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Where can I run my tethered car?

The Retro Racing Club
 and the
Great Carlton Raceway

One of the greatest frustrations for tethered car enthusiasts has been the lack of opportunity to run their cars in Britain. If you were a member of the BTCA and raced either a modern FEMA car or a more recent vintage model, then there were the European tracks, but for the collector, home builder and fun runner there was little opportunity, unless you were prepared to risk the compass circle at Old Warden, and its propensity for wrecking cars. It was something of a red-letter day then, when it was announced that the inaugural meeting of Peter Hill’s Great Carlton Raceway would be on 12th June 2011. 

Amazing metal work by John Goodall Oliver Monk's 'school car' PAW 'lightweight'

The Retro Racing Club holds a unique position, having been set up by Peter Hill in 1996 to ‘Encourage the building and running of tethered racing cars of the more traditional type.’ This was later extended to include vintage tethered hydroplanes as well. Peter started by publishing a regular newsletter that ran to seventy issues over twenty two years and then expanded the club’s activities by offering numerous drawings, castings, and a variety of tyres to assist those interested in building or restoring cars.

Almost a 1066 Conquest Doc 2 from 1948 Running as it used to be

Conscious of the need for a facility to run cars, Peter built a track at his home, which became the regular venue for Retro Club members for fun competitions and thoroughly enjoyable ‘days out’. Apart from the couple of portable poles that were set up on car parks in the South West, the track at Souldrop was the only permanent facility available in this country. This was used extensively until the end of the 90s, when a move to Lincolnshire brought an end to the ‘Souldrop Speedway’ and the opportunity to run cars.

There were promises and hopes surrounding possible sites for new tracks which all come to nought and the BMCC portable track did offer some facility until that group imploded so spectacularly. The only prospect on the horizon was that Peter did intend to build a new track when time and money allowed. Eventually construction did start, but an unfortunate series of health problems and family tragedies meant that the track was not finished until 2010.

Dick Roberts' sidecar             Peter Hill's 1066 MRC Galeota 'Speedster'

The track at Great Carlton is 7 laps to the ¼ mile and with the pouring of a wide apron during the 2013 season offers the ideal and unique opportunity to have a run with anything vintage or vintage style, as long as a certain degree of common sense is involved, speed wise. Since the Retro Club has been in operation, members have build dozens of cars of amazing variety, as well as rescuing and restoring original models, and here is a chance to try them out.

Beautiful Cleveland air-car Rytm powered Ferrari 312T Cox 049 'flyer'

The track can clearly be seen on Google earth, but more recently, the photos below were taken from a drone.

If you have an interest in tethered cars, especially being able to run them, then it is certainly worth joining the Retro Racing Club. For further details of the Club and the long list of available plans, both for cars and tethered hydroplanes, contact Peter Hill by the power of electronic communication at  arty.pole@gmail.com

2020 Track day Sept 6th 

Average speed for 7 laps 1.38mph 2.22kph

The relaxation of CV restrictions allowed Peter Hill to schedule the first Retro Club track day of the season for early September. A double header with Buckminster the previous day did reduce attendance somewhat but this did allow more time for the long postponed tabletop sale of a portion of the late Keith Bragg’s modelling items. Everyone present went home with cars significantly more full than when we arrived and wallets commensurately less full. When activity finally got underway, the venerable ‘Goer’ was hooked on to the line to blow the track dry. Unfortunately, the itinerant gardener did not notice the line tipping the car over, neatly removing the fuel tank in the process. As the old saying goes ‘if it's lose and shouldn’t be, use Duct tape’ so it reeled of its first 50 laps at a regular 3 seconds per lap with the tank taped on, a true bodge.

Another 50 laps were completed while Pete Hughes persuaded his 049 into life and then it was on to horsing duties for this little special that uses commercial parts in an aluminium chassis. Starts and runs well after the winter muck was cleared out of the system. Pete is a great enthusiast for these 049s and was seen secreting a box of engines in the back of his car, along with a chassis and wheels that should appear united before too long. His Prop Rod is probably the most lethal car on the track with its pusher prop exactly where the fingers tend to be but on this occasion apart from a slight nip it started easily and ran out a full tank at around 25mph, possibly the longest run it has ever had? By way of remembering Keith, his HB engined, all aluminium aircar was given a run. The first time he put it on the track it was quite quick and so it proved this time, until it performed a complete somersault, splitting the tank in the process.

Preferred material, aluminium Pete Hughes 049 Special Prop Rod circulating

Dave Coe has a mantra that says ‘never have a last run’ and so it proved for the ‘Goer’. After eight years and something like 3,500 laps of the track in that time, metal fatigue finally won after a further 40 laps, with one wheel and the part of the chassis it was attached to vanishing into the undergrowth but even this did not stop it. Sadly the ‘Goer’ is no more but like a Phoenix, it will rise again, but as with Dr Who, in a different form.

Pete Hughes and Kingcat Keith Bragg's last aircar The demise of the 'Goer'

A very pleasurable lunch break with discussion on the merits of various pork pies took us into the afternoon and a series of cars from our host, starting with the Green Frog. Well, when I say starting, that was the intention, but it wouldn’t, even after 'the jolly good thrashing' it received last time out. Neither would the famous Leyat, but that was down to the needle valve that had been lost last October and inadvertently not replaced. That just left the ED Racer, office chair special, which last time out refused point blank to start, but this time fired up and trolleyed off happily for far more laps than anyone could be bothered counting. With just ‘yours truly’ fit for horsing, it was down to doing a Lembit for a last run with the PAW Lightweight. Herself was tasked with holding and launching it, only to complain about the fine mist of burnt paraffin, castor oil and ether emanating from the exhaust that spread itself liberally over her. That heady aroma is what we go for isn’t it?

Leyat with well oiled pilot Uncooperative Green Frog ED 2.46 Racer power

Beans, pears and withies gleaned, assorted boxes loaded and off just before the promised rain arrived after a second great day, made even better by the relative lack of traffic on either occasion. Peter has scheduled the next meeting for the Friday preceding the SAM October Fest, Friday 16th October. Thanks to Anne for the copious supplies of tea and coffee throughout the day and to Peter for all the work in preparing the track eleven months on from the last time we enjoyed running cars there.

Retro in the Rain

Rain everyday in October so far, record rainfall in a day since 1891, was it going to stop for the final Retro Club hoorah of the season, was it 'eck as like, despite what the BBC and the delightful Julie led us to believe. Looked promising though until we dropped out of the Wolds and could see the curtains of rain ahead of us. Conjecture as to whether Peter would even have been able to mow the track area as it had been so wet and speculation that it may well have been a wasted journey? Well, he had, but with the track awash there seemed little prospect of any action, so we all did what we are best at, chatting, along with delving into boxes and bags and admiring what had been assembled, and what a selection. It is an often erroneously used word, especially on ebay, but until there is any evidence to the contrary we were privileged to be able to handle and admire three unique Oliver twinshaft motors and a couple of others of which maybe one other example exists.

Original Oliver disc valve DI Oliver MkII by JSO Original Oliver RV

John Goodall's unique line up of Original and replica Oliver  cars

Oliver Fury replica Original Oliver MkI RVB Original Oliver Nine Port

In a car that broke the British five and ten mile record in the hands of Gerry Buck was the only disc valve DI twinshaft of the six or seven built in 1949 that is known to exist. One of John Goodall’s ‘Busy’ replicas has just been fitted with the only rotary valve Mk I RV known to exist in plain bearing form. If that was not enough, in the back of a very early, factory built, Proto Two Five car was the only ball raced Mk I that has been recorded, but still it went on as another ‘Busy’ had an original Nine Port twinshaft, again possibly the only one around as the other one may well be a converted aero engine, as was the original Oliver Jaguar. A Tiger Two Five with a standard Mk II Oliver was somewhat overshadowed by the other cars, but beside them was John Goodall’s Slabang with an engine built specially by John Oliver that has exceeded 100mph. As the rain fell gently on the corrugated iron of the ‘pit area’ and windfall apples more noisily there was plenty of time for a massive photographic session to share on the website.

Steve Betney shattered the relative peace by bench testing his Redfin twinshaft, and a noisy beast it is indoors. Slightly surprising was the very limited range of adjustment on the compression screw between it running sweetly and not running at all. Still a mystery so best to leave the twiddly bits alone once a setting has been established. John Goodall was going through the same process with his Oliver, prop bolted to one side where a wheel should have been to avoid a tread being thrown as can happen. The rest of us availed ourselves of a last opportunity for foray into the modelling paraphernalia of the late Keith Bragg and add to the not inconsiderable sum that Retro members have already raised for Barbara.

John Goodall with 'Busy' Steve Betney twiddling with the Redfin The 'Phoenix'

Where there grounds for optimism, was the rain easing off enough to have a go, well yes. Never really stopped, but now light enough to sweep the track clean of debris and the largest puddles and hitch on a line. It was obvious that only air cars could be run so first up was da dah, ‘The Phoenix’, the reincarnation of the ‘Goer’ that met its demise last time out. A new chassis with modern damped front suspension but still the same old reliability so in the course of the next hour or so it reeled off 250 laps, the trusty PAW still doing the business. Amazingly, the car created a dry line of sorts, but also cleaned all the muck off the surface down to the concrete. Peter Hill had made a new tank for the last car Keith Bragg had made with the HB glow motor. Started off lively enough but then ran out of go due to a split fuel tube. Duly repaired it was fired up again but there is a problem with the fuel system somewhere so Pete Hughes hitched on his Cox Prop Rod that did so well in September, and guess what, it did equally well, running out an entire tank. That’s it he said, put it away for the winter, but as Dave Coe was not there with his woeful, ‘never have a last run’ warning, we persuaded Pete to have another go. Could not resist a fiddle so wound the needle in for a bit more speed, but it ground to a halt, so needle back to where it was and another successful run.

And that really was it. Peter, with neatly bandaged finger after Keith’s car bit him, tried to coax some life into the Green Frog, but after showing so much promise as a project initially it now seems to have acquired a severe attack of the gremlins of late and will not start. As we were all suffering varying degrees of dampness by then and with no sign of it getting any better, a general exodus took place.

E&M Maserati

Pete Hughes with Cox Prop Rod Recalcitrant Green Frog

Now, as you know, I have this thing about the A47 but little was heard about it for a while as we have had some wonderful trips, but my goodness, this made up for it. My tractor and agricultural vehicle spotter’s handbook was nearly filled up by the time we reached home, never seen so many on the roads, and huge they were as well, plus we have found a new winner of the carrot crunchers game of ‘who can get the longest queue behind them’. From Sutterton until it turned of at Holbeach a maze harvester proceeded at a sedate 15mph for 8 miles without ever pulling off and so it went on, the last convoy just four miles from home with three enormous Massey Ferguson including one pulling a double bulk trailer. Spuds, beet and mud in the Fens but mainly maze further east for all the digesters springing up.

So ended a very restricted year at Gt Carlton but we have to feel lucky that we have got any running in at all given the strange times we live in so thanks to Peter for preparing the track and hosting the two meetings that were possible.