As told exclusively to by Nick Pettitt
All pictures by Pete Robbins or Pete Blake unless credited otherwise
Sunday 15th July 1973 saw the Petersen Publishing series moving south to HMS Daedalus just as the heavens opened. The rain didn’t stop till just after midday but with the help of the Royal Navy and a Westland chopper hovering over the strip, they got it dry and ready to run by 2pm. With no time for qualifying, it was decided to pair up the competitors for two match races based on previous performances which produced some odd pairings.
The last time Daedalus was used for drag racing there were complaints by some of the drivers about the roughness of the strip, but for this meeting a new runway was used which had recently been resurfaced. The only problem was it wasn’t quite long enough for full quarter mile runs so the racing distance was reduced to 1000 feet, resulting in five second times from the Fuelers, Funnies in the sixes, eight second bikes and Pro Stocks in the nines!
American Funny Car racer Mart Higginbotham, driver of the Drag-On Vega, was supposed to be there to drive Stardust now that Don Schumacher was back in America, but he never turned up. This was good news for Allan Herridge as he now got to drive the car and was soon strapped in for a burnout and half pass. Afterwards he was heard to say ‘Hairy, but we’ll get used to it’.
Then it was time for a race as Bootsie came out to face Paula Murphy. After the burnout he did a U-turn to return to the start line after failing to find reverse, then despite getting out of shape recorded a 7.12/114mph finding it a bit more lively than the Gloworm Capri Funny Car he’d driven in 1971. Meanwhile Paula put in a 6.46 after earlier treating the damp crowd to a 6.65/158mph and a strong 6.21/168mph blast.
Norm Wilcox in Mr Revell was matched up with Dave Stone in Tee-Rat who had no chance clocking 7.45/156mph against Norm’s top time of the meet at 5.83/168mph. Other odd pairings saw Gary Goggin in his Clunk-Click Camaro take on and beat Ken Penfold's blown Triumph kart Patience, and circuit racer Bev Bond in his single seater Atlantic came up against Tony Dickson’s Money Hungry. Tony should have won but he managed to red-light twice.
Barry George took these pics at Daedalus...
Danny Johnson was paired up with Duncan Hocking. Danny took the first race with an 8.35/107mph but pulled a cherry on the second giving the win to Duncan at 8.57/124mph.
Mick Butler on the Super Cyclops double Norton was the fastest bike at 133mph but couldn’t hook up quick enough to catch flying Vincent of Brian Chapman who took both races running a best of 8.81. Mick Warne was the other eight second runner at 8.99/121mph beating Tony Weedon’s 9.22 on Blue Rondo.
Houndog 6 took both races with Firefly which as usual was going every way but straight. On the second matchup Houndog broke a half shaft nearing the top end producing a loud bang and flash of flame as the blower spat back recording 6.99/126mph.
The meeting went on to 8pm and those that stayed witnessed the race of the day as Dennis Priddle in Mister Six took on The Loner, Tony Nancy. Their first race saw both cars leave together then Dennis got out of shape slowing to 7.81/65mph while Tony rocketed to a 5.87 but no speed was recorded. The last race saw Dennis out first on a hard launch as Tony, who’d upped the power, went up in smoke but kept his foot hard in it catching Mister Six just after the finish line. Then came the times, 5.99/169mph for Dennis but for Tony a 6.97 at a phenomenal 210mph in just 1000 feet!
It was back to Santa Pod the following weekend for the third and last round of the series. Everyone was praying for dry weather and apart from a few showers on Saturday it turned out fine. Despite rumours that Don would be back for this meeting to drive Stardust he didn’t show so Bootsie was in the hot seat again. He now knew where reverse gear was and had some new goggles having smashed his old ones while ploughing through the top end mirrors and marker cones, one of which hit him, in Firefly on a 7.6 run on Saturday.
Sunday morning saw Bootsie in Stardust running a solo 7.70/188mph. In the afternoon he came out with Paula for what would be the wildest race so far seen at the Pod. This time Stardust was in the blue lane and Paula in the yellow. They both did their customary long smoky burnouts, backed up through the smoke, did a shorter burnout and a few dry hops before edging up to the line.
Paula got the holeshot with Allan in hot pursuit and was catching her up when suddenly he was driving a convertible Cuda! Stardust had run out of fuel; the mixture weakened and bang, the blower exploded blowing the roof 50 feet into the air before crashing back down on the strip.
Despite all this Allan still ran a 7.35/199mph while Paula crossed the line first running a new Funny Car record of 7.18/173mph, backed up by an earlier 7.19/193. Paula’s win was enough to earn her the Car Craft Trophy. The cars were towed back down the strip as the enthusiastic crowd applauded the efforts of Paula and Bootsie, now better known as Boots ‘em and Breaks ‘em Herridge.
Dave Stone took the Top Comp win in Tee-Rat. Phil Elson had run a strong 8.79/150mph in the semis but slowed to a 9.07/127 in the final as Tee-Rat took the win with an 8.73/167mph.
Svante Eriksson was back with his controversial 440 Chrysler powered Jeep and despite having driven it from Sweden to the UK he elected to run it in Senior Comp much to the relief of the Top Street competitors but still cleaned up the class taking out Pete Smith. This was the second time Pete had been knocked out in the final by a visiting Swede. In Middle Comp Pete Skinner in Midas Mist took the win.
Pro Stock had six entries, four Camaros and two British bodied cars. The other British bodied machine being the Chevy powered Capri Music Machine driven by Geoff Hauser. During qualifying Gerry Andrews blew a head gasket in Tender Trap, damaging the block and head. Pete Crane broke the prop in his Eazy Ridin’ Camaro which he repaired only to blow both head gaskets the next day.
Geoff Hauser pulled a hole shot on Kevin Pilling in the semis but a broken fuel pump slowed him down letting Pilling go through to the final. Then Gary Goggin knocked out Tony Dickson, setting up another classic Pilling/Goggin battle. After trying to outdo the Funnies with side by side long smoky burnouts the two Pro Stocks left the line together staying side by side all the way up but Satan’s Toy just took it with an 11.14/127mph to Clunk Click’s 11.26/125.
The two cars now tied for points for the series trophy, so they had one more race and Pilling blew it with a red light handing the trophy to Goggin.
Thirteen cars came out for Top Street. Pete Andrews in his beautifully custom painted Maxine’s Toy Corvette had top spot in qualifying with an 11.94/118mph. Number two was another Corvette run by Rick Krejci at 12.03 and Dick Smith in Russo's Rat took third spot with a 12.36.
In the semis Andrews just pipped Russo’s Rat 12.2 to 12.3 while Dave Rose took out John Ledster’s Mr 10% Mustang 12.4 to 13.7. Dave Rose took the final at 12.45/113mph to an off form 13.01 from the Corvette.
Ray Hoare took Top Dragster again with a 9.46/158mph over Tony Anderson. John Whitmore had lengthened his Drag-n-Fly slingshot 36 inches in an effort for even more speed and he not only took the Senior Dragster win but upped the speed record again to 154.80mph! Gerry Cookson took the Junior Dragster win in his BMC slingshot Joker.
Surprise winner of Top Bike was Bob Daniel and his blown Triumph sprinter Icarus. This was only his second time drag racing and he carved his way through the field and beat Pete Miller’s blown Triumph in the final with a 10.01/136mph to 10.13/131mph.
The overall series win went to Duncan Hocking on his Triumph. Brian Chapman on Mighty Mouse took the Senior Bike win and Brian Smith on the Cheltenham Flyer took Middle Bike.
Danny Johnson was trying for an eight. He didn’t quite make it but pleased the crowd anyway with his fire burnouts.
Onto Top Fuel which was down to six entries as Roland Pratt was waiting for parts. Clive Skilton was sorting out the bugs in his new 417 Donovan making three runs and qualifying with a 7.30/194mph. Norm Wilcox was looking promising with a first six for Mr Revell at 6.96 despite an early shutoff due to the rear wheels being out of balance. Dennis Priddle qualified with a 7.37 on the Saturday in Mister Six then came out Sunday morning improving to a 6.87/195mph at the expense of a smashed diff sadly putting him out of the eliminations. So we were now down to five.
Tony Nancy came out alongside Houndog 6 in the first round of Top Fuel and took the win with another new speed record at 223mph, but no time was recorded. Mike Hutcherson followed through in Houndog 6 with another seven at 7.90/166mph. Clive Skilton ran a solo 7.35/200mph when Bootsie in Firefly overheated on the line. Then Norm Wilcox put in an easy 7.90/93 bye run.
The race of the day came when the two Americans faced each other in the semi-finals. Norm was a fraction too quick off the line, lighting the red bulb, but kept his boot in it to a 6.55/187mph breaking Priddle’s ET record while Tony took the win light at 6.59/221mph. Clive Skilton got another bye run clocking 7.81/198mph for a place in the final.
Being out of the race Dennis Priddle had joined Brian Taylor up in the tower commentating on the Top Fuel action. He was overjoyed at Mr Revell’s ET and was now Skilton’s biggest fan because if Skilton could beat Nancy in the final against all odds then Dennis would take the series win.
Tony Nancy and Clive Skilton came down the fire-up road, both motors bursting into life, turned round and burnt out together. As they were pushed back it suddenly became apparent that something was wrong with the Revell liner which stopped dead. Try as they might it wouldn’t move, even Roy Phelps was pushing, but the clutch had given way and locked up. Tony killed the motor and watched as Clive completed his third solo run taking the eliminator win with a 6.93/203mph much to the delight of Dennis who took home the Petersen Publishing Top Fuel Trophy.
So the Peterson International Series came to an end. Trophies were presented with special presentations to the Americans that came over and did so much during those three weeks.
Video link: First and third rounds...
Both American Funny Cars remained in the UK. Allan Herridge continued to drive Stardust once Fibre Glass Repairs had repaired and glued the roof back on. The beautiful paint job on Stardust was the work of the Vette Shop in America who sent instructions when Roy Phelps had to touch it up. By the 1974 May Big Go Bootsie had run his first a six at 6.87 in the car. Interestingly this was almost two years to the day after Dennis Priddle ran the UK’s first six in his Fueler.
Clive Skilton had arranged to purchase Paula Murphy’s Duster for $12,500 but the Santa Pod management gazumped him the day before he was to have completed the deal, securing the two American Funny Cars for Santa Pod only.
Owen Hayward took over the driving of the STP Duster for the Houndog Team and Nobby Hills, who had been looking for a new Fueler to replace his old slingshot, liked the look of Nancy’s car and asked him if he’d sell it. He did but it was too much for Nobby who then asked Tony if he could have a copy of the plans for the car and a week after the series, they turned up on Nobby’s doorstep and work began on Houndog 8 which debuted in July 1974.
Once again rumours started flying about next year including one magazine suggesting a giant consignment of American Funnies were coming over in 1974, but the 1973 Internationals had set the trend for top American racers to come over to Santa Pod with the purchase of their cars being part of the deal which continued throughout the 70s. Also, more and more Funny Cars were being built or bought in the UK and in Scandinavia culminating in 20 Funny Cars being entered at the September 1980 World Series.
Magazine articles: click thumbnail to enlarge, click back to return.
Drag Racing News and National Drag Racer articles by Keith Lee.
Gallery: click on any thumbnail for a large image.
Back to pioneers index
Back to News page