TFC supplies Smalley retaining rings for Top Gear Mini

In an amazing stunt for a TV programme, a rocket-powered car was launched down a ski slope. Smalley spiral retaining rings, supplied by TFC, ensured that the motor unit did not become detached from the rocket housing.

TFC recently came to the aid of a British rocket project when the company was approached by Colin Rowe from Rowe's Retainers Ltd. Colin is also one half of The Rocket Men Ltd team, who has been working with the BBC Top Gear team in some wacky and (literally) high-profile projects.

As part of Top Gear's Winter Olympic Special, The Rocket Men were charged with the task of sending a Mini Cooper down the Lillehammer ski slope in Norway. The slope, previously home to world famous Olympians, is more accustomed to competitors who are lighter on their feet. When the team of rocket designers set about making the propulsion units to send the car on its way, they encountered a problem and needed some Smalley spiral retaining rings to stop the motor unit from detaching from the rocket housing.

The spiral retaining rings used in the Mini were scaled-up versions of the ones used in model rocketry. The motor retainers from Rowe's Retainers need to be light and strong; using TFC spiral retaining rings allows the operator to insert and remove the motor in the field with only a screwdriver.

Preventing disaster

Colin Rowe explains the vital role the Smalley spiral retaining ring played on the Top Gear project: "Speed, mass and deceleration are three pivotal components that have to be controlled in any rocket-powered launch. If the motor became disengaged because of a faulty spiral retaining ring, suddenly with one part of the equation missing we would have a potential disaster. Three Contrail Hybrid motors (using nitrous oxide and rubber) were used to propel nearly 3000lbs of metal through the air, so we needed to be sure that the components we used were 100 per cent safe. TFC provided part of a complex jigsaw that did not let us down."

As the rockets blasted the car down the slope the whole of Lillehammer and millions of BBC viewers watched in awe. The car skied like a pro, proving at last that the British are capable of producing a successful ski jumper. According to TFC, it was a display that would have had Eddie the Eagle dumbstruck with admiration.

In another recent Top Gear stunt, The Rocket Men launched a Reliant Robin using the same type of motors; once again, similar techniques were used to retain the motors.

Colin adds: "Smalley spiral retaining rings make life so much easier for us. They are a product that I can see us using more and more."

TFC plc

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