Dragsters and Drag Bikes
from the Sixties and Seventies
Remember this publication?
Thanks to George Robinson,
who has (1) safely kept his copies of the famous BHRA newsletter for
fity years, and (2) kindly scanned some for this website. It has
taken me AGES to work out how to organize the scans and get them into
accessible pdf form [my lack of basic computer skills, not George's fault], but at last I will be adding the scanned pages to this site.
Here is my first attempt, which has the last page first, but the rest are fine! KOOL KAMS for May 1965, 28 pages.
Here are the six pages of that issue. Scanning of the large broadsheet format required them to be processed in top-and-bottom halves
How about this news in November 1965?
1965: The "Yanks" return
In 1964 Britain had properly woken up to drag racing. The
mechanical expertise and enthusiasm was already there, and the BHRA had
some wonderful home-built machinery, but the sport remained 'under the
radar' until the 1964 Drag Fest. It success encouraged a group of
organizers to do a repeat in 1965, which a mix of terrible weather and
inexperienced club management did not help.
is a pdf of a scan of an issue of DRAG RACING MAGAZINE from that year,
which was kindly sent by one of the brave USA drivers on that team, Merek Chertkow, a 19-year old drag racer who handled the MOONSHOT top fuel car.
--- and some photos from that magazine: Below: Chuck Griffith drove STARLITE III
- Bob Keith drove the Dos Palmos car, and bravely switched from gas to a cautious methanol-nitro m,ix to put on a show.
- Howard German gave Americans and Brits a surprise with the DragWaye, never before or since attempted as far as I know.
- Two photos of Merek's MOONSHOT car: One Two
My thanks to Merek Chertkow: "He came, he saw, he conquered", all while badly enough inured by a car crash that he had to be bodily helped into his dragster!
Mystery Drag Bike: help?
supercharged Triumph is now with its third owner, who wants to identify
its origin. The racing numbers are believed to be original, from
the late 60's / early 70's. The first owner-builder is believed
to have been from Lincolnshire -- nothing else is known. The bike has not been raced for many years. If you
have any good guesses or can point me to a likely source, please contact me.
Two bmp images: One; and
ANSWER! JANUARY 2016: thanks to Rob
who just sent me photos of this bike from the 1980s and 1990s when he
and his brother campaigned with it at NDRC and NSA meets at Long
Marston, Westonzoyland, and Smeatharpe, and at an air show at Dunsfold.
In an unfortunate incident the overbored Triumph motor had an
oversized liner slip down the bore, and it necessitated a major rebuild,
which Rob did using new Carillo rods. The bike was a 10.5 sec performer in the quarter. It was sold on to an enthusiast in Todmorden at the end of the 1990s.
March 2012 Update:
Blackbushe in the Sixties and Seventies
Help with cars and drivers, please?
My thanks to stock car and drag racing fan Mike Shonfield for these photos. If you recognize a car or have some info, please contact me.
First, six from the first Drag Fest:
five photos that "may" all be at Blackbushe [RAF Wroughton was also cited, but that was a treeless plateau] in the mid
seventies --- but again I'd be grateful for info or corrections.
- Tony Nancy's beautiful streamlined "22Jr" that was written off at the Chelveston meet.
- 22Jr again in close-up.
- Alan Allard's rail.
- The many-names / many-owners Chevy rail, known at one point as Dos Palmos; it still exists today. See more of it further down this page.
- JANUARY 2017 UPDATE: in the background of that photo is an extremely rare sports-racer, car 165 which is the Willment Climax
of JW Coles. Barely half a dozen were ever built. The
chassis, wheels and transmission were designed by John Wadsworth who
later became involved with the WRE-Maserati. The body was probably by
Williams and Pritchard. The engine was said to be 1666cc, an odd
size, which may be a modified FWB Climax. Car
164, almost out of shot, is Arthur Mallock (U2 Ford). Car 162 is the
1650cc Lotus 7 of DE Bridges. The car directly to the rear of
165 is the Lotus Bristol of CW Drake. [Tech. information kindly provided by a historic sports car enthusiast.]
- Who is this?
I can't quite make out the name. NICK COLBERT, thanks, Jon Sewell!
Colbert was not only manager of a Colorado drag strip, he was son
of the then-President of the Chrysler Corp!
- These two cars rang a bell for me, as I knew them 'way back then. Pete Bartlett's Chev versus John Bennett's Pontiac,
both BHRA drag pioneers and organizers. John's Pontiac (usually raced
by his wife Ann) was a 1958 model with a 389 motor and three
twin-chokes. Pete's is a 1959 Chevy Impala running a 348 inch engine.
to Chevy specialist Ray Buck of California for pinning down the model
years. Maurice Takoor informs me that a "replica" of Pete's big Chev is
being built right now.
- I believe this is Dennis Priddle's "Mr Revell" dragster, with Clive Skilton's dragster in the other lane.
- The "Hillbillies" funny car boils the hides.
- "Dad, can I have a go?" A young hopeful stands by this injected big block rail; February 2014 update:
thanks to Keith Lee for identifying that slingshot as Bruce Brown's AGE
MACHINE. First built by Alan Herridge with a 327 motor for Pete Bennett
who raced it in 1971, it then went to Roz Prior who raced it in 1973,
and by 1974 had a 454 big block motor. In this photo, however,
Bruce Brown's name is on the side, and I think that motor looks
like a BB "rat". Help, anywone?
January 2011 update: "Our Books"
you were there, like me, in 1964, and are trying to hold onto all those
memories ---- Brian Taylor has the answer. If you remember
characters like Brian Sparrow, Pete Bartlett, Vic Outen, John and Ann
Bennett, and Phelps father-and-son --- get hold of this book: Crazyhorses
with high quality and unusual photos, spanning fifty years
(yes) and with the kind of technical and personal facts that come
from "being there", this large format 220+page hardback is from Haynes
Publishing. No matter which years or decades your early drag race
memories come from, you'll find them here.
trust Brian and his publisher will excuse me giving you ONE
'taster' from Crazyhorses, to show the kind of unique photos it
contains. Here is the John Bennett snapshot, from 1963, of the first Dragster Developments slingshot. DD was a collective of hot rodders who installed a 1938 Buick straight-8 motor, for the late Allan "Bootsie" Herridge. Psst: Brian's book even reveals where "Bootsie" got that nickname ---.
More happy memories of the pioneer days, thanks to Nick Pettitt, who is
a devoted enthusiast of, especially, the 'minor' do-it-yourself pioneers
who characterized early British drag racing. His book is: British Drag Racing: The Early Years. Front cover, and back cover (showing publisher's details). I take the liberty of showing a sample from the book [excuse my poor scanner] --- those pioneers knew no fear.
April 2011: Thanks to Brian Stewart,
an engineer who cut his teeth with the Brise family, working with the
late F1 racer Tony Brise at his AUTOCAR concern in London (they had tuned
the 1960's #24 Alan England stock car).
Johnny Brise's two sons Tim and
Tony both raced, and Tony went on to F1 Grand Prix with the Graham Hill
team. Brian has been engineer on F1 Grand Prix and on Indy car
teams --- he knows what he's talking about. Today he runs AUTOCAR SPORTS AND CLASSICS in
Indianapolis, [ www.eurocardoc.com
] handling exotic and ex-racing cars. Check out that website --- this
man is a professional. Brian recalls the oval races
at Wimbledon, listening to Johnny Brise's reminiscences of early stock car
and his own youthful memories of sleeping four in a small Morris at
where some of the following photos were taken in 1968. If you
were on the
drag racing scene in the early days, please e-mail me if you recognize a particular car and driver.
Allard Dragon raising spray, driven by Chris Patterson; memory links that name to the lucky contest winner of an Allard Dragon in an early promotional scheme.
Allard Dragon, driver was Alan Ing Alan was a motor engineer from Leighton Buzzard.
Britain's most famous four-banger slingshot in the pits: Harold Bull's Stripduster
two photos that follow below have been identified by Rupert
Lloyd Thomas. The dragster
had a 1500cc "pre crossflow" motor and was built and raced by Les Turner
who had his own engineering company based at Hampton Court. Les was a "sports-jacket gent" who
drove a Rover push car.
'One of the best turned out cars of that era with green frame and alloy
car set international standing-start records at
Elvington in 1967 in Class F:
1/4 mile in 11.06 sec. // 500m
sec. // Kilo in 20.2 sec. // Mile in 29.62 sec.
The engine: Alex Postan
kindly sent me photos of the supercharger from this dragster,
temporarily mounted on a non-original 120E block. In the fourth photo
you can see Les Turner's company name embossed on the blower plate.
One. Two. Three. Four. and below:
January 2013 What happened to the dragster and its engine?
Jon Sewell purchased
the car in the late 1970's and was so impressed by Turner's superb
block work with its billet steel crank and rods, flywheel and sintered
clutch in a Lotus alloy bellhousing, and an Lotus alloy diff. --- that
Jon realized this could be a terrific National Hot Rod motor, and it
went into his #222 hot rod which he took the the Spedeworth wars racing against the likes of George Polley.
Turner rail had been one of two dragsters being stored for a friend as
a favour in Jon's "garage", until 1979 when Jon moved out. At this
point his friend took away the blower [above] and
cylinder head. The chassis, temporarily stored in Addlestone,
Surrey, was bought by some enthusiasts who had a car but no trailer ---
so they pushed it by hand all five miles Woking :-(
Jon says the dragster "was a work of art, even the bellhousing and diff were polished". As for the engine, he bored it out to 1600cc and fitted the necessary cross-flow head and flat top pistons. "It was so oversquare it would rev as high as you wanted but had no torque."
So here is Les Turner's motor with a new top end and in a very different race car, continuing its racing career until 1985:
So where did the chassis go?
was raced by Calvin Evans in the mid-90s, in the Wild Bunch group, with
a modified roll bar and coil shocks at the front; the car now is in Holland,
with a Pinto engine, or at least it was: Read
the illustrated story on the excellent drag archive UKDRN: http://www.ukdrn.co.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?f=5&t=22
who still owns the supercharger and manifold, also has a 'correct' 116E
motor waiting and would love to get all the components back together
in a recreation of the Turner slingshot. Alex is an inveterate restorer
and driver of 'old' motor sport vehicles, and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
My thanks to these enthusiasts for assembling the story of this famous little dragster.
By the way, the intrepid Les Turner climbed onto two wheels in 1969, campaigning a superbly-built 750cc Triumph drag bike called "Soopa Doopa".
Nobby Hills Houndog III
J.A. Pearce's 250 GTE model Ferrari [identified by enthusiast Christian from France], of which only 1,000 were built, among them just 55 right hand drive versions. A Ferrari website poster identifies it as 250GTE chassis # 2325,
a Maranello Concessionaires demo car, which was road tested by
Autosport magazine in issue 16 of 1961. Think of repair bill for
that smashed headlight ---.
J.A. Pearce also brought along this big Healey 3000 , which looks like a works rally car; but Christian P.
points out that this does not have the squared-off rear of the works cars ---
perhaps it is someone's V-8 conversion? The front wheels don't
fill the wheel-arch extensions, so its rally/circuit wheels may have been
removed for drag racing. J.A.Pearce
was an expert ex-Cooper welder who had his own engineering company,
produced "Magna" mag wheels, did lots of circuit racing, eventually
being involved with a Cooper-Ferrari Grand Prix project.APRIL: 2018 update: That Austin-Healey still exists in 2018:
JPP 652C was
built in May 1965 and delivered to dealer H A Saunders of Finchley, London,
with overdrive, laminated windscreen, wire wheels, adjustable steering column,
heater and tonneau cover. It was
converted for rally use in 1968, with the Works engine XSP2157-3, with racing
inlet manifold and three 45DCOE Weber carburettors, and a set of works
magnesium wheels. In 1991 it was
converted to a ‘gentler’ road specification and the aluminium cylinder head was
replaced by a ported and polished steel example. It was unused until sold in 2015 and now has a
roll-over bar and side exit exhaust. Total mileage of 26,658. Estimated auction value £ 48,000-to- £55,000
Two photos of the restored car:
And here is a contemporary photo of the Healey racing against Tony Densham's dragster at Santa Pod in Easter 1966, courtesy of Phil Brown, who also "discovered" the restored car.:
To the right of the Healey is another J.A. Pearce entered car- a very rare Ferrari --- model, anyone?
Quick response! Christian P. identifies it as a Ferrari 250 GTO
--- the rarest and most prized GT car on earth. Ferrari built only 39 of these cars, and you need to be a multi-millionaire
to have a hope of buying one at auction, and only if you are very
confident that the GTO is really truly an original ---- with
auction prices far over $10 to $20 million, one or two dubious "extra" GTO's have
surfaced from time to time --- buyer beware. It is almost
certainly chassis # 3729. This one is from 1962, and at the time of the
photograph may have been entered by Pearce on behalf of its later
owner Neil Corner: http://www.barchetta.cc/german/pirro/SN/3729GT/250.GTO.3729GT.010.htm
Ken Cooper's flathead V-8 Bazooka.
Sports-racer Is this a Lotus / Cooper / E-Type hybrid? Thanks to the expert posters on the Autosport.com Nostalgia Forum: The car is a 1959 Costin-bodied Lister, fitted with a 3.4 litre Jag motor.
Original owner Mike Anthony had a Chevy motor, then the Jag.
Probable owner in this photo was Mike Pendleton, who reg'd the
YCD number. It was raced successfully as a Historic car as
recently as 2004.
Ken Bunce's 2.4 litre Jaguar slingshot
Lotus Super Seven streamlined for action (or just sheltered from the rain?) of K.M. Obee.
a home-brewed sports car that featured a Jaguar motor and 4-wheel
drive; it was driven by Colin Kettley, who later built a superbly
engineered Mini pickup with a mid-mounted fuel-injected hemi
V-8, called HEMINI of course. Colin later developed the ungainly
Rat Catcher into a street machine, incorporating Allegro front
wings, and it was last seen (thanks, Jon Sewell) parked not far from
Pat Willis's famous garage in Virginia Water [for drag-only fans, the
name Pat Willis is legendary in stock car racing.]
Dear old "Kool Kams", the BHRA's newsletter.
February 2011: "Only in England". Photo print courtesy of Andy Temple. The
73 car is the side-supercharged WorDen, just lifting the front wheels.
The 66 car is a unique device with a 2-litre 6-cylinder Bristol engine,
run by Colin Glass. The Bristol long-stroke engine was based on a pre-war BMW
design, with alloy hemi head and a unique arrangement of eighteen
in all, of which six were short stems bridging the cylinder head to
operate the exhaust valves! Mass produced? Not likely --- Bristol
built just 2,500
of these engines in 15 years.
Site is almost certainly Blackbushe.
dragsters from the early sixties: two visiting Americans and one
brilliant British slingshot.
Above: yes, it's "Mooneyes", brought over by Dante Duce.
Above: Mickey Thompson's Ford-motored machine; see the puzzled expressions of the spectators.
didn't recognize that one, did you? Paul Manders from Liverpool, ex
stock-car racer and later serious funny-car racer, built this sophisticated
slingshot, with TWO superchargers, in about 1964. [Note: All three photos occur as links with notes later on this page.]
more attention-catcher: where but in
Britain would someone dream up
this fearsome device?
At the very first 1964 Drag Festival, Brian Read was
doing work for STP Oil Treatment, the major sponsor, which included
the pleasure of driving round Britain to various races and shows, in this Studebaker Avanti as
a promotional vehicle. STP was part of the Studebaker Corporation
at that time. Brian remembers push-starting the blown fuel dragsters
(think: 'zoomie' headers), and on several occasions the Avanti
was showered with a "rain" of raw fuel. The car was registered under 971
HLR. Studebaker built fewer than 5,000 Avantis betwen
1962 and 1964, and the circular headlight surrounds in this photo
show that it's a pre-August 1963 car. At the time it was a fairly
revolutionary design, having a fibreglass body. Brian recalls
doing a couple of hair-raising demo laps on the shale at Matchams Park,
again at a speedway track --- not exactly what the Avanti's designers
had in mind. The car was also raced at Silverstone, with extended
wheel arches and fatter wheels. Brian comments that although STP
sponsored that drag festival, Don Garlits walked away with the trophies
for his Wynns Friction Proofing sponsored Swamp Rat. The Avanti later 'emigrated' to South Africa for further STP promotions. December 2010: "Sprinting is not the same as drag racing." Confustion between the two cultures generated friction while drag racing was being born in the UK in 1964.
Rob Carter has kindly sent scans from Duxford NSA
programmes, and you will recognize some famous names from the Sprint
community on the second page shown.
February 2015 UPDATE: That Duxford cover shows Ernie Woods on his JAP 1,000cc V-twin, "Thor"; Ernie also ran his 500cc bike at the event. Thanks to Ernie's son Trevor Woods for the info. "Thor"
was custom built in 1953 specifically for sprints, but was nicknamed by
Ernie when he acquired it in the late 1950's. Ernie "retired" the bike
in the 1970's, but it has been restored by new owners and has run at
the Brighton Speed trials. Another Duxford photo of Ernie, showing Trevor on the far right.At
one of the first USA team events, a couple of British sprint experts
were very angry to be told that they had lost races in which they were
both faster and quicker than an American rival; like true sprinters they had waited an instant to make a perfect
Two perfect sprint bikes: George Brown's Super Nero (supercharged Vincent) and his son Tony Brown's unique Arial Arrow 350 twin 2-stroke sprinter. Photo retrieved from http://motorbike-search-engine.co.uk/classic_bikes/1963-super-nero.php
August 2010: Rick
Young was not only a stock car racer in F2s and F1s --- as a youngster
he also helped out with an early British Altered coupe, THE LIQUIDATOR:
a chopped-roof Popular. After running "only" a Jaguar engine in
it, the team of Chick Barrett and Mike Cornelius stuffed a big Ford V-8
in, and added four fat SU carbs on top. Here it is outside someone's garden.
Mark Crisp sends these two classic 70's photos of two great cars "boiling the hides". First the Stones Tee-Rat
at Santa Pod. Second, a rare photo of a rare visit: on the
Silverstone circuit's Club Straight, Dennis Priddle threatens to blow
the roof off the Woodcote grandstand as he stomps on the loud pedal in "Mr Revell".
February 2010: LONG MARSTON --- Mark Crisp watched the racing when in 1980 the 'National Drag racing Club'
[the names and groups changed constantly in the early days]
put on a big drag race at Long Marston, and Mark's programme
gives us the names and the vehicles: Lavishly illustrated Cover;
it costs 25 pounds to land your plane at Long Marston Airfield, and
you are asked NOT to fly over the nearby prison at Long Lartin
The drag strip uses the SW
end of the main runway, under the name Shakespeare County Raceway
(previously 'Avon Park Raceway'.) Don't confuse this with Long Marston in Yorkshire, which also has an airstrip.
worry about the planes at LM or at any airstrip. There was a famous incident in 1983 in
Canada when a Boeing 767 ran out of fuel at 40,000 feet over Manitoba
and the pilots spotted a tiny disused airfield, and glided in to land
safely --- in the middle of a drag race meet, whose competitors
kindly scooted out of the way when they saw the big bird wiggling its
More Mementos from Mark--- does anyone have a collection of Santa Pod pit passes like these?
Thanks to Barry Redman for this bit of nostalgia, a 1964 Blackbushe programme cover ---
which brought back for Barry the teenage memory of a 40-mile round trip
by bicycle from Slough, with fellow
stock-car-racer-to-be Pete Webb.
Thanks to Mark Crisp
for unearthing these two drag-race posters from 1970 and 1971.
Who knows where "Martlesham Heath" is? Of
course you knew it was the decommissioned RAF fighter base near Woodbridge in Suffolk, and the NDRC ran a
meet there on 3rd May 1970. The airstrip is now buried under a "new old village" development.
In 1971, the NDRC ran this Blackbushe meet on 8th August. Mark also has this Santa Pod programme cover from 15th June 1969, showing the Marshall-Dickson "Good Vibrations" Pop. Whose is this?
I came across it on the NHRA website, and its is clearly a British
scene, with the old WW2 control tower in ruins, ancient runway surface,
and the very English-looking students, along with 'someone's-dad'. I am
guessing 1964-ish, and it is similar to a flathead V-8 rail around that
time called "The Clanger Special", which even ran some hill climbs. Anyone recognize it?
Sixty-plus coupes / altereds
Perkins Diesels (Peterborough) Open House had the
Wright brothers of Lincolnshire bring their two hot-rods; this one is a
bright yellow Rolls-Jag-Austin abbreviated pickup. It also
raced at Duxford and Santa Pod. John Wright's car was based on a Jaguar MkVII. "I chopped the
chassis off both ends and fitted transverse Ford springs and reversed wheels,"
he says. "We put an A40 pick-up truck cab at the back end. It was
road-registered as a Rolls-Jaguar because we had a pre-war Rolls-Royce radiator
cut down on the front --- Rolls didn't bother about it." .
treat here from Paul Hicks: the Ford Model Y was Britain's
classic hot-roddable car, and among the enthusiasts who chopped and
customized Ys were members of Manchester's Dragons Hot Rod Club. First, the Model Ys of Clive Lingard and Mike Butler. Then, in 1964 the BHRA put on "The Big Go" at Duxford, and here is Clive's Y taking on a mini.
See those neat exhausts? It was the ordinary Ford
side-valve, with twin carbs, and Clive put in some respectable 21-sec
runs --- and before anyone grins, I recorded a near-new Anglia
that same year, doing 21 seconds with its 105E ohv motor and streamlined body. Close-up of the engine compartment.Before-and-After: --- scroll down to see what Britain's early hot-rodders could do.
rad grille is now from a Morris, the motor is a whopping 425 cu.in.
Oldsmobile, driving a Jaguar gearbox and Jaguar rear axle, and Avon
Turbospeed tires --- but that canvas top stayed on. Paul ran this rod at the 1965 Drag Festival. Paul and Clive were founder members of the Dragons club and competed in both the '64 and '65 festivals.
had this snapshot (approx 1965/66) for years, an early Santa Pod
pic, and never identified the car or engine or driver. Looks like it could have a Jag
6-cyl under the hood. Simon
identified the body as a Microplas MISTRAL, possibly on a Buckler sports car
chassis. Simon believes this car may later have used the 'little' Daimler
2.5 litre V-8.
David Montgomery has donated many photos to this site, and here it's the Allard Dragon
1965 I watched a team of Allard mechanics furiously installing a
supercharger from a Dragon onto a Corsair -- a rush job that allowed no
time to re-jet from methanol to petrol.
to hot-rodder Brian Lucas for these snapshots from 30 years ago:
the name. Colin Mullan's car circa 1974, Firenza body hiding
a 283 small-block.
May 2010: Mark Crisp sends this photo of the same car. [Mark was watching at the 'Pod when the Hillbillies Vauxhall flipped over the guard rail at high speed --- those were the days!]
Priddle and Ed Shaver both drove "The
Sizzler", but the engineering was Mark Stratton's;
it had a 427 cu.in Chev motor.
competition altered (and it was rather 'altered'
in this pic) was called ITSAVIVA.
In 1973, this 288 cu.in Chev powered car had just rolled
5 times after its chute caught a cross-wind. This
is the same Vauxhall Viva. Alan Wigmore rolled it at 120 mph, sheared off a wheel,
shifted the motor in its mounts, and after climbing out rather
bruised, Alan decided to confined his energies to NDRC organizing. The Viva
was painted by AW's father who ran Pop's Paints in Stanmore,
pic shows Invader
and Wild Thing together in 1972. Collin Mullan raced
Invader and Bob Venison/Brian Gibson ran the Wild Thing.
circa 1974, here's a beautiful coupe called Kerbdozer,
at Santa Pod. Charlie
Middleton tells me the driver's name was Mike Kason. Thanks
to racer Mike Kason for filling in the facts: Kerbdozer had
a 427 Ford "side oiler" motor, with which Mike clocked
148mph in 10.71secs. (Later he went big time in a nostalgia
fueler at 235mph / 6.4 seconds.) Mike's "red
face" moment was in Easter 1976
when a lost pin left Kerbdozer's gearbox in reverse, unknown to
him. He floored
it and hurtled backwards into his push car in front of 35,000 fans. To
add to this, when a frustrated Mike understandably tossed his helmet
onto the track, the scrutineer promptly barred him from another run until
he'd gone away and bought a new helmet —.
A similar situation: I saw a visiting Swedish gas coupe racing at RAF
Wroughton (Wiltshire); its abortive first burnout skidded their car
into the christmas tree, dismantling it, and the team were instantly
disqualified from the meet ---- a very long way to travel just be be kicked
out, and both the Swedes and their English fans were not happy campers that day.
next section includes over 30 (thirty!) new old photos, courtesy of
Bill Taylor, showing great British cars and bikes of the 1969-1972
era at Santa Pod. My
thanks to Bill, now like me an "ex-Brit" in Canada,
for these photos, which Bill converted from slides: from
32 + years ago, these machines remind us how British racers were
learning the ropes of drag racing. Note: it
will take me some time to edit and organize and annotate the
photos, so if they are in no special order, or lack information,
be patient. ALSO,
if you have additional facts or stories connected to these
machines, please e-mail
best of British engineering: The
T bucket runs a tiny 2.5 litre Daimler V-8, hemi heads, just behind
the famous Minivan 'Stripteaser'; this
shot shows clearly Stripteaser's driver sitting against the back
door, and the six exhausts in a shrouded stack going up through the
JANUARY 2015 UPDATE: Info from Guy Lowe, a Santa Pod regular who helped out on the Worden team: That beautiful "T" roadster shown above was built by the late Micky Bray;
it is a Jago kit, and later Mick fitted it with a big Hemi Chrysler from a Jensen.
Mickey Bray also built this famous "Pinball Wizard" Ford Pop: http://www.theminiforum.co.uk/forums/topic/251451-mickey-bray-mini-se7en-pinball-wizard-pop/
Jones built this 2.5 litre Daimler hemi rod, Opus
One, racing it in 1967, then installing
a small-block Chevy the
next year. Opus One went on to the Stones team. Cliff
was busy: he partnered Mike Treutlein with
the Crescent Coupe, and raced karts at Rye
House with Johnny and Tim Brise, and was a
friend of the late Alan Wigmore. Thanks
to Cliff for the info and photos. Opus
in the pits with
underage driver? Opus
versus Wild Thing; Opus's beautiful Daimler motor; and Opus
on a run / or fire-up lane. Here
GTO of Cliff takes on a Jag under blue English
Hemi altered: a serious motor in front of the brave
driver of the 'Sneaky' altered, run by the 'Blue Flash' team. Rear
end shot. Phil Elson ran the car, changed the body to a yellow
T-bucket, passed the blue body on to the Aardvark team of US airman
Freeman Rogers who promptly re-painted it in green/brown camouflage.
Mist' was a Jag powered altered — body looks like one of a legion of fibreglass
'sports car' bodies turned out in the fifties and sixties,
most of which went to cover up wheezing 1172cc side-valves
— but this one had to work for its living. Midas Mist
gets a fast
push. This car was run successfully by Rob and Pete Skinner,
the fibreglass body being a "Falcon", picked up for a fiver
from someone's garden! Its 3.8 Jag engine was a never-quitter
for several years.
JULY 2012: I just saw on a forum that Midas Mist was first called "Midas Touch", starting life as a 1957 Buckler Watling Special, with BMC A Series power unit, which in Formula Junior tune
made its debut at a 1965 Dragfest. [Forum on DragsterWorld.com, 2005]
altered, this one with a Shorrock blower and SU carb. Here
is the older version,
called Travel Agent, later rechristened "Travel Tee":
but not the oldest. Here's a faded b/w photo from my own
files from 1965 or '66, showing the car in its earliest form:
The body is from a Bond mini car, an aluminium-panelled 3-wheeler, originally
powered by with a 197cc air-cooled Villiers two-stroke bike engine. Simple
and sturdy, but probably a devil to drive, with the Jag motor (and
those lumps weigh about 650 lbs without gearbox) mounted way up
because weight transfer was the gospel back then.
"Travel Agent" was run by a Surrey team, of driver Alan Sherwin,
John Crosby, and Ray Webster. Sometimes
wearing a Jago "T" body, this long-lived car was
still being raced by Sherwin in 1980, with a Rover V-8. In
1973, a G.Francis was running the car, with the Jag Six lowered
to a more sane angle.
Jaguar power again, in the famous 'Stagecoach' altered,
an Austin 7 body.
insanely dangerous-looking, with minimal bodywork and maximum motor.
Built by Mark Stratton with a Bond Bug plastic body. Here it
lines up beside the Hillbillies Topolino. Hey, look at the push car behind Metronome ----- a Rolls Royce limousine.
ever popular Popular: 'Motor
was the trade name for a little British hot-rod kit, mostly
fitted with 4-banger Cortina engines. This one got
stuffed with a fuel-injected big-block Rat Chevy. In
contrast, here's the teeny lightweight Pony
Express, 4-banger Weber'd, with faired-in rear wheels.
Kevin Pilling's 'Pure
Seven' looks to me like an Opus kit. 2006
update: Phil Brown identifies an Austin Seven Avon Special style. The
motor is a monster 440 inch Dodge wedge, Carter carb, pump gas,
twisting a 2-speed Caddy box and an Olds rear end. Rear mags from
a Lola racer, and a Bootsie Herridge front end! Harrison (a
genius mechanic) and Herridge both helped a lot. Kevin
Pilling Gets the Facts Straight: 2006: The
motor is a 413-inch Ramcharger Wedge enlarged to 440, which had
replaced a weak Olds lump. The original Pure Seven car
cost all of 25 pounds to get to the line at Santa Pod. Kevin
had to struggle against its squirrelly behaviour, until one day an engine mount broke and
the car ran straight. When the mount was fixed, it went "pear-shaped"
again, so goodbye to the right front mount and hello success! Kevin
says that looking back on the team's best ever 168mph and 9.6 secs
gives him a shiver today: the madness of youth! The car was
an Austin Seven rebodied by Swallow. A B&M Clutchflite
replaced a destroyed Cadillac transmission. The
440 motor eventually went into a circuit racer, but not before
the Rose Brothers had hammered it mercilessly at the 'Pod in
their heavyweight Dodge Challenger
"Stock". Kevin's engine-building skills were vindicated
because the 440 never broke or failed under the punishment.
to sharp-eyed Bryan Whitfield (himself an accomplished hot-rodder
with some monster cars to his credit) for adding facts to my previous
brief and inaccurate description here. This photo is of Freddie
Whittle's second SHUTDOWN. Until now I had carelessly described this as a "plastic" American
Bantam: Not so. Fred Whittle was a genius with metal, and he formed
this body from aluminum sheet, including all the compound curves,
by hand and using an "English wheel". Bryan reports
that Freddie had never seen a Bantam in the flesh,
and using as reference ONLY a photograph in Hot Rod magazine and
a 16" slick and a 392
valve-cover that he happened to have, for scale, did all the
drafting to reproduce this perfect Bantam. Freddie was
that very English phenomenon, the reclusive master-craftsman working
on his own in a crowded yard with a hundred projects on the go in
half a dozen workshops — a fair definition of "heaven" for many of us!
Freddie Whittle's Shutdown Mk I, Chevy-powered
Altered. 1932 Ford-based
body, 265-inch motor, later upped to a 283. In
the background, a basic Jag altered with non-fancy engineering
— so many people had so much fun with those cars — you
could get something on the strip for under a hundred pounds. The
wreckers' yards were full of Jag motors.
Another photo of Freddie's Altered, with different intake setup:
the little square Austin
Look at this severely chopped version.
Honey' injected (Chevy?). Phil
been enormously helpful and patient in supplying many facts for
this drag-racing section, and I'm very late in adding this info
— that this is a Swedish car piloted by Lars Torngren, which
won Senior Competition Altered in 1971.
Here in the mid-1970's, a Fiat Topolino called Crusader. Lee
Johnstone built and raced it. It has a supercharged Jaguar straight-6
motor mounted in a home-built tube chassis. The blower was a
Commer / Wade unit, [example shown] and the Jag gearbox fed an Austin Westminster rear axle. Later the car was raced under the name "Apple County Cannon". Another photo.
Next, my favourite kind of race: Kart vs Car. This kart was called “Strip
Kartoon”, had a 500 Triumph twin engine, driven by a Mr Bottoms – first
name -?) Thanks to John Hennessy for
correcting the earlier kart identity. John
himself raced a “Chicken a la kart” kart, and other wild men
in this league were Brian Parkins (Keel kart), Ken Penfold on “Patience”,
and Pete Mobs also on a 500 Triumph kart.
a red plastic copy of ---? "Mister Shift". Thanks to Charlie Middleton for identifying it as Vauxhall Victor
copy, probably the ex-Hillbillies car once driven by Roland Pratt.
Another mystery car: a patriotic “T” rod
in the fire up lane at the Pod in circa 1973. Nick
Cleveland does it again: Mick Saunders called his car ANIMAL, ran
a 283 Chevy, and did 117 @ 10.9 secs in 1975.Peter Hyde's snapshot caught not only the world's fastest 1933
Willys "gasser", but gazing at the car on the right,
is STIRLING MOSS — whose driving skills were
tested when he did one or two 11-second runs in
one of the two wild Willys gas coupes during the festival. Dodge
Boys: Dave Strickler and Bill "Grumpy" Jenkins
bruised our eardrums with this "A/FX"
machine. The thing was BIG and it went like the blazes.
And from Mal Hawkins the super-stock Lawman sedan.
Goodnight, a US team member in 1964, identified K.S.Pittman's '33 Willys A/Gas Coupe versus Dave Strickler's AFX.
Here's the ever-popular Popular WILD THING again.
big saloon, a chopped Zodiac called
ROCKY II. Your average villain's motor in them days innit, gov. This one was Al O'Connor's car, which
had earlier been a street-strip ride. In
later versions it grew huge wheels and a regular Zodiac grille. Al
was famous for his "AL'S GASSER" Pop, built
by Mick Gleadow as
small delivery van: Alleycat is
the name, and back then narrowing a back axle
was not a
do-it-yourself job or a standard garage deal. Thanks to Rupert Lloyd Thomas
for adding that "Alleycat" was the feline pet of four guys from Morden/Epsom,
their driver being Chris Wilson. The tires were rock-hard
circuit-racing covers, and the driveline suffered from a rather extreme angle
to the rear diff. This lovely van was written off in a towing
4": although featherweight Lotus Sevens had their natural habitat
on road circuits, this
one got supercharged and front-end-hiked, in the Altered class. Rick
Fielding built this racer (all versions of
this car were called "Imagination"), and its motor went into Rick's Topolino altered
name, and panic was probably a driver reaction with this baby,
a BSA Scout chopped and channeled, with a neat little wooden
pickup bed, and a parachute. Originally
built by Mark Stratton as an early 'Hustler', Panic was run by the
Pages: Gary, Clive, and David. BSA
Scouts in the 1930's had 1200cc 4-cylinder side-valve
BSA company advertised them as
"low slung sports tourer for sporting people" — and
British drag racing kept that motto alive.
Parisian boulevard cruiser: Owners Club members
may not all approve of seeing this beautiful Facel
Vega HK 500 coupe being
hotted-up and cut-up and painted-up for drag-racing. Today you'd
better write a cheque for £75-80,000 if you want a tidy one, as only 500 or so were ever built. French
and aristocratic, and so elegant, they were one of the
first European cars to use big Chrysler V-8 motors. They were a "celebrity car" --- Ringo Starr had one! According to enthusiast Richard Stevens, this car was first registered
10th March 1961, originally with pale silver-grey paint. It was later rebodied (crash, 1960's)
and painted BRG. An insurance write-off in
1970 probably sent it to a scrapyard, but this
car and a twin were
salvaged and raced by John Reynolds, until being
broken up in the late 1970's. Some cannibalized parts of this car may now
reside in an owner's club FV.
car does still exist, chassis HK1 CE5; it was built
as an automatic but with no power steering. In
the ethics of car connoisseurship, the reg plate
visible in the photo SHOULD be 704 CLH, the
number that 'belonged with' the engine sitting
under the hood of this car.
Facel was probably the one raced by Martin Kent, who won
the 1966 'production saloon' crown at Santa Pod. Facel
owner and historian-enthusiast Richard Stevens has
kindly sent me copious pages of information tracing
the extraordinary lineage of this and another Facel
Vega, which both had multiple owners, crashes, insurance
write-offs, and much 'cannibalizing' and swapping of
powertrains — a detective story for you
if you're a Facel fan. Thanks also to Joel Goens and Martin Buckley for Facel Vega information.
Facel, or at least a 'hybrid version' of it, is now owned
in Belgium, and its new owner inherited a photo album of its
exploits at Santa Pod. The
album that accompanied the car to Belgium included these images:
Google caution: "Facel Vega" is also the name of a jazz/lounge/pop duo in the UK, so don't get distracted when you search. If you want to meet the car people, there's a thriving Facel Vega club.
The Drag Fest series brought big-motored door slammers such as the Dodge Boys A/FX, the K.S.Pittman Gas coupe, and the Ronnie Sox Ford A/FX.
Next, three photos of the similar-but-different Crescent Coupe that Cliff Jones ran with
Mike Treutlein and team. In the States it had run under the name "Chicken Coupe" The
motor; then in
the fire-up lane; then on a
run?; and three
proud racers. I
had earlier confused the Crescent Coupe with Competition Coupe, but you can see the different
body/window treatments; thanks to Cliff Jones for pointing this out (Cliff stays up to date with the racing scene, including taking in the 2010 Pomona Winternationals with Pete Crane.)
"Why does a chicken coop have two doors? Because if
it had four doors it would be a chicken sedan ----".
adds: the Ford Pop that became Wild Thing was a 1955
model purchased for just £5. Bob and Brian, under the team
FINK DRAG RACING installed a 3.4 litre Jag 6, and eventually ran
14.25secs at 98.7mph. Brian Gibson later stuffed the 327 cu.in. Chevy
in, producing 11.9 sec et's and 119mph
Brian Taylor sent the photo below of the lovely Jaguar D-Type look-alike "Poison Ivy". In July 2009, Gerry Robb suggested that this is an Elva body.
Elva had a splendid history, with many different renditions of
the sports car body and chassis; Elva fans out there? Thanks to several Elva experts, I can try to explain the car. An Elva
Mk 1 alloy body was used to make a mould, which was then used by Ashley
Laminates for their Ashley sports car. An Ashley engineer then
moved to Falcon with a mould, where that body style was repeated.
We'll probably never know for sure whether the car shown below
was once called a Falcon or an Ashley, but one expert viewer opts for a Falcon Mk 2 [illustrated].
If the words 'ingenuity', 'do-it-yourself' and 'home-built'
had to be illustrated to a stranger, you couldn't do better than let
them watch car builders of the 60's and 70's at work. Thanks to
Dave Berry and Harry Worrall for the following facts and photos of the
famous WORDEN DRAGSTER. Together with the late Tony Densham, their ace engine man, the trio met in (whose?) garage and started the process by, to quote chassis man Harry himself, "laying two tubes on the garage floor."
Bury sends this bundle of 1960's Santa Pod snapshots.
Two photos of the wheelstanding special Corvette
Stingray: First, check out that periscope that
fed air to the V-8 that sat behind
and beside the driver.
The car was built and run by Fibreglass Repairs, and driven by FGR
owner Roy Phelps. Built in the winter of 1967, first with a 324cu.in.
Olds motor. After the big-block Chevy shown in these photos, it had a
Rover V-8 installed, ---- and still did the job required. Nowadays it's
owned by Ronnie Picardo. Look closely at the interior: that's a plastic
steering "wheel" from a Reliant, and Roy used to "clip" it
straight-ahead while the car was half-airborne, so that he'd be sure of
a straight-ahead landing.
Next, once called 'Hustler',
the John Woolfe WHISTLER ,
and if you look at this detail you will see
Mark Stratton driving from the back seat.
Altered roadsters, and in the background the famous GOOD VIBRATIONS
altered, an old E93A Pop bought for four quid and campaigned for
many years by John Dickson and Roger Marchall, among many others.
The beautiful "Malibu
Express" dragster; The
car was originally built in 1969 by Kevin Burrows, Bob Spence, Jeff
Morris and Geoff Fardell and named after the source of its Chevy
powerplant. It took the guys 14 months to build and stunned the crowds
with itse metalflake paintwork and enclosed streamlined cockpit.
Its very first run was an impressive E.T. of 11.3 sec @ 130 mph.
It changed hands and colours many times, and I believe is still
appearing today.Finally a much-raced
motor shown elsewhere in this website, Travel
Agent; in this close-up, look at the unusual
supercharger drive, and the "roll cage" protection.
Ninety-plus dragsters / slingshots
Tony D. was to be the only driver, so here he is doing a fitting for
the seat and controls, and looking like he's already hit 100mph ---.
Next, Tony watches Harry tinker, as you look at the Ford 1600 block, headless, in the frame. Here, right above the diff, is the steering box,
a Ford unit tipped on its side, with an extra-long drop link to give
maximum steer for minimum input. More build and race photos
in no special order: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13.
Here are the three adventurers: David Berry. Tony Densham. Harry Worrall.
had earlier built a famous 750 special (the 750 Motor Club was for the
geniuses who managed to make blinding fast racing cars using old Austin
7 components ---),
in the late 1950's alongside Tony Densham. David Berry
worked on the building of both that special and the WorDen slingshot.
Later Harry Worrall worked on Tony Densham's famous
COMMUTER fueler. Tony passed away in early 2008, in the Channel
Take this test: look at this photo of bystanders reacting to a dragster blasting off ---- a US top fueler, perhaps?
See whose car produced that effect: "Little Big Man". Go to http://www.stripduster.co.uk for the full and marvellous story of Harold Bull.
have had this b/w snapshot in my files for more than 44 years,
originally sent to me by Dave Maltby, young fellow-member of
the BHRA, of Mickey Thompson's
first visit to Blackbushe. Some related photos appear
further down the page, but this nicely shows the car and the admiring
Dyer kindly sent scans of a 1960's Santa Pod program: the
resolution is good, so enlarge them and read the familiar names! One; two; three; four; five; six. Some of us are ancient enough to recall the exceitement of supercharged
"slingshot" dragsters, built in Britain, hitting 160 and
170 mph, with 8 second elapsed times — wow — People like
Martin Kent racing a Gordon Keeble (later to drag a similarly aristocratic
Facel Vega) — John Wright's bright yellow "Kool Kams" Bedford-Jaguar
with a Rolls Royce grille. Malcolm's superb colour slides are viewable on this website:
the bike engines are a joy to behold — what enginering
they did back then.
News film of the Brighton
Speed Trials: wild action along the narrow and not-so-smooth
promenade by US and British dragsters! www.Britishpathe.com
contains hundreds of old newsreel clips, both free (low-res) and
for sale. Also, the first Drag
Festival, which I think was filmed at Chelveston but please
Ken Cooper's flathead slingshot "Bazooka". Barry
Jackson, now in Australia, sent me the photo. Ken Cooper, "the flathead king" from Sutton Coldfield
and long time BHRA devotee, built Bazooka. [Barry
J. races a screaming turbo rotary engined Chevette with a soft-pedal
time of 10.97 and 132 mph. ] This photo was incorrectly labelled as part of the "Geronimo" team --- it is in fact Ken Cooper's famous flathead
Ford dragster, "Bazooka II" and that's Ken climbing into the cockpit, and
that's Ken's push car, probably the Zephyr that Ken got from Tony
Beadle. My thanks to BHRA Pioneer Tony Whitehouse, a long-time
hot rodder and car club member, for putting me right.
him, Ken Cooper is still top man in the 'World of Flatheads', and
right now is building ANOTHER Ford V-8 side-valve dragster, with his
son [info, and Ken's motor, courtesy of ex-stock car racer and Ford Pilot wizard Mick Gamble.]
to David Montgomery, one-time BDRA member, for the following mid-sixties
Santa Pod snapshots.
Possibly the original "Worden" dragster of
Tony Densham, whose 'Ambica' company name appears on the van.
Mystery car: whose is it? Thanks to Paul Hicks
for spotting the "Purple Heart" dragster built and driven by his old
buddy the late Clive Lingard. The V-8 is a 317 cu.in. Lincoln,
driving through a Pilot gearbox, to a Cadillac rear axle. Among
the coupes and doorslammers
higher up this page you will see three photos that Paul also sent me,
of the truly pioneering Dragons Hot Rod Club, formed in Manchester in the early sixties.
Another Allard Dragon four-cylinder job. See the curvy sports car beside it? That's an early Marcos
Ken Bunce's "Barons
a 2.4 Jag motor, and not much rollover protection.
Whose is this Stripduster
A later version of Alan 'Bootsie' Herridge's
Caddy-motored rail, V8 rail, and
just visible in the background is another Dragster Developments
car, John 'Hardluck' Harrison's Healey-4 rail.
Featherweight racer: a 998cc Vincent V-twin in the back, with which veteran sprinter Rex Heatley ran an 11.96 second e.t.
Rex co-wrote a series of magazine articles on racing fuel, with Pete Billinton, in 1969.
sent some historic 1964 Drag Fest (Blackbushe) snapshots:
August 2011: "The Crab" was hand-built in 1971 by an enterprising chap from Rugby called Ray Archer,
who had earlier built a front-engined dragster called "Blunderbuss"
whose 3.4 litre Jag motor went into The Crab. Ray's also into radio
YouTube link for some old cine film
taken from the cockpit of Ray's Blunderbus slingshot: http://www.eflightray.webspace.virginmedia.com/dragsters.html
Four photos of the finished car: One; Two
Three; Four. The ever-practical Ray says that the name "The Crab" saved money
buying stick-on lettering! All done on a shoestring, with basic
tools in a tiny lockup, this is a perfect example of what mechanics
could do, and get their fun, in the happy days before money came into
the sport. A BDHRA race programme from June 1971 lists Ray's entry.
Before 'The Crab', Ray had built a conventional slingshot chassis for Blunderbuss (at Santa Pod) and in a magazine: Ray's Blunderbuss.
In case you were wondering, the word "blunderbuss" came from the Dutch word "donderbus" meaning thunder-gun --- a short large-bore gun with a flared barrel.
SEPTEMBER 2012: Does anyone know where The Crab ended up? John Evans
acquired the car from Ray Archer, and drag raced it but always with the
intention of installing a Ford V-6. However, The Crab went on to
another owner, along with no fewer than FOUR Jaguar engines, and the
V-6 went into a T rod. John meanwhile acquired and ran a V-8
Buick engined slingshot. John has a wealth of memories about
motor parts and scrapyards, including the Maidment brothers of
Southampton, who raced in Spedeworth.
Densham's COMMUTER, the
fueler that used the Ford engine from the Mickey Thompson fueler // Harvey Aluminum dragster. NOTE: despite various legends, the Commuter was not the re-bodied Harvey Aluminum car; its frame was entirely new.
July 2011: The Commuter lives on. Thanks to Antony Billinton of G-Max in Northants for these two great photos of Commuter. The dragster lives on
in absolutely stunning condition, still belonging to the Billinton
Family. [High-res photo courtesy of Roger Phillips]. Peter Billinton on the far left, partnered with the late
Tony Densham 40+ years ago in running this dragster. They also established the G-Max company supplying chemicals from A-Z, (with, naturally, nitromethane under 'N'). Check their website: www.gmaxresearch.com.
Back In 1968 a young Antony was pleased to grab Commuter's controls, brrmm brrmm. [photo by Mike Collins]
is The Commuter cooling down
after a run in the hands of Tony Densham;
this used the 427-inch Ford motor from the Mickey Thompson / Harvey Aluminum car. Look
behind it and you can see the wheelstander Corvette of Roy Phelps
/ FibreGlasss Repairs. Then, a glimpse of Commuter through
the fence rails.
things the hard way: John "Hard-Luck" Harrison was
a determined man. Not satisfied with his first Dragster
Developments carbureted Healey rail, which earned him the nickname,
he went overboard with this beauty: TWO
Healey 4-bangers, and BOTH motors were supercharged
. Apparently Harrison had based Twin Jinx on the famous
double Freight Train, specially designed for two motors. Oh-oh,
look what happened: a big fat 429-inch V-8
was dropped in it in 1999, producing 10-second runs, and the
owner, Dave Armstrong, tells me that's being tossed
out for two 318-inch MoPar V8's —. Dave's
dragster has now passed to buddy Alan, with plans for a big-block Chevy.
more slingshots: in the background Keith [or Ray] Elliott's Red
Witch, a classic Jag rail, and the little rail is the original
WorDen 4-banger dragster. Glen
Tyzack worked on the WorDen — built by Tony Densham —
a 1500cc from a Ford Classic, on methanol, with a home-built
injector Glen made out of an Austin oil (gear) pump! Stock
gearbox running 3rd and 4th. Its back wheels were from a 'D'
Type Jaguar of all things. See the
Jowett Jupiter push-car? (the rad grille proves it's the
open Jupiter sports, not the Javelin saloon). Nearly half a century before the Subaru, Jowetts were running a hot twin-carb horizontally-opposed 4. Rare
and desirable, and yet amazingly the prices are as low as 10-15,000
They only ever built 900 of them, and folks like John Surtees
and Peter Ustinov owned Jupiters.
Thanks to Peter
Hyde for the following vintage 1964 photos he snapped at the Blackbushe
round of the first "International Drag Festival", and
at Santa Pod, Duxford, Debden, and Blackpool:
classic sixties' dragster format: Tommy Ivo, who managed
to coordinate a television career with a drag-racing career, brought
over this candy-apple red fueler. It
obviously bewildered the young gent in the cap trying to look like
Rolling Stone Keith Richards.
Peter snapped Tony Nancy's revolutionary (but not completely successful)
rear-engined "22" dragster. I
had forgotten, but Peter reminds me that this car too crashed and
disintegrated. Nancy lost his other front-engined rail at
the Chelveston round when Danta Duce borrowed it for a run --- and ran it into the 1/4 mile marker
barrels -- I was there and I can still remember the BOOM as it smashed into the sand-filled oil drum.
a snapshot of what in 1964 and 1965 constituted a sort of 'standard
British dragster', given our engine supply in that era: a
Shorrock-blown Jaguar. Can anyone identify the car and its
Herridge was a
hero and is missed by those who recall the rough 'n' ready early days
at Podington, Gravely, Duxford, Blackbushe, etc. Here's his second
rail, "PULSATION" , a Caddy. The BHRA had a car show in the grounds of Woburn Abbey, which I think was the first appearance of "Pulsation", and my fuzzy camera work does not quite do justice. As
usual with any snapshot from the mid sixties, we see the traditonal mum
+ dad + kid in their Sunday best casual --- what innocent times. Alan had earlier run an amazing
rail with a 1930's straight-8 Buick motor, blown on alcohol; I think
it just squeezed under 12 seconds before smashing its pushrods.
here is the fancier and more famous 1970's rig Firefly
Middlesex, was a Mecca for racers. The "Dragster Developments" team
was behind Herridge, and their other star was John "Hard Luck" Harrison, who campaigned neat and tidy machines
like this 4-banger Healey slingshot [Blackbushe 1965-66]:
Tech details (thanks to Nick Pettit 2018)
These shots were taken
early in 1965. Over the winter the DD Team had rebuilt the chassis and fitted
an Austin Healey 100S aluminium eight port head complete with 14:1 high comp
pistons and high lift cam. Fitting the head hadn't been easy as the studs
didn't match the holes on the block which had to be filled and new holes
drilled and tapped. John's first full pass with the new setup equalled his best.
Next time out the head gasket blew, which was
replaced, only to blow again but this time two valves broke and knocked holes
in the pistons and head. The engine was a complete write-off. They then fitted
a Healey 100M motor and a blower, and spent the rest of the year burning out
clutches. In '66 John renamed the car 'Jynx'.
come five more home-builts; part of that
magic era when someone walking through the pits could imagine building
a racer in the back garden.Nobby Hill's "Hound-dog" Jag-powered slingshot; to be fair, Hounddog was high up in sophistication
and fabrication for those days.
four more basic
"oldies" : two with simple carburetted V-8s, then an even simpler
Jaguar bolted into a basic slingshot frame plus plenty of bright paint; and
a pocket-size "rocket".
then Oldie #2,
and Oldie #3
which was built and driven by Jeff Theobald of Exeter. Note: in
the far background [you can enlarge the photo] is a low-slung sports
racer that is quite rare: an Allard "Farrallac" built in the 1950's,
some of which used big 6.4 litre V-8's --- Cadillac of course.
One of these --- perhaps this one -- famously blew a clutch,
shrapnel from which pierced the hood just ahead of the driver.
Recent photo of a Farrallac.
Below we see the
"Weekend Warrior II", of Alan Blount, whose
name appears with team colleagues Marriott and West on the Bedford van.
The chap in the tie and cardigan gave me a lift to the track that
to Michael Tickner for these pics from 32 years ago. Rivalling the
multi-name Californian teams of that era, these guys were the Fry-Tickner-Sturgess-Siggery team . A
beautifully simple slingshot powered by an injected Oldsmobile. This
was Britain's first unblown dragster into the 9-second bracket, which
won Mike a whole entire £10. The press piece is by Brian Sparrow,
who I recall drove a MiniCooper at permanent valve-bounce.
a shot of the motor.
Mike in the hot seat. Later the car was handled
by John Siggery, the crew chief in 1969, with great success. Eventually
they "tipped the can" to 85% nitromethane and ran 9.52
at 156 mph.
Racer's View from the roll cage.
a dry track at Santa Pod with the crew: Mike Tickner on the right,
John Siggery 3rd from right.
Geronimo waiting for its alcohol while driver and crew refuel themselves at their favourite pit stop,
the Chalkdrawer's Arms in Colney Heath, Herts.
Allard being pushed. The front-mounted blower indicates that this
old 354 hemi engine comes from Alan's dad's pioneering British slingshot,
circa 1961/2 (Sydney Allard, builder of those sports cars
of the 40's and 50's.) Alan's slingshot
you identify this dragster? Thanks,
Nick Cleveland. It's the Stones' HEMI-HUNTER, and the shot is either 1975
or 1976; they ran it in Pro Comp and later added "fuel".
Blackpool racer in the 1960's, Paul Manders, raced a Jaguar-powered
stock-car but wanted to tackle something trickier. A double-supercharged Chrysler
dragster: an advanced bit of engineering (two blowers
mounted transversely over the vee. Here it is under construction, but I don't know the
rest of its story. Blackpool Slingshot. In 1988, Paul ran a funny-car, hitting 188 mph in 7.5 secs.
tried to retail ready-made dragsters, but it didn't catch on big
among England's do-it-yourself maniacs; here's their little blown
Cortina-engined Dragon Doug
Harler, now of Knoxville, Tennessee, tells me he ran one of
these Dragons in "middle dragster" class, and pushed-started
it with a ferocious Dodge Charger, which he also dragged:
probably Britain's "fastest push car" in those days.
Mickey Thompson brought his slingshot to Britain in 1963, 488 cu.in Ford, bewildering the
natives, ahead of the big-money "INTERNATIONAL DRAG
invasion the following year. [photos
from Dave Maltby, BHRA member back then].
left it in England, in storage. In 1964 the BHRA brought it to
Perkins Diesel Open Day at Peterborough, and here I am as a skinny youth
(left) with Dave Withers, scrubbing off the oxide that forms on magnesium.
the little Allard Dragon behind? Blown Ford Cortina 1500cc 4-banger
motor. Look at our clothes.
Can you imagine any 19-year olds nowadays, going to a HOT ROD
show in slacks and sports jackets or suits? —
this is 46 years ago.
Alan Allard son of Sydney: The front-mounted blower
and motor came off Sydney's pioneering slingshot. English
rain didn't stop them.
Alan Allard vs The Chev: Blackbushe
airport when they had to run some cars for the hungry
fans, despite an insanely wet track. The Chev is the Gary Goodnight
team car, here run by an English
"Dos Palmos" [above]
was raced at the 1964 Drag Festival by Bob Keith, who in 2009 is
restoring the fabulous Kent Fuller fuel dragster that Bob ran in the
1965 Fest, and which will be preserved in a new Australian drag race
museum (Bob ran the Fuller car in Oz . in 1966). Kent Fuller is
helping Bob Keith with this project. [Thanks to Bob Keith for this info.] BTW, Bob is trying to contact Bill Weichelt (below) about the Dos Palmos rail --- anyone who knows Bill W. please e-mail me.
was just one of the names attached to the original 'Dos Palmos' slingshot during its life in the UK. Bob Keith/ Gary Goodnight brought it over for the '64 DragFest,
then it went to Croft Racing Partnership, and then to the UK-based American Bill
Weichelt, and crewed by the Pages. Bill for a while lived in Ipswich
and built limited-production sports cars called Tridents (based on TVR's). Both Bill
and the dragster eventually returned to the US. Thanks to Chris at TRAKBYTES
and Gary Goodnight for that info.
unofficial blessing of Britain's newborn
drag-race scene was the visit of US racers for the DragFest series.
Anyone in the UK back then who knew the term 'drag racing', also
knew the name "Big Daddy" Don Garlits, who was the
ultimate ambassador. No-one who saw those events ever forgot it.
me it was the Chelveston round, and locals talked about it
for the rest of the year.
APRIL 2014 info update below:
Garlits's car weighed only 1320
lbs — nowadays NHRA fuelers must weigh a minimum of 2300
lbs — effectively they are carrying 1000 lbs of weight penalty. [The late Sneaky
Pete Robinson in the 1960's built a scary top fuel car that weighed only 980
that push-van? It had a Thunderbird V-8 motor, and remained in the UK
after Garlits left. Alan
Mann Racing, who brought over a group of Ford Falcon rally cars from
Holman & Moody for the Monte Carlo rally, accompanied by a
fleet of six Ford ECONOLINE vans. The van above was a "special" fitted
with a 390 cu.in. V8. In this photo
the van driver is sports and saloon racer Roy Pierpoint, with Alan Mann squeezed onto the
engine cover. I believe Don's wife Pat and his two daughters are in the cab, see linked photo of them at that time. The vans remained in
Britain under various ownerships. Goodyear Racing Tires also
had a V8 Econoline with a 302 motor, and it's likely that's the one I
referred to here, writing a few yrears ago: It was still famous around North London in1968,
when a workmate of mine was scorching its clutch and tires — people
would lean over at the traffic lights and offer cash-on-the-nail for it. Future 'Geronimo' pilot Michael Tickner is second from
left in front of the fence, sweater and white shirt: four years
later Mike was racing an unblown Olds slingshot at Santa Pod. My
thanks for the update to John Grant, a one-time Alan Mann staffer who
also built Spedeworth engines, knew the Wardroppers, and restores
historic racers in the UK and Holland.
shot of Hemi-Hunter vs Roz Prior. She (Roz) was British champ that year.
Next, the great Don Garlits, rear-engined, at Santa Pod, mid-1970's.
Norm Hill's Asphalt Alligator — thanks
to Gary Tindle for these
70's photos, and to Nick Cleveland for identifying via magazine shots.
Tony Nancy "22": here at the International DragFest 1964,
this gas dragster known as The Wedge was still fighting the handling
gremlins that plagued rear-engined designs throughout the years
until Garlits figured it all out. Nancy also brought over a beautiful front-engined rail, ( It was
the one called "22 Jr" ) which he naively loaned to Dante
Duce, a stranger to Tony, for the Northamptonshire round — and
Mr Duce drove it smack into the 40-gallon marker barrels at the
end of the quarter — KABOOM, everything forward of the engine
block was smashed off. Thanks to US team member Gary Goodnight
for correcting the car numbers. Gary
was with the Goodnight-Keith-Williamson AA/GD team.
year or two after the first Drag Festival, the American Barnes
team brought their "Ultrasonic" fueler to Santa Pod:
Above: check the extreme
caster (kingpin) angle that required the pit crew to force the front
wheels back upright by hand when it was moving at walking pace. Another
shot of "Ultrasonic", from Mal Hawkins.
I snapped this shot with my 48-shilling Brownie Cresta
— lots of panning and darkroom fudging. Mal tells me that
Bud Barnes is rebuilding the car for nostalgia races.
year, a Blackbushe press photo of a
wheels-up burnout by Buddy Cortines's 'TROUBLEMAKER'
provided an education for new-to-drag-racing Brits. [2018 correction ;Driver previously mis-named as Danny Ongais.]
Here is "The Mangler" driven by Danny Ongais;
Hawaiian Danny was a hard-charging racer on any track. He
suffered massive injuries at Indianapolis in 1981, and came back 15
years later to race again and come 7th in the Indy 500, after starting
from last spot. He also raced briefly in Formukla One for Ensign, and
pioneering British drag racers were famous for their backyard ingenuity. Here is a
little slingshot powered by a Bristol
2-litre 6-cylinder motor, built by Colin Glass. In the background is the tiny "Wicked Lady", powered
by a 500cc single Rudge motor, of Tony Gane. Here is the 1966 US team's "Ford T" bodied dragster pretending to be a Ford Model T roadster.
Mooneyes came to the UK and ran 9.99 secs, 164 mph
on gas. Fibreglass Repairs built
the first body on John Dodds' insane Merlin/Spitfire-engined road car. See http://www.spainvia.com/Merlincar.htm for the rebuilt car today in Spain.
years ago, probably 1980, I snapped this shot of an alcohol dragster
leaving the line at Seattle International Raceway, USA. I kept it
because of the dramatic tire distortion visible --- compare the top left of the tire with the bottom.
Lucas photographed Clive
Skilton's Garlits Look-Alike car
in the pits, named 'Second Revolution', in which Clive hit the UK's
first-ever 200mph terminal speed. The dragster was later run in
the Pro Comp class by Steve Read.
Thirty drag bikes
to Peter Cozens for identifying this low-slung screamer shown
A very patient young woman there; does the guy appreciate how fortunate he is? It
was built and raced by a young man named Adrian Reynard from
Oxford Polytechnic, apprenticed to veteran sprinter George Brown. It's
a Royal Enfield motor that Enfield had abandoned after they quit road
racing. Adrian broke some world records at Elvington on this bike in 1970-71,
using a longer fairing. Adrian Reynard's story goes like this:
Designed and built the Reynard Formula 3 car, which won its first race from pole position.
Designed and built the Reynard F3000 car, which won its first race from pole position.
Designed and built
Reynard Indy Champ car, which —- yes, true. Jacques Villeneuve
won the Indy championship in a Reynard.
later worked for BAR, Honda, and a slew of others, and is running
huge race engineering shops in the USA.
is another single-cylinder drag bike, but this one has a 4-stroke
motor with a blower. Anyone know it?
in England", eh? Take a Lambretta scooter and stuff a Triumph twin in it. It's
a 500cc motor, and Keith Lee was the intrepid rider.
MARCH 2016 UPDATE: 45 years after that pits photo was snapped, here is the scooter as returned to Keith from a later owner:
Keith Lee writes:
"That shot must have been taken just after I had
been thrown off it following a wheelie away from the line - hence the rather odd
handlebar angle! I managed to buy new forks, and got it running again for the
following day's eliminations at Santa Pod. That must have been
1971. I raced the bike for more than 2 years, after which
it became Robin Read's first vehicle to race as part of the Readspeed team. He
wisely moved on to 4 wheels after that. I was quite
involved in the sport for many years, and am just completing the first book on
drag bike racing in Britain, which looks back at the first 20 years of the sport
as it developed. It is due for publication in September. "
It's done: Keith Lee's fabulous nostalgic book, loaded
with high quality and unique photos, is on sale now. It is a
treasure chest of facts and stories from people who were right there.
Get it from Veloce Books --- www.veloce.co.uk
Triumph, with a narrow rear tyre. Nice piece
Weird-looking frame/panels on this experimental Triumph drag
bike. Identities, anyone?
Photo of a Vincent sidecar
combo. This was a successful circuit-racing outfit, Martin Davenport and Bernie Booth
from Coventry racked up over 100 race wins and some club championships,
and were Vincent re-building specialists in the 70s.
Waye's landmark piece of engineering, the Drag-Waye,
ridden here by Howard German, 1964. Do I remember right, that
Clive used some aerospace engineering techniques, electron-welding
or something for the con-rods? Anyway, it's a flat-four
VW motor, and the simple notion of copying the slingshot format
had never occurred to anyone else — Thank
you Bill Taylor.
Peter Hyde photo: If you ever came across a unique book called Supercharging Cars and Motorcycles", it was written by Maurice
Brierley, an ex-army scientists at De Havilands, who built and raced this supercharged 1148cc "METHAMON" Vincent.
1965 or '66, here is the famous Neville Higgins on his supercharged Vinnie
10000; Neville usually named his bikes "Jindivik" after
a brutal mythical Norse monster.
Hyde himself, racing at the Pod in 1966, on his sidecar outfit: so stripped-down-basic that the
"passenger" was 140lb of iron weights — maybe he
couldn't pressgang any volunteers. Peter points out that for world
records, a live passenger
was obligatory; Peter
himself took perhaps the world's LOWEST dragstrip ride at Elvington
in Yorkshire when he volunteered as passenger on a sidecar sprint
bike at Blackpool. You are looking at a works
Matchless scrambles engine, GS80 500cc. single-cylinder. "Severely
is Peter's description of the motor. That Castrol R bottle is
the fuel tank. The 12.5:1 compression and 'untunable' DellOrto
carb were on the limit for petrol, and when Peter upgraded to methanol
the next day, he ran a scary 15.6 second time over the cracked and
lumpy Church Lawford runway, and you'd better remember that that
time would beat a then-new E-type Jag.
the name: "Quasimodo" supercharged
Triumph, tank-in-frame-tube. Charlie Rous was the rider,
here at Debden in 1964. See the blurring spokes. Charlie was a journalist for MOTORCYCLE NEWS, and had ridden a Vincent streamliner to over 100mph at the Brighton Speed Trials. (In
that same era I watched a "Quasimodo The Hunchback" wrestle
"Giant Farmer Haystacks" at Wellingborough Drill Hall,
in the 5-shilling seats, and the Farmer fouled and there was
a small riot; we believed everything we saw, too.)
Lads": Peter is at the left, with his bike #145. The
arms-crossed chap is Ron Holland who today is helping a Bonneville
streamliner project (V-8 motorbike). Bike 144 is "Geronimo",
with Pete Dodd in leathers; it has a 500cc Velocette
Venom thumper on nitro and ran in the low 14's. Peter Hyde
had the daring pleasure of a flat-out passenger ride in this
outfit at Elvington in Yorkshire. Thanks
for those photos to Peter Hyde.
Ian Richardson, was a lovely piece bit of British do-it-yourself genius:
a 2,000cc flat-four engine built from four Manx Norton singles, with a custom DOHC head, all built by Butterworth's
Meikle later supplied a supercharger for this bike (it wasn't powerful
enough?): a Rootes/Wade diesel blower. Photo taken in 1967 at Santa Pod by Mal Hawkins.
Baron" was Mal Hawkins' own piece — who'd have thought
of feeding a 50cc (that's fifty) Honda on nitromethane and
methanol? Mal did
it, in 1968, and forced the little screamer to a 19.8 second quarter
mile e.t. Pretty good
when you know that the Dutch Kreidler factory put their works GP
rider on their best GP 50cc and managed 17 secs. The tiny motor
had an 11:1 compression ratio (shaved head), and drank nitro @
Pegasus was a supercharged and twin-motored Norton
with a blower, run by Derek Chinn and Ian Messenger The bike is now in the National Motor Museum, I believe. Pegasus
a different twist on the same story, with Triumph power; Steve
Kimberley spots maybe a Weslake bottom end, which he says would
finally keep Triumph rods from scattering across the strip. Triumph
Twin-Twin. Now see below ---->:Thanks to the keen eyes and keener memory of Pat Neal, who reports that the double Triumph device was built by Fred Wells,
who ran a motorcycle shop in Kent. Fred installed two Triumph 500
twins in this bike, and brilliantly incorporated the blown intake
charge from the front-mounted supercharger through the top frame tube to
feed the two engines. Fred further demonstrated his ingenuity by
building, of all things, an ovebored Triumph Cub (236cc) that burned
75% nitromethane. If motorcycle fans in that era put "Cub"
and "con-rod" in the same sentence, it was usually to describe a major
blowup. Fred's son Steven went on to m'cycle road racing success. Pat
Neal and his father used to compete in sprint events at Duxford, and
Pat later got into pro stock and top fuel racing with Steve Wollatt.
Pat also raced a Manx Norton and a TZ350. Like myself,
Pat is now on Canadian soil, where his wife Linda has moved on from
winning in Formula Atlantics to running a deafening alcohol dragster at
170mph in 8 seconds.
Hyland brought his lovely, simple twin-motored
Triumph drag-bike to Britain in the mid-1960's.
next bike is all BEAST. Its
rider claimed to have 40mph of wheelspin while travelling at 120mph.
Direct drive chain from a big reduction-gear straight to the back
wheel. He started it on power rollers, then pushed it on its roller-mounted
jackstand to the line; he simply kicked the jackstand over-centre
at the green light. Recognize a V-8 Chevy Corvette fuel-injected
motor when you see one?
In April 1999 I spoke to E.J. Potter,
when he was planning a once-only comeback appearance at the
age of 57 with "The Widowmaker" V-8 bike.
I told him about my old snapshot, shown below. "Was that the
time I hit the wall?" Potter asked. No, I think that happened
a few days later, and his book has a photgraph of the nasty result. He said
the engine used to shake something rotten because it had no flywheel — really the
spinning back wheel had to act as flywheel. Buy this book, see
his Allison-engined station wagons, his jet trike, his electric
"slot-car" Austin. It has photos of his insane machines, and hilarious tales
of his stunts on the track and in his workshop; a fantastic
E.J. Potter is no longer with us, but at the time this book was available from PO Box 968, Vero Beach, Florida 32961.
Here's Madman Potter burning off the line at
Santa Pod, courtesy of Mal Hawkins: Smoke Show.
here is a my terrible fuzzy photo,
the excuse being the distance and the little plastic camera in my
low, simple; Yamaha twins were fun to watch and didn't need
a professional to engineer them. Santa Pod in the mid 1970's. This was John Cheadle's
Yamaha TR3, a road-racing engine of 350cc. John's white Ford van
is visible, and I'm told that is John himself at the open van door.
snaps from a Santa Pod qualifying day June 1999:
A Dutch builder/rider brought over this
overhead-cammed V-twin of 1600cc capacity, blown on nitro, V-twin.
Same huge capacity for this Parallel twin which was "home-built" on
CNC machine tools.
Check out the tire on this 4-cyl fueler. Fat-tired (I think it's Steve Wollatt, who I saw run 6.9 secs
and 196 mph on a damp track. Steve can run the 1/8 mile
in 4.4 secs at 161 mph, and do the first 60 feet from standstill
in ONE SECOND.
Some British fuel bikes (try the great Brian
Johnson) have hit a stunning 194 mph in 4.04 secs in the 1/8 mile. Brian
Johnson did 234mph in 6.12 secs in 1999 [thanks Neil Smith for the updates].
me if you have drivers and data for
any cars I’ve wrongly described on this page.
The biggest, best, and most intelligent book on drag
Robert C. Post: "High Performance:
The Culture and Technology of Drag Racing 1950-1990",
published by Johns Hopkins University Press, in the US.
The ISBN is 03020100 999897969594 5432.
author is a technical historian at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington
DC, but also a lifelong drag-racer. He has photos you won't believe,
including the horrifying 1970 Garlits clutch explosion at the instant
his dragster was being cut in half by the blast. Not a cheap quickie
survey — about 400 pages, and costs a bit, but has fascinating
quotes and interviews with everyone from the fifties on, and very
thoughtful analysis of why people build and race dragsters.
A few Hot Rods: England catches the US tradition
Wright, a Lincolnshire farmer and flier owned this (bright yellow)
creation, and brought it to a Peterborough (Perkins Diesel) Show
1964. Wide-open-exhausted Jag motor behind a Rolls-Royce rad.: Jaguar/Rolls/Austin pickup hot-rod.
Next is the
same car in stripped drag-racing guise at Santa Pod: drag pick-up.
His brother Richard Wrightdrag-raced
and street-drove a Caddy-engined "T" rod, Cad-Rod . I saw this in a road-going "coupe" form,
at the British Hot Rod Association AGM in South Norwood, London,
with six chrome motorbike silencers bolted directly
to the ports. Here's the same car in (barely) road-going guise:
Someone tells me that this beast could be seen rumbling along the
public roads, as you see it, to Santa Pod Richard's Coupe
Geoff Jago of Brighton built this metal-flake convertible Ford
van-cum-pickup; sorry for my blurry photo. This stuned the crowds
Abbey in 1964/5. It was once a "perpendicular" E93A
Thames van. Geoff Jago also raced stock cars, winning
Southampton's track back in 1959.
Jago's Rod again. This shot taken at a unique 1965 BHRA car how in Hyde Park's then-new underground parking lot. As of 1999 apparently this car had been kept in storage for
over 20 years and is still as gorgeous today.
you were around in the early 1960's, there was the BRITISH HOT
ROD ASSOCIATION, before the BDRA and BDHRA. BHRA chairman John Bennett prep'd
his Pontiac by pulling out the back seat and spare wheel, and unhooking
the power steering. (His wife Anne raced it too.) Another pioneer
was Ken Cooper, who was a devoted 'flathead' engineer, and
raced a side-valve (Ford Pilot) slingshot to prove it. Here is
his earlier — perhaps England's first — hot-rod,
a 1933 Ford 40 with a '32 grille and flathead V-8 Ford power. A super-nice guy
and a brave pioneer, Ken drove this on Midlands streets 45 years
ago. Ken Cooper's V-8 Roadster
Eagle-eyed Brian Lucas idntified the bodywork dates — Brian
is a long-time hot-rodder and he runs a '32 roadster with a modified
flathead motor. Thanks