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September 2021

Something that we have heard a lot about during the year are things called ‘non fungible tokens’ or NFTs, no we did not have a clue either. In essence you are paying for something that only exists in a digital world so although you are the owner you never get to see it or have it in your possession. Amazingly, people are spending millions on this ultimate form of collecting. It must be one stage off paying tens of thousands for a bottle of wine, knowing that you can never drink it and that it would be truly disgusting if you did, all you can ever do is trade it on, hopefully at a profit? Surely it is the pleasure of being able to look at, handle, enjoy and even use that makes collecting what it is, or does the pursuit and ownership eventually transcend this?

The great problem we see at this level is that the item in question has absolutely no intrinsic value of any sort and as illustrated regularly on valuation and art programmes, most things have a value of sort but that can rocket with an attribution as to origin or previous ownership and even at our humble end of the market, this is still important, but not an infallible guide. It is always something of a mystery when a modern and even mass-produced replica can sell for more than a much rarer original.

We are often asked to advise on the originality and provenance of cars and engines, which can require a large amount of research, looking for evidence, which sometimes is there and sometimes not. Recently we have been faced with two almost identical cars of Ken Procter's that owner's claim to be the original. Yes, they do appear to be so and one is in more original condition than the other although both have suffered from ‘attention’ over the years, but we are aware of a feature that could confirm one or the other as ‘it’, but neither has it. Digging further, each has a remarkable provenance and trail that would be enough to convince anyone if just one car was to turn up, but two? The solution, revealed in a letter from Ken, written many years later, is that he built a number of more or less identical cars, either for fellow enthusiasts or to compete in two different classes. This was certainly the case with the 1.5cc and 2.5cc classes where Oliver engines were the standard ware. Oliver’s supplied a conversion kit to liner down the Tiger, so some would actually change the piston, liner and cylinder between classes, others would change complete engines, whilst a third group would have two similar cars for the two classes. To confuse matters further, some had two identical cars that could be run in the same class at a meeting, a situation that exist to this very day, only a registration number stamped into the chassis since the 1980s to distinguish them apart in some cases. 

Currently we know of ten pairs of cars from the 1950s that were owned and raced by individuals, three of whom we can identify positively and two that are related to one club. As to the Procter cars, we believe one is the car described and illustrated in Model Maker, but there were at least two more, one of which was still in Ken's possession in the 1970s. It is a bit like the collector who thought he had bought the Buck 2A but had to be told that it was just a Buck 2A, a world of difference and value in two simple words. At least though he still had a car that was of some value yet we see a business currently valued at £5Bn that has not a single solid or liquid asset of any sort, yes, could be your fungible token is worth all that, yet in effect worth nothing unless someone buys it off you? Now apparently, even Paypal will allow payment in cryptocurrencies, so how many bitcoins is a picture of a Yellowjacket worth????

A new Album this month, staying with the theme of hydroplane regattas from more recent times but this time closer to home and Rowden Lake where the annual, two-day event was the highlight for September, as an evening meal was always an integral part of the festivities. Private tethered car tracks were not unheard of, but private tethered hydro lakes almost non-existent, apart from the one celebrated in our new Album, which doubled as an ornamental pond for 363 days a year and a hydro lake for just two, apart from private testing. Great sport and social interaction was had there during its existence, but sadly, another venue that is no more, well it is but just as an ornamental pond again. The annual regatta there was always in September so our Photo this month celebrates the opening of the lake.

The Pitbox represents what engine collectors lust after, a relatively rare engine, new and in its box with all relevant paperwork. Of course, going back to the topic discussed above, it only retains its premium monetary value as a collector’s item as long as it stays new, unused and in its box?

Market Place still has an ultimate collectors item, one of only two 10cc 1066 Falcons in existence and an addition from the other end of the spectrum, the ED powered 'Scrap Box Special'.

A last minute addition to the hydroplane calendar after the cancellation of the Championships in Bulgaria was an extra meeting at Hall Farm Lake on the last day of July. Norman Lara and Angela Gullick have again sent reports and photos from this and the August meeting. Some nifty camera work from these events that is proving a trifle embarrassing for some. Might even be an opportunity to dust off the 'launch of the year' competition?

Very mixed fortunes and some sizeable bills resulting from the August regatta at Kingsbury. Thanks to Norman Lara we have a report and photographic evidence of some of the damage. It has not been a great season so far for wrecked engines, made more problematic by the current lack of easily obtainable spares. In fact, spares for some brands of motors are now impossible to source, leading to a number of boats being put on shelves permanently.

Unlike other parts of the country, it was a fine day in Lincolnshire for the August track and speed day at Buckminster. We were sharing with the scale National Championships, so there was a hangar full of exquisite models to marvel at, whilst the scale modellers showed an equal interest in the tethered cars, which most had never even heard of yet alone seen in action. Gratifying to see a number of spectators who are currently building or sourcing cars.

Hardly summer weather this August and Hall Farm Lake was no exception for a second extra meeting in place of the cancelled European Championships. After a session of aquatic agriculture it was another frustrating day for most, which seems to be echoing almost every regatta for the last few seasons. Difficult to know what is going wrong, but very few runs being completed either in domestic events or Championships.

Future events: For reasons as yet unknown, the organisers in the US have abandoned the planned International Challenge that was intended to be the focus of the final BTCG meeting in September. With the demise of this International competition, the September meeting at Buckminster will now be one day only, Sunday 26th . Still plenty of opportunity to run though with an aircar and retro car event on the 5th of September and the two day Octoberfest on 16th-17th. Peter Hill has arranged the final Retro Club meeting at Gt Carlton for Friday 15th October so that two events can be combined, or a lot of driving in our case. It does appear that the continuing restrictions on travel will preclude any British participation in European tethered car events for a second season, thank goodness for Buckminster and Gt Carlton.

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 Photo this month featured the 'godfather' of tethered hydroplane racing, Vadim Subbotin.  The 2011 World Championship 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.

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'.

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.