Unknown Hero

I’ve been travelling with work so here’s a blog inspired by the book I took to read on the plane..  You have to focus on the positives where you can.

If I look at the obsessions which dominated the first 20 years of my life, the list goes something like this; racing model aircraft, karting, and helping out at motorcycle meetings.  (Studying is notably absent from this list; a point I try to hide from my son as he takes his A-Levels.) At the heart of those obsessions is one piece of technology.  The two stroke engine.  But not just the two stroke; the two stroke equipped with an expansion chamber exhaust. When my Dad bought a BBC Micro computer home most people my age would have started gaming.  I wrote a program to design two stroke exhausts. Woe betide anyone who told me that two strokes were simple…


And at the time I had a two stroke tuning hero, but more of him later.

A story on the Motorsport website about Frank and Rita Perris contained a reference to Stealing Speed by Matt Oxley, who also wrote the article;  I found myself reading it as we waited for the flight to Boston. I’d finished it before the return flight took off.

So the long and the short of it is that I possibly had a vague recollection of the name Walter Kaaden. I’m possibly being too kind to myself here.  Whatever, I would have been pushed to tell you what he did.  What he did was invent the rotary induction valve, the boost port (sometimes called a TT port.. mm…might have an idea why now)  and critically the expansion chamber exhaust. Pretty much a description of a racing two stroke engine, whatever its scale or application.  Here is a man who should have been my hero throughout the late 70’s and 80’s and I couldn’t even recall his name with any certainty. The picture is put in even sharper focus for me. Kaaden’s theories on resonance were developed whilst he worked at Peenemude in the 40’s, and one thing Oxley is wrong about in his book, is that at least one wannabe Kaaden in the 80’s had heard of the place.


But Walter Kaaden was East German.  And whilst the cold war was still a real and present part of everyone’s lives it was incredibly unlikely that we’d have thought much about him, as I, and many of my friends, lovingly fettled engines which were based, almost entirely, on his pioneering work.  So to the hero I did have.  Dr Joe Ehrlich.  The man who had legendarily got 84hp from a 250 in the 80’s. Boss of the EMC company, which also made racing cars. The man who supplied Kaaden with many of the components he needed to make his MZ’s the unlikely world beaters they were. A man Kaaden called “the charlatan”.  My immediate reaction was to replace one hero with another.  But in 1984 when the 84hp 250 ran, Kaaden was already in retirement and behind the iron curtain.  So I need to think about that one..

All this has fired up my interest in 2 strokes again, although designing and building a 2 stroke engine has never been far from the top of the to do list. And now I’ve discovered that there is a 50cc racing scene, and somebody made a 50cc 4!!!  Just what I need, another obsession returning.









In which I knock 8/10’s off my PB at Loton, talk to some Formula Ford drivers and line up a gearbox rebuild.

Not much RF-84 rebuild news as in all honesty there hasn’t been much action on that front.  Too many hillclimbs and other stuff for that.

The Midland Champs event at Loton last weekend was fantastic, even though as Bob Ridge-Stern reports on his site, you’d go a long way to find many people who prefer a 2 day event to a 1 day one. I for one would prefer to do all my runs on one day and get home; the gap between runs is just too much over 2 days.  But when an event is as great as Loton was, I can’t complain that much.  Weather was fantastic and the venue was as fantastic as ever. It ties with Prescott as my favourite course.  As I mentioned in the title I managed to knock 8/10’s off my time, which I was really very happy with.  Looking at the numbers some can be put down to the car going faster because of its new exhaust and some, I hope, can be put down to me. When I got back I extended the results spreadsheet to include all the split times and speeds, and hacked around to create some sector times. Which showed me a lot.


Essentially, the run made of fastest sector times isn’t much faster than my best time.  And I could see just how completely I messed up my last run.  But then I had fallen asleep just before it.  See comments on 2 day meetings.

The good thing about a 2 day meeting is the time you’ve got for talking.  I managed to hook up with some of the Formula Ford drivers. One of them seemed to think the RF84 was ugly. Ugly or not it will be out in their class next year.

So coming up?  The Graham Hill Sprint on the Curborough 8 and a visit to Mark Bailey Racing to look at what needs doing on the MK9 Hewland.  Exciting stuff.






Some hillclimbs, the gear linkage goes in and I attempt to cut out a new firewall.

A good few weeks.  Hillclimbs at Gurston and Prescott, the model aircraft indoor nationals (happy with 5th there), I managed to fit the gear linkage, and got stuck into making the new firewall.

I just wasn’t going well at Gurston, and was in fact slower than last year, when I wasn’t as fast as I could have been.  We’ll put that one down to experience, and I’ll hopefully put in a better performance when I go back later in the year. At least I opened my scoring in the HSA championship.

Prescott was much better. The intense cold meant that I was somewhat surprised by the lack of grip at Etores the first time round. I set myself two targets – faster than last year and sub 1 minute.  Achieved the first and nearly the second. Last run 60.00!!!   I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry (I chose the former.)  This was my first Midland Champs event – there aren’t any other 1.4’s in the production classes, so I’m using these as practice for the HSA rounds.

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The very wet bank holiday Monday allowed me some time to get on with the RF84.  The next tasks on the list were to fit the gear linkage and make and fit a new fire wall.  Apart from the tedious task of re-tapping the holes (that again) fitting the gear stick and linkage was relatively straight forwards.  Re-tapping the holes was not helped by the fact that tubes prevented the tap holder making a complete turn – deep joy.

Cutting the fire wall out was more straightforwards than I expected. I screwed the old one through the new material into a sheet of MDF.  Then used the old firewall as a drilling jig. It was suggested that I use a jigsaw to cut it out by a friend who restores Austin 7’s and Wolseley Hornets, and this worked really well – thanks for that one Jack.  Some filing remains to be done, but the new firewall is looking OK, and certainly neater than the old one.

Next weekend is free so I should be able to finish the firewall and move on to some other tasks.  And I may be putting some new cams in the Panda – we’ll see how that one pans out.

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