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August 2022

Slight delay in publication owing to a very expensive Jaguar playing dodgems with 38 tons of artic on the M25, and losing badly.

Regular readers of these monthly meanderings will appreciate that we constantly refer to provenance and history of items that we become aware of, and that is really the raison d’etre behind OTW, to discover, record and then pass on such information. This has been particularly prevalent in the last couple of years where an unprecedented number of artefacts have turned up that have important histories, if only they can be identified as such and then unravelled and documented? John Lorenz has an enviable reputation for doing just that with his ‘Throwback Thursday’ posts that deliver detailed histories of each car he features. In the world outside of models this matters a great deal as establishing the bona fide of an object can add hugely to the value and desirability and long are the arguments as to whether this is a good thing or not? We have had several instances of seemingly unidentified items being passed on, only for the importance to be recognised or discovered later and a subsequent ‘I could kick myself moment’.

Sorting the real from the faux is also high on the agenda as there are an awful lot of replicas, rebuilds and restorations that retain little of the original and any claims on this basis are tenuous to say the least. A recent Facebook post points out the a car being sold on ebay is not original as advertised, as the person posting the comment had built it just a few years previously. An otherwise fascinating TV programme has featured a number of ‘so called’ replicas that have absolutely no connection with the original item, yet feature prominently in the museum in question. Even more annoyingly, one seemingly important motorcycle that was featured has recently gone to auction, yet not a single part was contemporary with the period it purports to come from and even worse, no two parts were ever together and the machine it represents, never existed.

An association with a person or event however, can make an unbelievable difference to the value even though the intrinsic value of the object has not changed, which is where the bike described above has derived its value, not what it was, but a (very) tenuous connection with an important name. A White Star piece of crockery can realise just a few pounds, yet an association with the Titanic, tens of thousands, but does it work the same with cars, boats and engines? The question as to what makes a particular item valuable has baffled us for ages, as there seems little rhyme or reason. Surely a very rare 10cc-racing engine should be more valuable than one mass-produced in the tens of thousands, but no. However, attach the name Carter to it and it acquires a mystique in the UK and a price tag that belies the fact that unless it can be positively attributed to him, then the engine in question is just a modified Dooling or McCoy.

Similarly, the most expensive tethered car sold for something like ten times what it would be expected to make because it was ‘believed to be the Indianapolis owned by Barney Korn’s wife’. In the art and antiques world, the name is everything, not because of the item, but the value it bestows on it. It is sad to see an item on the Roadshow that has been in a family and cherished for years suddenly become a burden when a life changing valuation is put on it. Probably not something we will have to worry about, as a provenance might add a few quid, but not enough to warrant a sharp intake of breath?

For us, knowing who built, used and ran a particular engine, boat or car may not make a jot of difference to the monetary value of the item, but as was pointed out by someone far better qualified than ourselves ‘give an object a name and a history and it becomes an item of interest, otherwise it is just an object’. This distinction exists notably with medals from the two wars, WW1 with a name and a regiment a traceable history and story, WW2 nothing, just a medal.

For our new Album we have attempted to do just that for the items in the previous Album. We have been able to put together photos, text and results from the events that the programmes related to, now all just on 100 years old. What is remarkable are the huge crowds that gathered to watch these events?

The Pitbox features a car that was one of the most common 5cc cars on British tracks for many seasons, yet no example had come to light until recently, which in itself was a bit strange? Now five have emerged, but this one is a bit different.

It is difficult to believe that it is twelve years since we published an article on timing systems built for car and boat racing, especially as we are now going through the same process at Buckminster as the engineers were doing from the 1920s onwards. Model Engineer regularly featured these devices and how they had been built, many of the photos being taken by Edgar Westbury. Amongst the extensive Westbury archive we found the Photo of the month, which is an original image of Gerry Buck's electro mechanical system, built in 1944.

Just occasionally, something of interest will pop up on ebay and this item was definitely a ‘barn find’ project. Steve Betney snapped it up and has done his normal, superb job, on rebuilding and finishing off something that was started probably seventy years or more ago. Thanks to Steve for his delightful article on the ETA renovation project.

A momentous few weeks for Angela Gullick, firstly for breaking the A1E record on multiple occasions, and not by small margins, but more importantly in becoming Angela Lara, having lured Norman to Gretna Green for the ceremony. The June regatta at Hall Farm started off with a celebration of the marriage, before Angela broke her own record yet again. Thanks to Norman and Angela for the report and results and Mark Hankins for another amazing set of images. Angela was on form again at the first July regatta with another new record for her little electric boat, which also saw the arrival of a number of new boats, including an AB/R for Tony Collins and Ron Hankins coming within a whisker of his record with the fastest run from a hydro seen for several seasons. back to Hall Farm again for the second regatta of the month and some incredible photos by courtesy of Mark Hankins. However, we have an as yet unsolvable technical problem with the Hall Farm pages. These are all emailed to us, and somewhere in the text is a hidden piece of code that is stopping us formatting the text so that the size is varying and a lot of it is now blue, sorry, but we are at a loss to know how to deal with it.

First event of the season at Kingsbury Water Park after the cancellation of the June meeting through the inclement weather, difficult to believe after the month we have had so far? Sad to say that with a few notable exceptions, the Kingsbury jinx struck with a vengeance, leading to much head scratching and muttering. Mark Hankins has again produced some stunning images that he is sharing with us, so thanks again to Mark and to Norman and Angela for the reports and results.

Something we like to feature on our pages that deal with long lost hydro lakes and car tracks are photos of what remains, if anything, or of the site. Kevin Fleet has again come up trumps with images of the Cheney Manor Lake, once the home of the Swindon Club in its current guise as a fishing lake.

More in the way of photos as through the kind offices of Lyndon Bedford we have been able to scan the originals in his extensive album and replace the photos of the photos in the Bedford archive. We have also added photos of the two original tethered car trophies that now reside with Lyndon.

Department of wishful thinking when a copy of Russell and Wright's Model Race Cars booklet appears on ebay at a cool £195, later reduced to £175. We hear that the Ken Robinson Bullet that was sold at Miquel's sale in 2004 is on the move yet again the other side of the Atlantic. That and a Vega DB car reached a hammer price of £1703 at Christies, wonder what it will make this time round? The Vega is also for sale.

Those that enjoy the Goodwood Festival of Speed will have seen a stark manifestation of something that we often refer to, the instant obsolescence of what exists by a radical departure in design. The 'fan car' that Matt Chilton marmalised the opposition with is not a new idea, but this one works to such an extent that all conventional cars were rendered museum pieces. So, what to do, ban it as happened last time, or has everyone got to get a fan car or better to be able to compete?

A great weekend for running tethered cars, but no so good for flying retro style model aircraft that do not cope well with too much wind. The SAM Retrofest runs over three days with competitions for aircars and 2.5cc cars and a swapmeet into the bargain and again we were able to welcome guests from abroad to the event. The focus of the Sunday was the official opening of the timing hut by Dick Roberts' widow, Babs. Two reports, one an in house on this and the goings on in general and a very detailed summing up of the weekend from Steve Betney. Thanks to Steve for keeping everyone up to date on the SAM events.

Back to Buckminster for what was forecast to be the hottest weekend of the year and possibly the hottest ever recorded. Luckily the heat arrived two days later so that all attending the garden parties, the warbirds meeting and the BTCG track day were able to enjoy the extensive facilities at the site. The SMAE Centenary Exhibition also opened that weekend and has the hangar full of models, historic to modern along with a plethora of kits and motors in the house. Plenty of fast action on the track as well during practice and competition as our report from the two days reveals

Life has calmed down enough for Peter Hill to schedule track days at Gt Carlton for the rest of the season. These will be Sat 20th August, Sat 10th Sept and Sat 8th October. He has also promised to have a mass clearout of model and car related items that will be available for sale at these events.

It is always a pleasure to receive compliments about OTW and we will react to criticisms if we can but this is not always technically possible. We will also consider suggestions from readers and correspondent to see if we can incorporate these to improve access, information and the service we can offer. One such was the Market Place, which has been a huge success, and now at the suggestion of John Goodall we are adding a Calendar page of events so that everything we are aware of is on one page, rather than spread throughout the site.

Empty Spaces: Gordon Rae is not a name that would be familiar to most, but along with his father Harry Rae were early converts to running tethered cars. Gordon gave his father a copy of the Russell/Wright booklet for his birthday in 1946, and this was the catalyst for a number of tethered cars and engines that we published as a Pitbox Special. Both Gordon and Harry had close connections with Geoffrey Hastings of 1066, using engines and parts obtained surreptitiously from Hastings on various occasions, usually cash in hand. Gordon is better known in the aeromodelling world for his speed and team racing and publication of his book 'Aircraft Speed and Team Racing' and it was during his preparation of the book that we first met him. The RAE name was familiar to us through articles in Model Engineer, but it is better known for building full sized racing cars and competition. Indeed, in 2010 and at the age of 80, Gordon was able to renew his racing licence and take part in a charity race at Castle Coombe, although he must have rued this decision when he lost a front wheel in practice?  Thanks to Andy Housden and Steve Betney for the notification.