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Writer seeks a lift for his Shropshire hovercraft research

By Toby Neal | Features | Published:

The work of a hovercraft maker from Market Drayton area 50 years ago has caught the attention of an aviation museum in Canada – where a writer and researcher is hoping to find out more.

Peter Mayer, of Betton, hit the headlines in the late 1960s and early 1970s for his exploits, and the news obviously travelled internationally, because a story was carried by Le Petit Journal in Montreal of August 17, 1969.

It told how, while the pals of seven-year-old Guy Mayer had bicycles and scooters, this youngster had a hovercraft that his 34-year-old dad Peter had made him.

Renald Fortier, of Canada Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa, who does in-depth articles on aviation and space topics, chanced across the article in the French language weekly newspaper and thought it would be a good subject to write up.

But now he is hoping there are relatives or others in Shropshire who can help him with further background information and will contact him at rfortier@ingeniumcanada.org by email.

In particular he is hoping that Guy, the son, is still around and will be willing to fill in some details about his father and his designs.

His completed article is being written for a digital hub, (https://ingeniumcanada.org/channel) put up by the group of Canadian national museums Renald works for.

So far as Renald is aware there is no Canadian link to the Mayer family's story – he just thinks it's a fascinating tale.

We have been able to provide a little information for him from our own archives.

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A photo from August 1968 shows seven-year-old Guy with the hovercraft made by dad Peter at his Betton home. The caption says Peter is rally organiser of the Hover Club of Great Britain.

"The craft is powered by a 125cc motorcycle engine. It is a scaled down model of the hovercraft which Mr Mayer is to build for himself," it goes on.

Then, in May 1969, it was reported that Weston Park, home of the Earl of Bradford, was the setting for a novel driving school in which students would be taught to pilot a hovercraft.

The hovercraft driving school was being run by Mr Mayer, who by this time was reported as being the former rally organiser for the Hover Club of Great Britain.

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"A two-seater hovercraft is being brought to start a project which might lead to Weston Park becoming one of the main centres for hovercraft in the West Midlands," the story said.

Mr Mayer was quoted as saying: "If there is level ground a hovercraft is easy enough to drive, provided you are not in a confined space. But it can be rather like driving a car on ice."

Mr Mayer makes his final appearance in our archives in March 1973 in a story which says an exhibition of British industry in Zurich the following month would include a model hovercraft made by him.

Giving his address as Maylea, Betton, the story said the tiny machine was powered by two electric motors, and was a scaled-down version of his latest racing hovercraft which he was building at his home.

"This will be powered by the alloy Hillman Imp engine to give it thrust, and a chainsaw engine to supply the lift. Mr Mayer made the model for the exhibition after the Department of Trade was unable to obtain a demonstration craft.

"A member of the council of the Hover Club of Great Britain, Mr Mayer has been making hovercraft for 10 years."

Turning to the 1969 story, written in French, in Le Petit Journal, it read in English translation: "Most seven-year-olds have fun riding their bicycles or scooters. But the young Guy Myer (the paper misspelt the surname) from Shropshire, Great Britain, has a very special toy.

"This summer, indeed, Guy will take flips in his own hovercraft powered by a 197cc engine. The craft was built by the boy's father, Peter Myer, who is the organiser of the Rally Club of Great Britain.

"Mr Myer, 34, had already built another hovercraft that could carry two men. He later decided to build a smaller one that would serve as a model. However, young Guy did not hear it that way. So while his father was drawing up the plans, he persuaded him to enlarge his model so he could ride in it.

"Mr Myer is very satisfied with his new model and his boy, needless to say, is very happy with his new unique toy.

"But the organiser of the Rally Club does not see why this toy should remain unique. He hopes to build others that would go on the market for about 300 dollars each – a Christmas gift ideal for the child who has almost everything!"

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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