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December 2021

Back in October we railed against numerous cases of ‘butchery’ that have been inflicted on cars boats and engines, and in the course of the last twelve months, even more have come to light that can dismay, annoy frustrate and (very) occasionally, vaguely amuse. Readers may remember the repro motor from the US that arrived with the crank running directly in the crankcase casting and the con-rod sawn out of a piece of aluminium that was so long that the ports would never open? Well, just to show that it is not a one off, a rare commercial engine was purchased in good faith, yet on opening it up the ringed piston was sans rings and the conrod was again sawn from a piece of aluminium, but this time so short that the ports would not close. In addition, the rod had been drilled by hand and ‘could be thrown on to the crankpin from 2 meters away’, as the less than amused new owner put it.

Collectors and purists might not agree with the avid use of hacksaws, files and milling machines that went on when the engines were new, but in most cases this was dictated by the installation or use of said motor. Lugs missing, slotted, drilled oversize or reduced to minimal dimensions. Fins and exhaust stacks trimmed for speed cowls, cranks chopped off and as we saw recently, an Oliver Tiger MkII twinshaft converted to a base mounted single ender, ouch. Many of the Dooling and ETA motors that were used in cars saw previous service in speed planes, as missing exhaust stacks and fins will attest to. Some of these alterations were done with care and precision, yet others very crudely, and the weight or aerodynamic saving must have been almost non-existent? Tethered car pans and hydro engine mounts can often be found with a plethora of holes as various motors have become resident when newer and different engines become the order of the day. A thorny problem, years on, when trying to establish just what motor had been in there originally or even something suitable that would fit any of the existing holes. Not helped when a manufacturer changes the pitch of mounting holes, crankcase width or relationship between the mounting holes and cylinder C/L with successive models.

A car discovered last July had so many extra holes and bits carved out of the pan that it was nigh on impossible to figure out any possible reason. Closer to home was a tethered car where a new spur mount had been put in on the sosh to allow the exhaust manifold to clear the pan and the existing holes enlarged until the screws fitted. Two large plates covered the gaps but did nothing to provide a positive location. If that was not bad enough, the holes for the new front suspension were also on the huh, creating a car that would happily go round in circles without a cable. All this was done recently and begs the question as to why, if the alterations are to be done, were they not engineered properly? What was done with the very best of intentions in the day can prove a dilemma for those currently restoring or building replicas, to saw or not to saw, that is indeed the question. On the one hand, taking the lugs off a perfectly good Oliver will not enhance its value, but put it in an Ian Moore Shadow or a Ken Procter Beretta and it surely will. One prominent builder of near replicas cut slots in the pan and body for the mounting lugs of an Oliver, rather than give them the chop.

There are untold numbers of motors around that have had the attention of saws, files and milling machines that no longer appeal to the collector, but may just be the answer. There is an interesting and modern parallel to this in that anyone building one of the new 2.1cc cars, a 3b style car and a range of other designs or putting an engine in a tethered hydro must take a saw and milling machine to a brand new and expensive Novarossi (other makes available).

The Pitbox this month features the car and engine that threw the whole early history of Oliver engine numbering and types into confusion. It also presents a recent update on one of the few tethered car tracks from the 1950s that are still in existence.

A new Car Photo Archive, this time with the kind permission of Lyndon Bedford, whose father Ken was responsible for ETA engines. He allowed us to copy the album of family photos to which we have added a few more ETA related images from other sources. It never ceases to amaze us just how much material is still held by families, just a matter of whether it becomes available for recording before ending up in a skip or a second hand shop? We are aware of two tea chests full of assorted memorabilia in the Midlands that will remain unseen until Covid is gone and forgotten.

Peter Hill has been delving through his remarkable collection of photos and has discovered a couple of boxes that contain a number of prints from the first Retro Racing Club track at Souldrop in Bedfordshire. We are adding a selection of these to the Retro Gallery page as most include cars that have disappeared from sight since then but are nevertheless a record from the the early days of the RRC and the meetings held at the track.

Earlier this year there was a great deal of publicity about Non-Fungible tokens, I.e. items that only exist in cyberspace that you pay for, own, but never have and can never see. A new variation of this is Fractional Ownership where you buy a very small share in a hugely expensive item that is kept in a vault somewhere, never to be seen. Like the tokens, you only benefit if it appreciates, or is it just an ego thing? Our fractional ownership can be quantified as a very tiny and insignificant part of the output of various car and engine manufacturers.

All in all, given the continuing strange circumstances we find ourselves in, it has been a pretty full on season. No foreign trips of course but fifteen days of domestic car events and around twenty hydro regattas to keep us busy and that is without the Old Warden weekends and various swapmeets. After the early cancellations through Covid and one due to the fuel shortage much of the season went ahead as planned.

Wonder if this piece of philosophy has any parallels amongst collectors? Certainly has been the case with some, and we quote. 'Getting is better than having. When you get something, it's new and exciting. When you have something, you take it for granted and its boring'. 'Yes, but everything you get turns into something you have'. 'That's why you always need to get new things'.  Was this from one of the world's great thinkers, no an interchange between Calvin and Hobbes, who some might contend reflect modern day thinking more accurately???

One of the current problems restricting the growth of both tethered car and tethered hydroplane racing is the lack of cars, boats and spares that are available or second hand items coming on to the market. In the early 50s there was a constant supply as an advert from 1953 illustrates. An ILG Dooling car that was close to British record speeds, a Borden teardrop with a Dooling 29, two Dooling 61s and spares and a Rowell Sabre. Further down the list was another Dooling 61 car, complete, ready to run with engine spares, plugs and tyres. Nearer the bottom of the page was a spur drive Dooling 29 car, ready to race for 10 guineas. For those that wanted something smaller, a selection of Oliver and Baigent cars was on offer. If only it was like that now?

In his latest Workshop Ramblings, Oliver Monk continues with the build of the Road Runner hot rod that is taking advantage of commercially available items and also includes some observations about the track at Buckminster. There is also a very handy machining tip on how to ensure that your tapered shaft and internal taper on a flange or flywheel match perfectly.

Interesting results from Gildings showing that there is still a market for the exotic and rare and anything with the Oliver name on the box, but for the run of the mill motors the prices realised were very modest. Increasingly though we are seeing items that were bought in auction, with attendant steep buyers premium appearing on ebay only to fall well short of what was paid. Worst case so far was the final ebay bid being just on half of the hammer price, and that is without the extra 27%, a total loss of over £600 and nothing that can be done as there was no reserve. Somewhat amusing when an item could be bought off ebay for less than the auction house had paid the vendor for it just a week earlier????

Commercial news: One more piece of news that has filtered through and will affect much of the model world is that after so many years of supplying fuel of all types, the trusty couple from Model Technics are retiring. We are led to believe that the brand has been bought and that supplies will continue, but how convenient it was to pick up the diesel and glow fuel at Old Warden and other events? We wish them both a very happy retirement, paid for in part by the gallons of their fuel put through our motors over the years.

November 2021

We have often mentioned the inherent perils of repeating material and facts quoted in what are otherwise authoritative publications or websites. Seldom are there reasons to question any of this, unless there is a very clear error or contradictory evidence, which does happen on occasions. Sometimes though, a piece of incontrovertible information turns up that cannot be ignored and sadly, can bring into question the expertise or knowledge of previous authors and published material. We have experienced a number of these situations over the years, but in 2021 alone, five items and one article have cast serious doubts, or even blown apart the perceived wisdom. Unfortunately, during this process it has introduced more uncertainty and posed even more questions that as yet remain unanswered, and might do so for a while.

The first of these was the only confirmed example of a Nordec Series II, but a pre production version. As this was close to the end for North Downs Engineering did it ever get into production as there is still no confirmed sighting of one? Then there is the photo of what was believed to be the ‘Series III’, so was this actually a Nordec? Well, a pair of castings appeared for sale on ebay that were similar to Nordec in origin, but cast into the transfer of one was ‘Wood’ that created even more doubt on the origins of this engine. Thanks to one of our regular readers and fellow 'delver into magazines' we have received the full article that accompanied the photo, which clearly states 'An entirely new engine by John Wood of the Croydon Club shows strains of Dooling, McCoy and the Nordec for which Mr Wood was responsible'. This begs the question as to whether John Wood planned to continue to produce engines after the closure of North Downs, but under his own name or whether this was for his own use only? The only photo of this engine is from the exhaust side so what is on the transfer cannot be ascertained, but now we know for certain that it isn't and there wasn't a Nordec Series III.

Again, on the engine front, a car appeared on ebay with an engine that contradicted all previously printed and published material relating to that manufacturer. Trying to resolve this has involved a huge amount of research, going through every contemporary article, race report, adverts and document to establish a time line and put previously accepted statements into a time context. The correct information is in the production records that existed until recently, but have now mysteriously vanished. We can make a pretty accurate assumption now of the true state, but cannot be absolutely certain unless more engines or the records turn up.

Next came the article, that in fairly strident terms, claimed that the details of the origins and person behind a well-known range of castings, engines, models and other items was entirely wrong, yet the information within the article did not tie in with what had been printed in magazines and books previously or confirmed to us by a correspondent on the spot and those that knew the person in question. Sadly, all the named parties involved are no longer with us so we are unable to contradict or confirm either the article or the original information, so who do we believe and what will be held to be the ‘truth’ in the future, the previously published material or the one web article, and more to the point how do we present the information on this website so that it is both accurate and not defamatory in any way? One of those cases where ignorance can truly be bliss.

The Pitbox then is the casting set that opened a whole new avenue of research and doubt surrounding the Nordec. Next month will be the car that has required a rewrite of previous marque histories.

With news that the meeting in August would be the last ever run as a St Albans event the Photo looked back some 60+ years to a typical lakeside scene and another venue lost to the sport. The St Alban's Speed meeting and International were the high points of the season for so many years, so it is sad, and an unfortunate sign of the times that it is now only part of the history of the sport. The St Alban's Club has kindly donated the Speed Trophy, which will be competed for at Hall Farm, whilst the International will now be a one day meeting at Kingsbury.

For reasons as yet unknown, the American organisers cancelled the International Challenge that had been scheduled for the two days in September so a one-day meeting was held instead to finish off the season at Buckminster, with practice followed by two rounds of competition. A truly unique engine and car was given a run during the morning, a short shaft version of the Oliver Tiger twinshaft that had been built and run by John Oliver. John Goodall now has this car and gave it its first run since John O ran it at Orebro. Congratulations to John for completing the Buckminster 'double', winning both the Dick Roberts Aircar Trophy and the Redfin Trophy. That these are awarded for quality of building and design as well as speed is a tribute to John's superb workmanship, much of which he shares with us in his various and informative articles. Thanks to all those who have put on events at Buckminster or been involved in organisation and preparation of the track and providing the wherewithal to go racing. The track has now been covered for the winter and thanks to Oliver and the volunteers for all the work over the last two seasons that has given us a great venue. How lucky we are to now have three tracks that we can run cars on.

Due to the ongoing fuel crisis, the last meeting of the season at Kingsbury had to be cancelled, leaving Hall Farm to host the final regatta for 2021 and another costly one it was with the 'nth' motor of the year committing mechanical hari kiri. A big thank you to Norman Lara and Angela Gullick who have sent reports, results and photos from every meeting this season, a mammoth effort, very much appreciated.

This was something of a busy few days as Peter Hill put on a Retro Club Track day on Friday 15th so people could combine that and the Octoberfest at Buckminster the same weekend to reduce the travel commitment. Glorious sunshine and plenty of tethered car and other related items for sale at Gt Carlton plus plenty of running. The swapmeet at Buckminster was not so well blessed with weather as it tipped it down on the Sunday, but for those lucky enough to be in the hangar there was plenty for the car enthusiast, resulting in some seriously emptying of wallets. One stall holder had a very broad smile as he had sold virtually everything, bar his table, by 10.30

Talking of emptying wallets and bank accounts, there has been a sudden spurt of vintage cars appearing on ebay, starting with an original Stubbs Austin GP that had a Conqueror lurking in it and provenance from the Derby Club and at £1000 BIN, not overpriced and consequently snapped up. Next up was a very nice and original M&E Special with a Forster 29 that was for sale at just under £3,000 in 2015 but now for a more realistic £1750, although original, it is incomplete. Far from realistic was a Russian Schools car at £395 with a spare RYTM motor at a cool £125, especially as a similar car was picked up at Buckminster for £50. The swapmeet was like most other table top sales in that over 75% of the sales were completed before the public were admitted, plus several long faces behind stalls where the price expectations were in a land far away. Too much stuff and much of it far too expensive. Stall one, engines £60 and £70, Stall two, same engines £170 and £180. Guess which ones sold?

October 2021

The birth of OTW in 2004 was down to a whole series of unpredictable and unplanned coincidences that also changed the direction of our lives. October being the anniversary is always the opportunity to reflect on and celebrate, or marvel at, the ‘hadnabinfas’ that have got us here, as well as sighs of relief over some of the technical nightmares that we have had to endure along the way.

Looking back over previous Pylons, certain themes recur, and here is a tale of two tethered cars, neither quite what they seem but a great illustration of wildly differing outcomes awaiting when buying unseen. What is important to point out from the outset is that some you win, some you lose, but no blame can be attached to any of the sellers or buyers in the recent history of the cars. The first was the lovely Ian Moore ‘Shadow’ look alike that we featured in the August Pitbox, exciting enough if it was what it appeared to be but even more so when the top was taken off and it could be seen that everything inside, including the motor was hand built, specifically for that car. That it was not a commercial engine was a disappointment to one buyer in the chain but an absolute joy for the person that has it now.

The second was an equally good looking 2.5cc car from the early 50s with an Oliver motor and although a bit tired, an exciting find, again until the top was taken off that is. At some point in its life, or possibly two lives, and before any of the recent transactions took place, it revealed itself to be a marriage, and a bad one at that. The engine could not have possibly been in the car originally as it was far too late and too wide across the crankcase. The pinion and flywheel had not come from the pan and did not match the crown wheel and worse, the flywheel was just put on against the prop driver instead of a prop, relying on copious quantities of Loctite or similar goo filling the taper to keep it in place and more or less concentric, also moving the motor forward by the thickness of the driver. The full details of what had been done to fit the engine into the car and body are far too grisly to repeat, but liberal application of what the ManoMano ads calls the ‘hole-making machine’ spoke volumes, and mostly using bad language.

It is unfortunate though, that barring a miracle, the identity and sourcing of the engine that should fit might never be discovered, but we ask the question as to why someone would go to these lengths, and so badly. Was it a quite deliberate act just to put a car together that would pass muster at a distance and make some money, could it even have been run in this condition, or was it destined to become a shelf queen, but somehow found itself on the open market at a later date? We will never know but there is no excuse for butchery of this nature but all too often we see cars where the engine mounts look like what one of our correspondents called ‘a Swiss cheese’ but seldom where the holes have been drilled right through the bottom of the pan as they had been in this case, thank heavens for a friendly and skilled welder.

Having found out nothing more about the car after nearly a year of research, within the last week a series of those weird coincidences that keep occurring has revealed the recent history of the car and who was responsible for the 'modifications', not any of the last three owners though. Indeed a photo and one of our ever helpful contacts revealed that the work was done some twenty years ago to enable the car to be run again before being sold on. Now we know where it came from, it may just be possible to establish what the original motor might have been. A bit of muck can cover a multitude of sins though? 

The Album from Rowden served as a salutary reminder of just how many other hydro lakes have been lost in a short space of time, and not just in the UK. These include Althorne, Blackheath, Bradwell, Cerney, Milton Keynes, Old Ford, St Albans, Hull and Welwyn.

The Pitbox this month is a car where almost nothing is known, other than the original owner who may well have been responsible for this entirely home constructed car and engine. An early member of the Pioneer Club, Mr King, is better known for the other cars he built, as was his daughter whose photo holding one of his models was widely published.

Readers will be all too aware of the concept of the ‘roundtuit’, and for our anniversary issue we can finally publish an article that has been in preparation for almost as long as OTW has been in existence. We do like to illustrate our articles on personalities and manufacturers with a modicum of background and context, but for one such tethered car ‘Icon’, anything of this nature eluded us totally, until this year that is, when yet another of those lucky coincidences that we so enjoy and depend upon arose, the inevitable ‘hadnabinfa’. A phone call from a reader provided a contact name who gave us access to all the information needed to complete our long awaited feature article on E.P Zere and ZN Motors.

The end of an era at Kingsbury over the Bank Holiday weekend for the last ever St Alban's Speed event to be run by the St Alban's Club. For more than seventy years, the Club has hosted the combined straight running, Speed meeting and the MPBA International, but firstly the loss of Verulamium Lake and then the decline in boating members of the club has brought this long association to an end. It also signalled the end of the traditional two day meeting. Thanks to Roger Lane for all his work over the years in putting on this event, now just another 'hydroplane memory' to be shared through reminiscences and photos.

After the dullest and coldest August for years it was a pleasure to see a clear blue sky and the sun on our backs at the first open aircar day at Buckminster, organised by Simon Hughes. A most enjoyable day all told as all involved gained more experience of horsing, launching aircars and pushing off the twinshafts.

Much of the weekend spent watching the livestream of the European Championships from Pila, and what a great job the PMSA did with providing this and putting on the Championships at short notice. Thinner on entries than normal for obvious reasons and only competitors allowed, but a fascinating meeting, nonetheless. Firstly, congratulations to Paul Otto Stroebel for adding yet another championship to his CV, and amazingly, a mere 35 years after his last one. What is even more remarkable is that his International career in tethered hydroplanes and cars now spans seven decades. Another interesting observation backs up what a number of established competitors believe and that is always get your hand up and get a 'banker' in as you never know what might unfold. Well, Pila was a prime example of the importance of following this advice as in all but one class, the Gold medals came from the very first run on Friday.

Good to see Bob Kirtley back in action at Kingsbury after two years. Not lost his touch either as he recorded the fastest speed of the season for a steamer and not far off the best all round.

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 owners 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???

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?

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. Very mixed fortunes and some sizeable bills resulting from the August regatta at Kingsbury.  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.

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.

Steve Betney sent us a very detailed report on the track activities from Buckminster at the SAM Retrofest. 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 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. 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. 

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.

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?

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. 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.

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'.

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.

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.