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ERA Tethered Car Kit

Some months ago we were bemoaning the gradual loss of companies and individuals supplying items, parts and kits for building retro style tethered cars. Almost as the ‘publish button’ had been pressed, we became aware of an exciting venture by the Vintage Model Automobile Company, based at Ramsgate here in the UK.

Tony Wilkinson and his associates have put together a very comprehensive kit of parts for the 1935 D Type ERA tether car designed by Harold Pratley in 1947 and based on Raymond Mays’ full sized version. The car and its construction was described in detail in the Model Car Manual and based on components available from 1066 of Worcester with plans available from Drysdale Press.

The internet and ebay are currently full of replica American style cars that could, at a push, be converted to run as tethered cars, as did the late Euan Forbes with his Gilbow Miller. What sets this kit apart is that it follows the Pratley design, materials and construction so closely that it requires only a motor, a drive axle and minor additions to have it running as a tethered car.

The kit is well presented, with the rectangular box containing all the parts as sub assemblies in labelled bags, a comprehensive parts list along with detailed building and assembly instructions. In addition, a complete set of full sized plans is included to establish where everything goes. Pratley gave two options for rear suspension, radius arms and coil springs as with the 1066 MRC, or more scale looking semi elliptical leaf springs. The wheels and tyres specified were from 1066 and those supplied in the kit are very well made replicas. At this stage, there is nothing to stop building commencing, apart from a perusal of the plans and instructions of course.

Box and contents as presented. Parts bagged and numbered Components laid out

Whilst many of the components are CNC machined, some are water jet cut and do require the edges to be filed and polished and there are several holes to be drilled, but these are clearly marked and drill sizes specified. Anyone wanting to go a stage further could tap holes in the aluminium plate side frames and use screws rather than nuts and bolts. The great advantage of this kit is that there are alternatives along the way to suit the level of equipment, skills and intended use of each purchaser.

At the end of the build, there is a rolling chassis ready for a body, and here another set of printed sheets outlines the possible methods of construction and some practical tips. Even better, Tony informs us that a GRP body should soon be available, an option not open to the original builders. This was one of Pratley’s more popular designs with several cars having been built over the years, including one fitted with an ETA29 that sold for £2,500 in the Miguel de Rancougne sale in 2004.

Original model from the Prately plan with 1066 gearbox, wheels and tyres

Having what is essentially a well crafted tethered car, well suited to running in retro events, it is but a short step to motorising it, safe in the knowledge that the chassis, wheels, tyres and suspension are going to be more than adequate, unlike the imported replicas for sale. There are some lovely little additions to the kit as well, such as the rose jointed radius arms, which are a delight.

From our investigation so far, the only alterations required to the basic kit are bearings in the front axle mounts, plain or ball races, with the mounts machined out to suit, and rear mounts machined for bearings or an axle unit. Again, Tony is offering parts to suit if workshop facilities are not available.

Choice of engine is down to the individual and could be anything from a period spark ignition motor through ED and other diesels to something like a Frog 500. The ETA 29 would be a bit exciting, one imagines.
 Right: Four hours work and a complete chassis

A suitable centrifugal clutch could be fitted if desired, but direct drive would work equally well. Any of the commercial axle units from the period are OK, 1066, M&E, E&M, ZN, Electra, or a simple open Wreford/Weaver style with a pair of bevels from Muffets. Two or four axle collars will also be required depending on the rear axle used and a pair of tether brackets. Ignition components, a separate tank, and possibly a knock off would be needed if that is the route being followed. One word of caution though, Pratley made a cardinal error in his design. He shows the rear axle secured into the axle mounts with grub screws, or onto the springs with U bolts. A look at the basic geometry shows that this will not work as the axle must be free to rotate in the mounts, or the suspension will lock up as the coupling tries to go up and down rather than rotate. This does mean that a full case axle needs to be free in the mountings, or bearings and collars fitted if a plain axle version like the E&M, M&E or similar is used.



 Six more hours and ready to run with Frog 500 motor fitted, driving through an E&M gearbox Basic balsa body built up and carved to shape. All the louvres and details can be added if desired

A long time since a kit of this size and nature has been offered for sale, and very moderately priced compared with the replicas on sale, so we are delighted to be able to review this offering from the Vintage Model Automobile Company. For further details contact VMAC direct or go to the Contacts page.

New Retro Tyres

Here are photos of the prototype tyres from the moulds machined by Retro Club member Dave Cunliffe. They are 3" and 3.5" dia, 0.25" at the rim and 0.5" at the hub. Made of 85 hard rubber, they are of the same quality as the modern FEMA tyres so should be OK for all retro-racing requirements.

Currently awaiting prices but they should be in the same ball park as the present Retro Racing Club tyres - they are produced by the same company. Update: Current price has been set at £18 per pair, plus postage. If interested contact Dave directly. speedysurf7(at)hotmail.co.uk We have now had a chance to see the tyres in the flesh and they are ideal for larger retro cars of the more racy variety.

Thanks to Dave Cunliffe for photos and details and his work in realising this project.

More Retro Tyres

For a long while, Peter Hill through the Retro Racing Club used to supply  a range of tyres suitable for running on vintage and retro style cars. This part of the operation was passed on to another Club member, Bill Bannister who can currently offer four different types of tyre in a variety of sizes. Unlike many of the tyres on offer which are made from acrylic rubber and suitable for display only, all of Bill's tyres are made from a rubber compound that makes them safe to run at any speeds remotely achievable in the UK.

Illustrated are two of the most common and useful tyres. The 3.5inch 1066 tyre was specified for many original designs as well as their own cars and as it has a solid bead can be used on pressed aluminium centres for low powered cars and aircars or machined hubs for faster and heavier cars. The 'Raylite' type below with the steel centres were standard for  all Oliver cars and many other twinshaft and small diesel engined cars. With six sizes from 2 inch to 4 inch they can be used on a whole range of designs and sizes of car. To compliment these there are two sizes of knife edged tyres for  front wheels.

Raylite rear 2 inch 2.25 inch 2.5 inch 2.625 inch 3 inch 4 inch
Raylite knife edge 2.06 inch 3 inch        
1066 3.5 inch          
Perry Rice 2.25 inch          

Prices range from £14 to £28 per pair, which includes postage (within the UK, overseas check first).

For details contact Bill Bannister
Unit 1A, Hecla Works. Mounsey Road. Bamber Bridge. Preston. Lancs. PR5 6LS (+44) 01722 338970 bannisterengines@hotmail.com

Tethered Hydroplane props.

The closure in January 2018 of the long standing supplier of tethered hydroplane propellers, The Prop Shop, has left users of these products in a state of limbo as no other commercial hydro props have been available until now. There were rumours of some being made in Bulgaria, but they were just that, rumours. Now, thanks to a lot of hard work and contacts within the hydroplane world, a range of props is now available. These are made in the Ukraine by multiple champions Andreij and Volodymyr Smolnikov. The props are custom CNC machined from both sides in the blocks as seen to whatever diameters and pitches are specified.  


The rectangular block  is a group of A2 in varying sizes and the circular block A3 props showing the machining from either side. A1 sizes are also on offer.  Props are available either as a block at a sizeable discount or finished and ready for use. The blades in the block are finish machined to very high tolerance, a matter of microns, with just a small spur at the tips and  more substantial fillets on the boss keeping them in position. For those without the facilities or know-how to make their own, this is a very welcome and timely alternative. For further details, prices and supply, contact Norman Lara. n.lara(at)btinternet.com

Dooling Arrow and Fairabend Engineering Restoration parts

The Dooling Arrow and parts from Fairabend Engineering were the top commercial cars and engines in Club and International use in Britain, almost from the time the first car arrived packed in a GIs kit bag. Original parts and cars can be found on ebay but for anyone intent on the restoration or rebuilding of one of these iconic cars, John Sanderson can supply almost every item from a pan or body upwards. Below are samples of pages from his extensive, 8 page, catalogue.

Pans and bodies Axles and gears Wheels and tyres.

Any source of wheels and tyres that can be safely run is valuable and many builds did utilise similar parts. For full detail, prices, shipping etc, contact John Directly at ParamourEngineering(at)comcast.net or via his facebook page

Chassis Rails and  McCoy style gearbox casing

From John Goodall comes these replacement chassis rails for the
  E&M Maserati  Contact John at BAMOPRO

Gary Barnes is offering these superb, CNC, machined gearbox cases on ebay.  Used in all his K&G  cars

New Twinshaft Car Motors

The name of Redfin motors and the man behind the operation, Alex Phin is already well established in the model aeroplane world for the range of retro motors he supplies. Now he is meeting the needs of the tethered car fraternity with the new Retro 15 twinshaft. This is similar in style to an Oliver Tiger but does not pretend to be a replica. It shares the same general layout with the flat mounting plate and cylinder axis angled up slightly. The crankcase is a super quality casting with the Redfin name and model name prominent. The internals are again not copies but those used in the immensely successful Parra motors. A peripheral jet venturi is another obvious departure although this could probably be changed for a 'curly' style one to allow the anticlockwise running that most commercial castings are arranged for. The quality of the Ukraine built motor is excellent throughout down to the dummy brake drums machined on to the inner hubs. Currently on sale for less than £200 this engine represents a very good option for potential builders. Go to the Redfin website www.redfinengines.com for further details and the dedicated Redfin page on OTW.

Alex with the new motor Beautiful 2.5cc twinshaft The box says it all

Update Sept 2019: The Oliver style fuel cut offs are now available from Alex at £25 and they do look spot on, both for his car, Oliver replicas and other designs. Alex tells us that front and rear tyres for the twinshaft motor and car will soon be available and he will have a batch of these in similar numbers to the cut offs. The chassis pan for the new car will be delayed slightly as the opportunity has been taken to alter the design and pattern to accommodate damped front suspension.

There is a considerable degree of interest being shown in this project, especially now that the track at Buckminster is in operation.

We have been informed that Maris Dressler has performed a test run one of the engines and has reported very favourably about the quality, ease of handling and performance, and recorded it as being more powerful than an Oliver original. Food for thought?
                                                                               Thanks to Steve Betney and Alex for all the details.

Update March 2020: The pre production prototype of the Redfin car kit has now arrived and Oliver Monk has very quickly assembled and appraised the car. It is very many years since a kit of this nature has been available to tethered car enthusiasts and we await further details once production versions are to hand.

September 2020 Old Warden:

Alex with new supplies British produced pans Complete chassis

Oliver Castings

Since Peter Hill passed on the casting activities of the Retro Racing Club supplies have been very hit and miss, more miss than hit most of the time. Now we are pleased to report that through John Goodall, Paul Ironmonger has located a foundry that will supply good quality castings of all the Oliver cars, previously available. Most of these are designed to take a twinshaft motor such as the Redfin above although the Alfa can certainly handle a single ended motor on a spur mount. The fuel cut offs above are also perfect for these cars.

Currently available are the Tiger Two-Five, Bottoms Up, Maserati, Mercedes, Alfa Romeo, Ferrari as seen here and the BRM which is new. The Tiger Bomb was never one of the most sought after, so is not included. The photo above shows the patterns and not the castings which will still have all the foundry flash in evidence. A project using the Mercedes castings can be seen in Oliver Monk's article A car for Buckminster.

For full details of cost and delivery, contact Paul  ironmonger691@btinternet.com

Tyres from Australia

Following the untimely death of Ron Bernhardt who used to supply a wide range of tethered car tyre sizes and styles, Mark Mansell started moulding a more restricted selection. Following a protracted house move and the other upheavals that have affected SE Australia he now has a selection of these for sale.

75mm front blades $12.50 100mm rear blades $13 Rear balloons max 100kph $17 Hot Rod fronts $9

For details, shipping costs, payment and delivery contact Mark mmansell@aussiebb.com.au

Car parts from Lev Shprints

With the age and unreliability of vintage tyres, coupled with many of the repros available being for display only a very convenient and realistic alternative is to use modern wheels and solid tyres that are entirely safe up to any speed likely to be reached here. A very useful source of supply of modern tethered car components and even complete cars and kits is Lev Shprints, through the Silnyi shop. Posted recently are these 100mm dia rear wheels where the centres can machined to suit your own gearbox or axles and use Denneler tyres of which quantities of used ones are always available, as are new directly from Horst Denneler. Also of use is a FEMA style, tube crusher,  fuel knock off as an alternative to the Oliver plunger type that Alex Phin is offering. The other item is a gearbox housing that can use commercial gear sets or again be modified by customers to their own ends.

100mm dia rear wheels to suit Denneler tyres 15 euros Knock off 38euros
Pivoted, bevel gearbox to use with suspension 15 euros

For details of these and a myriad of other tethered car items and parts, visit shop.silnyi.ru you will need a good translation app

E&M Maserati replacement bodies

John Goodall is a master at the black art of sheet metal work having created body sets for the Oliver Busy and the ZN 5cc and 2.5cc cars from sheet aluminium. These are consummate examples of beating and planishing that can only be appreciated after trying to do it and failing. Now he has produced replacement bodies for the E&M Maserati, initially as a commission, but now available to restorers of these Coventry built cars.

The buck and cramping pieces Interior showing the two halves welded

Finished bodies

JDR-Paris Lancia D50 casting sets

Folks, hot news. I have recently been in touch with the chaps at JDR Paris, and can now announce that their latest project, another fine set of castings for an iconic 1950s GP car, the Ferrari/Lancia D50. Lancia, the founder of the company that still bears his name started racing in the monster Edwardian cars of the early 20thC but died in 1937. The company continued to build racing cars through to 1954 when the distinctive D50 with its panniers made its debut. The company was in dire straits by then leading to the involvement of Enzo Ferrari and the cars being renamed Lancia/Ferraris. The castings are 1/10th scale and suitable for 5cc engines and 75mm diameter wheels. The first batch of 10 have been cast and is currently having the castings cleaned up ready for shipping.  They are 300 Euros per set, plus postage which is likely to be 20 to 30 Euros to the UK. They are not inexpensive but top quality and apparently thinner than previous castings (which weren't at all bad) due to a time intensive new process and a use of a new foundry. The castings are being produced from double shell moulds that give excellent surface detail and control the wall thickness of the castings.

If you go to their website www.jdrparis.com (translate from French) you can read about and see some of the wonderful past and present projects from this small, enthusiastic band of friends. Be aware that the "Contact" link on this site is not live though and doesn't work yet, so emails via this are not received. Go to the unlikely heading of Tips and Tricks, then Projects in Progress, then D50 to see the concept car in the flesh, and also look at the attached images to this note which show the raw castings. The initial run is already sold out but there will hopefully be another small batch of D50 castings next year if you have missed out and if demand is high enough?

There will be other mouth watering projects next year too, so keep watching their website. All the best for now. Steve.