Tributes to Nobby Hills

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of UK drag racing pioneer Nobby Hills, to natural causes last week aged 87.

Norman "Nobby" Hills was one of the few surviving pioneers who had raced at the 1964 UK Drag Festivals. After visiting Silverstone to watch the Mooneyes dragster of Dante Duce and Sydney Allard's Allard Chrysler in September 1963, Nobby became inspired and using his many engineering skills set to work and built a 3.4 litre Jaguar engined dragster named Houndog which was entered to race in the September Drag Festivals at Blackbushe in 1964 the following year. A supercharged Jag engined Houndog 2 followed in 1965, "Movin" Mike Hutcherson took over the driving, and Houndogs 3 and 4 had Cadillac power, the car going through six of the engines in 1969 as Nobby learned of frailty in their design.

In the 1970s, Nobby switched to Chrysler power for two further slingshots, Houndogs 5 and 6 , and the times improved rapidly. Then in 1973 Santa Pod Raceway came to him with an offer that couldn't be refused: the Plymouth Duster Funny Car brought over by Paula Murphy. It became Houndog 7, had a fantastic paint job, and the fearless Owen Hayward made a great driver. In their day jobs at heavy earth-moving and construction equipment distributors SLD Olding, Owen was Nobby's boss, but at the track Owen had been a team member since 1966! The following year, 1974, had a second new car in the Houndog stable, the beautiful Houndog 8 dragster based on the latest US rear engined design from Tony Nancy. Mike Hutcherson left the team after March 1975 leaving Owen as the main driver of both cars. All of Nobby’s cars were beautifully turned out, attention to detail along with high performance were two of his well-known trademarks.

Nobby and the team got quicker but there were setbacks. In August 1977 the Duster Funny Car was destroyed in an accident, but Owen was unhurt. Alan Bates took over the driving of the Houndog 8 dragster whilst Nobby and the team prepared their new Funny Car Houndog 9 nicknamed ‘Pup’. The Houndog 8 dragster was dismantled at the end of 1977, with some parts going on DLT's Needle Dragster.

The last three cars of the team were all funny cars: the 1978 Houndog 9 Vega based on a home built chassis and, a couple of years later, a Challenger bodied funny car again with a home built chassis debuted in late 1979 became Houndog 10, which came to a firey end at Mantorp Park in 1983 and finally the repaired chassis with a Corvette body Houndog 11 was run by Nobby through to the end of the 1980's with former crew chief Alan Bates in the drivers seat, the beautifully finished Corvette was the first Funny Car in Europe to record a five second run receiving a 5.99/251.8mph timing ticket on 25 May 1986.

A born showman, Nobby and his team never failed to entertain the crowd, whether it was building a Model T body for the funny car chassis to create a fuel altered whilst a new body was being prepared, or bringing SLD Olding heavy lifting equipment to the track to raise the Vega way above the crowd at a rainy event in 1978, or the many show trophies won, or their final project after two decades away from the sport, a nitro-burning Camaro Funny Car Houndog number 12.

He was literally a giant of the sport at 6'4" and could always be identified in the pits by his stetson and, if you looked down, a pair of flip-flops. Nobby joins daughter Jodie who was killed in a motor accident in 2004 and shared with Nobby a love of country music and American cars. We send our very deepest sympathies to Nobby's wife Anne, daughter Katie, six year old grandson Beau, an engineer in the making, and to all friends and team mates. RIP Nobby.

We have received the following tributes to Nobby. To send your own tribute, please E-Mail

The most recently-received tributes are at the top of the page.

Sadly I am of an age where on a frequent basis I her or read of the passing of many of our drag racing 'family' Nobby, a lager than life character who lived for drag racing. A pioneer of the finest quality.

I remember him in his Stetson hat and cowboy boots organising one of the finest teams of the time, always keen to put on the best 'show' he could. At the time I crewed with Graham Hawes' Black Magic and enjoyed the 'banter' between crews in the pits.

Rest in pease Nobby keep wearing the hat and boots. Say Hello to Dennis for me.

-- Bob Bryant

Nobby was a great guy, always willing to help. He never had a bad word for anyone, a real gentleman. We had many great times racing Owen in the fueller. Nobby was a great character and his passing is the end of an era. He will be sadly missed by everyone that knew him. RIP Nobby.

-- Pete Crane.

Very sad news to see. RIP Nobby.

When we were rebuilding the Topolino during the early part of the 2005 season, we bought a 14/71 Mooneyham blower from Nobby; we met Nobby at the Pod and walked to his car to pay and collect, he opens his boot and there are 2 blowers (both 14s) in there, he says 'take both, I don't need them and you guys will make use of them', no extra cash taken (we tried) no quibbles, just a good guy. Thank you Nobby, those are the acts people remember well. We also ran our first 6 second ET on that blower at the Thunderball, so thank you for that.

Our condolences to family and friends. Rest easy Nobby, RIP.

-- Bennett Racing.

After Nobby rolled his funny car, did he come back next meeting with a skateboard bolted to the roof?!!

Great inspiration to us young bucks back then. Another one bites the dust.

C ya up there - with some stories

Full revs

-- Nitro Smax n' the Anthill Mob.

What sad news about Nobby Hills on Eurodragster this morning. Such a larger than life character, who produced superb cars, and added such a lot of life to the sport.

Lots of memories to look back on, given his long racing career, with his succession of Houndog cars. I wanted to post a picture of him, and this one I took of Nobby at Dragstalgia, with Tom Hoover stood alongside, and enjoying the moment, seemed appropriate. Sadly both now passed. RIP Nobby

-- Keith Lee

Terribly saddened to hear of Nobby's passing. I can remember when we were in the pits to see the imposing man himself as the 'Houndog' Camaro funny car started up for a test. The look of joy from Nobby in his stetson was a moment I will never forget. Thank you Nobby & the team for some amazing memories. Rest in Peace my friend.

-- Martin Wilson

I don't think I ever captured Nobby in the pictures with his Funny Cars, I regret not ever doing this. RIP Nobby Hills.

-- Kelvin Fagan

Happy days on his crew early 1980’s

-- Chris Blows (author of

Wow! Such sad news to hear a legend of some great cars around the UK Drag scene... Big Guy...Big Hat..and the famous flip-flop's...Great Memories.

R.I.P. Condolences to family and friends at this sad news n time..

-- Phil Caswell

RIP Nobby, another Drag racing hero taken, have fun up there!

-- Martyn Hannis

In any sport it seems there a few people that emerge as flamboyant characters. Nobby was a true showman fiercely competitive but approachable and friendly with a dry sense of humour.

Instantly recognisable in his flip flop sandals whatever the weather he always thrilled his many fans putting on a fabulous show with is superb Hound Dog funny cars and rails.

Legend and Icon are words often used but Nobby Hills was one of the greatest I doubt if there has been or ever will be a more charismatic personality in U.K. drag racing and I for one am proud to have known him as a friend

RIP Mr Hills you were one of a kind

-- Brian Thomas

What immeasurably sad news. These days people chuck words like legend and icon around so carelessly in a quest for clicks and likes, but Nobby was all that and more, He was also a likeable, cheerful chap, and above all a complete gentleman, sometimes in the face of adversity that would make a sinner out of all of us. We shall never see his like again.

-- Richard Nichols

RIP Nobby……..another legend sadly departed

-- Simon Eldridge

I am deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Nobby. I had the pleasure of crewing for him for a few years as he tried to return to fuel funny car. He gave me my break into Nitro racing for which I will be eternally grateful, and also spent a few cold winter weekends helping him recommission houndog 1 to its glory.

Below right is a photo of Nobby when we squeezed him into the Shytalker slingshot of Alec and Tom Coe. It was quite a squeeze and took a while to get him back out. Even with being around the sport for as long as he had been, the passion he had for it was clear to see in the size of the smile on his face after this.

I will raise a 'special brew' to you later, Rest in peace Nobby

-- Chris Eyre (left photo below by Martin Chesworth at Sandringham Show)

RIP Nobby. A great contributor to the world of nitro. This was the shot earmarked for my book (above right). Still is when I get the funds. I interviewed him at his house for Custom Car with the editor, Kev Elliot. Fortunately, Nobby was very forthcoming, despite having recently lost his daughter at the time. Naturally, he had a lot to say.

-- Mark Gredzinski

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