a world record and European championship in the 5cc class. The lessons I learnt from him have stayed with me to this day, particularly with regard to car preparation before and attention to detail during a race meeting. I remember a particular incident where having produced a rather mediocre time, I said to Adi “but I checked everything” to which he replied “no, you missed one thing” such was his mentoring style.

The engines I most associate with Adi are the ‘turned round’ Rossi 15 to a Swedish design, the MOPS 29 (Malik OPS) of which I have the first example, and the ‘turned round’ Super Tigre X29 used very successfully by the late Bengt Abrahamson. He was responsible for the preparation of many engines for other drivers, but as is usual in racing, this side of his considerable talents was not always disclosed or sufficiently recognised. Having the best engine, however, does not guarantee results.

In later years, he concentrated exclusively on the 1.5cc class using Kapusikov equipment, prepared to his usual high standards. I believe he was drawn instinctively to the complexity of these tiny examples of precision engineering.

Adi had many other interests: he was a keen 10 pin bowling enthusiast, playing at league level. He was also a fan of Baroque music, and built his own hurdy-gurdy. He, along with wife Lydia, had a passion for good food and wine which gave them both a great deal of pleasure. He was a passionate collector of model engines and had a very good command of the English language, which he used to advantage when negotiating for collectable engines.

He was very fond of learning the nuances and phrases I would use in the course of our conversations to add to his already extensive vocabulary, and equally I have learnt a number of German phrases which are best not used in this piece!

Adi was always pleased to be called ‘The Ace Tuner’, which he was in my humble opinion, and in later years ‘Grumpy Old Man’ was a title he was more than happy with, although he was far from that!

Adi passed away after a protracted period of failing health on 03 February 2021 and will be sadly missed by his wife Lydia, his many friends and acquaintances around the world, and me.

David Giles. Bristol. 09 February 2021.


February 2021

Almost from the very start of our involvement with tethered cars and hydroplanes we have been amazed, encouraged and most pleasantly surprised by the degree of kindness, helpfulness and friendly nature of those involved. As newbies in any situation there will be those prepared to take advantage of your lack of knowledge, naivety or worse, gullibility, leaving us still smarting from our first acquaintance with a notorious dealer many years ago. Others will take the view that it took them years to get to where they are so you should also serve your apprenticeship and make all the same mistakes again. This can be a very long-winded process, as the old adage about ‘learning from your mistakes’ does not necessarily hold true. Knowing that you did something wrong or set up something incorrectly is easy, knowing what it was and how to correct it, a whole different kettle of fish. This is especially true if you only have access to a track or lake on very limited occasions and even then only have a couple of starts in a day. We have garnered a large number of sayings and opinions over the last few years that more than illustrate the willingness of people to offer help and advice, starting with the most obvious ‘no point in reinventing the wheel’.

Strangely though, we have met a number of people who have perpetuated this long held belief, but sometimes, time is too short. There is also the oft-quoted advice that can also be a very thinly veiled criticism that ‘if you build it right, it will go right’. Again probably true, but how on earth do you know ‘what is right’ as there are no handbooks or instruction manuals for tethered cars or boats. Again, many of us have found with cars and boats that there can be a plethora of advice as to ‘what is right’, each correct in isolation as it relates to the person giving it, but almost certainly contradicting others. One of the more vital elements for getting top (or any) performance, we are told, is the fit of the piston and liner. We were informed by someone well respected for preparing very fast motors that the only way to make the engines from a certain current manufacturer start easily was to make the liners round and then a piston to fit. One large batch of liners was delivered a few years ago that were reckoned to have an almost hexagonal bore and the only way to create a decent fit was to have the piston so tight that it squeaked and wore itself into the bore, somewhat agricultural but it worked, up to a point, even if starting the darn things were next to impossible. At the opposite end of the spectrum are two British records taken with motors where the fit was so lose that the piston came all the way out of the top of the bore with no nip. Somewhere between these two extremes is the optimum, but where? The answer for some, the wealthier or those with contacts, was to try different ones until they found one that either met their spec or speed expectations.

This brings us to the next piece of sage advice, ‘never change more that one thing or setting at a time’, then you might just have a clue, or not. One British competitor was well known for changing everything in his car if it did not perform at a meeting, apart from the front wheels and colour that is.

Some will shun advice and help, but for us it has been invaluable, coming late as we did, as it enabled us to start getting runs, of sorts. A phrase that emerged from very close to home is that ‘if it won’t start, then it’s no use’. We know that not everyone appreciates the level of help and advice on offer at times but we were more than grateful when a new engine refused to run properly and none other than Michel Duran came onto the track, gave the car one start and said ‘timings out’. There could not have been two more extreme ends of the performance spectrum between Michel and us but he gave his advice freely, and was right. In defence it must be said that only the original builder of the engine would know why it was timed that way. Another competitor who has become a great friend and mentor immediately offered the correct spare parts so that what could have been a wasted and frustrating weekend ended up with a car that was going round.

The best piece of advice related to this came from Oliver Monk who says that ‘now you have got it going round, then you can start changing things and going faster’. Mind you, getting a boat or car going round then reveals all the other problems that had yet to manifest themselves. So thanks to everyone who has helped us along the way, without it we would probably be playing with trains or knitting by now?

The Album from Joe Riding's scrap book continued for a second month and more excitingly, led directly to this month's Pitbox item, a race car from the British manufacturer favoured by Joe, but only the third one that has ever come to light.

With even more workshop time available, thanks to the Tiers and now another lockdown, projects around the country abound, many of which we hope to bring you during the course of the year, either in construction, or more hopefully, in action. The second offering in this series has been around for many years, had several incarnations, but has yet to turn a wheel in anger.

Unfortunately, the list of Long Lost Lakes is extremely long and we tend to feature another of these whenever we receive appropriate material, and in particular, modern photos of the venue. Thanks to Rick Benson we are adding Woburn this month, another water that shared its name with the club that ran there.

Something that we have been aware of for a while that is now a reality is the excellent news for all Oliver enthusiasts that the production of spares and engines has recommenced. Steve Fardon who was engineering manager for Tom Ridley until Tom's untimely death in 2016 has negotiated the setting up of a new company to continue the Oliver name. Steve was largely responsible for producing the CAD drawings of the engines and setting up the modern machinery to recreate these iconic motors that became so sought after. Steve has a super new website with a range of spares already available www.joliverengines.co.uk  Steve has also indicated that he is intending to build an engine using all the original tools, jigs and fixtures that have been passed to him, as close to an original as you are ever likely to get.

The new Market Place page started well with each of the advertisers contacted and most of the items sold. This month we are adding two more railcars, casting sets, engines and more assorted parts. The page can be updated during the month so please let us know if items have been sold or for placing new ads.

Steve Betney has sent us an extensive article documenting rules, standards and procedures for running retro style tether cars at Buckminster. He has also added lots of practical advice for setting up and running cars aimed at newcomers to the sport.

Empty Spaces:  Rich Democh was a regular visitor to Europe for many years and made what he claimed would be his last visit during 2018, taking in the meetings at Basel and Kapfenhardt. He was really struggling even then, but was enthusiastic and ever cheerful, despite his problems. His own NSC car was well off the pace, but as he remarked, the Kapusikov that he had sold to Andrij Yakimiv went far faster in Andrij's hand than it had ever done in his, the only consolation being the Andrij won Class 1 with what had been Rich's car. Another sad loss to the tethered car community and our condolences to Marie and his family.


January 2021

We are told regularly to be positive and that ‘things will get better’, despite what seems to happening at present, so we wish all our readers a healthy, happy and successful 2021 and look forward to a season of events. A very big thank you to everyone who has contributed towards this 'bumper' issue.

Apart from the obvious, 2020 was still notable for things breaking when they shouldn’t or stopping working at most inconvenient moments. On several occasions it resulted in loss of life, serious injury or substantial damage and financial loss. As we are not in the cars, boats or aeroplanes that we use, the outcomes are not normally so serious, yet we must not lose sight of the fact that we have to ensure the models we use and the way we use them is safe in all respects. The spectacular photo in a recent Aeromodeller shows the perils of being on board when something goes wrong. It is then ironic that the rules for model cars boats and planes contain little that relates to the structural integrity, materials, or methods of construction of the models. Apart from bridles, lines and attachments, most of the rest is left to manufacturers or TLAR (that looks about right) in the eyes of the builder.

Colin Chapman always quoted the mantra, simplicate and add lightness, which led to some very fragile cars. In the tethered car world a safety factor of two is used for all specified components but for the rest it is mainly guesswork. New items can and often do have faults either in design or manufacture as we see occasionally, and that is without the elements of age or continual stressing that exist in the model world where a number of cast pans from the same source have cracked after a few seasons use. Age hardening, vibration, stress reversals, incorrect application of heat, judicious lightening or insufficient strength in the first place can all provide opportunities for failures, especially where magnesium alloys and titanium are concerned.

When it comes to tyres it is even worse as the rubber used can be of very varying quality, some seventy year old examples still being soft and crack free, others totally unusable. One major supplier of replica tyres states quite categorically that they are ‘for display only’ as they are not actually rubber. There may well be no problem with a retro style car bumbling round at 40mph but as 120mph or more was the norm in the 50s and faster still in later decades then it is a really not safe. Metal fatigue is the great enemy with tethered cars, good old-fashioned ingress of water and oil with boats. Vintage and modern planes fall out of the sky because of it, and tethered car chassis, pans and bridles have cracked or broken through fatigue. One of the most stark demonstrations we saw was a safety clip that was supposed to withstand several hundred pounds pull but was broken with just two fingers, age and stress reversals having hardened the material until it had virtually no strength. Personal experience to the fore here as OTW has two relatively modern commercial FEMA cars on the shelf with cast pans that are cracked and two others where so called solid extruded aluminium has given up the ghost. With the prospect of a full season of track events in the UK, make sure what you are running or have built is up to the job.

We are lucky in that much of the content on the website has come from those who have contacted us as they have either an item of interest, family related memorabilia or material that they are prepared to pass on or share with us. On a number of occasions these have been albums or scrapbooks that were put together by fathers or grandfathers and that have been rediscovered at some stage. The material can be very personal but also gives a wonderful insight into activities of that period. We are delighted then that the new Album this month featured a series of photos from such a volume, assembled by Joe Riding of the Bolton Club. His British 10cc record still stands to this day. Amongst the material were a number of newspaper reports that we hope to scan and feature at a later date?

The 2021 Pitbox series commences with something of a 'Special edition' and a veritable gem, a 'sleeper' as the antiques market would call it, an engine that will arouse a great deal of excitement and interest. It is a British commercial engine that was known to have been produced and was tested by Peter Chinn but has so far eluded all attempts to positively identify an existing version. No doubt about the company that made it as it the name is embossed down the by-pass, yet it remained in what Adrian Duncan referred to as an 'information vacuum'. Not only has one turned up in the most unusual of circumstances, but it is also one of the rare pre-production models. The current owner was not aware of its importance until he saw a very poor scan of an original on OTW that he thought 'looked like his engine' but could not find any further information to confirm his belief. A set of photos, followed by a partial stripdown of the motor confirmed its identity and importance. We know where it has been for over 65 years, but it is how it got there that is the mystery. 

Steve Betney has alerted us to another superb set of tethered car castings from JDR Paris, this time the Lancia D50. The quality and detail of these is amazing and down to the double shell moulding techniques used with core plates and mould plates that control the thickness of the castings precisely and allow excellent surface detail. Most of the repro castings available are second or third generation sand castings that are very variable in quality and thickness as well as being significantly smaller that the originals. One set that is available is now so small that the correct engine will no longer fit.

Market Place:- A regular and much anticipated section of magazines and newsletters where members and enthusiasts advertise their for sale and wanted items. Since Model Engine World and the Retro Club newsletter ceased publication there has been no alternative other than online forums, auctions with their attendant expense  or in better times, getting up at an indecent hour to visit the dwindling number of swapmeets. Remember when Watford or Walsall were staples on the calendar? With our change in hosts we will be trying a Market Place page, where individuals can advertise related items for sale or place wanted ads for specific items. All ads are free and should be sent to otwmedia0@gmail.com with a description, photo if desired, price, and contact details as you would like them to be seen. We can substitute (at) for @ to confuse the phishers and scammers. Just a few simple rules. Tethered car, hydro and related items only, including engines, books and magazines, a price, ONO is acceptable but not 'offers' and if it is a wanted item, then it has to be specific, no 'catch all' ads. A goodly selection for the first posting, star item this time round is a ready to run A3 tethered hydro. Finally, the usual disclaimer in that all activities are between advertiser and customer and that posting the ads does not imply any connection with OTW.

On all the drawings that accompanied the tethered cars produced by the Oliver company was the caption 'designed by Harry Howlett', who was responsible for all the semi scale designs from the original Proto Two Five onward. What is generally not appreciated is that these were simplified for production but Harry produced a much more elaborate and detailed version of each one for his own use. Having bought a Redfin engined Oliver Mercedes off the sale table at Buckminster, John Goodall set about adding some scale touches to it, as he has done to all his models of full sized versions. Many Oliver repros are minus any sort of radiator grill as this is difficult to reproduce in such small scale. One article even described using a dog's flea comb as a basis. John has gone one stage further, even including a correct badge that involved a 14 BA thread, that's tiny!

2021 dates:- FEMA has published a draft calendar for the coming season, which includes the European Championships being held at the Witterswill track of the SMCC in July following the cancellation last year. Updates regularly on speedmodelcar.  A tethered hydroplane calendar for the UK has now been published, immediately updated with a long awaited piece of news. After a great deal of work, travel and searching by Norman, Pete and Steve, a new lake has been secured in the same vicinity as Althorne. Hall Farm Lake near Maldon is now a reality and the intention is to get the pylon and steps in place in March. Thanks to all for the work both in decommissioning Althorne and finding a new venue. A new group has been set up to coordinate activities at the Buckminster tethered car track with a series of dates and events agreed, and these, along with the contact details for the new group can be found on a second Buckminster page. We have put together a gallery of events from 2020 at Buckminster, with the full story of building the track.

It is now over 120 years since the world's fastest car was electric powered with Camille Jenatzy recording over 100kph. All the model car tracks in the 20s and beyond were electric powered, yet it was many years before electric power began to challenge IC in terms of power but now it is a viable power source, although still with limitations imposed by battery technology. In the model world where range is not an important factor, electric power is a serious alternative, so it is no surprise that the fastest tethered hydroplane and tethered car in the world are both electric powered. In the days of NiCads and wire wound rheostats it was all pretty simple, but now the technology and associated hardware along with all the maths involved is mind bending. Electric power is something that will need to be assimilated and will almost certainly exist alongside IC. So far OTW has reported on the progress of electric powered cars and boats, but have not had the opportunity to present any technical details or avenues that might be open for the future. We are delighted then that Antonio Della Zoppa has agreed to provide details of his venture into electric power, but not for a hydro as you would expect from the current European Champion, but a tethered car.

Empty Spaces: If the problems associated with Covid were not enough, the past year has been a particularly difficult and sad one with the losses that the modelling world has suffered, both in Britain and further a field. The year finished as it had started with more bad news, the passing of a life long modeller and two multiple tethered car champions. 

We were saddened to hear of the death of Richard (Dick) Roberts early last month. Readers of the website will be well aware of his involvement with tethered cars and his experimental 'sidecar' aircar that became the Gt Carlton track record holder after several seasons of development. Dick was so much more though with a lifelong involvement in aeromodelling, and along with his wife Babs was fundamental to the growth of vintage speed flying in Britain.

We have fond, if somewhat scary, memories of events at Oakington including Dooling 61 planes being flown on monoline with the pilot nearly horizontal, and the first flight of the restored John Wood plane that is central to our Pitbox item this month. In addition to all his modelling activities, Dick was a superb engineer, rebuilding and restoring many engines, as well as testing them for publications. In order not to annoy the neighbours, Dick would take his engines and test stand up to a layby on the A6, pretty essential with vintage 60s on open exhausts.

In the later years he took over the cataloguing of engines for the annual Gilding sale and became a prime mover in the establishment of the tethered car track at Buckminster. When speed flying became a bit too energetic Dick turned to tethered cars, making the trip up to Gt Carlton on a regular basis even when his health was in serious decline, although this never diminished his enthusiasm.

As his illness progressed he was forced to sell off his workshop and all his planes, cars and engines, with the exception of the 'sidecar' that he continued to run, thanks to other members who would chauffeur him to various events. A sad loss to the modelling world and our condolences go out to Babs and the family.

Numerous tributes have been paid to Dick, reflecting on the many years of modelling and the enjoyment he used to get from flying. A full obituary should appear in the next SAM magazine. To honour Dick and his efforts to establish the track, the new timing hut at Buckminster is to be named after him. Further, a trophy has been commissioned in his memory that will be competed for by 2.5cc aircars. In a generous gesture, Babs has donated Dick's aircar to be presented annually to the winner of the competition who will be asked to give the car a commemorative run at the end of the competition. It will be interesting to see how the car that broke the track record at Gt Carlton at just over 80mph will perform at Buckminster?

With the death of Mats Bohlin, the tethered car community has lost another multiple champion. Not only was he a 3 times European Champion and a record holder but has the rare distinction of achieving these with engines that he designed and built and that bear his name, the MB10. We did not 'know' him as such, yet on our occasional meetings he  was so forthcoming with help, information and willingness to explain what he was doing, and importantly, why. As well as running modern Class V cars, he was a great enthusiast for what are termed the 'old timers', campaigning these on a regular basis.

The Swedish nation are past masters at building their own cars and engines, incorporating their own ides so successfully and Mats was no exception, being at the very top levels of performance for many years. After a lean period, he explained to us that he had been pursuing an avenue of experiment that had turned out to be a dead end so was going to rethink his approach. In this he almost achieved another record, falling short by just 1/100th of a kph. Ill health restricted his activities more recently and his passing has been another blow in an already very difficult year. Our condolences to his family.

Priit Hoyer was one of the new guard of tethered car racers, being part of the Estonian 'dream team' that did so much to encourage young enthusiasts into the sport. We first met him at Lyon in 2005 where he won the first of four consecutive European Championships in Class 2, seven kph ahead of second place. He added the World Championship in 2007 to his tally and a new European record in 2008. 

For ten years, he and team mate Lembit Vaher shared the 2.5cc class victories between them, a remarkable achievement. Priit built his own cars, later adding a Class IV car to his stable, which he was running at the Hannover EC in 2018, the last time we saw him.

Left: Priit winning his first European Championship in 2005 at Lyon.

2nd Peter Arlautzki, 3rd Gualtiero Picco 4th Lembit Vaher 5th Andrey Usanov. A huge number of championships represented in one photo. 

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