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February 2024

A somewhat different and self indulgent Pylon this month as it is now twenty years since a chance remark on New Year's day brought about a sea change in our lives and was directly responsible for the eventual arrival of the OTW website on the internet. It was the decision that whilst we were on holiday in Switzerland we would take a trip to Basel for the 2004 European Championships. We were the only British there and absolute newbies, but people we had never met or knew could not have been kinder. So many people whose names would become an integral part of OTW, and for us the rest is, as they say, history.

Remarkably, it is now also twenty years since one of the largest ever gathering of tethered car and engine enthusiasts assembled at Christies in South Kensington for the first of the Miquel De Rancougne sales. It had been a little less than a year since the death of one of the great collectors, although Miquel was far more than just a collector, as what eventually came up for sale only represented a portion of what he had acquired over the years, as he would buy, trade and sell, almost on a daily basis. He would regularly commission copies and replicas of cars and engines, even to the stage of selling the replicas and originals at the same time. Indeed, he even had to get an original motor back from a customer at a swapmeet as he had given him the much more valuable motor in error, rather than the replica.

As a seller, even if you did not know you were, Miquel could be relentless, dangling ever more unrealistic offers or deals until you succumbed, although he did fail entirely on an annual basis with this ploy whilst trying to buy the Morgan/Gascoigne cars. Oddly, and this is not the first time we have come across it, the items he bought might well then be sold on, and even at a substantial loss. We actually witnessed this at an auction when the successful bidder on a lot then sold it on in the sale room, for £600 less than he paid for it minutes before.

An email would often arrive from Miquel with a short message saying 'I have something for you', which might be anything from a pair of tyres to a Rowell. One such of these messages ended with an agreement to meet at the Newcastle under Lyme swapmeet for collection, except, less than 24 hours before, he phoned to say that he had changed his mind and we were to meet at the RAF Halton model event instead. Can you imagine trying to meet someone at Halton with no agreed meeting point and prior to universal use of mobile phones?

Our last meeting was planned to be in April as he had invited us to Paris to visit and view his collection, sadly, he never made it so our first sighting was of the portion that made it to Christies, but of course, it was just that, a portion. Many items that were known to have been bought by him were not there, as were most of the spares, projects, reference material and items not deemed valuable enough to go through the main sale. Much of this would be sold at SAS auctions later in the year. The January sale was an education, not the least finding the cost of a day return ticket to London. Whilst registering there was a period of excitement as Security guards rushed off, tasked with finding the person who was suspected of nicking an HP 15 on the viewing day.

Much like the Gildings sale last December, the estimates proved to be more 'come and buy me' rather than 'this is what you might have to pay'. Several punters admitted to bulging wallets that never came close to being opened, as bidding often started above top estimate. Stories abound from that day, but our favourite involved one of the Buck 2A replicas built by Mike Crisp. Sold for £750 on the day it was later put on ebay, minus the original motor and with some damage, where it was snapped up for just shy of £2,000 by someone who had been at the auction. You could not make it up. That is one of the few items that has subsequently sold for more than was paid, most have been sold on at a loss, and sometimes, a substantial one. Talking of selling at a loss, an engine that went through Gildings twenty years ago is now for sale at more than £1,000 less than was paid for it????

Fast forward to SAS and a plethora of boxes of bits, cars in various states of repair and completion, piles of photos and albums, engine boxes and goodness knows what. This time, no problem with estimates and more a question of just how much and what to buy that might come in useful? There was an opportunity to trade items in the car park as well if someone had bits that they did not want. The boxes of photos and there was a heap of them ended up being sold off on ebay by the kilo many years later. But that was not all as there seemed to be a significant amount of material that never made it into that sale either, and much of it has emerged from garages, sheds and offices over the years, some happily gravitating towards OTW.

Miquel's was probably the first of the major collections to come on to the market and it is very sobering to recall all the other collections, large and small that have appeared for sale since then? A look down the entry list for the 2004 championships also reveals a sad catalogue of empty spaces, some recorded, many unfortunately, just memories.

The Pitbox this month has produced a number of items as it was literally, all in a box. Within were some treasures that have already been seen in previous Pitboxes, but buried deeper, some unique pieces of memorabilia, including this month's item.

So much of interest in 'the box', all related to ZN that having now seen the items, rather than just photographs, we have added an update to our previous article. Another one of the strange coincidences that excites us occurred at the October Buckminster swapmeet when a member of the public turned up with a fantastic, but part finished, model that had another unrecorded ZN connection. We knew that this item existed, but had never seen one, but here it was so is included in the update.

The Photo invokes more nostalgia as it celebrates the glory days at Victoria park where entire families would enjoy a day at a regatta. How sad that this sort of scene will never be repeated?

With the curtain coming down on official Retro Club events at Gt Carlton, we have combined the Retro pages into one retrospective looking at the two tracks Peter Hill built and the great opportunities he offered to enthusiasts in the UK. Also revisited are many of the personalities and variety of cars that appeared over the years. Having cleared the pages for the new season we have included a gallery from Buckminster as a reminder of a thoroughly enjoyable season that, more or less, avoided the weather that did so much damage to other events.

In a new edition of his Occasional Workshop Ramblings, Oliver Monk brings us up to date on the progress of the two Moore #11 cars that he is building in parallel. We can agree entirely with his sentiments over making wheels. Next month we plan to have an article that reveals the origins of Lyndon Bedford's 5cc car and how it relates to the Moore car. 

Important Information: Not unconnected with the lead material this month is an announcement from HMRC, the British customs and excise authority, that they will be monitoring Ebay, Etsy and many other websites for what they term commercial activity or colloquially, side hustling. This affects many of our readers, and unfortunately could also have a severe impact on the sale of collections from estates. Essentially, the ruling is that if there are over £1,000 worth of sales in a year then they are taxable, as that is the UK allowance for unearned income. Not only would the income be taxed but HMRC would also consider the person to be self employed with all the implications attached to that. A further little bombshell for those administering an estate is that only household and personal effects can be sold tax free, anything else is liable to tax, and the sting in the tail is that if the collection is sold for more than the value declared for probate then Capital Gains Tax would also be levied. Now, we know that some of those who deal regularly are declaring the income for tax purposes, but for many it will have been a nice little earner, but you might just be in the sights of HMRC from now on?.

A new addition this month is a Pit Box Extra page. This will run alongside the normal Pitboxes but on an occasional basis. On this page we will include interesting items that have appeared on the Market page, which would have otherwise disappeared, items that we have been alerted to on which we have little information, or conversely where we have more material than can be accommodated on the normal Pitboxes but insufficient for a 'Special'. The first entry is an Italian tethered car enthusiast who built engines both for his own use and for commercial sale. It is also another entry in the list of Dooling look a likes that we will be returning to in the future. 

Empty Spaces:

Alberto Dall'Oglio was probably better known by the initials of the engines he produced AD. Primarily intended for top level FAI competitions his motors were well respected in their time. As well as the aircraft motors, he also was responsible for this beautiful, Class 1, 1.5cc tethered car motor.

Like many other Italian engine builders of the post war period, Alberto did all his work from home, including producing the castings. More lately he became known for superb replicas of vintage engines.  He was sadly found dead at his home in December 2023.

Thanks to Dave Smith for alerting us to the unfortunate news.

January 2024

Firstly, can we wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year and a successful season in whatever avenues you are pursuing?

We start off the new year trying to explain a couple of contentious points that have been put to us via our inbox. It is actually another venture into the whole realms of 'it's in the rules, but is it right', and how procedures have changed over the years. In full sized motor sport the use of false names and non-de-plumes for entries was very common for all sorts of reasons, usually to disguise the true identity or origins of the driver, either for personal reasons, political, or because they were a 'ringer'. Indeed one multiple F1 champion  raced under a false name initially so that his parents would not be aware. Of course, there always had to be a driver, rider or pilot, but of late we have seen entry lists that have been extensively padded out, either with entirely spurious names or those that had absolutely no ability or intention to compete. This could be a PR exercise or to enable meetings to go ahead when there were not enough competitors in a class, or enough countries represented to maintain the status of the event. It was even used recently in golf to disguise the name and origins of the person behind the non-de-plume, for entirely 'political reasons'. We have even seen the use of 'plastic' overseas entrants to give an impression of international participation at events. One of our regular competitors recalls at a number of Championship being given models to run to make the numbers up in classes he was not entered in.

However, eventually, entrants have to translate to competitors on the track or lake, and one way of enabling this to happen was 'proxy running', very common at one stage when a car or boat was shipped or taken to an event and run by a third party. This is the beginning of the thorny subject as to who should be awarded the honours if success was forthcoming? Many will remember the 'good old days' of motor racing when drivers could swap cars mid race, as the victory went to the driver, not the car. At the same time in the tethered car world, there was no limit on the number of entries a person could make in a class, Erik Thorpman managing to run four 10cc cars at one EC. Both proxy running and multiple entries were eventually outlawed at International level, even to the extent that the late Ivan Wankov had to stagger into the lake with a tripod after a massive stroke to ensure that his hand was on his boat when it was launched. At national level though, health problems or officiating at an event were allowable reasons to have a 'proxy hydro launcher'. Competitors were restricted to two entries and whilst running two cars is common, only one boat and a reserve were allowed. The arrival of the electric hydro effectively ensured that most competitors had a 'proxy launcher', although many would claim that launching a hydro is the most difficult bit, especially a B1? In the car world a third party pushing off was always acceptable and normal practice for several, perfectly legitimate, reasons. The only proviso was that the entrant had to be present during the run.

What some of our correspondents have questioned is the situation where entries are made in the name of a second person enabling one competitor to technically run up to four models? The contentious issue appears to be that the entrant may not have ever seen or touched the model, had no input whatsoever to the run, yet can be credited as a champion or record holder? In the case of the loaned models, one owner demanded the medal, rather than the person who had run it, which resulted in something of a stand off as that was the way proxy running worked?  Yes, it is all perfectly legal and not just confined to our interests, and entirely normal in other sports as well, as numerous incidents over the summer will attest to. Whether you agree, disagree or are entirely opposed will probably depend where you stand on the 'rules' and 'spirit of the rules' spectrum.

We regularly get our ears bent on these and similar issues, which can always be debated over a pint or glass of red, but in the end it comes down to what rules allow, assuming the rules cover that situation, not what you believe they should allow, and of course, whether said rules are applied? The last point is reinforced by a long article on Adrian Duncan's site where rules at a major championship were routinely ignored by competitors, not enforced by the officials and objected to by some if they did not like them?

The first Pitbox item of the new year is a commercial engine from an English company, most unusual in its configuration, but unrecorded and unknown until late last year. Information is still sparse on this motor, so any help would be appreciated.

This photo gave us an idea for a New Year Album that uses some of the many prints that we have been sent where we either have few clues as to the photographer, the subject and can only guess at the approximate date.

Last month's Photo of the M&E cars prompted a request for a 'how on earth' explanation, which appears in a new Pitbox Special cum Workbench article. Except, this one spans a period of fifty five years and contains no useful tips, more of a saga really and we all like them? It also set us off on a trawling mission looking for similar cars for sale beyond the usual tethered car outlets, and what a shock. It seems that the £8,436 paid for the M&E Special at an auction in Kent is now about par for the course, with Wasps being about a grand cheaper. A long way away from what most of us would regard as realistic, but it appears the focus of the market has moved somewhat as some British commercial cars were topping £10K? Makes Miquel's auction cheap by comparison?

Lyndon Bedford has informed us that he is establishing a new website that deals with the history of the ETA company, better known in our circles for their engines, but also famed for the scientific instruments they produced. Lyndon is ideally placed as he is the son of Ken Bedford, a part of the family business, and holds an amazing archive of photos and other material relating to the company.

Steve Betney regularly sends us details and photos of the superb castings being produced by JDR in Paris. These are very high quality and the system they use produces very fine detail and thin castings. Steve has kindly sent a link to their website, which gives details and specification of all the models they have available. We have added this to our Links page, but give their website a look. Unfortunately, the ever increasing costs involved in producing castings has meant that Paul Ironmonger is currently unable to supply any Oliver castings as the price would be quite prohibitive.

The Gildings sale in December was a bit of an eye opener as the engines were included in a toy sale, and it was online only. The items not sold from the Law collection last year were being offered along with another collection from the estate of a deceased enthusiast. Firstly, lotting up to six engines together is always counterproductive, difficult to bid on and not effective for the vendor. Secondly, the estimates were not even 'come and buy me', more along the lines of 'you cannot be serious'. An excellent Rowell MkI £50-£80, a mass lot with an exceedingly rare Speedwell £60-£90 and another multiple lot with a Gerald Smith at £60-£90. The Rustler Jaguar twinshaft at £60-£90 was also a bargain, if only? As usual, the commercial and common motors did not sell for much and the bargain of the day must have been the only racing version of the Bond's Simplex that has ever been seen, and it had a perfect provenance. The 24% commission is always lurking so the Rowell eventually cost someone nearly £520, the Jaguar a staggering £320. A bag of engines, including the Gerald Smith for £450 represented incredibly good value, but what treasures lurked in the box of assorted engines and projects, well judging by the bidding frenzy, others had spotted the same as we had. Hope they realise that they have possibly only the third Mk IV 1066 Conqueror to come to light?

Better news from Canada as Adrian Duncan was finally able to publish his December edition after a somewhat torrid time. He has explained his on-going medical problems in detail on his site so we wish him well during what will be a very difficult few months for him and Lorna.

Don't forget, there is another chance to lighten your bank balances with the BMFA engine sale on 6th-7th January. Online only this time though and lots of engines. Speaking of engines, please have a look at the Market Place page for what must be the most amazing engine that we are ever likely to feature, a masterpiece of engineering all round, and it runs. 

Another selection of Workshop Ramblings from Oliver Monk. In the first part he carries on from last month with the important details of setting up a car so that it is tracking properly and that both wheels are in even contact with the track. The second part shows the start of a project to build two Ian Moore #11 cars in parallel and the opportunity to purchase some BTCG merchandise.

Reminder that all race reports and photos will be removed next month to prepare for the new season, so please feel free to download and save any relevant material before then