British Stock-Car Racing in the 1950s-1970s
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Stock Cars in The Fifties:

*Look for UPDATE labels: new additions are scattered randomly throughout the page.

 

 UPDATE  OCTOBER 2015:
Thanks to Roy Clarke, who was there and remembers the exploits of "Mac" MacLean 44, one of the HOUNSLOW HURRICANE team who raced at Staines and elsewhere.  Roy sent these photos. I heard this month that Mac is still with us at the youthful age of 92 and visited Pat Willis not long ago! Below, Mac is leading a race:

mac leads

  • Here's the 44 car with the famous bearded sign-writer and Staines starter Frank Howlett.
  • Mac's famous fire: he overturned the car at Staines, right by the pits gate, and today people have told me they remember it as though it was yesterday.
  • Below: 44 up on the lorry and Pat Willis's smart 250 on the tow bar [just corrected the name :-)]:
on tow
  • The Hounslow Hurricanes all lined up on the green.
  • The Hurricanes with their winning trophy.  There are two Austin Atlantics.  Mac [with the flag] and Vic Muggeridge and Roy Clarke are on Frank Howlett's [driving] car; Darkie Wright and 'Unknown" are on the Atlantic belonging to John Cook.
Big thanks to Roy, and to Don Roomes and Chris Holmes who added their stories. The two pits photos were taken by Roy's sister-in-law Molly Willis.

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  UPDATE  June 2015:  A big thank-you to the daughter of Dennis W. Burdett-Coutts for the following photos, and to Keith Barber for some historical info.  Note: I will also add some "Dirt Dennis" photos and facts to the top of the SENIORS IN THE SIXTIES page.  Here we see Dennis as a pioneer racer in the  1950's, but let's start with this "rogues' gallery" of portraits of a man who was unique in his devilish smile and his goatee beard. The pits view is at Matchams Park, Ringwood.

d face 1  d face 2   d face 3

d face 4  d face 5

==========================



  

Behind his mystery stock car is Dennis's 1948 Buick Roadmaster;

Here is a jpg of the stock car again, a photo that has ignited debates everywhere.  Some have said it's a Ford Model A "doctor's coupe", some have insisted it's a Hudson, a Hupmobile, a Dodge, and a Nash. Brian Lucas, a Spedeworth fan and hot-rodder first raised the "Nash" possibility, which was researched by a Nash expert in the US.   The range of makes and models of American coupes in the period 1929-1933 is staggering, and it takes an expert eye to distinguish among them. Dennis's car is a right-hand drive, and US mfrs built such cars for export to Australia, South Africa, and the UK.

As of November 11th 2015, a Chrysler collector in Canada argues convincingly that Dennis's car was a 1931 Chrysler CD8 coupe, and these photos back up his conclusion: composite photographsingle coupe; and the characteristic Chrysler straight-8 engine.

tow car


The stock car sunshield says "HEAP OF ===========  CENSORED":  Not what they are used to seeing at Goodwood and Silverstone! 

October 2015:  Grant "Tiny" Tabor recalls the fun of working and travelling with Dirty Dennis:  I laughed out loud at your section on Dirty Dennis :) He contributed to one of my scariest moments with a stock car. He used to park his Austin Sheerline and stock car on trailer in the street in front of his house and the local council was complaining; so for the off season he was going to store them at Keysoe [the famous Cunnew settlement]. The last race of the season was in London, so Jayne [Douglas, from the USA] and myself rode to Dennis's place then I was to drive his outfit home to Keysoe. Went quite well till coming down the steep hill past the airship hangers at Cardington :( It was the middle of the night luckily, and raining and the trailer started to fishtail. I was using all the road, bouncing off both shoulders :( We must have been doing warp one when we went thru the village at the bottom because the only way out of a fishtail is accelerate. After I stopped shaking I pulled over, untied Dennis's stock car and fired it up (in the middle of the night) to move it a bit further forward on its trailer to get more weight on the back of the tow car. Needless to say we never even went close to the speed limit the rest of the way home.
 

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Pals in the 1950's:

kwango ray 

"On my left, Johnny Kwango and Ray St. Bernard!"

Ray was one of Raymond Way's salesmen, and his friend Kwango often visited the showrooms.  

Below right:  Raymond Way,  inspecting one of Hermann Goering's custom armoured cars, which he bought and exhibited.

raymond

Below: just one of Way's many publicity tactics: sponsoring a stock car.  


way stock car

It had once been a 1939 Ford De Luxe:

ford

The  superb photo of the 113 car was donated by Giles Chapman from his own collection the, Giles Chapman Library of images: http://www.gileschapman.com

Giles has published this fascinating "nostalgia" book:

chapman book

Giles is currently writing a book on the die-cast rivalry between DINKY, MATCHBOX and CORGI brands. It examines the HOT WHEELS invasion, which CORGI fought back with their CORGI ROCKETS cars. When the book is published you may see CORGI's models of stock cars by Todd Sweeney and Derek Fiske.

 
Raymond Way (1905-1981) was a larger-than-life character who had been a circus barker, wall-of-death rider, and Britain's most successful used-car dealer ---- selling 2,000 cars a week at one stage. He loved Rolls-Royces, and owned Churchill's Daimler, Wallis Simpson's Buick, heiress Barbara Hutton's and many more "celebrity cars".  He loved Rolls-Royces for his personal cars and insisted on buying them, in person from the famous Jack Barclay of Berkeley Square.

One trick Raymond used was to paste a large star on a windscreen and let customers think it must be a special deal; but really it was a car he wanted to get rid of quick! He once had a mechanical elephant installed at his dealership.

Stock cars? Raymond flew his own Piper aeroplane over Staines Stadium, trailing a banner advertising his dealership; where he kept the Piper, by the way!  Raymond hired out cars to TV series such as "Z Cars", and to movies.  RW used to price his cars in guineas, to reassure working people who were struggling to afford a second-hand car that it was slightly 'posh': just one of his psychological tricks.

Info from Keith Barber: Way sponsored Tony Rumfitt, # 13, and Jack "Creepy" Crawley, # 113. Rumfitt and Crawley were successful motor dealers too, Crawley being a central London Mercedes dealer. 

Keith Barber designed the signwriting on Mike Shirley's 1947 Ford Coupe Heritage re-creation:

These photos were taken by Lee Martin:  http://euroclassiccartours.com/profiles/blogs/classic-stock-car-racing.

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UPDATE September 2014
Fearless Fred Funnell

Fred Funnell from Kent was a pioneer racer, part of the STAINES BULL TERRIERS  stock car team, pal of Jock Lloyd, and famous when the Junior F2 formula arrived for the lurid "hot rod flames" painted on one of his #58 cars.  He was accidentally involved in a tragic race accident at Lydden Hill in 1960.  More happily, Fred was one of the English racers who used to race in northern France in the fifties, a time when stock cars on both sides of the Channel were still similar. He patriotically painted his helmet "British racing green" for the occasion. Fred had also raced in speedway and midgets, and is fondly remembered today by his contemporaries Don Roomes and Chris Totter Holmes. This terrific portrait shows the kind of shrewd, "chipper", rough and ready, tough-spirited face we saw everywhere in the early days of stock cars, but which doesn't seem to exist any more in today's relatively pampered age.

funnell

 
UPDATE  September 2014
Pat Frost working on a wheel:

pat 1


On "Aubrey's Hook" at Brafield:

pat 2


Pat Frost #60 next to his brother Trevor #68:

pat 3

Pat Frost raced in the fifties and sixties, first in BriSCA, later with Spedeworth, and was a famous name in the East Midlands and East Anglia.

 UPDATE  January 2014:  Excellent Pathe News feature from 1958 of stock car racing and stunt driving at Matchams Park (Ringwood):   http://www.britishpathe.com/video/girl-stunt-driver-aka-stock-car-race/query/matchams+park  


UPDATE January 2014:  Rough-n-ready was the spirit in the early days, and racers like Pete Tucker and Dick Sheppard insist that real fun ended when the 1950's drew to a close.  
I urge fans to get hold of Dick Sheppard's marvellous book of memoirs, CLOSE TO THE EDGE, to enjoy the full-blooded larks and scrapes and busted knuckles that went with early stock car racing and stunt driving.                                            Dick raced with Jumbo Tustin and with Geoff Harrison, and their cars can be seen here:
30 and 127

Dick asked specifically for number 30 to be his registered racing number as soon as roof fins were mandated;  he found that standard 30mph speed limit road signs were just the job!  Dick Sheppard also managed to drive one of his stock cars on the road, in the face of much police interest.  
  • At one point he built his front and rear bumpers from massive semi-circular crane "slew bearings" and counterweights.
  • On this car, the railway-sleeper bumpers and steel visor make it look like an early Star Wars weapon.
  • Dick poses while climbing into his car.
  • Dick receiving a points trophy at Brafield after an intense rivalry with Aubrey Leighton.  The presenter, Rochelle Lofting worked as a vaudeville / B film / glamour model in the fifties and sixties. Her first husband was stunt man / muscle poser Gerry Lofting who banged the gong in Rank films credits.  
  • Ian Melton identified Dick Sheppard's car, late 1950's or early 1960's, in the Brafield pits.   Dick had been driving a 1937 Chevrolet, but this car is almost certainly a 1935 Ford 40A five-window coupe, with the 3.6 litre V-8 flathead.  
Dick Sheppard also spent a lot of time putting on stunt performances at showgrounds. During his long stunt career in world tours and in movies he wrecked 2,003 cars, and at the ripe old age of 80, Dick made that 2,004 wrecks when a careless driver sideswiped him on a Gloucester street, fortunately without causing injury.   Dick had earlier ridden speedway bikes for the Brandon Bees and Swindon Robins, and as late as 2004, along with Jumbo Tustin, he attended Geoff Harrison's funeral and memorial buffet; "One of the originals" said Roger Harris.  In 2010 Dick Sheppard published a brief autobiography called MY WILD YOUTH IN GLOUCESTERSHIRE through Waterstones bookshops. Dick is still alive and kicking in his eighties today, as competitive in skittles as he was on the cinder tracks and fairgounds.  http://www.dicksheppard.co.uk/?p=107.   Check it out.

UPDATE  September 2013: Russ Thomas dug out these two Brafield photos from 1959: the first shows Cecil Laurie 368 from Byfield, Northants, in the fence, with 38 Freddie Mitchell blasting past behind him. There were four Laurie brothers, farmers, who were cheered for their rough-and-ready attitude to racing:
cecil laurie

Russ's second photo below shows a crowd** enjoying three-wide racing. Russ suspects George Foulger (another farmer, but from Norfolk) is driving the "bulbous rear end" car, which George lettered "EAT MY DUST".

1959 at brafield

UPDATE   September 2013: New Zealand stock car racer Gary Wike used this very special Ford sidevalve V-8 in 1960.  The photo is in the NZ HISTORIC STOCK CAR CLUB's newslatter.  The engine is described as having "Hogan" cylinder heads fitted with twin plugs per cylinder, fired by twin ignition systems, and fuelled by four carbureters standing on "twisted-leg" intake runners. The distributor was "probably" a Nash, as Nash used twin-plug heads on their straight-8-cylinder engines in the 1930's.  The Hogans, father and son, were NZ engineers who made their own custom finned alloy cylinder heads.  Hot stuff!

nz flathead

UPDATE January 2013:  Courtesy of Datchet racer Roy Clarke, here are two photos of his bro-in-law Pat Willis at Brafield in 1957 in his Packard:

     pat willis

The engine is invisible, even with the open hood, but at about this time Pat installed an enormous GMC straight-six out of a WW2 "Boarhound T18" armoured car (an eight-wheeled 20-ton beast) of which only 30 were ever built.

--- and here Pat enjoys an argy-bargy at Brafield with Nottingham's Reg Saul #10.  


UPDATE January 2013:  They were a special breed, the men who pioneered the sport of stock car racing in England. One of these was George Teece, whose son John has sent these historic photos.  Sponsored by Bray Motors, below he is on the way to a 1954 Harringay meeting:

bray motors at elmfield 

At one of the April 1955 meetings, George Teece went neck-and-neck with "Crawfish" Cryder of the USA.

Here's the programme for that meeting with some names out of history.

In 1954 at [possibly] Rayleigh, cars are still wearing their window glass; George is #175.

At West Ham George met the fence hard; John points out that this car was originally a convertible but had a hard top welded on; see the odd curves and seams.  George favoured 1936 Ford coupes, of which he had several.

In 1956 at Rye House, George (in overalls and tie) presented the trophy to Pete Tucker.

Note: Although George hung up his helmet in 1960, the racing bug bit again in 1965, and you can see George Teece's later exploits on the JUNIOR F2 page.

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UPDATE May 2012: Sheffield's Owlerton Stadium opened in 1954, and a wise father took his son, then 10-year Neill Crookes, who sent the following historic photos.   Neill comments "I just had to take up racing at some stage after watching these pioneers ."  Neill's later career in F1's in the sixties and seventies can be seen elsewhere on this site.

  •  We are looking at Wilf Jay's 121A, a black Model B Ford receiving a thump from Huddersfield's Frank Greenwood.     In the background, the twin cooling towers of Neepsend power station.
  •  Mind the wood!  Ivor Roddis of Sheffield drives a "woodie" station wagon.
  • In street-ready condition, a black Hudson Terraplane driven by Ginger David of Manchester.
  • Last but not at all least:  Who but a Sheffield garage man would race a 1925 40/50-hp ROLLS ROYCE on a stock car oval? Joe Proudfoot of the Niagara Service Station is the adventurer.  According to Rolls experts, this car is probably a Silver Ghost Landaulette, or a newer Phantom 1, with bodywork by Hooper, and a six-cylinder engine [two banks of three] of 7 litres capacity. Today, if it survived in one piece, worth maybe 160,000.  It surprised me to learn that Rolls-Royces were not particularly valuable, and in 1954 ones like this were selling for as little as 100, because they were already 25+ years old and in postwar Britain simply too expensive (petrol) to own.

These photos are from the archives of Sheffield's TELEGRAPH & STAR, part of  SHEFFIELD NEWSPAPERS.


UPDATE  April 2012: Long Eaton:  
Thanks to Jim Luck, we have a unique glimpse of the birth of stock car racing at Long Eaton.  Jim's father Don Luck was a pioneer in the sport who deserves credit for starting things off at Long Eaton in 1954, though he also promoted at Scunthorpe that year.
 Don Luck was a theatrical agent, promoter and impresario. In his short career he made a mark with several artists before they were really established, including Jamaican trumpet king Leslie 'Jiver' Hutchinson; black singer/percussionist Frank Holder; Cleo Laine and John DankworthJoe Daniels and his Hotshots, and many others both during the Second World War and just after.
Don was also a deputy stage manager at Butlins Skegness pre-war.
 
On Saturday 17th July 1954 year, the Don Luck Stock Car Racing Company opened the gates to a huge crowd who saw Grimsby farmer John Robinson win the final. Thanks to Don's initial enterprise, the sport continued at LE until the stadium closed in 1997.  Sadly Don Luck --- just visible between the Red Knight car and the safety tyres --- passed away too early in 1963, but this oil-on-board painting celebrates that lively first year; the only car I can identify for sure is the 42 of "The Red Knight" who was Gene Mace. Early car numbering systems were unpredictable!  
Note: please respect the copyright of this painting, which belongs to Jim Luck. Higher-res. image link here.

LE painting

You'll notice that the bright red 42 car, "The Red Knight" is especially well-detailed;  that's because the oil painting was done by its driver, Gene Mace.  He used artistic licence in omitting the "A" prefix used by Northern Stock Car Association drivers, (287 of Fred Strecker and the 40 of Norm Crane)   [thanks to Ken Mason for pointing it out]. Keith Barber reports that Mace was an accomplished signwriter as well as a stunt driver.

 [The person on the far right --- is that a man or a woman? --- Jean Forrest was one of LE's early racers.]What the Press said about Long Eaton's first season; jpg files can be enlarged for easier reading:
1. "Red Knight" in trouble
2.  Don Luck mentioned, and a crowd of 7,000
3.  Rain, flames, and 8,000 through the turnstiles
4.  Two women at the wheel
5.  Starting a 58-year-old tradition of hard hits!





UPDATE   January 2012:  IMPORTANT HISTORY:
In 1955 Digger Pugh stage-managed the American tour, bringing over some hot US cars and drivers to promote the new sport at tracks around the country.  Much has been written about the tour, especially well researched by Keith Barber, in his Stock Car Magazine and books.   I will leave the detailed and fascinating story to Keith's publications past and future, but here I will show the Harringay Television Trophy that was presented to Bobby Myers by 'Sabrina' after he won Britain's very first televised stock car race.  
This trophy resides today in North Carolina, in the care of the late Bobby Myers' son, Danny.  Danny 'Chocolate' Myers is a NASCAR legend in his own right, having worked for Dale Earnhardt and the Richard Childress team for many years, as well as hosting a NASCAR radio show nationwide; his wife Caron is a NASCAR journalist and TV reporter.   Here is a large high-res image of the trophy seen below, and here a close-up of the engraving.


    55 trophy

Bobby Myers received not just the trophy but this autographed photo of Sabrina, dedicated "All the best, Yank".
The trophy remained in England with a garage-dealership that Myers had been associated with during his tour, but they kindly returned the trophy, with this letter, to Bobby's widow when Bobby lost his life in the 1957 Darlington 500.

Final piece of trivia is this letter of agreement from Digger Pugh's company to Myers, giving the guidelines for his important appearance in the Harringay televised race.  I would like to heartily thank Caron and Danny Myers for contributing this information and the unique photos.

UPDATE  January 2012: From a 1959 West Ham programme [possibly not taken in 1959 ---]:
  • Dave Isaacs from Ilford had the honour of wearing #1 from 1957 to 1963.
  • Mystery man --- the #24 belonged to Lincoln's Ron Grantham in 1957 and to Long Eaton's Alf Giles in 1958.  But the name seems to be Thorne or Horne [which don't appear in the Greenwood book at all) and "Killer", but Killer Sayers was 81 and 98 in that era.
  • Steve "Perce" Lovegrove #190 was from Tooting, and he isn't 'tooting' here.


UPDATE   November 2011: A legend reborn in three stages
aubrey flag
leightonold
kb 1
Top: Aubrey victorious at Brafield in the notorious Packard
Centre: Aubrey's son Keith and friend Steve Gateley with the Packard 'retired' in the weeds at Earls Barton Motors
Bottom: In 2011, the superb Keith Barber recreation of Aubrey's famous car, photo courtesy of Keith.


UPDATE November 2011: Thanks to Dick Sheppard for this historic photo of Jumbo Tustin's "Ice Cream Cart" , date and track unknown, with a mysterious face in the background.
 
UPDATE  September 2011: Future champion --- thanks to Don Roomes, Jock's one-time mechanic:
  • 1957 photo of Jock Lloyd, probably taken at Lydden Hill. The car was a circa 1936 Hudson Terraplane, of which several were raced as stock cars in the fifties, as it had a torquey straight-8 engine of 4 litres.  
  • Here is Jock team-racing at Staines with the "Bull Terriers" team, in a Ford coupe.  
  • Jock at Brafield, advertizing his White House Garage.
  • The paired cars of Jock and his good buddy Ken Freeman #61; their flathead V-8 coupes lookightly different --- is one not a Ford? Jock raced under #13 only in 1957.
 

 UPDATE July 2011:  Thanks to John Jones for some memories of his father, the late John "Ginge" Jones from Maidstone, who made his living in the tipper business, and who raced under #144 and #146.  Here is John heading into battle at Lydden against stars like Johnny Brise at Lydden in 1957.  John junior was a youngster and somewhere in the background is his father's special 3-ton "enforcer" with which he kept the enemy off Freddie Funnel's back; there was some notorious unofficial team racing which saw a few 'blocking' cars destroyed, and new upstarts given a sharp lesson!

Young 
John was watching on that fateful day when Freddie Funnel's ramp stunt went wrong.  John Jones also used the old methods: a club hammer for repairs and mustard for sealing a leaking radiator.  His son John reckons today's "pretty" racing can't compare with those good old days. Like Aubrey Leighton, Ken Freeman and a few others, "Ginge" Jones didn't get through WW2 unscathed, but its effects didn't slow him down.  John and his Maidstone mate Bobby James sometimes shared cars. Below is a 1957 photo of "Ginge" Jones, with some imaginative signwriting: --- like "The Only Captive Demon".    

jones or James

Here's a question: "What are stock car people like?"
Here's your answer: John Jones had the stock car on his truck, not far from Lydden on the Dover Road when he spotted an accident with an overturned van off the road. Without a second's hesitation he stopped his truck, jumped out, got people to lift the van up a bit, while he crawled under the van to get out 
an injured young woman, ignoring dripping battery acid and the likelihood of fire.  That's what stock car people are like --- okay?

UPDATE
 May 2011:  Don Roomes kindly scanned this recent newspaper clipping, which included a 1950's photograph from Staines.  Note: --- the current researcher on Staines history is listed as a sidebar above the photo. Caution: the journalist got something wrong: no "Bona Callino" acted in STOCK CAR, though the other actors are correctly named.  However, there was an American stage and film actor named Bonar Colleano, who died in a car crash in Birkenhead in 1958 ---- and the Jaguar XK140 he was driving became the basis for Jock Lloyd's 1961 World Championship stock car!  Eerie coincidence -------.  The newspaper also misspelled the name of Alec Le Croisette (#283, 1957-59).

 UPDATE  January 2011: John Dyson sent a Leicester programe from 1955, but since it was for the first meeting of the year, its photographs were necessarily from the 1954 season.  Here are four photos of the wild men who pioneered stock car racing there:
  • Car 218A is Edinburgh driver Alan Roberts
  • This driver cannily installed a spare wheel as side protection!
  • It says 46 on the back, but 56 on the roof ---- so it's either T.J. Rowe from Hillingdon or less likely T. Addis from Cornwall.  When this 1955 programme was printed, Ron Cerrone from B'ham had #46.
  • Jack Tipping (that surname doomed him to race stock cars) had a TV aerial on his car "Gravel Gertie".
  • Len Ogbourne from Northampton raced under 51 and 76, and others; this "pdf" file is from 19 April 1955.  --- the item on page 2 will be separately shown as a jpg below.
  • Poignant bit of history:   From the same Leicester Illustrated Chronicle in 1954.  
    This young lad drove a demonstration lap at Leicester's track at age 6 in his lawnmower-engined jalopy.  His name was Roger Williamson [1948-1973].  He became a successful kart racer at age 14, moved to saloons and Formula 3, and eventually into top flight Grand Prix racing.  Is the name familiar?  He was to die in the most appalling incident in GP history, in 1973 at the Dutch GP.  The crash and aftermath are viewable, if you have the stomach for it, on various video clips.  His March 731 crashed and overturned in flames, and his racing friend David Purley attempted frantically, without any help from, and even with obstruction by, the race marshals, to upturn the blazing car and pull Roger out, catching fire himself in his attempts, but in vain.  It was a shock to realize, when first assembling these old Leicester reports, that "this was the lad".
More from Leicester history:  14 October 1954, and the Leicester Mercury carried these two columns:

Off-topic, but ---  fans of the "goggle box" in 1958 could feast their eyes on this television listing for the weekend, printed in Leicester's Illustrated Chronicle for 23 April 1958. On Saturday nights you could stay up late, till 10:45pm to listen (sound only) to the news!   Although the Midlands started to get ITV in 1956, this schedule refers only to the BBC.  Some of us remember with pleasure the good old Range Rider on Children's Television --- bang bang.

My thanks to John Dyson for scanning these bits of history from his collection.
 

 Aren't we posh?

DID YOU KNOW?
 The chairman of the Northern Stock Car Company in 1954 and 1955 was
Sir Henry Shiffner, 8th Baronet of Combe Park
, an ennobled family, (vice-admirals, MP's etc) one of whom rescued the fleeing Charles II, by boat to France, after the Battle of Worcester in 1651.  

DID YOU KNOW?  The first New Cross 1954 meeting, among its French contestants, included a horse-riding nobleman, Jean-Francois de Thonel, Chevalier and 5th Marquis d'Orgeix, seen here in his #11 car; he was author of Horse in the Blood: a Showjumper's Notebook.  Racing too at New Cross was his wife, a famous French horsewoman Michele Cancre d'Orgeix.

DID YOU KNOW?   At Belle Vue's meeting on September 1st 1954, the person chosen to present the prizes was Derek Charles Moore-Brabazon, 2nd Baron Brabazon of Tara, CBE, [Eton and Trinity College] otherwise known as  Lord Brabazon of Tara, descendant of the Earl of Meath (peerage created 1627).   He was an aviation pioneer, and held the very first British pilot's licence.
   
What draws upper-class people to our sport?  Likewise,  cars like this 1928 Bentley 6.5 litre limousine ---
bentley

Another driver, Ken Smith, raced a Rolls-Royce to destruction at Belle Vue in that year.


With the 1954 New Cross French team came William Camus, who was born a "Metis" in 1923 in the Yukon territory to an Iroquois trapper and a Frenchwoman, and grew up among Canada's First Nations.  His mother took him to France when he was 12.  As with other early characters like Spike Rhiando and Digger Pugh, most people decided to believe, perhaps, 90% of his entertaining stories ----.  He looks a smooth charmer.

High-class French car in a stock-car race about 1958: it could be either a Talbot Lago T150, or a Delahaye 135? And this similar car, in 1956 at the same French track, at Montreuil. Take them to the USA's Pebble Beach concours nowadays and you'd get around a million dollars each.

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UPDATE  January 2011:  Three heroes at Brafield:  this programme photo was printed for May 1960, but I'm putting it here, as it may well have been taken in 1959. Behind the fuzzy half-tone printing we see #183 Ellis Ford, #29 farmer George Foulger from Norwich, and #5 Dougie Wardropper.

UPDATE  November 2010: From that first dizzy barn-storming season, Russ Thomas sends this photo from the Leicester track's programme for Wednesday 13th September 1954.  In the first couple of years, cars licensed by The Northern Stock Car Company had an "A" with their number, and number-only cars were Digger Pugh's Stock Car Racing Company  (Belle Vue drivers had a "B" prefix). There's no guarantee this photo was actually taken at a Leicester, because the three different companies were opening and closing tracks willy-nilly that year, but three drivers can be identified: 81A is Ginger Davies from Manchester (the "Silver Knight").  Number 6 had the wonderful nickname of "Satan", D.W. Powell-Richards from Bromley. 100A is Jimmy Wright from Banbury (a speedway rider), who did race on that September night, in a huge 28-a-side team event. 

UPDATE  September 2010:  Several early drivers used straight-8 cylinder engines, and in 1954/55 a few English  "Railton" cars were raced by Gil Cox, Vic Tordoff, and Alan Hughes. Railtons were in the same league as Bentleys and had a limited production (only 1500 built between 1939 and 1940) and high performance.  The Railton was actually a British body mounted on on the American Hudson Terraplane chassis and big 4-litre engine. Here's a big straight-eight "L-head" Hudson engine.  No doubt some U.S. Terraplanes came over with servicemen during and just after WW2.                 

UPDATE  November 2013: A veteran Perry Bar fan, George Renshaw, saw a Railton being stuck in the fence on the first lap, and after that the field took a delight in "chipping" bits off every time round until it was a "bag of parts".  If you look at auction records you'll see that good Railtons fetch 50,000 and up.

 

Here is a 1955 Harringay race, professionally filmed:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=poBuLV_5s3Y&feature=player_embedded


UPDATE   August 2010:  Tanya Crouch and her partner John Goody were a godsend for publicity in the first years of stock car racing.  The Press followed them everywhere, as Tanya was from a posh background, being the well-spoken daughter of a surgeon from Heathfield Sussex, and who drove her own Bentley on the road:

Tanya is helped out of her car by John in 1954
Tanya at Neath Abbey, pushing the 38 car in 1955
Tanya and John at Neath prepping the tow rope; Goody's plush corduroy outfit is distinctive.
The stadium was just across the road from the old monastery ruins, and also featured speedway motorcycle racing --- Kiwi rider Trevor Redmond rode there before turning promoter.
Tanya Crouch was still alive in retirement in 2010, though commentators like Brian Sewell had implied she died years ago.

UPDATE   July 2010: In 1955 Pathe News (for us old 'uns Pathe was a regular feature that accompanied the movie at the local fleapit)  showed a 2-minute clip in 1955 of stock car racing in Australia. Here's the url.

UPDATE  May 2010: A big thanks to Graham Cox for his generosity in scanning at top quality this rare gem:  Long Eaton's May 1955 programme.
the impressive back cover photo.  Two enlargements from Graham's vintage programme, below:

9

Look closely at what's on the roof of the car below: Mooo!

heifer


UPDATE March 2010: Three remarkable photographs from Tamworth, and I am putting them here because "the sixties" are getting full, and Tamworth opened in 1960;  one shows one of Sid Farndon's first Junior 10 races.  The photos were taken by a then-young lad with his father's camera, and he has kindly sent the scans to me; I am crossing my fingers that there may be more ---.  The car numbers are hard to read but I can make out a few if I enlarge the views.  I have deliberately left them at high resolution and not cropped.  In all cases you can see the greyhound track and floodlights of Tamworth. Thanks to Trevor Chater for establishing the decade.  First photo;   second photo showing 616 R. Clark from Datchet, and 625  John Gray from Corby.  The #10 number in the  third photo was assigned to THREE drivers over 1960-61: Tony Flower (Derby), Reg Saul (Nottingham) and Geoff Hunt from Melton Mowbray.
Thanks to David Hughes, who has also donated some Hednesford pics in the SENIORS IN THE SIXTIES section.
David also corroborates 1960 or 1961 because the track Tannoy continually played "Tell Laura I Love Her" by Ricky Valance, which made #1 on the hit parade in England in 1960. The lyrics!


UPDATE  February 2010:  Early Brafield photo featuring numbers 43 and 51.  Four different drivers registered under #43 during the fifties, one of which was Danny Bassett.  The number 51 was either Willie Watts from Essex or Sam Stewart from Norfolk.  
Run for it ---  
Starter Jack Barrick uses his soccer referee skills to escape from the path of Trevor Frost's 68 car as it zooms over the start-finish line at Brafield in 1959.

UPDATE February 2010:  Sleek coupe with a flathead motor, shown here rather damaged, is at West Ham in 1959, driven by Vic Webb #33 from Bristol.


Where is this? --- the photo was printed in a Brandon programme in 1959, but the open countryside suggests it is one of the other tracks owned by Midlands Sports Stadiums Ltd, or that the photo was simply "kidnapped" which was quite common among promoters.  March 2010:  Trevor Chater bids for Ringwood or more likely Lydden, and Alan Humphrey also reckons Lydden's old field circuit.  Trevor identifies the driver as Cliff Sisley from Wilmington in Kent.  Since the 132 car is Chez Chesson also from Kent, that settles the argument in favour of Lydden.

 


UPDATE  January 2010:  Cliff Richard and The Drifters, on a stock car site?

cliff    tito

In August 1959, Long Eaton thought it would be a great thing to invite Cliff Richard to make an appearance at their September race meet. (Staines had Diana Dors appear at their world qualifying round).      At the time Cliff was touring with The Drifters (pre-Shadows).  Here is Long Eaton's invitation, and the bad-news reply from Cliff's manager.  As far as I can see, Long Eaton just wanted Cliff to turn up and say 'hi' and present trophies.

Tito Burns, the London impresario [also manager of the Searchers and Dusty Springfield, 
Tony Bennett, The Zombies, the Stones, and Cat Stevens]
wanted big money.   In any case, 1959 was a tough year for Cliff, who was being overworked and had laryngitis. How big a fee was 500 in 1959?   The flamboyant Tito Burns (Nathan Bernstein, 1921-2010) had been a cabinet maker and an RAF air-gunner before going into showbiz. 

Two tough guys battle it out: from a 1956 Lydden Hill programme, courtesy of ex-racer Barry Redman, here are Pat Willis and Ken Freeman going at it.  

Behind the Slough garage of Bill Webb (#162 in the early numbering system) we see Ted Pankhurst's 102 car, and the dark-shirted "cool dude" is Bill's son Ron, later to race under 56 and 481.  The photo is approx. 1956.  Ron's brother Pete Webb became famous under #8, and their older brother Eric was a non-racing member of the pack.  My thanks to Barry Redman for the photo.

Britain's Daily Telegraph in April 2004 did a very good job of researching the early history of stock-car racing, and their journalist was able to find and interview some of the surviving movers and shakers. The article, entitled The Trail Blazers,  is a 'must' to read.

In my home page section, Terry Dickinson provided scans of a rare 1954 Belle Vue programme; they are such high resolution that I have cropped and extracted five excellent photos of cars and drivers from that meeting:
  • Nose-to-nose;  car B40 is Ginger Davis from Manchester; B121 is Noel Evans from Urmston, Manchester, under the nom de guerre "Joe Soap".
  • A Bentley (yes, one of those) gets pushed around by car 4, George McInnes from Edgware.
  • Frank Haft from Manchester carries a newspaper poster. Car #35 on his back is Mac McDonnell from Dartford
  • Joe Soap  again.
  • Tanya Crouch and John Goody chat.
 
  

I cannot recall where and how I got this photo scan, of the pioneer racer Jack Tipping, with pre-1957 BriSCA numbering. Whoever sent it, let me know.

From Ian Melton, five photos of cars that bridged the end of the fifties and the start of the sixties:  original snapshots, not programme reprints.   

That's Graham Hill in #73, Vic Ferriday's car!  While racing in Formula One grand prix for Lotus, Hill took part in a West Ham special event, against a Michael (or Dennis) Taylor, a Lotus engineer who borrowed Vic Muggeridge's stock car #255. 

Then Cyril Ainsworth [from Newbury] #106.   

Next, the flathead-engined car of Johnny King, probably 1958 / 1959.   Johnny King's Auto Moly Special #6.   Johnny's son Chris King corrected my earlier "ex-Brise" label.

Then ex-speedway rider Jimmy Wright's 236 car parked in front of Ellis Ford's 183, and I have a feeling that those young chaps appear in another Ellis Ford photo elsewhere on this site.  

Another 'mystery':  this neat and smart "hot rod" coupe, #3 (before Ellis used #3) could be that of American Melvin Linville if the photo is 1961 or 1962.  If it's 1957 to 1960, then it's Graham Warner from Bury St. Edmunds. [Though the coupe looks much like Pete Tucker's cars.)

Treasure Trove!  Probably the earliest photo in existence of the dawn of Brafield Stadium, 1948.  A big thank-you to Russ Thomas, the long-time Brafield announcer / deejay, and driver # 286 for the following: here are Russ's words:.  

It is a photo of Dave Hughes' Irish brother-in-law, who with a friend have dug out the start straight at Brafield Stadium in 1948. One of the two young lads is the son of midget racer Arch Hanscombe.
Dave Hughes was a baker at Cogenhoe. [ If you go to Northants, say "COOK-KNOW"  ]  He was mad keen on speedway and pre-war would organize coach trips (via Yorks coaches no doubt) to major events. In doing so he got a lot of local people interested in the sport.
After the war he saw the midget racing cars, thought they had potential and bought a 'set' of Skirrows to race as a team. They started practicing and holding their own very unofficial meetings in a field near the village of Whiston. This wasn't very successful as the field was only accessible across other fields, so they started looking for something better. A local character was running dogs on the field that is now Brafield stadium/NIR and they approached him to try and run the cars there. He was reluctant and thought they needed planning permission. They applied for this and were turned down at first, but eventually were given permission and, I believe they then bought the field from the "dog man". This is where the photo comes in. They dug the first layouts by hand, then their star driver, American ex GP driver Spike Rhiando was given the job of commissioning and overseeing work with mechanical plant. I think the track was first up and running properly in 1949. The midgets never attained the success that was hoped for and I think Dave had to organize a lot of the team events and then try and sell them to promoters as a 'package'. They did race all over the country, however, through until stock cars took over.

Two early pictures of the Brafield Midget Racing team. In the closer-up photo, the driver standing on the left is Aubrey Leighton's old 'partner in crime', Wilf Davis (whose ruthless team tactics got Aubrey's cars banned, and led to one of the sport's most infamous on-and-off track skirmishes at Brafield, involving drivers, mechanics, and spectators ----).  The fella that started it all, Dave Hughes, is in the car. Unnamed on the snapshot, Ron Ball is the chap on the far right.

More "March Midget" info from Russ Thomas, found from elsewhere on the 'Net:
 
"Old-time midget car driver Dave Hughes, who pioneered the British revival when he built the original Bradfield track in 1949, helped by American driver Spike Rhiando, blames the early post-war attitude of speedway promoters for the sport's decline. He bought his first Skirrow midget car during the 1939-45 war, thinking that the pre-war build up of the sport would continue when hostilities ceased. But the speedway bosses effectively blocked midget car racing's come-back in Britain, including warding off an American attempt in 1948 to establish the cars.  In 1948, Hughes met pre-war driver Gene Crowley who hoped to re-establish the sport, but then lost interest. Hughes then bought a dozen Skirrow midgets, and besides running the company also drove in meetings. As late as 1982 Hughes was intending to revive his interest in midget car promotion."  

UPDATE March 2010:  Did these midgets get built and raced? Steve Farndon sent some scans of the July1960 BSCDA newsletter, and among its news items was this:
  midget

UPDATE  
January 2010: Russ Thomas brings more treasure from the chest: here is a promotional booklet distributed by the Hughes brothers in 1950 to publicize midget racing. More below:

brafield cover

UPDATE February 2010:  More midget magic, thanks to James Gould, the grandson of the famous racer Wilf Davis, and James's information connects with Russ Thomas's Brafield bits.  The struggle to bump-start midget as a sustainable sport took Dave Hughes and his companions all over.  Here is a pdf file of a 1952 programme from Brough Park (Byker, Newcastle-upon-Tyne).  Here below is Wilf Davis, all 6ft 4in of him to fit in the tiny car.  Like his friend Aubrey Leighton, and unusually in stock car racing, Wilf was a well-spoken public-school educated chap, and it shows in his demeanour and expression here:

wilf

A publicity photo of midgets on the track.  
he programme mentions something that not many people knew: Wilf Davis's brother Stringer Davis [1899-1973] was a film and stage 'character' actor who appeared in nearly 30 films.  While in the army in 1945, Stringer married  Dame Margaret Rutherford .  She was the famous stage and film actress, and Stringer appeared as her sidekick in several Miss Marple films (at his wife's insistence to the studios), as well as being a devoted friend of Sir John Gielgud.

 
UPDATE  December 2013:  More of Wilf Davis, courtesy of the excellent internet forum on midget cars, http://midgetcarpanorama.proboards.com/index.cgi.  At the Brighton & Hove Stadium in 1950, we have a dirt-spattered Wilf on the far left at a trophy presentation, with "Spike" Rhiando on the far right.  Then, Wilf is standing at the far right in this photo.

UPDATE  January 2011:  Midgets deserved to catch on better than they did, especially when "stars" like the great Ronnie Moore were willing to demonstrate them, here at Wimbledon :
ronnie moore 1955  
Ronnie was a brilliant speedway rider, twice World Champion ('54 and '59); he won the first at the tender age of 21 and riding with a broken leg!

Also on my "Links" page, thanks to John Hyam,a site that will fascinate you: http://midgetcarpanorama.proboards.com/index.cgi

In 1948 film-star Lana Turner, with her millionaire husband, helped ship 20 (twenty) midget racers from the States for an English tour.  Among the tracks they visited were Charlton Athletic's Valley ground, Walthamstow Stadium, and Stamford Bridge.  The whole story is told and illustrated on this website.

I have found a press photograph of Lana Turner on a parade lap of Stamford Bridge stadium (Chelsea FC's home). The arrival of the midget racers (with V8-60 motors) brought in 50,000 fans on the day!  One of the directors of this tour was listed as Albert "Cubby" Broccoli, a name we all remember popping up as producer on the early James Bond films.  The midget tour brought with it 8,000 gallons of methanol and 500 tyres.

Midget racer, [more photos below]  Courtesy of the late USAF racer Clayton Sampson, who raced this midget.  This Skirrow car was built in the 1930's and was one of several owned by Dave Hughes, mentioned above. It used a JAP 1100cc air-cooled V-twin motor, giving four-wheel drive, no differentials, through TWO clutches -- one at each end -- (but only one pedal).  The motor ran on alcohol, with a wicked 15:1 compression ratio, which engine-braked the thing so fiercely with the gas off that no brakes were required.  Some people may recall these motors needed careful "pull-it-back-off-compression" before attempting a hefty push-start.  Clayton fondly remembered the very high performance (and the unforgettable din) of these tiny cars, which he raced mostly on shale tracks.

Clayton is no longer with us, but his wife Margaret  kindly sent these three snapshots from those days.  

Just for a comparison, fifty years later, here are two Grand Prix Midgets at Buxton raceway in 2007, courtesy of Rogers Oval Racing Home Page.


Brian Clements sends these four interesting scans of the very first Brafield programme, from a limited edition painstakingly reproduced by Keith Barber in the 1970's. [Keith also reproduced the first New Cross programme, and important Harringay and West Ham ones.  Keith had studied Graphics at Coventry CAT, and was of course an accomplished draughtsman].   
For Sunday 15th 1955,  "Digger" Pugh wrote the inside notes.  
  • Here are the back and front covers.  
  • Here are pages 2 and 3, with Geoff Barnet named, and that eternal warning "Cameras Prohibited", which makes you smile, given the tens of thousands of Brafield photographs over the years.  
  • Look at the centre spread of entrants and recall those names, e.g. Roy Goodman -- did he even dream he would still be racing 40 years later?  
  • The Grand Final paid 30 pounds ---- big money in 1955 (my gross wage ten years later in 1964 was 8 pounds a week)  Notice that "B.A.S.C.A.R" intended to share racing with Sweden, Spain, and Belgium.  Thanks again to Brian Clements (who hastened to add that No, he was not there that day in 1955 ---.)

Tragedy we don't enjoy rembering. John Payne, who has contributed quite a bit to this 'early days' section, scanned three original newspaper clippings in his archive that described the terrible 1955 crash at Brandon in which Mrs Nese ["Nessie"] Hodgkins was killed, driving car 39, in the same race as her husband Jack Hodgkins, #38.  In addition, Nigel Stennett-Cox, who used to work for Jack Hodgkins and who today still knows him and his daughter, sent the night's Coventry programme and the following meet's programme notes.  I have the scans of the three newspaper articles, which of course are melodramatic and sensational, one of which is out to ban the sport.  I will e-mail the scans to anyone interested who contacts me, but I don't feel like publishing 'tragedy trash' here.  Nigel points out that Nese Hodgkins, who raced stock cars at the same time as the better-known Tanya Crouch, was driving a Ford Model 68 Touring on that fateful night.
 

The Ranger STRANGER story:

A big thank-you to the Ranger family who have run
Ranger's Garage in Durrington near Stonehenge for over 50 years, for the following historic photos.  Alan Ranger scanned and sent them, and his father Michael, ex-autocrosser, karter, and rally man, supplied the facts.  It was grandfather Sylvan "Dub" Ranger who built the #100 "The Stranger" stock car raced by Cliff Tindall, shown here in 1958 at Matchams Park. Cliff and their mechanic Stan Cottrell were expert army-trained lorry mechanics.  [I must point out that I've seen three different spellings of Cliff's last name.]  The car in these photos looks a lot like a Pilot, but is identifiable [thanks to Ford V-8 ace Mick Gamble] as a Ford V-8 Model 62, with a side-valve of about 2.6L, smaller than the later Pilots .  
UPDATE  September 2013: Thanks to Alan and his father Michael Ranger for posting the following historic cine film on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3vGEEbAMJE  it was filmed in September 1958 at Pewsey carnival in Wiltshire, and shows a stock car demonstration race.  You can freeze scenes and try to identify drivers, but the "definites" are 38 Fred Mitchell, 272 Frank Harris, 150 Nobby Brown, 253 Ron Smith, possibly 104 Ted Pankhurst, 20 "Oily Wells, and 98 Don Mason or Killer Sayers. At the end are some charming informal shots of the Ranger family and friends, and a carnival queen event.

No matter, as the Rangers were in it for fun, not for championships, and were on that wonderful Southern circus circuit of tracks with wild men like Pete Tucker and Gerry Dommet, racing at Southampton, Aldershot, Matchams Park, Weymouth, Staines (Michael remembers the hour-long traffic jam on Staines Bridge whenever there was a race), and West Ham with occasional expeditions to Brafield, Brandon, and even Long Eaton --- a major trek in the fifties.   Other regulars who "Dub" and Michael knew were Don Mason from Chichester, Reg May, Frank Harris from Southampton, Harry Foot who drove from the back seat of his car; 'crossover' kart pioneers like Chick Woodroffe and Johnny Brise, and early autocrossers who would later dominate hot-rods, George Polley and Barry Lee.  The Rangers still have some early cine footage of races, including the terrifying stunt antics of Exeter's Ellis Dore and his sister, and Pete Tucker racing at Matchams, and of a demonstration race at Pewsey Carnival in Wiltshire.    

Next, Sylvan's proud son Michael Ranger holding up the Tongham Trophy that Cliff had just won at Aldershot. Before we move on to some other cars, also from the Ranger album, a fascinating photo of a BSCDA dinner held in '58 or '59 in the Tottenham Court Road, with everyone in their best suits.  I am waiting for more definite information, but I believe that Sylvan and young Michael are on the far left, and the rather elegant lady is the wife of Gil Cox (#91) from Bournemouth, who was a 'gent' with money who raced a powerful (and expensive) Railton car on stock car tracks.  The early days of the sport saw a number of what we'd call upper-class people having fun with unusual motors like Bentleys; were they slumming?  Not really  -- more likely looking for some adventure in plain old post-war England.

Now for "the others", from the Ranger album:  Sprog Bennet #32 from Wembley jumps barrels between Freddie Mitchell and 104 Ted Pankhurst.
["Sprog' was Pete Tucker's mechanic, and had the honour of being banned from several tracks for his 'swing first and ask questions later' style of confrontation]

Fred and Ted neck-and-neck on track.  Possibly (?) Southampton, with #23 leading the pack out of the corner.  Finally, two photos of a stunt driver (same car in both) doing ramp jumps, one of them into a pantechnicon.    (I threw that word in to see how many old 'uns remember the name officially used for furniture lorries: "pantechnicons").

Why call their car THE STRANGER?
  If you look closely at the side of the car you see a diagram outline of Stonehenge.  
Cliff Tindall was from Salisbury
( Stonehenge country), and the name came from ST (Stonehenge) + RANGER                                  
 Thanks to Stan and Diane Hollingdale for identifying Cliff as the driver in my earlier older photograph on this site.
  Stan and brother Ken raced in the golden era, Ken in Seniors/F1's from 1958, and Stan in Spedeworth from 1963.


Last 'Stranger' photo shows Cliff racing against our next hero #122 Tom Ryder of Stepney.

UPDATE  December 2011:
Tommy Ryder
has a great fund of memories from those days. The car you see was armoured with heavy-gauge corrugated iron from an air-raid shelter.   It was a 1934 Model A Ford that came with the 14.9hp 4-cylinder engine; of course Tom swapped in a flathead 32hp V-8 from a crashed lorry he got for 20.  He then adapted a gearbox from a 22hp commercial vehicle, and to "customize" the body a bit he cut a section right out of the middle and welded the two ends together!  Tom had a scrapyard, like so many other racers, so the work was second nature to him. The wheels were from a 1934 Buick straight-8, and the driveshaft was in a torque tube.
On the back, Tom installed a railway sleeper for protection.  Front bumper was a brutal 6"x3" steel girder, and he happily remembers a night at West Ham when he got a long straight run at Dirty Dennis ---- bang, hard enough to bend the girder.  Like other veterans he remembers the deafening racket of Dirty Dennis's tank engine (actually from a Bren carrier) that shook the stadium.
Tommy often raced at Ipswich, and one day on the way there towing his stock car up an incline, he suddenly felt his car begin go faster.  It was another stock car driver, in a US command car towing a stocker, who had crept up and started to push. He also remembers the get-togethers at a transport cafe on the way back from Ipswich.  Tom was one of the pioneers at New Cross, promoted by Digger Pugh, 
racing against Whiskers Woolnough and Tanya Crouch.  
One reason for being selected for the UK vs USA team series is that Digger noticed his surname RYDER conveniently rhymed with Crawfish CRIDER.     Tom was kind enough to chat with me from England, where at the spry age of 81 he was busy outside working on his patio, in December.
 

More early history, and a big thanks to Charlotte White.  The year is "sometime in the fifties", and the scene is Birmingham's Perry Bar track.  From left to right the racers and fans are "Mad" Mason with his famous smirk, an unnamed man, then Charlotte's white-overalled grandfather Reg White. The14-year-old Brian White (Charlotte's father) is standing next to Reg, then Georgie Chiswell peers from the background, and Len Curtis.  Next, traveling forward 10+ years, the same Brian White (76) is racing a hot rod at Hednesford, a track that he and his father tarmac'd; and just coming into the photo is Hednesford boss Bill Morris's son Martin Morris (# 00).  

Hednesford --- one man's dream and mission

UPDATE February 2010 / October 2011:  A unique slice of Hednesford history:  thanks to Conrad Roe, whose father Claude Roe (assisted by Les Marshall, who promoted at Birmingham's Perry Bar track) was the pioneer who developed the old Hednesford reservoir into a stock car track.  Below are photos of their work in the early 1950's.

hednes early

The reservoir, actually called Scott House Reservoir, had been empty of water for over 40 years, due to mine subsidence, when Claude took it over.  Conrad remembers visiting the disused site with his father, and later putting up posters and selling programmes when the racing first started.  .  A dramatic crash scene, that also shows the amazing crowd size at Hednesford.  Here is the then-infamous "Mad" Mason lining up.  

Conrad Roe preserved the following programme from the summer of 1954, clear enough to read the promoter's comments and the names of the drivers [if you click on the images when they appear, they will enlarge enough for easy viewing]:
Cover;  pages 2 and 3;  pages 8 and 9;  pages 10 and 11;  centre spread with drivers' names.

Drivers at the later 12th September meet of 1954

Claude Roe was an energetic promoter and businessman who had started from nothing, and put on a variety of events and entertainment at Hednesford, as shown by this playbill from 1955.  The 'Bob Hope' listed there is not the one you're thinking of ---- but Ruby Murray was indeed top of the pops in the UK, with seven top-ten records in 1955 ("Let Me Go, Lover") http://www.rubymurray.org/ .


When you think that folks in the fifties did NOT have a ton of money to spend, but nonetheless they still walked, biked, bussed, or drove in massive numbers to speedway and stock-car races; no "goggle box" at home to drug them.  Elsewhere on the site I have cited facts such as Wembley Lions speedway team having a supporters' club with 66,000 paid-up members at the end of the 1940's, and nights when 80,000 packed the stadium with another 20,000 locked out in the surrounding streets.  


Cars 22 and 19 get involved; look at the size of that crowd.  

UPDATE More Hednesford history 

Thanks to Graham Brown for the text of this eloquent interview with Bill Morris.  And, below, the grand old man himself, Bill Morris with his son Martin Morris, in front of the Doug Warner hot rod (before its  restoration by Gordon Bland, who sent this photo):

Bill Morris lived to be 94 years old, passing away in the autumn of 2008. 

martin morris

More 1950's programme scans from Trevor Richings.  Mid-fifties driver numbers are sometimes a mystery. As Mike Greenwood explains in his superb and indispensible reference book "STOCK CAR DRIVERS", 3rd ed., regional and local promoters issued their own numbers until about 1957 when a national system was instituted.  Anyway, here we go:  Staines was the scene as Jock Lloyd (for the Staines team) mixes it with Ken Freeman #61, with Aubrey Leighton 42 of the Brafield team in the background.  The programme identifies Jock as #13, whose bonnet says "Bull Terrier", and underneath you can see the flathead Ford V-8 motor.  Heading North again (I think it's Brafield), we see Vic Muggeridge passing the "de-axled" car of Harry Bosworth.  Another fifties programme scan, unknown location, probably Brafield, 46 and 35 in action; 46 is Arthur Hake from Dunstable.

This photo is famous and has also appeared in Keith Barber's publications; taken at West Ham in the fifties, and reproduced in one of their early sixties' programmes, it shows 12 and 60 coming to blows.  #60 was registered to Pat Frost (Ipswich) in 1957, and to Eric Wilkinson (Southport) in 1958.  London's Fred Burness and Sheffield's "Stubby" Bell had #12 in 1957 and 1958 respectively.  Someone will tell me, I bet.


Thanks to Tony Jones for the following four early photos.  

Two show Tony's father, Wal Jones, clambering through the wreckage of the "Wrecker Meadway" car at Brandon.  The next one is also Brandon, and is a track photograph that also appears on the cover of Keith Barber's excellent History of UK Big League Stock Car Racing.  Depending on the year, #16 could be Vic Plioppa of Hornchurch, or Fred Zagni from Ipswich; and there were too many # 9 registered drivers in the 50's to guess. Wal Jones was a close friend of the late great Bill Morris as well as mechanic'ing for the Meadway cars, also crewed for Bill's son Martin in Juniors and hot-rods.  Tony explained the mystery behind the frequent programme listings of the two drivers "Wrecker Meadway" and "Tatter Meadway":  There were no such people;  The cars were named for the Meadway Motor Spares company that Bill owned and that his son Martin later took over, in the Meadway district of East Birmingham where it first operated before moving west to Bordesley Green.   Bill Morris drove one car briefly, but handed both over to a mechanic and to his brother Derek.  

Lastly from Tony, a Hednesford photo showing # 35 heading out of the picture.

 

That #35 car above has been recognized by Derek Bridgett --- it is that of his late brother Bill Bridgett.  Derek says:  "In the fifties Bill built three cars; the 35 car in the picture was his second. The first one had been painted with red and white stripes (Stoke City's colours!) the second and third cars were white with red stars, those being the colours worn by the Stoke Potters Speedway team in the late 40's early 50's; Bill rode for them a few times. The third car Bill built was also white with red stars but he only raced it a few times as his "fling" with stock cars died out. If you look on the top of the car you just might make out a Jolly Roger flag --- I haven't a clue why he put that on!"

bridgett 

That snapshot is 1955 [Bill started racing stock cars in 1954] as they set off for Hednesford, with Bill in the white overalls and, of course wearing a tie; younger readers may not realize that most tradesmen, lorry drivers for instance, always wore a proper shirt and tie to work, and a cap.  The stocker was towed behind Bridgett Snr's 1937 Morris 14, with a simple iron bar, so all wheels on the road, which meant that they had to have a driver, with goggles, to steer the thing!  On long steep hills, the "driver" would fire up the stock car and PUSH the Morris ---.  Those were the days.]   "After his stock car episode he began to concentrate on his motor cycle grass track racing career, which he was very successful at, eventually winning the National 350cc championship in 1968 at the age of 40!  [Photo taken at Ledbury in '54 or '55 as Bill was starting to move from speedway to grass.]  Bill did return to stock cars in the late 60's and 70's when he was in partnership with Mike Parker Promotions."    

The Stoke Potters still race, 60 years later, a Newcastle-under-Lyme premier league team.  I'd like to thank Derek Bridgett for those historic memories, and for appreciating his late brother Bill's adventures.

The Beginning:  an historic news clipping, with a big thanks to John Payne, who searched his attic to find and send me a 54-year-old newspaper clipping that reported the VERY FIRST STOCK CAR RACE at Brafield Stadium.  John also sent some other newspaper  'treasures', one of which is a photo from an early Brandon meet: Car 135F, with its driver exiting through the windscreen space.  Famous among the mid-fifties pioneers was Mac McDonnell, written up here.  As I've commented elsewhere on this site, many or most of the first racers had seen active service in WW2 or National Service.  Mac had served in a 'Commando' unit --- suitable training for our sport, eh?!  [More of John Payn'es items will appear here soon.]  One of the crazy men at Brandon was Bill "Mad Mason", faintly photographed here with his car mascot, a stuffed badger.  (note: for all their antics, most racers were about as 'crazy' as General Motors -- they knew how to build, organize, and put on a successful show, and genuinely 'loony' guys did not last long.)   Note on viewing old scans:  if your cursor shows a + plus sign or - minus sign on a photo, give it a click.  The old half-tone newspaper photos look odd when digitally scanned at high resolution, but computers seem to recognize high-res images and give you a chance to improve viewing.

Do me a favour --- if you spot a name that's familiar and may know the driver or their family, chase it up for me.  Bill Mason's ("Mad Mason") grandson contacted me a few years back and I have lost his e-mail.  More from John: Look at this crowd!

Below, from an early Hednesford Hills programme, identified by eagle-eyed Trevor Chater, who attended Brum's Perry Bar track in 1955 as a babe in arms and after half-a-century of country-wide spectating, still faithfully attends Coventry.

4 barrel

24 crash

Here are some driver photographs from the 1950's -- remember to look up any family names:

Steve Storm sits on a barrel. Nigel Harradine recalls that "Steve Storm" was a fake name used by a speedway rider whose own organization did not allow riders to race stock cars.  Nigel jokes that he too has bumped against that kind of rule  ---. 1972.
 
"Wrecker" Meadway wears tiger stripes.

From Trevor Riching's archive, a typical "snag" into the unforgiving Brafield steel cable fence for Dick Beaumont #177.

Years ago Keith Barber kindly gave me this 1959 Brafield programme.  A word about my scanning (usually at 300-400 high resolution): if the image you see is blurry, click the mouse on it and it may re-size more clearly; the computer seems to know when the image is too big.  Here is the cover:  notice that Brafield had already run nine meetings that year.  Then an enlargement showing Sid Farndon's rollover in front of that venerable Brafield landmark,  "Fred's Hot Dog Stand".  
Thanks to Keith Green for pointing out that Sid Farndon's older brother was Tom Farndon, a Coventry speedway rider and one of the greatest British speedway stars.

The crowded Heat One has 34 cars entered.  Here are Heats Two and Three.  I see famous names in all three races.  Graham Guthrie's report of the August 23 meeting, which sounds like it was a lot of fun (imagine Dirty Dennis staying in one piece and on four wheels, to finish in first place ---). 

Ken Mason sent me this scan of a 1958 Long Eaton programme, which matches some info received from Trevor Tennant, the son of Ralph Tennant # 188, profiled here.  The LE rules/regs are shown here.   Ralph raced at LE under "Bozzy" Bosworth's management, and at Brafield where Geoff Barnet ran the show. Ralph's car was a typical 3.6 litre side-valve Pilot.  In the 1960's Ralph raced a Junior F2, #584, at a time when the Wesley brothers wreaked havoc on the track in their Rover 10's (Trevor has an old 8mm film of the action). Later Ralph raced hot rods at Hednesford, #45, a Ford 100E with a 1500cc BMC motor, AND a 'customized' Ford 10 van with a saloon top welded on, and a Hillman Minx engine.  Trevor Tennant and his own son Stuart are big in stock-car model making and racing (Stuart was the 2000 champ).

Aubrey Leighton #42 

Winner of the 1957 World Championship.  Aubrey was known for his engineering 'perfectionism': one correspondent remembers seeing a humble Ford 10 motor in the Earls Barton garage, prepped for racing, that looked like a shining jewel, every external and internal surface polished. 

Here are some snapshots taken at Aubrey's garage in Earls Barton courtesy of ex-racer Steve Gateley, whose father Alan Gateley also raced and knew Aubrey.  First, that famous Leighton grin and  moustache.  Photos of the front of the championship car, ONE and TWO. 

Next is Aubrey's family:  wife 'Effie', daughter Carol and son Keith.  Next, perched proudly on dad's car is Aubrey's son Keith.   Keith went on to a stellar career, from Cosworth engines to Formula 2 and F1 Grand Prix teams [World Champ Ronnie Peterson's engineer], to Indy cars and more see what a good stock-car background does for you.

Aubrey also adapted a Ford fire engine that could hit 70mph, as his 'ambulance'.  Here is his Auburn based 42 ready for the first ITV televised race at Brafield in Feb 1959.

Priceless family photos showing Aubrey Leighton's legendary and infamous 1950's Packard  "destroyer":  One shows the car by itself in the weeds beside Aubrey's garage (Wellingborough road A45 in Earls Barton), and the second shows young Steve Gateley [left] sitting with Aubrey's son Keith on its roof.  Steve estimates the date at 1960, but says the car sat there for years even after it was banned; Aubrey always refused offers for it.  

The widespread belief that Aubrey raced the Packard with its original V-12 engine is not accurate --- the motor was found to be in bad shape and not repairable, and he substituted a Ford flathead V-8 from a Bren gun carrier.  At one point his apprentice went with Aubrey down to Fred Mitchell's yard to look at another V-12, but it's not known whether that went anywhere.  Thanks to Keith Barber and Harry Prigmore for those facts.  Thanks a lot to Steve for the photos.  I recall Aubrey's final 42 "pink un" also rusting by the garage until it went on to other drivers, and eventually to Keith Barber.   

This is a notorious photo, originally printed in Stock Car Racing News in Feb 1965, and reprinted in Keith Barber's Stock Car Magazine in the last three or four years.  The crash happened in September 29th,1956 at Brandon.  Car #35 is Wilf Davis, Aubrey Leighton's "team-mate" officially no teams were allowed in one of Leighton's big Packards

UPDATE July 2011:  The Wilf Davis car used a big Chrysler straight-8 motor, with the radiator inside the cab; Keith Barber recalls it had an ohv conversion, which I am trying to identify.   Steve Gateley points out that the numbers visible here were assigned only for this meeting:  #37 is Vic Ferriday, and #12 is "Killer" Sayers.   

 UPDATE  March 2010:    that Brandon crash featured a chap who was easily annoyed: "Sprog" Bennett from Wembley was Pete Tucker's mechanic (and a racer in his own right), and at Brandon tried to start cutting up Wilf Davis's car.  Here's the famous photo of the Ferriday car 'folded' nearly in half, with Sprog visible starting to climb the front of the wreck -----. And 4 years later at Harringay in 1960, when Pete Tucker and Rod Dore got into a "fencing" incident, Sprog Bennet got into a fist fight and the BSCDA banned him from all tracks until further notice.

AUBREY and kart racing:  Aubrey was one of the first people in Britain to build a kart (UK kart history is a hotbed of competing "firsts" and I am staying out of it), and his design was adopted by nearby AERO KARTS for production.   Here is a high-res photo of that first kart. The newspaper got it wrong about "bomb trailer wheels" ---- Aubrey and others used those only for their stock cars!  

UPDATE March 2011: Here's a newspaper photo of Aubrey showing off the kart in the forecourt of Earls Barton Motors (from Russ Thomas / Chronicle & Echo).  When the paper published that photo, Aubrey's daughter Carol wrote in to confirm the facts

Another early kart pioneer was Ralph Tennant #188, a skilled engineer from Leamington Spa who not only built Britain's second-ever kart, but raced stock cars (Seniors, Juniors, and hot rods), and was a winner in grass-track racing with his home-built Panther and BSA specials, and who bought extremely hard-to-find kart wheels and tyres from Aubrey in 1960.    Thanks for this info to Trevor Tennant, Ralph's son, who himself, and his champion son, race model stock cars.

Important Update, September 2009:

One of the top three sensational-historic events most stock-car fans know about was the 1956 "Leighton-against-the-World" scuffle at Brafield Stadium, which resulted in Brafield banning-for-life eight BSCDA drivers, including Leighton and Danny Bassett.  Here, courtesy of ex-racer Barry Redman, is a large high-resolution image of the Pete Arnold BSCDA newsletter responding to that incident and explaining the lead-up to it.  Keith Barber's book has a dramatic photo of the scuffle.  

The Leighton Packard #42 on its lorry in the Brafield pits in 1956. [Steve Gateley source for photo]  

[Next photos all courtesy of Aubrey's daughter Carol:]   As always, Aubrey is grinning broadly, even though his 42 car has a major bend in it.  The mechanic's last name was Anderson any memories?  

Here is  the tidy looking  #42, fresh before any damage, a lovely car.  and here's the same #42 getting into some bumper-busting action in 1960. [Programme from Andy Lively] 

The 1957 Champ and his son; notice "free air" being advertised;  also, that's an old Armstrong-Siddeley hood mascot.  Next, Aubrey outside Earls Barton Motors with his towing ambulance;  notice the sign for "Chassis and body straightening" very appropriate. 

The Champ admires his 1957 World Championship trophy. The garage front has hardly changed as of 2010.  Frank Williams [Williams Grand Prix] had his very first single-seater circuit car fabricated there.

From ex-racing mechanic Trevor Richings, a scan of Aubrey on a victory lap with his long-wheelbase Auburn special.

From Ian Melton  --- the late great 1957 Aubrey Leighton World Championship Chrysler at Brafield.

UPDATE February 2011:  Undated programme shows Aubrey waving the flag at John La Trobe.

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Bill Morris's Meadway Atom, in 1954, with a young Steve Gateley in charge.

Unknown cars, track and newspaper, but here is a 1954 photo of early stock car racing, showing one car with a soft canvas top health and safety?  Alan Humphrey sent the photo.

Tanya Crouch at one of the first stock-car races to be held in England.

Pathe Newsreel film of Tanya Crouch racing at Harringay in the 1950's:

Pathe Newsreel film of the tiny "Atom" single-seater racer for dirt tracks.

In 1959 the Brafield track had only just been concreted.  Here is Cliff Tindall (shown elsewhere on this site) in # 100 on the pits bend.  Car 23 is George Tufnell from Colchester, and #383 chasing them is Kettering's "Rush" Tyrell. Russ Thomas, who sent this, points out the famous tree that appears in just about everyone's Brafield photographs [and nearly always bare of leaves!].

Who sent me this historic Aycliffe programme cover

Pioneer Doug Warner from Birmingham, in 1960.  Doug raced under "The Saint", and his car ran a big straight-8 Buick motor. [Photo from Steve Gateley]. Tough old engines: I remember drag-racer Alan "Bootsie" Herridge's first slingshot in about 1963/4, used a Buick straight-8 with deafening stub exhausts.

Marty Page #333, but this photo was printed in an Ipswich newspaper in 2004, to celebrate stock-car racing's 50th anniversary. 

Jimmy Wright  from Oxford was a pal of Fred Mitchell's and also raced speedway.  He raced under #236 (here, I think) from 1958 to 1962.  Thanks to Pete Schafer, Fred's mechanic, for the photo.  Classic 'flathead' engine and upright armour, and see those 'agricultural' tyres on the back.

Reg Walker today is, I'm told, a leading "Pig Roast" man.  Over 40 years ago Reg, from Cheltenham, was racing #320.  First snapshot also shows "the usual suspects" who were the vital ingredient for any racer. Here's Reg nose-on-barrel and about to roll. Third, here's Reg's car posing in a field.  Thanks to Reg Walker for the photos, which Andy Lively scanned for me.

An old  photograph of Ron Rogers at Long Eaton in approx 1956 .

Darkie's first car? Photo taken in 1955 or 1956 at Brafield; can this number 7 be an early appearance of the late great Darkie Wright from London? [Steve Gateley photo]

  • The famous all-out good-times racer Pete Tucker, American car fanatic and author of his privately-published "Thrill-of-the-Century", has dated this photo as 1956, at Brafield, car #85. [Gateley, one more time, ta.]
  • Pete's immaculate # 85 car.  
  • Another shot shows a very early Tucker car: 1954 at New Cross. [Gateley photo]
  • Many fans will already have spotted this press photograph in the wonderful Hulton Archive;  Pete Tucker at the first (or one of the first) New Cross races:  the very beginning of British stock-car racing.

On the wrecker at Hednesford Hills raceway back in 1955 [Steve Gateley photo].  Here's an unidentified racer #49 being towed at Hednesford;  in that year there were still three rival promoters with their own numbering / licensing systems; anyone have a file on this one?

Two famous names tangle:  probably at the Eastbourne track, probably 1954, it's Allen Briggs 138 and Johnny Brise 103 getting down to business;  thanks to Pete Schafer for passing on this photo.

The smartly-dressed kid here, Steve Gateley, would grow up to race F2 and F1 cars, but here in 1956 he is showing us the car of "Lofty" West, racer and one-time BSCDA treasurer, from Finchley.  Here is Lofty West in the midst of some dusty action at Brafield in 1956 [Steve G. photos] .  "Lofty", E.J. West, began racing at the sport's start in 1954, and was based in Finchley.

Naughty, naughty -- in 1955 this car caused fits among the authorities at Brafield when it appeared decorated  with saucy pinups pasted on --  so Chippie Weston #62 had to remove them before being allowed on the track.  [Steve Gateley photo]

Billy Barber came from Hayes, Middlesex, to race this #23 car at Brafield;  it's the then-popular 1935 Ford Pilot.  What was it about Hayes?  Scores of hot-rodders, drag-racers, and stock-car nuts came from there. 

A big thank-you to Russ Thomas, the Brafield deejay for these: by photographer Rowland Holloway: first, on an August Bank Holiday 1956, is Royce Garton # 63, from Lutterworth, hopping out of his overturned car.  

Second is a 1958 photo of "The Cisco Kid", Johnny Fry # 94, from Barking, Essex.  Russ recalls that The Kid would cheerfully stand around the pits in full cowboy regalia --- maybe something from the "props" department, as Fry was also a stunt man in the movies, and here he is in 1960.  The Cisco TV series from 1950-1956, was filmed in colour, which was no good for me.  Hey, Pancho! Hey, Cisco!

Four more 1950's treasures from Steve Gateley, of his father Alan Gateley's stock car.  

  • Alan G. knew Bill Morris (the legend of Hednesford), and in 1954 got this ex-Canadian Embassy Ford Mercury from Bill's local Medway Spares yard. 
  • Here's the car in full body armour.  
  • Here in action pushing two more into the fence.  
  • Here's another of Alan's car, with its proud mechanics grinning. 
  • Post-race picnic for the Gateley family and their cars, outside Hednesford in 1955. 
  • "On the hook", Alan Gateley's car needed a tow here in 1955, again at Hednesford.   [Thanks again to Steve for these great photos.]

Not sure of the track (a temporary field track, Whip Chicken Farm perhaps) or year, but here is Fred Mitchell # 38 roaring past an overturned Tanya Crouch.  

Here's a 1960 photo from a Brafield programme thanks to Ken Mason, showing Doug Wardropper #5, Ellis Ford as # 183 (before he switched to 3, and number 29 is George Foulger from Norwich.

Some very faint half-tone photos that I scanned from 1959 Brafield programmes


Another 50s shot, the elegant Alan England

Brafield crash, a 1958 photo of car # 475 in the fence by Clayton Sampson, USAF vet;  any historian tell me name of the driver?   Ian Snoad, e-mailed to identify this as George AnsellI should have recognized the number as George still had 475 in 1964 (see the "More 60's Seniors" section). In the background is 412, probably  Johnny Radford from Stanley.

Here's an early shot of Doug Wardropper in approx 1956, at Brafield, with wire-spoked wheels and a flathead engine: Wardropper # 5.  This photo is copied from the original copyright print owned by Simon Lewis of "Transport Bookshop" in England.

A Keith Barber photo, from his STOCK CAR MAGAZINE: a 1958 shot of Doug and Fred Mitchell 38.

Here is Harry Prigmore in action in cars #4 and #70, both built with the help of and sponsored by Aubrey Leighton, in the days even before Aubrey himself started racing.  Harry was apprentice at Aubrey's, and it was thanks to a trial race in Harry's car that Aubrey Leighton "got the bug" and went on to fame. All thanks to Harry!

  • Harry 1

  • Harry 2  (with 61 Ken Freeman in the background)

  • Harry 3
  • Harry 4.  The #50 car that Harry is harrying [groan, pun] is that of Doncaster's Cal Wills: a 1933 Lagonda M45. If it had been preserved and polished for 55 years longer, it might look like this today, ---  but then Cal Wills would have had much less fun with it.  Keith Barber tells me that Cal once adapted a V-12 Lagonda fire engine to stock car racing!

Harry eventually emigrated to Western Australia, where he successfully raced and mechanic'd on fast Sprint cars at tracks like Forrestfield Speedway.

Below:  an early photo of Willie Harrison, that determined man who persisted for 20 years to win the World Championship.

willie 1955

Tony Allen leaps over some barrels: #145. Tony, a teenager when this photo was taken, hailed from Luton (Beds.), and enjoyed a long long career.  In the 1960's he earned a red top in Juniors as # 766, then moved up to Seniors, moving through blue to another red top in # 348, around 1972.  He toured New Zealand, and eventually emigrated there, taking a super-lightweight Jaguar special, and went on racing stock-cars.  Tony's son Mike also raced sprints there.  In the 1950's, Tony's mother too raced stock-cars (pioneer Tanya Crouch inspired a lot of people). (Programmes courtesy of Keith Barber)

 

 

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