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June 23

We had expected this edition to be a bit late having been on our annual, tethered car, spring tour for which there will be a full report next month. We have also received several pieces of news and reports that need publishing so  a mad effort to get everything done. Any mistooks or errars in the haste we apologise for.

Two recent sales have reminded us of what effect 'auction fever' can have on those who would normally consider themselves 'rational beings', but our archives bulge with examples where a 'bidding war' got the better of them. It was great sport to sit at Gildings and observe when a lot, for no apparent reason, had two bidders slugging it out with ever more unrealistic bids. The printed estimates were just a guide, and most in the room had a pretty good idea of the approximate value of most of the lots, but the looks of incredulity and gasps that went round the room were only exceeded by the comments of those wanting 'to go home and get mine to sell'. Amongst the jaw dropping examples were a Milford Mite, a Nordec and a 1066 Falcon that each sold for way over double what anyone could even remotely consider sensible, and that was without the large whack of buyer's premium. We have also been privy to buyers who were prepared to pay 'whatever it takes' to secure a lot, but none of these were ultimately put to the test, and in any case, they did admit to actually having a limit.

Gildings also provided the spectacle of one buyer putting his paddle in the air at the Gerald Smith sale and leaving it there, signalling his intention clearly. This is all fairly normal auction activity, which can be amusing, frustrating or annoying in equal measure, but of late, we have been involved with advising, and unfortunately disappointing, bidders who have 'succumbed'. As a private purchaser or collector, your immediate aim is getting the item, but many of those at auctions or online are dealers who have a much more difficult path to tread, as hammer price plus commission plus profit must not exceed the potential selling price. The only bit that is negotiable is the profit element, which brings us to a couple of specific cases, both of which involve the same model of tethered car.

Car A was in an auction in the south west of the UK, realistic estimate as it had nothing inside it, but that did not deter two online bidders who just kept at it. Ultimately it cost the winner, who was a dealer, about 30% over the odds, before commission. He then put his mark up on it so it appeared on ebay at 3x the estimate as a 'starting price'. Numerous people contacted him to point out the 'error of his ways' and he did admit that he had paid way too much for it. One of our number, sensing an opportunity, offered to take it off his hands for what he had paid as a quick sale to get his money back. To be fair, this was probably the only way he would have retrieved the situation. Fast forward and another example of the same car appears for sale, missing some parts, including its original wheels and tyres and far from pristine, but this time over double what the very best and most original example had ever sold for. Did we think this was a fair price? Well, no, but having seen similar cars in upmarket London galleries at close on ten times the going rate, what do we know, apart from what we believe is realistic and what is clearly not, and we advise on that basis.

However, the expectations for cars and engines can vary dramatically between countries, depending on the financial and collecting climate that exists there. Two countries in particular were pointed out to us where prices realised could be 2-3 times what they were in the UK and another two where asking prices were ½ or even less than here.

The Pitbox this month is something of a conundrum as it harks back to a previous Pylon where we were discussing car identities. Well, this one has two registration numbers, from different countries and shares a number with yet another car.

Perhaps it was unwise to organise the First BTCG meeting of the year at Buckminster on a Bank Holiday, given the propensity for rain, but when the calendar was agreed, the Coronation was going to be in June and no extra May Bank holiday. In 1953, it rained, and so it did seventy years later, but most were undaunted.

The Mayfly at Old Warden had echoes of the SAM Spring Gala at Buckminster as continuous rain had left the field far too soft for cars or the usual trade line. A few cars were able to use the old RC area and the old caravan area to park although the Shuttleworth tractor was much in evidence as cars gently sunk into the grass. The RC flight line was well used but now so far from the main field that it is almost a separate event. Definitely thin in all flying disciplines compared with years gone by and the trade line very disjointed, some on the edge of the field and others on the back side of the hard standing, far from ideal. Little to be found that we have not already featured in previous issues so the wallet stayed intact.  

Now, some very bad news indeed to complete the reports. Just one year short of celebrating 120 years of racing at Victoria Park, we have been informed that hydroplane racing there has been banned with immediate effect and that all IC engines boats will be banned from the end of the year. The last venue in London, with its rich history, is no more. All future hydro regattas therefore cancelled.

Empty Spaces:  And Some sad news 

We were sorry to hear that Ron Reiter, a long time supporter and contributor to OTW has passed away. He was an enthusiastic collector who added many British cars to his collection over the years, sharing photos with us and asking for help with identifications. Many of our Pitbox items have an acknowledgement to Ron. He was also generous with his archive material and providing contacts for us to gather further information about British and European cars that were resident in the US.

Before his terminal illness he was thinning out his collection and had passed a number of original cars back to enthusiasts in the UK. Ron was always happy to do a trade, but often, the import charges for each country would knock possible deals on the head.

Our condolences to Donna and the family.

May 2023

Events over the winter and into this year have conspired to reignite the debate over the relative merits, legality (morality) and standing of reproduction cars and engines. Certainly, auctions and sales have shown that there is a vast variation in prices realised for engines that can be clearly classified as reproductions. There are the perfectly legal and high quality, continued production motors such as the Ridley and now the Fardon Olivers that are commanding impressive prices at auctions. There are, of course, numerous copies of Olivers, some using the name, others obvious copies although making no claim, but unmistakable copies of the various models. Indeed, there are probably more reproduction Oliver Tiger twinshaft motors in existence than ever left the factory? Prices range from the very modest to more than an original and, much to our surprise, almost treble what an original would set you back?

The production of repro's has quietened down a little, especially with the troubles in two of the countries that have have previously been producing reproduction motors in their thousands. This in turn can make things a little more dicey, as many of the repro's are changing hands for the second or third time, if not more. If they come in a nice box with CS, Aero Electric, RJS or Rustler labels, then you know exactly what you are getting and pay accordingly, depending on your personal attitude to reproductions. Where we are struggling is those that are appearing without any immediate way of identifying their origins, although just over a month ago a motor was advertised as an 'original, vintage ******',  but complete with an Aero Electric box? The easy ones are those where the quality and manufacture are so obviously inferior to the original, and strangely those where the casting and manufacturing is actually far superior, like the ****** above. Recent examples are the Bugl TR motor where an original can be found, if you are lucky (and wealthy), but there are also the perfectly legitimate versions from the collaboration between the Geschwendtner Brothers and Luis Peterson that are as close to the original as you can get, even considered by many to be superior to the originals and a bit cheaper. Then there are those that were produced in the Ukraine, which look identical but are less than a quarter of the price. No one is ever going to use a Bugl in anger now so it is down to the collectability. Even more numerous are the copies of the Underwood 'Yellow Jacket', again of variable quality and price, but relatively easy to identify the real from the faux, although some dealers still 'try it on'. It is the original Dooling 61 that has been causing us problems of late though. Arne Hende left no room for confusion by having his name included in the casting, but then clouded the issue by selling crankcases with the name polished off.

There were any number of Dooling clones produced contemporary with the originals and many more since, as our article in March revealed, but therein lies the problem as to how on earth the real version is distinguished from an original copy and how the more modern copies can be identified. As yet we have not ventured into the realms of the deliberate masquerading of a repro or copy as an original in order to mislead or make a huge profit, but our views on these in any walk of life are probably well known by now, and purely by coincidence, we have just been notified of a motor that seems to be a quite deliberate fake? Comes down to one thing in the end, provenance. If you do not know what the item is, where it came from and who built it, then it is a matter of experience and the balance of evidence that presents itself to make a decision. Perhaps collecting reproductions will eventually become an accepted route to take as they do seem to be taking on a life of their own? Where it does get amusing though is when the person who supposedly built the engine originally cannot say for certain if it is right? Yes, that is where we are at present, although this could be resolved if the builder had it in his hand, rather than a photo. At the price quoted it ought to be the real thing, but is the serial number a cynical attempt to pass off a repro given that, according to the builder, the originals never had engine numbers?

We are delving into the archives for our three features this month. The Pitbox is two Model Car Association record certificates, but both for the same record on the same day and at the same speed, but why two?

This month, a major article that we are delighted to finally be able to publish. The gestation period for this has actually exceeded the lifespan of OTW as it was the ultimate 'roundtuit' for the one person with the knowledge and information ideally qualified to produce it, originally intended for printed magazines. Sadly, despite many entreaties and pleas, other things got in the way and then a terminal illness meant that it never happened. We consider that the company and individual that the article relates to was amongst the pioneers in the market in the immediate post-war period and far too important not to have the history recorded. With much trepidation, notes and information collected over many years and a great deal of help, here is Electra Pioneer.

We were saddened to hear, that less than a month after publishing the article on the AMRO and FRIRO, Fritz Rolli had died, so ending the direct link with these motors and the person who could have confirmed if the FRIRO mentioned above was an original.

The domestic tethered car and hydro season got underway in April with the Easter Regatta at Victoria Park, the first regatta of the year at Hall Farm Lake and the SAM Spring Gala at Buckminster. Whilst it was a dry weekend, the continuous rain previously left the organisers at Buckminster with a headache as the caravan site, flying field and car circle were lakes and the prospect of 300+ cars needing to be parked for the Sunday swapmeet. In the event, no further rain fell, so apart from a few wet feet, all went, more or less, as planned. A salutary lesson in the current climate that if you put the same engines on your table at the same prices when they did not sell previously, then they are even less likely to now? If you are not selling, then either what you have is not on anyone's wish list, or if it is, far too expensive. Two traders were heard to bemoan the fact that the public viewed swapmeets in the same vein as a carboot sale expecting bargains, whilst members of the public were complaining that the traders were snapping up all the decent stuff and bargains before they were admitted. Wasn't it ever thus?

April 2023

Possibly the greatest advance in carrying out research has been the digitising of existing records into databases, that are then made available online. They may be free or subscription only, but how much easier it is now to carry out genealogical research by referring to Free BMD or Ancestry that are searchable rather than have to trek down to the Family Records Office in London and wade through hundreds of heavy volumes. Half an hour of computer time can now reveal what month's of work might have taken previously, but how is this relevant you may well ask?

Amongst the free databases is an index of every article and page ever published in the Model Engineer, classified by subject, title, author, page, issue, volume, and it is searchable. This is invaluable for accessing material relating to hydroplanes, cars, engines and personalities involved. Online copies of magazines, some with databases, can also be found, which replace the printed index that used to be circulated once or twice a year. Our old friend Google can throw up all sorts of links to a subject, including many that provide hours of harmless fun and new avenues to pursue.

Unfortunately there was never any sort of record of tethered hydros or cars and their owners, and the only way to ascertain information was to work backwards through magazines and race records to work out connections. Sometimes it may take several references before the identity of a boat, car or competitor can be established and still at times it is a best guess. In the mid 80s, and no one can quite confirm which year, FEMA made the registration of cars compulsory, with a number engraved or stamped into the chassis, starting with #01, 02 and 03, all Class 1 Kapusikovs registered in Switzerland by Ernst Huber. This is an immense help in identifying both cars and owners, but only as long as the records are updated. For anyone like ourselves doing detailed research, the downside is that as soon as a car is sold, details of the previous owner are lost and then it is down to more serious delving.

From trawling results it can be established that #01 and #03 were sold in 2011/12, but #02 is still registered to the late Ernst Huber? Another complication is that when a car is no longer being used, data sheets are not submitted so no further record of it exists. If it is subsequently sold but no longer going to be raced, the original owner is still recorded in the database. A significant number of cars are still registered to owners who have long since passed away, yet the cars must be somewhere, with someone, but no one will ever know. One has recently come to our attention, #13, where the original owner/builder and last registered owner are both long gone and the car is now on its fourth owner, but nothing of its recent history has been recorded. Even more confusing is when a Class 2 car and a Class 5 car have exactly the same number? Just a week after writing this, two more cars have turned up with the same number, but one of them has a second number from a different country engraved in the pan, work that out? The FEMA database was updated in 2016 and can be viewed on the speedmodelcar.org website, which shows the registrations at that time and new ones since. Before the pandemic, Michael Schmutz was considering a database that would record all the owners of a particular car, a wonderful concept but a huge amount of work that would require constant updating as cars changed hands and new information came to light. We do try and carry out this process for cars and boats that come to our attention, with some degree of success at times, but the trails can be long and complex, although it would be interesting to know just how many cars and boats do still exist?

Pitbox this month is a coincidental continuation from last month as it features another of the eight Wilma cars that have turned up recently, three from the same source. What makes this one markedly different is that, somewhere, a great deal of trouble has been taken to do a Harry Howlett on it by 'blinging it up'. This, very different body shell, has caused us to question the whole history of the Wilma car, even to the name, not least because a second, almost identical, car has surfaced this month.

A rather special article this month as it reveals what happened when an internationally known and renowned company that built motorcycle and industrial motors by the millions turned its hand to a model engine. The name Villiers has been around since 1898 and most will be aware of their other activities, but we imagine the building of a model engine will come as something of a surprise. We are grateful to John Goodall for sharing the story of this remarkable discovery.

FEMA, the organisation responsible for tethered car racing in Europe now has an official website speedmodelcar.org the first port of call for all current information, updates, car registrations and regulations. Most of this material is still available on the speedmodelcar.com site, but this is not necessarily updated as regularly now. The new website is published and moderated by Fanny Kraznai.

Having spoken about the ability to search various databases, one of the failings of the software we use is that OTW does not have a search function. This has been pointed out to us, occasionally in less than complimentary terms, but there is not a lot we can do about it, other than our 'list' pages for cars, boats and engines that have links to all the relevant articles. However, the 400+ Pitbox items we have featured can only be discovered by browsing through the 36 pages, until now that is. The next 'housekeeping task' is to add a heading list to each page as to what is on that page and then an index that will reveal what items are where, with links to the relevant page. Something of a time consuming task, so at the moment indexes to the Car Pitboxes and Engine Pitboxes are available, the next two will follow in due course. We have also used this as an opportunity to update every item with links to new articles and any additional information that has come to light.

The tethered car and hydroplane season gets underway with a vengeance this month with the first hydro meeting at Hall Farm on the 8th and an open practice day at Paul and Ollie Harris' track near Bristol on the same day. The following weekend it is up to Buckminster for the SAM Spring Gala with the track in operation both days with the first rounds of the Redfin and Roberts trophies, and to whet you appetite even more, a giant swapmeet on the Sunday. Currently SAM is experiencing website problems so no further details available at present.

Empty Spaces:

News reached us earlier last month that with the sad passing of Dave Scarnell a tethered hydroplane dynasty that spanned nine decades had come to an end. John Scarnell, his uncle, raced at Fleetwood from 1930 with four stroke engines, before building more competitive 15cc and 30cc two strokes after the war.

Dave was running A3 hydros from the early 1960s breaking the outright British record in 1968 with a Rossi engine at a smidgeon under 84mph. He retrieved a number of his uncle's boat that he restored and a couple of Tom Dalziel's, all of which he took to Kingsbury and that we recorded in various Pitboxes.  He continued to build and run boats until the lockdown brought an end to all our activities for a while.

Left: Dave, with cigarette, assisting Doc English

March 2023

Not being a fan of reality TV, soaps, quiz shows and the like, much of what viewing we do is confined to obscure digital channels where what we have known about for a long time is now being presented to a wider audience. From individuals, through small concerns, to larger companies, it is now possible to get almost anything made (at a price of course). Over the years, numerous enterprises have sprung up taking on rebuilding and restoration work, but as the interest grew so the demand began to exceed the availability of things to rebuild so that less and less original was being incorporated and more and more new material added to each build. It is only a small step from there to starting entirely from scratch to create an entirely new version of something to satisfy the market.

Now, anything from a full sized steam locomotive (£3 million) to an Auto Union D type, a Spitfire (£3.6 million), six cylinder Honda RC 174 (£0.4 million) down to a Victoria Cross (£39) can be bought new. Of course these satisfy an entirely different market as they can never be anything other than reproductions and in some cases may well be equally collectable in due course. There used to be an equally flourishing 'cottage industry' producing parts for tethered cars, but of late, through the political turmoil, age and enforced changes in employment, most of these have now disappeared. It can be seen that there is the manufacturing capacity out there, but the tethered car market is too small to be of interest (or not lucrative enough), for all but those closely involved in some way, yet to move the sport on in the UK, a reliable source and supply of components is essential.

Alex Phin did a great job with his twinshaft project that has given many enthusiasts an entry into running tethered cars, but it is when wanting to move on that there is a problem at present. One of the difficulties is that there is a huge variety of possibilities in terms of designs, which would dilute any manufacturing way below what is even marginally profitable. The old eastern bloc used to have three standard cars, the schools car, produced in the tens of thousands along with the RYTM motor, which required relatively little work and then the E1 and E2 kits, with 1.5cc and 2.5cc motors, but they required so much machining that they are hardly realistic. Lev's list included a bewildering range of items, mostly from small volume manufacturers who, sadly, are no longer able to supply the parts. What is needed are modern wheels with tyres to fit, probably just one or two practical sizes, along with a suitable gearbox and couplings that can incorporate suspension.

From the mid 1960s, most cars were running with this configuration, firstly with side exhaust motors and later with tuned pipes. If a reliable source of standard parts could be established, then that would encourage expansion of the sport here even further and go some way to making up for the current dislocation of supplies from Europe. Coincidentally, in the US an enthusiast is trying to put together a list of people or companies that can supply parts, similar to what happened in Sweden a few years ago.

The Pitbox this month features one of the most common of all commercial tethered cars of the modern era and one that set out to provide the car equivalent of a RTF plane, just add fuel and run.

The longer article this month had the most unlikely of beginnings as an aside to our feature on Jim Dean last year. Since then, and entirely down to our wonderful readers and contributors, we are able to publish an appreciation of that rarest of tethered car engines and the only one to break the Dooling stranglehold on the 10cc Class. It has been fascinating to explore the history of the Swiss AMRO and its successor the FRIRO, as the company and family that produced it are still very active.

A frequent reason that we are given for supposedly interested parties not turning up at events is that 'it's too far'. Nowhere is really too far if the enthusiasm and desire is there, as we discovered at Buckminster last season when a contingent arrived having driven from Italy. British competitors used to drive to Switzerland and Italy regularly in the late 40s and early 50s and then it was a serious undertaking with the roads and cars of the day. It was real pleasure to see Salvi, Gianmauro, Franco and Paola at Buckminster.

The Market Place page sold out the February additions completely as well as leading to the 'wanted' being discovered where it had been for a year, but no one realised it. This month, Peter Hill is offering back issues of the Retro Racing Club magazine to complete your collection or for a good read. Contact him for what is available and costs. He also has a selection of Russian cars that are ready to run and ideal for Buckminster or Gt Carlton, so if the winter project is looking unlikely to be finished, contact Peter for a choice of cars that could have you on the track in April.

Apologies to our Swedish readers as, no matter what we try with codes, the only correct letter we can put in is ö. All other accents are proving impossible as yet.

Following on from last month's Pylon, we now see that with the imminent closure of the Robin Hood Airport at Finningley, the trust that owns the most famous of Vulcan bombers must move it to another location, far from easy to find and enormously expensive as well if the mechanical axe is to be avoided. After the huge amounts of money that was spent on this aircraft and all the work that went into plans for preservation and the education facility that revolved round it, this news is a real body blow. The bad news for these collections keeps coming.

Empty Spaces: We met Ron Clydesdale at Basel in 2013 as part of the large contingent from Australia. He was a total enthusiast and great company, so it was sad to hear that another 'elder statesman' of the tethered car world had passed on. Happily, he instilled the same enthusiasm for the sport in his son and grandchildren and it is thanks to his son Scott for the following appreciation.

Although illnesses took their toll from his original diagnosis in 2016, his love of being at the QMRCC's track to race his tether cars, and the friendships with his racing mates, never diminished.  

His interest in model engines began with a small diesel in a home-made control-line aeroplane in the 1950s, and 12 year old Ron would purchase the medical grade ether for his fuel from the local pharmacist. Into the 1960s he was yet to build his first tether car, but was an avid spectator at the Toowoomba Model Car Club. The track was at Oakey airbase (and quite some distance from his home), so he would need to ride his bicycle considerable distances to attend.  

After moving house several times for work and quite some years of flying radio controlled aeroplanes, he joined the Queensland Miniature Race Car Club in the mid-1970s, competitively running cars in almost every class for nearly the next fifty years. He ran and raced cars domestically here in Australia and overseas in Europe, the USA, New Zealand and in the UK. He placed on the podium at multiple world championships, won dozens of national and state titles, and set national records in several classes. He also held the position of Secretary/Treasurer for the QMRCC for a couple of decades.   
He was my mate and I will miss him immensely. Scott Clydesdale 

February 2023

Much of our correspondence since setting up OTW has been centred on collectors pondering on what might become of those collections, or from relatives enquiring as to what to do with what they have inherited or been left with. That aspect we have dealt with at length, but it does not get any easier, yet there is one statement that keeps arising, 'I/we would like it to go to a museum' and not just confined to modellers it seems? The chances of this happening were never hopeful, and even more remote now. Tethered cars and model engines might be extremely important to us, but attractive to the public, unlikely. Most museums have far more 'stuff' than they can deal with, as visits to their storage facilities would confirm. There may be a possibility, as happened with the Science Museum, of having some models as an adjunct to a larger display related to the activities of a company. This could be extended to a local level if the company was to the fore in that town, but again we are talking about examples, not entire collections.

Sadly, museums at local, national and international level are closing on a regular basis. This may be due to a change in focus or use as we saw at Pitsea, but primarily because premises are leased or rented and seldom at a realistic cost, so the development potential of the buildings and land becomes ever more attractive. This leaves a major problem as how on earth, in short order, do you dispose of the items? Then of course there may be an added problem, as we were involved in at Pitsea, where most of the exhibits were privately owned, probably because the items or collection were too big or too extensive to be housed privately. The end result is that the collections get broken up, and in some cases that is a literal statement. As we have discovered there can be another sting in the tail when exhibits are privately owned, where those housing the items decide to sell them off, or in one case, sell back to the original owner, sneaky, so you do have to have the paperwork in place so that the terms of the loan are clear. How galling though to find the items that you loaned to a museum turning up on ebay, or as we discovered recently, sold at Christies?

Public museums have to cover their costs through admission, whereas private museums can operate with much lower overheads, but even these have been struggling, starting with the access requirements and then further H&S regulations that put paid to several delightful, but specialised collections. Somewhat disconcerting to find, via a TV programme, that a unique collection of speedway bikes we were due to visit in November had been sold off in October. This was yet another example of what started as an entirely philanthropic gesture being overtaken by time and a sea change in the market. An individual builds up an intriguing but very specialist collection that he happily loans to a national museum. As so often is the case, the owner passes on, the family has no direct interest in the items, but what seals their fate is the huge escalation in value since they were loaned. Just one item sold for possibly ten times what the original collection cost in its entirety, so one can understand the families reluctance to have the thick end of half a million quid sat there doing nothing?

The list of museums that have closed and collections disposed of recently is mind boggling, motor cycles, power boats, steam boats, model boats, toys, instruments, cars, micro cars, and as for aircraft, that would make a list of its own, but the common thread is that although the majority of items have joined 'the great continuum', many more are destined for the scrap heap.

It does appear that the big money is currently being put into private ownership so the circle begins again, but at hugely inflated prices for some items? Unless you are exceedingly wealthy, and even then the market is even becoming too hot for some, it is down to searching out the unloved, unusual, and most of all, unpopular. The engine market follows that of fine art where the name establishes and hikes the value, but we never understood why something factory produced in their thousands should be worth significantly more than a similar, but hand built version? The flabber was well and truly gasted yet again when a tiny, mass produced, Star Wars figure in its plastic bubble pack was valued at £20,000, and that was only because it was not perfect.

Purely by coincidence we became aware of a good friend who is having to close his private museum to downsize but is prepared to give away his lifetime's collection of over 2,000 items, although with the proviso that it stays in the UK and can be seen by the public. He has even recorded an hour long presentation by an extremely well known antiques personality in order to publicise this extremely generous offer. He acknowledges that the collection could be sold broken up or sold in its entirety for a large sum of money, but then it would negate his whole idea and purpose of his efforts in creating what is termed, the largest of its kind in Europe. The closures keep coming as we have been made aware of yet another major collection that has been given notice of eviction from their long established site and both these are since the beginning of January alone.  

As always, much of our correspondence throughout the year has been asking for help in identifying cars, boats or engines. Some we can do instantly, some require a bit of digging, and others remain stubbornly anonymous. These are usually down to the myriad of craftsmen who build their own, not even using published plans. The only chance then is if it was featured in a magazine at some stage. This month's Pitbox item is an example where we have had to admit to failure so far, all we know is that it was not a commercial model or built to a published plan, more a reasonable reproduction of an existing model.

The Christmas break prompted John Goodall to sit down at the computer and pen his reminiscences of the regular visits he made to the Orebro 'Old Timer event', and his introduction to tethered car racing. That he was able to do this in the company of John Oliver was already a bonus and culminated in the first ever 100mph run for a British driver with a 2.5cc diesel, and with a British engine. Thanks to John for this retrospective.

Thanks to John Goodall and Oliver Monk we have been able to add further information and photos to the Mats Böhlin article.

The BMFA auction at the beginning of January appears to have been a success, probably down to the relatively modest premiums being charged. Anything with the Oliver name sold well, as did AE and other small diesels. ETAs were making good money as there is a renewed interest in them with the involvement of Lyndon Bedford at tethered car events. With the exception of a Dooling 61, the larger engines struggled, Nordecs at just £70, but the surprise of the day was a Rothwell that made £660.  Manny has already announced the date of the next auction, which is to be on the 28th October, so thanks to Manny, Lisa and Bruce for all the work that has gone into creating this venture.

The news last month that the Monza track is under threat is blow to the European tethered car scene as the future of another track remains uncertain. The list of tracks closed over the years is a sad reflection on how the sport is viewed by some, and this month we add two more that closed in Sweden, The Larje Ring and Save, which were the home tracks of the GMRK in Göteborg.

Oh Dear! We have seen a new publication on tethered cars for sale that has just repeated many of the errors that existed in previous works, be they misplaced captions, incorrect names or descriptions and just plain wrong facts. Yes, sometimes information comes to light that clarifies or alters long established and universally accepted material, but these errors should have been obvious to anyone who claims to have any interest or knowledge at all?

Empty Spaces: Lothar Runkehl

Sad to hear of of the death of yet another multiple tethered car champion after an amazing career that spanned well over sixty years. Lothar won his first of his four European Championship at Landikon back in 1963 at 141kph. Although an acknowledged master with 1.5cc cars, two of his championships were with 2.5cc cars. His race record is amazing by any standards, with innumerable German Championships to his name and a German 1.5cc record that still stands at 265.9kph an incredible increase in speed of 125kph during his career illustrating how the smallest class has developed.

Lothar was not out of the top twenty in the 1.5cc class until illness brought an end to his racing just a season ago, always in the top ten and more often towards the top of the list, securing number one spot in 2011. What makes his racing record all the more remarkable is that it was achieved with motors and cars he had built himself. The Loru name appears regularly in results sheets and not only against his name as he supplied numerous other competitors with cars and engines for the 1.5cc class and cars for the 2.5cc class.

Our condolences to his family

January 2023

Firstly, could we wish all our readers, correspondents, fellow competitors and enthusiasts a very healthy and successful 2023, and let us hope it brings an end to the conflict that has divided our sports?

We touched briefly on the supply chain for models and equipment a couple of months ago and in particular how some of the aeromodelling disciplines are totally dominated by commercial (and expensive) equipment. One flyer was waxing lyrical about how abandoning the 'builder of the model rule' has precipitated a rapid decline, and indeed, it was pointedly made clear to us early in our tethered hydroplane careers that we should not really be competing as we had not built our boats. Indeed, apart from anything second hand, it was not possible to buy a ready built hydro until a few years ago, but to almost prove a point, two recent European Championships have now been won with boats newly built by a third party.

From almost the earliest days of tethered car racing this attitude prevailed, certainly in the UK causing a marked split in the sport when it became apparent to most that to be competitive, it was essential to 'buy in' commercial equipment, and in particular American products. European racing mirrored what had happened in the US where purely commercial products existed alongside those modified or built entirely by individuals. It was not long before some of these talented competitors were either badgered into 'can you build me one please' that gradually morphed into a small business or where they saw a business opportunity? This was particularly the case after WW2 where there were so many highly skilled engineers with surplus capacity and an interest in racing model cars. The viability of a business supplying model related items was questionable seeing how many vanished, yet others survived, probably more through enthusiasm rather than spectacular returns?

Perusing results since the early 1950s shows these approaches all working side by side, and each, equally successful. Once the domination of Oliver and Dooling was fading, other names soon came to the fore with 'eigenbau' or 'special' regularly appearing. Subtly, the names attached to these started to appear with other competitors, either in small numbers, or if successful (and available), dominating entry lists. In the 1990s, there would also be the unusual situation where the builder was competing against anything from one other to almost the entire entry using their products.

Just taking European Championships, the wins are split between those using their own cars and motors, their own cars with commercial motors, and outfits built entirely by third parties. Amongst the first category are a significant number who have built their own cars, and engine, raced them successfully and won championships with them, yet have never produced any of these other than for their own use. Winning one championship is difficult enough, winning multiple times with your own engines, remarkable, and primarily by competitors from the old eastern bloc, but not confined to them. It is much more rare though for competitors from the west, and not too many come to mind, Lothar Runkehl, Torbjorn Johannesen and Mats Böhlin being the more notable. Whether the Picco family can be included in this list is open to debate?

Cars and boats from 'named builders' appear regularly, but those that built entirely for their own use seldom come onto the market, unless through retirement or as in one case where the model in question was loaned out in the 1950s to be copied, never returned, and then turned up on ebay sixty years later. One of our correspondents recently explained how he had obtained two cars he had admired for many years, but not in the way he would have wanted as it was as a result of the death of the previous owner. This is really the setting for our article this month as it celebrates the achievements of Mats Böhlin, a great builder and competitor, but unfortunately as a direct result of the sale of his cars following his untimely passing.

Pitbox this month revisits a a model that has mislead several purchasers over the years, the Buck 2A. There is only one, but numerous near replicas and variations on the theme, as the late Sid Smith of Electra Pioneer used to market chassis kits for this model.

Thanks to sterling work by John Lorenz we can now confirm the whereabouts of most of the cars and items following the breaking up of the Spindizzie Collection of Eric Zausner and Jerry Bryant. One third of the items went to the Henry Ford Museum, along with the remainder of the coffee table books that were being sold off at a fraction of their previous price. Another third went to the American Museum of Speed in Nebraska, but it was the rest that had 'gone to a collection in Europe' that could not be tied down. An article in a Dutch hobby magazine revealed that the items can now be found in the Lowman Museum in the Hague. By chance, one photo from the magazine uncovered a long standing mystery of one of Arthur Weaver's rail cars that had been missing for a long while. His Vauxhall railcar is now in a showcase in the Museum. Ironically, a visit to the Louwman on our return from Hannover was aborted through quite unbelievable traffic congestion on the route. The west bound carriageway had something like 50 miles of HGVs stopped and quite by chance headed that way we espied a hydroplane racer from our own town. We discovered that they had driven all the way to the Ukraine, only to have their meeting cancelled so had to turn round and drive back to the Hook of Holland.

A timely reminder from Australia on facebook last month of two more of the mantras that have been drilled into us. 'If it can come undone, it will' and 'if it can break or come off, then it certainly will at some stage'. Also a timely reminder that we should all be aware of the effects of metal fatigue on our models. Close examination of three cars in use last season revealed two terminal cracks in the pan of one, several in the chassis of another, and worst of all, the bridle attachment to the chassis of the third, and that was in a car that had only run twice at full speed. Net score, one shelf queen and two scrappers. Stress fractures and metal fatigue are just that, so give your cars a good check, especially bridles and bridle attachments and don't forget the Loctite and Nylocs. 

Market Place continues to provide an outlet for surplus items, without resorting to ebay. Its success in realising sales has been remarkable and we were delighted to receive our first contribution from outside the UK, which also resulted in an almost immediate sale.