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<< 2002 Review >>

June 28th/29th NSRA Nostalgia Nationals.

I'd been looking for a street rod project for some time and I had come close a few times but I just didn't have enough money to get what I wanted. Then I came upon the ex, Bernie Chodosh / Simon Lane 34 Ford circuit racer. The car was a turnkey, taxed and tested ready to roll, unfortunately the car was too dear for me and that seemed to be that. Then the engine let go in a big way and the car was available as a rolling chassis for half money. I re-mortgaged the house and the deal was done.

Mark had loads of old big block Chevy bits from different engines enough to put together a motor and three good transmissions, and a selection of torque converters. Mark kindly offered to lend me the bits providing I put them all together. My problem was all too familiar. I'd blown all my dosh on the car, so the engine was going to be a real low budget assembly.

Now what follows is how not to build a race engine, please do not try this at home. Take 1 repaired block, 1 cast crank, stock rods, used main bearings, used big end bearings, 1 set of discarded pistons, used rings, second hand used head gaskets, a used cam with a assorted selection of jumbled up lifters and factory pressed steel rockers. Mark insisted on me buying a new set of SPS rod bolts as he didn't want me to be accused of doing a shabby job! Me and my mate John Balmforth built the engine using what we had.

I wanted to run the car at the Nostalgia Nationals but it was only a week away the engine and box wasn't fitted and I was still a few bits short, no carburetor, no shifter, no rear wheels, no money. I hit the phone and rang everybody I knew, and one or two I didn't. Super Gas racer Nev had a carb, it had been under the bench at work for years but Nev was confident it would bolt on and fire up. Tony Wynn Jones gave me a shifter, it looked like it had come out of a sunk U boat but beggars can't be choosers.

Next bit was a little tricky I'd been told that Ian from Leeds had a pair of brand new centrelines for sale for £200. So I rang him, " Hi, Ian its Des Taylor, those centrelines you've got, I need 'em for the weekend but I've no money can I borrow them and pay you later?" " 'Course you can Des, when do you want them?" says Ian, "Now" says I. So at 11.30 on a Friday night I'm at Ian's house collecting a pair of wheels.

I'd like to thank everybody who helped especially Ian Armitage who saved the day 'cos you ain't going nowhere with no wheels on your wagon. The weekend of the races was upon us, I went into the garage at 5am Friday and came out at 4am the following day, Karen slept in the van in the yard while I worked through the night but the car still wasn't finished I loaded it on the trailer and we set off to Avon Park. To make absolutely sure I didn't fall asleep with disastrous consequences we had the window down, the radio on full blast and Karen sat next to me with a bottle of cold water and a wet flannel, occasionally throwing water on me and slapping me round the face with the wet flannel. I'm convinced she enjoyed hitting me more than I felt was necessary. Again don't try this at home.

We arrived safely, pitted up and unloaded the car, Mark arrived with Pierre Pete and asked what needs doing. I replied, we had no throttle linkage, no shifter linkage, no floor, the trans tunnel didn't fit and I've never started the engine up. I must admit I expected a bit of a bollocking but Mark just jacked the car up and got stuck in. I'd brought all the bits I had left over nuts, bolts, screws, pop rivets, bits of tin, assorted cables, and lots of tie wraps. The throttle linkage could have proved difficult but whilst I'd been round at John Balmforth's garage I noticed that the mechanism on the top of his office door had an adjustable linkage on it, well it doesn't now, but my carb linkage is fully adjustable. By 2 O'clock in the afternoon the car was ready to fire up. Ignition off, turn over the starter, good oil pressure, Ignition, on, fuel pump on, two squirts on the gas press the starter and the engine fires up first time ticks over and runs perfectly. Good old Nev, that carb was a good 'un.

It seemed too good to be true .Now was the time to check everything, run the car through the gears on the axle stands, warm the engine and trans, check tyre pressures, 4pm and down to scrutineering where I waited and waited and then waited a bit more 12 hours to be precise but the good news was I was first to be scrutineered Sunday, you betcha. Into the pairing lanes and in just under an hour I was given the signal to fire up, into the bleach box, quick burnout bit sideways, into stage and a quick squirt down the track, easy launch, short shift, three quarter throttle and car seemed to slow as it went through the traps, 12.7 not bad for a shake down pass and the car went straight and felt good

Now there was only one thing that concerned me a bit, the big Mc Creary slicks said they were 13 inches wide and my borrowed wheels were only 10 inches wide, which in my opinion that was just about on the limit for fitment. Unfortunately, when I measured the fitted tyres they were actually 16 inches wide sidewall-to-sidewall that's a bit big for 10-inch rims, any way they were all I had and they felt o.k. On the shake down run, and I'd been a tyre fitter for 25 years so yeah they'd be fine. (Familiarity breeds contempt) Now to run flat out and see what we could do, once more into the bleach dear friends,

Linelock on 4 grand on the tach, tyres lit up, smoking, smoking, smoking, coming round sideways and let go the line lock like I had a thousand times before, and then all hell let loose, the car just went berserk, left, right left, right, left, I see, Armco, Christmas tree, grandstand, Armco Christmas tree, startline marshal, the car felt like it was stood on one front wheel when the awful thought went through my mind I'm going to crash it on the burnout, how embarrassing , That thought must have done the trick cos just when it seemed all was lost the car responded to my (frantic) steering efforts. I stopped and backed up feeling like both my elbows were dislocated, Mark stuck his head in the window and said "Stop messing about and chill out " It didn't get any better I pulled into stage getting extremely dirty looks from the starter and the marshals (sorry chaps).

As soon as I put the trans brake on and floored the accelerator the engine cut out, if I eased off, the engine picked up again, put my foot down and she just cut out. So that's how I went down the track, on it, off it, must have looked like I was riding a rocking horse. Back in the pits, Mark says I had the wheels in the air as I crossed the start line but they were the back ones. From Marks vantage point he could see that as soon as I came off the throttle in the burnout the car unloaded the tyres and the sidewalls just collapsed as the car went sideways it felt like driving a blancmange with two punctures on ice!

Temporary fix, blow the tyres up extra 5 psi Now what's the story with the engine, we checked everything and it was all ok, it must be fuel related so we checked the tank, the fuel lines, filter and changed the fuel pump. We ran twice more, easy on the burnout! But the engine problem just got worse it simply would not run after ¾ throttle.

We returned home older, wiser and a little disappointed but we had learned a valuable lesson, the beer is expensive in the clubhouse. Next day I thought I'd have a look in the carb, Nev had said just bolt it on and it will fire straight up and sure enough it had, but it was worth a look. I removed the primary float bowl and metering block everything was spotless and both jets were clear. I repeated the procedure with the secondary float bowl and metering block I looked to see if the jets were blocked only to find that the jets weren't there, not blocked jets or wrong jets, NO jets just two threaded holes where they should have been! It transpired that over the years Nev had needed a couple of jets and what could be more normal than to borrow them out of the old carb, only he forgot about it. No wonder the engine wouldn't run flat out I'm amazed it ran at all. 12.7@ 120 with no jets gave me cause for optimism next time out, " WE WOULD SEE."

I had one or two things to sort out, firstly I had to pay Ian for his centerlines but there was a minor problem, when I had borrowed them they had been brand new but now they had been used they were second hand so I could not possibly pay the full price. I pointed this out to Ian who had to agree and so a suitable price was worked out. Next I needed a pair of slicks that fitted my discount rims and you know how you get all that junk mail through the letterbox, well I was just about to bin it when I saw a credit card company offering 0% interest free credit for 9 months, I thought I,L have a bit of that. The card arrived and I rang Summit and ordered my new slicks .

Mark stuck a pair of jets in the carb and we were ready to go. The question was what could we run now, how much difference would a pair of jets make, I was confident the car was good for elevens and in my heart of hearts given perfect conditions I wouldn't be surprised if we hit a ten ninety.

<< Hot Rod Drags >>

Now someone somewhere has decided that dragracing gets far too many spectators at events and in order to make sure they don,t get too many fans through the gate they make the best events clash with each other. A cunning plan, which proved stunningly successful as Mark was at the Pod and I was at the Park when along with a thousand other fans we would have attended both events. As it was, it was down to me Karen and Jade to run the car, first a shakedown pass to check out the handling on the new slicks, car launched well and revved clean, I shifted to second and the box went straight through into neutral I shut off quickly but not before all the valvesprings bounced a bit.

Back in the pits I found two problems, one was that the shifter cable wasn't properly adjusted and the other was that I tend to hit the shifter handle with all the finesse of a Mike Tyson right hook.

The first one was easy to cure, the second impossible. In to the queue and I would like to say now that it is a damn long way from the top of the pits to the startline for a fat old git and two girls to push a race car. The good news was that in the two and a half hours it took to get to the startline, the track had really come in, the startline was sticky, the air was good and there was a good breeze blowing straight down the track.

Perfect conditions, I fired the car up with a air of anticipation. In to the water on the linelock the car burned out strong and straight, the motor sounded clean and crisp.

Into stage on the trans brake and floor the accelerator, the lights run down and we are gone. The car hooks up hard and picks up the left front wheel, top of first gear and shift, slight sigh of relief as second bangs in, just keep her straight, gently correcting a little bit of high gear wander and through the traps flat out, felt good. I returned to the pits to see my daughter Jade excitedly waving a time ticket at me, 10.6 @ 125 mph.

Excellent, better than expected and very satisfying given the financial limitations and timescale of the build . We buttoned the car up for the night and went to the Pub. The next day the weather was good, but the usual drag racing problems meant there were a lot of unhappy campers, oil downs, breakages, incidents, accidents, meant that their was a three hour queue round the pits to get a run.

From a purely personal point of view I had already achieved what I had come for, so I just chilled out and stood in line, it was around this time that there was a serious incident in the pits, Mark Needham's race car was completely destroyed when fuel was accidentally ignited in a flash fire. Mark suffered burns and had to be airlifted to Hospital for treatment. I am glad to say that Mark is now recovering from his injuries. Unfortunately this meant that along with Avon Parks (SCR) perennial problem of too late a start and too early a finish there were simply too many cars to run in too short a time. We loaded up and went home happy with a ten second streetrod

<< Sammy Miller >>

Legendary rocket car pilot Slammin' Sammy Miller was killed in an oil pipeline explosion on Tuesday 29th October 2002 whilst working in the Texas oilfields for his company Applied Force. The incident was unrelated to any of his own work. 1967 Sammy began his racing career in the US driving an A/Fuel dragster with an injected small block Chevy motor. He competed at tracks around New Jersey and New York running 7.80s in the Super Eliminator class.

Sammy was racing Funny Cars through 1972 and '73. He had a six-month stay in hospital in '72 after a fire at Indy and drove Fred Forkners Top Fuel Dragster in 1974. Racing fuel cars was costing Sammy more than he was winning and he began to look for a different direction. Sammy was at the eighth mile Charlotte track in North Carolina when Dave Anderson lost control of Tony Fox's 'Pollution Packer' rocket dragster, killing himself and two dragster drivers who were shut off at the top end. Sammy contacted Tony Fox as a witness to the accident and Tony asked him if he would like to drive the car. Sammy didn't need to be asked twice and he was promised the driving seat if Vern Anderson, who was to drive the car in 1975, should back out.

During the winter Sammy dropped into Irwindale Raceway in Southern California and Tony gave him his first drive. The track officials restricted him to 280mph for his first pass, which he ran exactly. He told Tony that he didn't find the car as impressive as he had expected so Tony upped the pressure for the next run. The officials never announced the details of that run but Sammy left the venue with a timeslip that read 348mph!

He continued to drive the car, and John Paxson's Armor All rocket dragster, for the first part of 1975 while preparing a car of his own. I first saw Sammy race at the 1979 World Finals at Santa Pod Raceway, it was the seasons premier meeting. He ran a best of 4.31/317.40 which was the highest speed recorded on British soil at that time. (Guinness Book of Car Facts and Feats) July 7th/8th 1984 SPR. The Cannonball. Sammy Miller ran an amazing 3.583/386.26 in the Vanishing Point rocket funny car. I saw that pass and I still remember not being able to turn my head fast enough to watch as he went past, it was like trying to watch a bullet out of a gun This still stands today as the quickest 1/4 mile pass ever on a dragstrip anywhere in the world, although he did run 396-mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah over a quarter-mile from a standing start.

He was the first man into the fives, fours and threes in the USA and Europe. I was racing my Ford Pop at Santa Pod in the early 80s and at one event we were stood on the back of my tow truck next to the fence, watching the funny cars when a distinctly American voice said," Hi, mind if I stand on your ramp truck " I turned round to see the smiling face of Sammy Miller, If he'd said get down on your hands and knees and let me stand on your back I would have let him. It was a bit like meeting Elvis. After getting over the shock I found we were just chatting away, a couple of racers with a mutual interest in cars. He asked about my "little Anglia hot rod" and did genuinely seem impressed when I told him we were running 9.6s which made me feel really good coming from a guy running 3s. Sammy was a true drag racing legend a very brave man but most of all he was a nice guy.

With acknowledgments to trackbytes and eurodragster

<< European Doorslammers >>

European Doorslammers, a new event on the calendar with big bucks up for grabs .I pre-entered to make sure we would get to race, the Outlaw street car class looks a real blast, heads up racing, for road registered, taxed and tested cars running with silencers. For once the car was ready to go, all I had to do was get rid of the nasty Golf Turbo Diesel silencer boxes I'd knocked up for the M.O.T and fabricate a pair of Lakes pipes which would be more in keeping with the Bonneville looks of my 34 Coupe. No problem, I've fabricated thousands of exhaust systems, I could do it in my sleep. As it turned out I had to. So 5 pm Friday and we are already to go apart from the 90 degree 4 inch bends I'd ordered to finish my sidepipes hadn't arrived. I contacted the suppliers only to be told they weren't coming until Tuesday and it wasn't his fault. I have to admit that there was some bad language and threats of violence uttered, at this point it was decided that it might be a good idea if they sent a van to pick up the parts from another supplier, which they did. The bits they came up with weren't ideal and it took me until 2am to get everything welded up and load the car. I couldn't stand being hit with the wet flannel again so I went home and went to bed. Up at 6 a.m. and off to the track, we arrived in time to get a good space in the pits and quickly unloaded the car and got scrutineered and signed on. It was a bit disappointing that there were only 4 CCSE cars in attendance, the rest of the big hitters were absent, surprising with such a good prize fund, although on second thoughts my mate Steve Niemantis doesn't need the money! We got a few runs in and qualified with the exhausts on, the car sounded good but had an unusual handling problem, the car was wagging its tail at half-track and feeling loose.

If you have ever towed a caravan or trailer at speed and experienced that nasty snaking that wags the back of the car and just gets worse, it felt like that, with the exhausts on and the wag we slowed to 11 zeros. We had a good check round the car to make sure nothing important had fallen off but everything was where it should be and tight. The car was still running 100 mph in the 1/8 th, so maybe it was a lack of rear end down force, which could really only be cured with the addition of a wing and I didn't fancy spending all night making one of them at the track. One of the aims of the Doorslammers event was to attract street cars that didn't normally run in the high profile street car classes, this proved successful but caused problems for the organizers as without a separate entry list for the street eliminator Lee Child had the impossible task of trying to identify every street car that qualified at the event. First round of the Outlaw Street Eliminator, I was lucky and was up against one of the slower cars in the class,

only to go through to meet one of the fastest cars in the second round, Andy Frost in his Vauxhall Victor. Funny that, Andy had run a string of 9 zeros and was gunning for an 8 so my 11s were never going to be good enough. I don't know if Andy was asleep on the line or just giving me a chance but I was two car lengths out on him before he moved, but when he moved he really moved, 9.01/155 mph to my 11.04 and I was "blown away"

Andy went on to run a 8.90 and a 8.97 but it was his turn to be blown away in Sundays final as Jeff Meads 8.91 was too good for Andy's 9.01. A great race and a great final. Check out Andy's website and all you Americana drag racers and Hot Rodders don't be put off cos it's a Vauxhall Victor, it's a good car and a good site.

Jeff Meads about to beat Andy Frost in the Final

We were running in the Sportsman class (10.51 to 11.75) and should have been in with a chance but I have to hold my hand up and admit that I COCKED UP! First round of Sportsman and after the burnout I convinced myself that the car was going to stall so I brought the revs up and approached stage, I moved forward bringing the revs up more and more so that by the time I staged I'd got about 3 grand on the tach, if I'd got straight on the trans brake I would have been O.K but just for a fraction of a second I lost concentration and had to glance down to see where the trans brake switch was, and before I got my finger on it the front brakes couldn't hold the car against the amount of revs and the car moved, I looked up to see a big red light and the race was over before it started and all entirely my fault. I was gutted. My bottom lip was stuck out so far I could hardly get my helmet off! I took all my racing gear off and threw it in the van I dragged the trailer round ready to load and packed everything up swearing that I hated ******* racing and I was never going to ******* race again! (In case anyone is wondering, I am nearly 50 years old) I've made more passes than David Beckham and I can still screw it up. Mark came up and said there was going to be a open practice session and if we were going to run a 10.00, I ought to get my gear back on while he fueled up the car, removed the exhausts and checked the tyre pressures. O.K. I said. (Boy have I mellowed) We fired the car up checked it out everything was fine so we just needed someone to race. Dave Cherrett 2002 Super Series Super Street Champion was looking for me. Dave had bought my Model A Van as a turnkey 10.90 car and as a Rookie driver in his first season racing won the Super Street class at the 2000 European Finals at Santa Pod, an outstanding achievement (of coarse he did have the best car) he followed this up with the 2002 Super Series Championship.

Now he wanted to race me, a sort of pupil and teacher thing and to add insult to injury Dave, and Tim were giving me grief, well it was more a bit of banter all the way down the pairing lanes, when Dave asked me if I could remember what the back of the Model A looked like cos I was going to get a good look at it! That was it, I'd not had a good weekend and there was as much chance of me seeing the back of his car as Ian Paisley becoming Pope! Even if it meant me setting off while he was still fastening his seat belts up.

[Photograph courtesy of Tog]

We burned out side by side and I chirped up to the line, giving Mark a nasty fright as he was cleaning the slicks at the time, SORRY Mark, both in to stage, focus on the lights, AMB-I am gone. I can see Dave out of the corner of my eye he's just behind and that's where he's staying, 1/2 track and we are both doing 100mph, ¾ track and I'M FLAT OUT and he's still there and I can't do any more, so just to make sure he thinks twice about coming past I drift out to the center line to make him think I might T bone him. As it was Dave was flat out and pulling on his steering wheel to try and keep his foot down trying to catch me. I ran 10.7 @ 121mph Dave just came in second with a 10.6 @ 121 mph My reaction time a .343 to Dave's .560 . O K I red lit but I didn't see the back of my old car, and Dave got a good look at the back of my new car. Dave was really sick right up until crewman Tim told him I'd red lit and then he felt a bit better. Congratulations to Dave and Tim .On the whole a mixed weekend for us, I felt the event was a success with a few teething problems, I would like to thank Tina Gibbs for being particularly helpful and wish L A Racings Lee Child all the best promoting events in 2003. Coming Soon The sweet smell of success, Mark drives dragster to victory. The ups and downs of our season in Super Comp.

<< Super Comp Season >>

Mark and crewman Craig had worked all winter getting the race car transporter ready, installing the living accommodation and preparing the dragster for the coming season. Lack of sufficient funds and a number of prior family and work commitments meant that Mark could only run at two events at Santa Pod so we knew that we had no chance of winning the Championship but we went with the intention of doing our best. We could run at all the Super Series events so we would have a go for that title. I have to work Saturdays, so I missed a lot of the one-day only qualifying sessions but I crewed at every event apart from the European Finals ( I was driving at the Hot Rod Drags ) and even then kept in touch with proceedings by phone.

<< Super Series Spring Nationals >>

Not a particularly noteworthy event for us. Qualifying was decimated by a large number of delays through oil downs. With the great benefit of hindsight we failed to take our opportunity to put a solid qualifying pass on the board, damaging our Championship hopes. It turned in to a roadster testimonial, as Martin Curbishley qualified number 1. Tim Adam qualified number 2 and in eliminations we were beat by Dave Day 9.04 @ 137 to a 9.13 @ 146. In a close final Tim Adam ran 8.95 @ 148 only to be beat by Martin Curbishly's perfect 8.90 @146.

<< Main Event, Santa Pod >>

Mark put down a solid 8.92 Qualifying run but such is the quality of the opposition it didn't get us in the top two spots. In the first round we had the Chrysler backed P.T. Bruiser of Paul Marston. Mark again shoed the dragster to a shut off 8.92 @136mph to beat Paul's late charging 9.03 @ 161 mph ?? The next round saw us up against no.2 qualifier Martin Curbishley's, John Webster built roadster. In a close race Mark was just edged out running 9.00 @ 149 to Martins 9.03 @149 In the Final, unbelievably BOTH competitors broke!

<< Super Series Mid Summer Nationals >>

In qualifying our car was Incredibly consistent unfortunately it was consistently too fast. Not by much but enough to put us at the bottom of the pile and that gives you a hard route to the Final. Hard but not impossible. Mark frustrated with qualifying was stung in to action and in the eliminations drove like a man possessed. He put away a red lighting Zane Llewellyn with a solid 8.97. Then in a really close double breakout against my old mate Ian Tubb driving Kenny Colman's EDA backed dragster, Mark went through with an 8.88 to Ian's 8.85. We were in the Final against Paul Marston's PT Bruiser; by the time it came to run I was so wound up I couldn't bear to watch. Craig and Ann were on the startline I was at half-track and by half-track it was all over. Mark just drove away from Paul to win with a shut off, on the brakes 8.96 @ 140 to Paul's 9.15 164 mph. A great driving job by Mark. I find it much harder to watch than drive and it was a very emotional and well deserved victory.

<< European Finals, Santa Pod >>

Mark and Craig had the car dialled in pretty good, but just couldn't hit the magic 8.90. Qualifying with an 8.91. A breakage meant Mark had a first round bye, a good opportunity to run the car flat out and see how close to the numbers we were. Mark ran 8.86 @151 confirming that the setup was spot on .To be a successful team in Super Comp you need a number of things, a reliable and well dialled car, a consistent and experienced driver, a good crew and a little bit of luck. In the second round of eliminations we had everything except the luck. Mark was up against Zane who had all of the above. Both drivers left the line with almost identical reaction times- .482 for Mark .481 for Zane, side by side Mark just finished first by ½ a car length, Zane ran 8.931 @ 145. Mark ran 8.897 @148 breaking out by 3 thousandths of a second, a bit of a sickener, but that's drag racing. Some you win, some you lose. Rain stopped play, track too wet to continue.

<< Super Series Fall Nationals >>

In qualifying Martin Curbishley again proved super consistent taking the number 1 spot. We didn't. In eliminations Mark cut a bad light, it happens to everyone, sometimes you can get away with it but unfortunately Paul Knight in the other lane cut a killer 0.411 light. Mark tried hard with a on index 8.91 @ 135. but to no avail. The Final was another close one, Tim Adams 8.94 beating Martin Curbishley's 8.96.

Note: Me at the back in a checked shirt badly distorted by a wide lens!

So that was that for the 2002 Super Comp Season. It is always difficult to be self-critical but both Mark and myself believe that if you are going to learn by your mistakes you must first identify them. We almost certainly lost our chance at the Super Series Championship by not qualifying well. It is vitally important to get a "Slower " than 8.90 pass on the board first, because that one counts. Until you have that, a string of 8.80s are worthless, they don't count. On the positive side in the Super Series Super Comp Championship, we finished third, out of eleven Top competitors. In the 2002 National Championship we came sixth out of twenty competitors, even though we only ran at 5 of the 8 events and in the SPRC Championship came tenth out of nineteen competitors, only running at 2 of the 5 events ! Mark had to finance the whole season out of his own pocket, receiving no financial help whatsoever. It was quite an achievement to get to as many events as we did and stay competitive. At the moment regular readers will be surprised to learn that I've run out of money but I will keep you informed of plans for the 2003 season as soon as I know myself.


Des Taylor