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August 2021

As reported in dribs and drabs over the past few months, there has been a huge amount of commercial activity recently, probably more so than for many years, in part due to a number of established collectors downsizing, or has been increasingly the case, long time enthusiasts having passed on. While it is relatively easy for a collector to decide what to sell and how it is to be achieved, it is much more difficult for an executor or a non-modelling relative who has the unenviable task of sorting and disposing of a lifetimes accumulation. What never fails to amaze us is the sheer quantity of projects that are left behind that range from ‘I am going to restore it', through ‘I am going to finish it off’ to the castings or kits that ‘I am going to build’, collectively known as 'roundtuits'. As can be seen on eBay, our Market Place and other outlets, there is a regular trade in complete cars, some exceedingly rare, but disposing of all the ‘roundtuits’ can be something of a nightmare.

Firstly, there is the problem of identification, a task that has fallen to us several times of late and is seldom easy from photographs. It was a rare case where the original owner had kept all the parts for any one project together and furthermore had catalogued them all, where they came from and price paid, except that only a knowledgeable enthusiast could relate an entry to a particular box of parts as nothing was labelled. At the other extreme was an entire workshop full of parts liberally distributed into numerous boxes so that only luck and a great deal of time would determine if any two parts from the same car or engine were together. Even auction houses can get it very wrong, although it would seem much more business like to put all the items from one model into one lot? If identifying the items is the first stage, then trying to establish a realistic value is fraught with problems, not so bad if the seller has title to the items, but when an executor is involved and probate valuations required, mind numbing.

With models, as for many full sized versions, the sum of the parts can vastly exceed the value of the whole, unless there is an element of rarity that might enhance the worth? A recent example is a complete kit of parts for a replica of a tethered car that cost more than an original can be bought for, and that is without costing in any time. Lastly there comes the task of actually passing the stuff on. One seller took the route of putting everything in boxes and accepting a bid for the entire collection, whilst others have been selling item by item on eBay, a massive and very longwinded process with all the work involved and not to be undertaken lightly. One correspondent reckoned that it could take up to five years to clear the collection he is responsible for dealing with, absolutely impossible if you are an executor or not the defacto owner. Hopefully, the option of commercial auctions and swapmeets is again available now that can speed up the process, but knowing, as we do, of the incredible quantity of cars, boats, engines, projects and parts waiting to come onto the market, it is probably just as well that everyone has been saving up during lockdown?

The Pitbox this month is a remarkable discovery as it seems obvious from a first glance exactly what it is, yet closer inspection reveals an entirely different story with a lot of lateral thinking and engineering along the way. Interesting though as to the relative worth of this unique, hand built version compared to a copy of the original?

The Album from Chatellerault continues for a second month and serves as a gentle reminder to all of us that were there of just how chaotic an event can become for a variety of reasons. The Photo this month is again from France and features the 'godfather' of tethered hydroplane racing, Vadim Subbotin.  The second event at Chatellerault was in memory of him with the presentations made by Galina Subbotina, a very successful racer in her own right. Nearly twenty years after they were set, both the A2 and A3 World records are still held by Subbotin.

Since we published the last edition, Steve Betney has sent us a very detailed report on the track activities from Buckminster at the SAM Retrofest, including all the results from the two competitions. Some very impressive speeds being recorded. Since Dick Roberts originally came up with the 'proa' aircar there has been a raft of ever more exotic and faster designs, including imports from the Baltic and Russian states where running aircars is an integral part of the tethered car scene. Horsing some of these and running them on our tracks has been something of a steep learning curve. John Goodall has sent details of the latest alterations to his own version to try and address some of these difficulties. Apart from anything else, the cowling that John beat out from sheet aluminium is an absolute work of art.

With a certain football match and something going on at Wimbledon, the July regatta at Kingsbury was a bit thin on competitors. Mechanical problems and the now customary 'gremlins' were much in evidence as Normal Lara reports. The following weekend was the first of three July dates at Hall Farm Lake and far from the weather that should be expected at this time of year. A mixed series of results with several boats being run for the first time.  Two weeks later and a return to the heat wave. It was also a return to normal service for Tony Collins with a set of runs all in the mid 130s for his A3.  Thanks to Norman and Angela for providing reports, results and photos from these meetings.

A dry day sandwiched between the rain was most welcome for the July track and speed day at Buckminster. This was the first speed competition of the season and to allow all classes to compete a handicap system was used that took the current British Class records as the target speed.  Through to the end of official racing in the UK in the late 50s there were two records for every class, 'British' for cars and engines built in the UK and 'Open' for foreign equipment. Convenient in the smaller classes where Olivers reigned supreme both here and in Europe. Records could also be established at distances up to ten miles.

Oliver Monk has been hard at work in the workshop and at the keyboard with advice on saving money and not having to search through the undergrowth for lost wheels. His latest Workshop Ramblings also gives details of an alternative method of making the bodies that were much admired at Buckminster.

The plume of heat finally reached the east, rendering the July track day at Gt Carlton a trifle warm, in fact so hot that most of the day was spent in the shade of the willow trees. 29-31C resulted in minimal track activity, so the report from the day looks at a piece of commercial tethered car history that put in an appearance and a block of photos illustrating the ups and downs of an aircar. 

Pavel Sarigins has sent details of a new track that has been built in Lithuania, along with an invitation to the opening event. It is refreshing to see that all types and classes of cars are being catered for, including all diesels. Just make sure the cars are super clean before trying to get on an aeroplane. After four trips this season though, our car really pongs of diesel, despite the cars being being cleaned after the runs. How do you get rid of the smell?

An on-going quest is for information, and hopefully photos, of lakes and tracks that are no longer in use. Lakes tend to stay but tracks do vanish, so it is always gratifying when the location of an old track can be determined exactly. We have added gps coordinates for some that we have tied down but thanks to David Giles and Chas Atkins, we can now add precise details of the Medway Club track.  

A misprint or someone being very hopeful with three tuned pipes on sale at the identical price of £3,329. Unlikely to be a misplaced decimal point either? Several ready built 'Schools cars' being offered on facebook at a bargain price, and with some front suspension added, they run very well. The Rytm motors sometimes need a bit of sorting but are then up with the best. Another piece of creative advertising on ebay for the first tethered car to do over 200mph, all with an ancient Picco P60?

Still on the commercial front, our Market Place is updated with projects galore, around 25 sets of castings and projects being sold by Paul Goodall of Barton Model Products, Mostly repro's but a KingCar, Dooling Arrow and Fs, Super Sonic, Hot rods SMRU, Olivers of varying styles and more. Something for the winter sir?

Remarkable that with so much computing power available the forecast can be so wrong? At one stage it really looked as if the July Modelair event at Old Warden might be a very miserable affair, but luckily, the storms stayed well to the south. Sunscreen not needed but plenty to look at and discuss. Probably more of tethered car interest on the trade stalls than we have ever seen before. Obviously the lockdown has left everyone short of fuel though, including us, as Model Technics were doing a roaring trade, so much so that their card machine was worn out by 10-15.

Thanks to everyone who has contributed reports, articles and items to make this a bonanza edition.


July 2021

Having been involved in various forms of motor sport for several decades, there is an inevitable nostalgia for the days when everything seemed to be much simpler, more fun, more accessible, and as we have seen with recent events, less political or money orientated. What we never considered though was that racing could be likened to warfare and that the same strategies, principles and philosophy could be attached to both. ‘Sun Tzu’s Art of War’ was written well over 2,000 years ago but a recent thesis reckoned it to be as relevant now as it was at the time, especially in Formula 1. Our aim is still similar in wanting to go faster than anyone else, but the motivation is less about money and fame and more rooted in self-satisfaction and maybe the approval of ones peers? In ‘Total Competition’ there are a great many conclusions as to what creates success or otherwise, and one we particularly liked was that ‘you wont win without a great deal of money’ but ‘having a great deal of money doesn’t mean that you will win’. Within each team there are dozens of people committing millions of pounds to optimising what they can do within the rules, interpreting the rules to allow them to do what they want and even a bit of good old fashioned cheating, often defended at great expense by teams of lawyers. Ross Brawn pointed out that a car at the end of the season was barely recognisable as the one that started, such was the development that went on, yet the cars and boats we run can be thirty years old or more, and in the case of some, still winning.

It was when it got on to the subject of rule interpretation, rule bending and outright cheating that it became even more interesting, as human nature does not seem to have changed much in the 2,000 years. If you can gain an advantage by ‘not playing the game’ then some inevitably will, and as we a all to well aware, it is just a questions of how far individuals, teams, companies and countries are prepared to go? The author also introduced the concept of ‘the spirit of the rules’, unwritten rules and ‘gentlemen’s agreements’, applicable equally in warfare and sport and how far a F1 team was prepared to bend, break or ignore these. Some would say that there is no place for any of these in modern sport as it is difficult enough, if not impossible, to police and control the written rules as we are often made aware of, yet even at the levels we work at there has to be some adherence to avoid a damaging ‘free for all’.

The final conversation was relating to deliberate or inadvertent cheating or ignoring the rules and here a very strange morality began to emerge, which has echoes in our own sports. One major manufacturer had engines that were proving significantly faster for their 'works team' than their customer's. A combination of threats, intimidation and the costs involved stopped private runners in the class raising an official protest. However, one brave scrutineer took it upon himself to order a lakeside strip down, although being again subjected to more threats but lo, what was discovered, a completely illegal exhaust system, omitting all the silencing elements. Relief for all except the company that had their results from that season expunged. That was quite blatant cheating, but is ignoring a rule cheating, and what happens when numerous people ignore it, and worse, who is prepared or brave enough to put their head above the parapet and bring attention to the transgression? Do you own up if you inadvertently break rules or just hope no one finds out, and how do you deal with the situation if you do not know that you have? In all it was a fascinating read and insight into the thoughts of a highly influential F1 personality, yet there are parallels for us, as we know all too well.

A new Album that travels to France for two hydro events at Chatellerault, only ten years ago but almost a lifetime in many respects and wonderful examples of French organisation. The second of the two was run as a World Championship in memory of the multiple champion and record holder Vadim Subbotin.

The Pitbox shows a relatively common car, but most we see are home built from original parts or reproductions, this though is a true, factory built version and oddly, one of two identical cars that have come to our notice. The other realised a premium price on eBay recently, much to everyone’s surprise.

Many of the current car and hydro enthusiasts come from a range of other high speed sports, none more so than Paul Windross, a legend amongst the motor cycle sprint and record breaking fraternity. More recently he ran flash steam hydros until ill health forced his retirement whilst still holding the British record. As we saw last year, you cannot take away the desire for speed, so it was a pleasure to receive photos of Paul drag racing a mobility buggy and taking a ride in the 'worlds fastest shed', way to go Paul.

One of our pet hates came to light again last month, a description on eBay that could not have been further from the truth and immediately apparent. This was compounded when the vendor chose not to change the listing, despite being contacted several times by people pointing out the obvious errors. The description should not have fooled anyone with even the most basic knowledge and for those that knew exactly what it was, good luck to one of them if they got a bargain. 

It is mandatory for all wheel driven cars, retro or modern, to have effective cut-offs fitted. There have been dozens of different designs from the most simple to those requiring good engineering skills to make. Essentially a fuel knock off will fall into one of two categories, a tube crusher that does just as the name suggests or a tap of some sort in the fuel line, rotary or plunger type. The Oliver type 'sneaker' is popular, but like so many other mechanical devices requires a degree of expertise in construction to ensure that it can be set easily, will not trip inadvertently and that it neither leaks through the valve or into the car. A cut-off that doesn't quite can lead to some embarrassment, disqualification or some exceedingly quick laps as the motor leans out totally. We have seen some very simple devices that require nothing more exotic that piano wire and pliers to make, very common in Swedish cars. John Goodall has come up with a Fuel 'Nip Off'  based on one of these that he has described in some detail, which could provide an easy and cheap solution to the problem.  Thanks to John for the article and photos

For the first time since September 2019 the Kingsbury Club was able to host a hydroplane regatta. A great deal of remedial work had to be done to overcome a year and a half of unrestricted growth of grass and brambles so thanks to John DeMott and Dave Singleton for all their efforts and Norman Lara for the reports, results and photos. Pity about the weather though.

A spate of record breaking at the first of two  Hall Farm Lake regattas in June as Angela Gullick pushed the throttle lever on her transmitter ever harder on her electric A1 and B1 boats. A lot of mechanical breakdowns and plenty of gremlins still in evidence, but this venue is proving to be a great discovery.

The hottest weekend of the year so far for two events at the Buckminster tethered car track. Saturday was the first 'have a try day' to introduce newcomers to the track and tethered car running, which turned out to be highly successful and enjoyable for all, even if the helpers were kept hard at it refuelling the cars, horsing or pushing off for the newcomers to gain horsing experience. Sunday was a normal track day, with a large entry running a huge variety of cars. There is a change afoot in the way future Tether Car Group events are organised at the track, which are also detailed in a look at a very hot weekend

Market Place provided an unmissable opportunity to add a totally unique 1066 Falcon 2 to your collection. Just two known to exist, but this one is as it should be. Also a set of Australian Hot Rod castings listed, along with two ready to run cars, one the original 'Red Air' aircar and the other a Russian twinshaft, but not the standard 'schools car'. The search is also on for replacement Grenwyn tyres for restoration projects.

Lots of weed removal to be done at Victoria Park before racing could commence for the June regatta. Good job that a full English was the order of the day on the way to ensure energy levels were maintained for this task. Thanks to Norman and Angela for the report, results and photos.

Having baked two weeks previously it was coats on and shelter from the wind for the SAM Retrofest. Throw in some rain and no wonder the British are obsessed with the weather. Friday and Saturday were given over to the running of the Dick Roberts aircar trophy and the first round of the Redfin trophy for twinshaft 2.5s. Sunday was the first swapmeet since 2019, leaving the track free for a concentrated session of diesel usage.

Future events: July would have seen many of us headed off to Switzerland and Bulgaria for European Championships, but 'you know what' put paid to that. Instead, July is now full on with domestic events every weekend, and often two on the same day. Peter Hill has informed us that there will be a Retro Club track day at Gt Carlton on Saturday 17th, so the month runs something like Kingsbury, then Hall Farm and Buckminster, followed by Gt Carlton and Hall Farm, and on the final weekend, Old Warden, not to mention a 'come and have a try with a tethered hydro' at Victoria on the 11th. Plenty to put in your diaries and some choices to be made.

Two dates of interest to tethered car enthusiasts with the first of the events restricted to aircars and retro 2.5cc cars at Buckminster on September 5th and an open meeting at Paul Harris' track near Bristol. Details and contacts for these events to follow next month. 

Wonderful post on Facebook of a meeting at Stryi in the Ukraine with numerous juniors sharing the track with the 'big boys'. A marvellous selection of aircars of varying designs, some sporting tuned pipes, converted RC cars, semi scale cars and racing models. Encouraging junior interest was a vital part of the development of tethered car and hydro racing in the old eastern Bloc, happily still in evidence. A plentiful supply of models helps enormously as exemplified by the number of 'schools car' Prijbo kits and complete cars that are always available in those countries.  

David Giles has been trawling his memory banks again, and notified us of another two tracks in the UK, one for the Medway Model Car Club and the Hastings Club track that was at the White Rock Pavilion in the town. These have now been added to the list of UK tracks. We would be very grateful for any further details of tracks in the UK or Europe and welcome photos of the tracks in action or of the locations as they are today. A photo of the Sunderland track as it is currently was posted on Facebook recently.

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