Age Machine through the Ages - part 2

Rainmaker - Allan Currans photo

As told exclusively to

John Wright and John Sutton bought the former Age Machine from Olli Burns in 1974 and ran it to a best of 8.41 in 1976, after which Pete Hollingsworth bought it as a rolling chassis following an engine blowup. Pete installed a Flathead engine, re-engineering it, even getting Flathead legend John Bradley over from the US to give advice. Pete sold the car to Nick Anscombe who ran it as Pig Pen, then the trail went cold until news of the car's current owner Milton Homan at Dream Cars in Redhill reached Mick Gleadow, who took up the opportunity to view the car at its current home.

From The Lizard to Rainmaker – John Wright and John Sutton

John Wright: “John Sutton and I bought it from Ollie Burns in August 1974 and for the first 3 or 4 meetings we had Pete Baker on the crew - Ollie's mechanic who had driven the car the year previously at Silverstone. It was the end of the year and it just rained, rained and more rain and that's where the name Rain Maker came from. The following year, 1975, we did bits and pieces of race meetings, John Sutton and I used to split the driving. Being a farm boy I couldn't always get away. Then at the end of that year I got married and we put it all up for sale.

"In 1976 Dave Prior borrowed it and went off on the show circuit. Then in the spring of 1976 we hadn't seen the car or the money. So we went and “un – borrowed” the car one Sunday morning knocking on the door at 6 o'clock, this was when they were living near Bedford. The only thing we lost out of the deal was the parachutes with the hearts on them, the ones that Roz ran with.

"Then we decided to run the car again for another year and at the end of the year - 1976 we blew the bottom out the motor. The best meeting we had with Age Machine was Wroughton in 1976 and we were in Pro Comp by then, and the car ran its quickest 8.41/161 mph.

John Sutton qualified the Rainmaker for Pro Comp with an 8.51 at Santa Pod August 1976. Nick Pettitt pic

John Wright waiting to fireup in 1974

"Our final meeting was in November in 1976 at the Fire Works meeting at Santa Pod, with the other John (Sutton) driving, unfortunately he got a bit over keen and it let loose. It was a stock LS7, steel rods. It should have not been doing what it did for the number of years but it did and we kept upping the fuel load and that's probably what finished it off. John Sutton was driving; I was working so not at the track. On the final run, it may have been on Saturday night, the chute deployed part way into the run but John stayed with it. It didn't end well, rods out through the block and sump. It was the last time the car ever ran with the big block in it.

"We then stripped the chassis bare, except for the bodywork, which is still on the car and let it be known that it was for sale. Somebody with a connection with the old Midland Drag Racing Association bought the Age Machine chassis and the story the following year or so was that the bare chassis was sitting down around the Cheltenham area on somebody's garage roof! Next I heard was Pete Hollingsworth had got it.

Everything from Age Machine went into the new one as by this time we'd bought a rear engined chassis complete with body from Tony Froome and that was hanging up in one of the barns at the farm.

"So the chassis went off and disappeared, the next time we saw it, there was a Flathead in it."

These are the race dates when John Wright and John Sutton raced the dragster (all at Santa Pod unless stated otherwise):

1974: 2nd-3rd November John Sutton; 30th November-1st December John Wright

1975: 30th-31st March John Wright; 30th April John Wright; 11th May John Sutton; 24th-26th May John Sutton; 8th June John Sutton; 14th-15th June Wroughton John Wright; 5th-6th July John Sutton; 20th July Snetterton John Wright; 17th August Blackbushe John Wright; 6th-7th September Snetterton John Wright; 10th October Blackbushe John Wright

1976: 8th-9th May John Wright; 30th-31st May John Wright; 12th-13th June Blackbushe John Sutton; 28th-30th August John Wright; 18th-19th September John Sutton

From Rainmaker to Molotov Cocktail – Pete Hollingsworth

Says Pete: “I bought the car from a guy who came from a small village in Gloucestershire near the M5, but I cannot remember his name. He ran a small junior dragster briefly. It was just a bare chassis with body and steering box and the guy I bought it from also bought it bare, .as I recall the original front end was very wide and I thought looked too wide!!

"I built a narrowed Westminster rear for it (many ratios available 5.6 to 3.4 I think). The 'Lads' father bent up a front axle. (The lads were Robert Blakemore, Roy Brownridge and Roger Guzowski - known as BB&G; one of whom lived next door to Ken Cooper and ran the white flathead rail, The Whistler, at the time) I called the car Molotov Cocktail but I had Grenadier Giftware on the top panel, I was the Sales Director there and they helped sponsor the car.

"The toolmaker at Grenadier Giftware made up the front axle ends and the front wheel hubs (from plans obtained from Vince Shaw). I welded up the bits and pieces of the rest of axle / steering and they were plated by Grenadier.

"The motor was a blown up block from BB&Gs The Whistler, welded up and re-ported, that was a lot of fun!

"I welded up the block and filled it with tile grout which was the trick then, bored it 3/8" as I recall and fitted an Isky 300 mushroom lifter cam imported direct from the USA; ex Ken Cooper rods and pistons (as I had bought his new pistons). A Mercury crank was torn from a wreck at a scrap yard in Northants for a little more stroke.

"I had 3 Stromberg’s on an aftermarket racing intake manifold with homemade ally cover, alcohol fuel, tried nitro, also I remember seeing the results when it blew up!

"I had a beautifully shaped ally fuel tank (made to my design by the "Lad's" father) using a pressurized system, stock shimmed fuel pump pumped air into the tank, forced the fuel out through a large delivery pipe to a manifold which split the supply to the 3 jugs, Lucas magneto from a static flathead, water pump from "Wallys" incredible stocks of old parts at a disused WW2 airfield in somewhere like Essex. (Wally Wheatley, Nordian Exports). The magneto was rewound and dual points set up on Ken Cooper's fixture. It also had Roof aftermarket heads.

Molotov Cocktail at SPR, 1979

Molotov Cocktail at Blackbushe, 1979

"The transmission varied a lot; I think I had the following, in this order:

1. Direct drive for a while (with a thrown together clutch with help from Ken Cooper)
2. Electric overdrive only from a Westminster or such (gear ratio changes with the Westminster rear helped)
3. Then the best...a Borg Warner 35 with a clutch, from a Jag with a manual valve body (from John Whitmore’s Drag n Fly), rebuilt heavy duty clutches and Torrington bearings. As I recall, it was push started so that it must have had a pump in the back, at one stage this was in Ken Cooper's car which I ran for a while when building mine. I don't believe I ever ran the manual 2 speed that’s in Pig Pen, but I must have kept the auto box because I think it ended up in Ken's car but not sure about that.

"My car ran just into the 10's as I remember and when I ran Ken's car an off the trailer 10.72 was the best as I recall.

"The objective was for my car to be as light as possible and everything was drilled and lightened...Ken was the king of light though, I seem to recall his chassis without the motor and transmission only weighed something like 190 lbs.

"Note The 8 port engine in Molotov Cocktail was a really striking feature of the car. This comes from the front and back cylinders on each bank having exhaust headers fitted to the exhaust passages going along the front and back of the block. From the factory the exhaust passages have a very tortuous route before finally exiting through the factory designed exhaust ports.

"The repositioned exhaust ports mean a much shorter, more direct port runner which blasts the exhaust out sideways. This is thought to improve the breathing a lot. Also the centre heat exchanger port is enlarged and fitted with a header at the top of the engine next to the intake manifold; finally the original centre header on the exhaust side of the block is kept and the 2 outer exhaust ports are blanked off – hence 8 ports! It’s reminiscent of an Octopus, it looks wild!"

The legendary American flathead racer, John Bradley, shown below, applied his engineering skills to improve the restrictive flathead exhaust porting in this way and he ran well into the 8 second bracket, on very high doses of nitro. Pete Hollingsworth was the first to do this in the UK, helped by Ken Cooper of course. The 8 port design can be seen in the picture below, on John Bradley’s car and on Molotov Cocktail."

John Bradley

John Bradley with his own "Mr Flathead" dragster

Another 8-port setup

Pete ran nitro a couple of times but the car didn’t seem to run any quicker! He remembers being kept waiting on the start line with the motor running and one of the “Octopus” exhaust headers blasted nitro into Don Garlits face - they had a “conversation” afterwards!

1979: Race Dates, all at Santa Pod, unless stated otherwise, Pete Hollingsworth driving; 5th-7th May, 26th-28th May; 17th June Blackbushe; 5th August Blackbushe; 25th-27th August; 2nd Sept Long Marston; 13th-14th October.

Advert in Drag Racing News

Advert in Drag Racing News

Pete then sold the dragster to Nick Anscombe and delivered it to his place in Farnborough after advertising it in Drag Racing News. After Pete went to the States he went back to his first love of motorcycles and he had a lot of them, down to 3 now. He has mainly done long distance touring on back roads, been cross country and back 3 or 4 times now.

Pete also did a little drag racing with a Kawasaki 1200 in the States and ran 10's but mainly did flat track (like UK speedway) and ice in the winter. Pete still has a race bike but not been out for 3 years as his local track closed.

From Molotov Cocktail to Pig Pen (Nick Anscombe)

After Pete sold the dragster to Nick Anscombe, it was raced pretty much as it had been sold and with the name Pig Pen. Nicks approach to racing focussed on functionality, rather than appearance but nonetheless he was a reliable, regular fixture at British Flathead Racing Association rounds for 2 or 3 years. He had a regular helper named Eddie, I don’t think I ever knew his surname but I think he lived in the same area as Nick.

Pig Pen at Long Marston

Pig Pen at Long Marston

He was always cheerful, had a great sense of humour and he didn’t seem to take life too seriously. Nonetheless he was obviously committed to racing the car and also supporting the club by coming to BFRA AGMs and the annual jaunt to Wally Wheatley’s company, Nordian Exports, in deepest Essex for engine parts for the following season...

Exhaustive attempts have been made to track down Nick Anscombe, but without success. It would be nice to get his part of the story. If anyone has any idea of his whereabouts please contact Eurodragster on

Pig Pen race dates

1980; Apr 20 Blackbushe; May 10/11 Long Marston; June 8 Blackbushe; June 28/29 Long Marston; July 20 Blackbushe; Aug 16/17 Long Marston; Sept 27/28 Long Marston;

1982: June 5/6 Long Marston; June 26/27 Long Marston;

1983: May 15 Blackbushe

Milton Homan (Dream Cars)

Mick Gleadow writes: I first heard that Age Machine still existed several years ago, from my brother Bob Gleadow, who wanted to buy it, but the owner, Milton Homan, didn’t want to sell it as he had plans for the car. I was glad that the car was still around and hadn’t ended up being scrapped, as has been the fate of so many drag race cars.

I had found some long threads on UK Drag Racing Nostalgia Forum and the NSRA Forum about the car and it was quite remarkable that there was so much interest in it.

By now readers of this Pioneer article will have appreciated why - so many high profile racers raced it and then went on to achieve a lot in UK drag racing. The car also has great pedigree being built by Allan Herridge, one of our sports true heroes and involving Tony and Don Beadle and John Harrison, also Pioneers of UK drag racing..

So when I got the chance to go to see the car and meet the owner, Milton Homan, I just had to go. John Hunt, British Drag Racing Historians Group had previously met Milton and he arranged for us both to visit Dream Cars, his premises in Redhill, Surrey which we did at the end of November 2022.

I hadn’t previously met Milton, but he made us very welcome and his passion for American cars and his interest in the history of Age Machine was clear to see.

Milton’s business involves film and TV, providing cars relevant for the time or scene. Dream Cars is an absolute Aladdin’s cave of classic American cars and Milton also actively supports local car shows and events.

Owning a dragster is a different type of project and I was very keen to see the car and see how I could help with progressing whatever Milton had decided to do with the it.

Flathead engine in Long Marston pits

Detail of 8-port setup

At Dream Cars, in same livery and same race number as when Pete Hollingsworth owned it

Milton’s involvement started with him being asked by John Parkes, a friend in Northern Ireland, to source a dragster for his Route 66 themed museum over there. This was in the mid 1990s. John Parkes wanted an old dragster as an attraction for the museum and to interest visitors; at that time and even now there are not many dragsters in Ireland and many people would not even have actually seen one before.

Milton scoured Exchange and Mart, as you had to in those pre-internet days. He found in the Drag Racing and Hot rods section, that there was a dragster advertised, as a rail dragster, with a trailer, for £250, including a trailer. The phone number was from the Guildford area. When Milton asked if the dragster was front engine or rear engine, the reply was that “your b*ll*cks are over the back axle”! So Milton knew it was front engine! Also a bit old school, which he thought would suit what the museum wanted.

At that time Dream Cars was based in Battersea, London but Guildford was close enough for it to be worthwhile to go and have a look. Milton arranged to see the car, which when he got there, was on a trailer, which looked like a caravan chassis, in a field on a farm. He doesn’t remember the seller’s name, but this may well have been Nick Anscombe: his car being called Pig Pen makes this a reasonable supposition. Nick Anscombe also lived quite close to Blackbushe which is in the same general area in Surrey.

The trailer wasn’t needed so he agreed the price of £200 just for the dragster and the deal was done. The car was collected and then taken back to Dream Cars and then shipped to John Parkes Route 66 car museum in Northern Ireland, where it went on display. We don’t have any pictures of it on display in the museum but if anyone has please email I realise that may be a bit of a long shot!

Close up of Flathead engine

Close up of Flathead engine

Engine out...

The dragster was apparently hung on a wall with the parachute unfurled behind – quite a sight for visitors and definitely an addition to the museum. Nothing more was heard for several years until Milton heard that John Parkes had died. After Johns passing it remained with a family friend of theirs. Milton was still interested in the car and subsequently, the new owner was contacted by Milton to see if he wanted to sell it. A price was agreed and the dragster was then shipped back to Dream Cars in 2008, which by now had now moved to Redhill, Surrey. It was put up on stands and stayed there for a while. During that time Milton researched the history of the car on the internet, managed to find 30 – 40 pictures and got some of its history, realising that as well as being an interesting car it had a very interesting history.

I recognised the car straightaway, even with the modifications over the years, such as the top panel being modified because of the 8 port set up of the flathead motor.

Showing chassis mounted ancillaries

Fuel tank and front end

The car itself has not had a lot of work done to it but Milton has got hold of a lot of parts, such as a Hilborn fuel injection set up and front cover, a 327 inch Chevy block, aftermarket heads, authentic Cal Custom valve covers, chrome zoomie headers and pretty much all of the internals needed to build a really nice Injected small block Chevy.

Milton also has a brand new pair of Boranni front wheel rims, There is also a pair of 10 x 15 ET wheels which he bought from Moon Equipment and they were the last pair they had in stock with the wheel off set that he wanted. He’s also got a really nice EELCO steering butterfly for an authentic, period look The 8 port flathead motor, built by Pete Hollingsworth and Ken Cooper, is up on an engine stand and looks complete.

Milton wants the car to look the part for the period in the 1960s when Junior Fuel was at its height.

As for the cars future, Milton doesn’t want to race it because of the cars age and for safety reasons but can see that it would be a really good cackle car, especially with an injected small block Chevy on nitro. Flathead racers would say that an 8 port flat motor would be pretty mean as well – and who would argue with that!

To get it back to cackling would be an achievement in itself and It would be great to see it at a Nostalgia meet.

As such a historic car it has definitely earned its place in UK drag racing history.

Gearbox and some vintage decals visible

Spare parts.

Video interview of Milton Homan and walk around car (click to view)

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