BOOK OF SMERRICK, CHAPTER ONE
1:1 - And so it came to pass that the mighty god SANDWELL COUNCIL looked upon the home of the Oaklandites and did speak "thine hut is offensive to mine sight" and thusly the oldest running slotcar club in the land of the Britons (yay, even unto the time of Methuselah and railracing and Mac Pinches) was shuttered and tumbled and the Oaklandites were scattered amongst the wilderness.
1:2 - And there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
1:3 - And Parker of Great Barr did say "Pharoah, let my slotcar track go" but the track was nailed into the firmament, yay unto even twelve cubits deep into solid concrete. And this caused the Rabbis much theological wonderment as it appeared that GOD was indeed capable of creating a slotcar track too heavy for Him to lift.
1:4 - Thus far and wide did the exiled Oaklandites roam attempting to found a new temple to the glory of lap records. But without parting with too many shekels nor having to visit the moneylenders in the temple.
1:5 - And it was in this time that the Oaklandite Dave the Metal owned a metal-bashing workshop in the perilous hive of scum and villany known as Birmingham, a town offensive to the sight of GOD.
1:6 - And Dave the Metal performed great miracles in a high place and the inner walls of his temple up on the highest floor were rent asunder to the sound of angelic trumpets. Hark! spoke Dave, I can see that we can erect a new temple to the glory of lap records here in Birmingham above my workshop.
1:7 - In the far North at this time, far beyond the borders of Christendom in the land of the Picts there was a pagan temple called Ecurie Barnton.
1:8 - And within this temple they had a chariot racing track and that track had been wrought, not by carpenters of the Nazarne but by a imp of Satan residing within a beige box of electricity that made a iron drill bit jump and leap amidst the wood.
1:9 - And so the Oaklandites said "yay, verily we do could unto this it being the modern day and all".
1:10 - And in the far West at that time dwelt the sorcerer Eddie of Wellington he who, alone of the Oaklandites possesed the neccesary demonology and necromancy with which to communicate with the imp of Satan within his beige box of electricity.
1:11 - For forty days and forty nights the Oaklandites argued the toss over corners and radii and whether GOD would be pleased by 1:32 only or a 1:32 and 1:24 and then there was much arguing over the vanity offensive to GOD of track colours and lane colours and infield colours and advertising banners. And the Oaklandite Ralph of Great Barr was told to observe silence before GOD and get back in his chair as befitted his venerable age. And Cassandra, daughter of Ralph, was told not to bring him again. And Owen of the Tiptonites was told that if he was prepared to only have a 1:32 track he could be cast asunder into exile at Wolverhampton and go with the Oaklandites blessings. And the Lord's name was taken in vain, yey unto a multitude of times.
1:12 - And then Eddie of Wellington completed his divine track plan and saw that it was good. And the Oaklandites were told that this was what was happening for Eddie had spoken and he would not be doing unto it again.
1:13 - And so it came to pass and Stan of Edgbaston went around the people of the Oaklandites cried "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" and demanded tribute.
1:14 - And after forty days and forty days of fasting some of this had actually been handed over unto him.
1:15 - And then it happened that imp within the beige box was shewn graven images of the temple of Ecurie Barnton and was commanded thusly "it is in this pleasing form that you will deliver lengths of medium density fibreboard(*) unto us in exchange for our tribute of shekels such that Stan of Edgbaston has been able to extract from the peoples of the Oaklandites".
(*) But not mixed fibres at the same time. For that is an abomination unto the eyes of GOD as Leviticus doth command. Like shellfish and "experimenting".
1:16 And there was much rejoicing amongst the multitudes of the Oaklandites. Thus endeth the lesson.
To cut a long story short, which some of you will know bits and pieces of anyway...
February. Sandwell Council shut the hut that some of us have been using weekly since 1968. We have a look around at typical rents (i.e. not local council subsided nominal figures) and noisily mess ourselves in fear. It appears that starting from scratch is economically unviable and the haphazard way in which the track has been built upon old tracks (there are layers of slotcar archeology in the track from about 2009 down to 1968) means the track cannot be salvaged and is a total loss.
So about 10-12 club members, no roof, no track, not enough income to cover a small industrial unit or similar. Things look grim. eBay beckons for a fire sale of racing kit.
Other local clubs are very nice to us (shout outs to Dudley, Wolverhampton, Great Barr and Bearwood - the latter remembering being sheltered at OP when the Phoenix hut was condemned) with offers of club nights but none of them would particularly keep the real heart of OP together which is the members. We have evolved into a club that does a bit of BSCRA racing, a bit of 1960s vintage, a bit of modern retro and a lot of faffing around with toys. A scene fairly tied to OP and it's relaxed way of doing things.
Then club member Dave Beeching decides that he can knock through a few walls upstairs in his factory to make a space smaller than the old hut but certainly usable for a track of some sort. And then things look a lot better.
(If this were a film of the book of the story based upon true events, the following section would be a montage dubbed over with inspirational soft rock music - sledgehammers through plasterboard walls, debates on whether to concentrate on 1:32 scale only, three dozen rejected track plans, disagreements about the decorating, more rejected track plans, disagreements about the practicalities of running open meetings in a smaller space, Eddie wearing out Autocad with track plans, track plan discussion eventually gets nailed down to disagreeing about one corner, Eddie draws the corner as he wants it anyway).
So now we have a nice L-shaped room with rubber flooring and nice new bright white wall paint on the walls along with a palatial rooftop terrace in the style of the North Staffs club only without the vertigo-inducing drop. All this in a building not too far from our old home, in fact if you used to come to the Harry Mitchell via J1 on the M5 then the new place is only an extra 10 minutes or so down the dual carriage heading towards Birmingham City Centre just past City Hospital (aka Dudley Road Hospital).
Track-wise we decided it's the twenty-first century so we can investigate the practicalities of getting a track CNC routed. Ecurie Barnton have already done this so armed with their in-build photos we were able to find a CNC routing specialist in Worcestershire who grokked the idea of what we were after and could work with us thanks to Eddie's AutoCad skills.
Wind the clock on a bit to right here right now and we have this as laid out in it's new home on Wednesday night awaiting the tender ministrations of our tame carpenter.
You'll probably notice a lot of similarity between this and OP tracks of the past and that's intentional. Somewhat shorter than the last Harry Mitchell generation of the track (96' compared to 110') we are planning on the same direction of travel - the rostrum will be in the same sort of place adjacent to the main straight with cars passing right to left.
We have Lee Parsons of BSCRA-fame coming in over the next two weekends to put the beast upon her legs, so hopefully more progress shots next week!
Everybody is very delighted to be back and able to picture the end product and get bloody racing again!