As told exclusively to
The Stones story is from an interview with Dave Stone and Gerry Andrews on 3 January 2015, by Simon Groves and Dave Riswick to whom we are grateful for making arrangements and providing material. The team started with a Lotus Cortina which soon had an Opus One altered added, the small block Chevy motor soon giving way to a big block Chevy, the car then replaced at the end of 1971 by a T Bucket which was the first British altered into the eights in July 1972. In 1973 treated to an exotic ex Can Am all-aluminium engine on nitro. The next step up was a new chassis from Roland Pratt with which Dave went as quick as 7.55 at 198mph
Simon Groves:: How and when did you get started in drag racing and what was the first car you went down the track in?
Dave Stone: I had a Mk 1 Lotus Cortina; shortly afterwards Dad got involved, I was supposed to be doing it on my own. We went to a meeting at Martlesham Heath, a RAF base near Ipswich. There weren't many cars there but Opus One was there and there was a for sale sign. The for sale sign was actually by the push car which was a late-model Vauxhall and the price was £350. I said to Dad 'That's cheap, it's quite recent'. So we talked to Cliff Jones and said 'Is that price for the push car for real?' He said 'No, it's for the dragster'. I said 'Jeez, you can buy a dragster for £350!' And Dennis said 'I'll have that', no offers. Cliff said 'Is it alright if I continue racing it for the event?' and he did, and he won prize money of £50. Dad then said 'You've already got £50, I'll pay you the other £300!' We went home, Cliff lived in Hornchurch, not far away and he towed it round, deal done. My car, the Lotus Cortina became called Lopus One so we then had one each.
Dave Riswick: Who was at Ipswich?
Dave Stone: Just me, Daddy Stone and Mummy Stone. We were just racing the Cortina. Later Daddy Stone bought an E Type for £600 or more
Gerry Andrews:: And I bought the '66 E Type from him and the money from it bought Hemi Hunter. I still have it but it's now blue rather than brown, it was a 4.2.
Dave Stone: We were the only people who were meddling with V8s. They were unheard of in this country. Nearly every other car we race against had Jaguar engines, they were the cheapest and commonest form of big engine. You could pick up a V8 for pennies because nobody wanted them.
When we first got Opus One and took it out we had a 283cu in and I took the heads off, the first time I had ever looked at a V8. I saw it had a burnt out valve and broken piston and thought 'It's still running 11s but it's a piece of junk how can that be?'. It was because there were so many cylinders at that stage we couldn't tell whether one was missing or not. If you're racing a four cylinder engine and there's the slightest little problem it will sound terrible. So I got in touch with Cliff Jones and he said I've got a set of 327 rods and pistons and we bored it out and worked on the valves - what a difference that made. It was better than anyone else's engines.
The modern Chevy V8 is such a phenomenally advanced engine compared with a small block Chevy, the SBC is like a dinosaur, it hasn't changed a lot since the 1950s. I'd love to work on a modern Chevy V8, it's got six bolt mains, you could do anything with it. The SBC only had two bolt mains.
Simon Groves: Had you been to the Dragfests?
Dave Stone: Yes, however I was only 14 when we went to the Blackbushe Dragfest with Don Garlits and Tommy Ivo. I meant to go up to Garlits to get an autograph but he did better than that and gave me an Autolite spark plug out of his engine. I kept it for donkeys' years and if I could find it I would have awarded it back to him at the Hall of Fame Gala Dinner after 50 years! So it was Garlits's fault we got into the sport.
Simon Groves: What were the teams' day jobs?
Dave Stone: Daddy Stone was a truck driver for Ford and I worked for Gerry at Reynolds, a Ford main dealer. I started there in '64 or '65 as an apprentice straight out of school. Dad had taken me for an interview from school to a plant hire company that rented out fork lift trucks. We were sitting in the office for half an hour and said is anyone going to see us. Another 20 minutes went by and he said 'Come on, we're off' and that was it. Otherwise I would never have got into racing whatsoever as I would have been mending JCBs. When I went to work for the Ford main dealer, Gerry was racing circuit cars.
Gerry Andrews: It was when Formula Ford started. We had an intake of apprentices and in testing Dave stood out as potential and was used to earning money on customers' cars. The Lotus Cortina was guaranteed as producing 105hp and we were the only garage in the country that had a Sun rolling road that was imported from the States. It gave us the ability to check the horsepower. So they took Dave off general customers' work and gave him to me to drill the camshaft gears so we could advance or retard the cams to get them up to 105hp. We got a good relationship going. We would try not to melt number plates and had to put a board up the back on the rolling road to stop the exhaust going into the workshop. Some of the ones that came with plastic plates and we would take the board away, and they would melt on the back of the car. You could have the exhaust glow cherry red from the engine right through to the rear axle.
Dave Stone: I remember saying to Gerry 'Do you know how to power shift to change gear without using the clutch. , pull it out of gear without backing out of the throttle, tap the clutch and put it back into gear but you mustn't come off the throttle. If you like take a car with a rev counter and do it at 3000rpm so you weren't overloading the engine, and if you get it wrong back off. He came back and said 'That's brilliant, this is great!' We got into drag racing together because it's a different world, you can do these things and then we took the firm's Transit van to practice on.
Simon Groves: Did you drive Opus One?
Dave Stone: Eventually - they said 'You must have got such a buzz from running 9.6s in Opus One', but the biggest buzz was doing 11s on my first run. You see, the Cortina was doing 15s or 14s and I got into Opus One which ran an 11. A four second jump was a frighteningly big difference, and after that we went down in times by short hops, eventually to mid sevens in Tee Rat.
Simon Groves: You carried on racing the Cortina alongside Opus One and then at the end of '71 Opus One got sold and you bought another altered and the Escort?
Dave Stone: We bought Turtle Tee [later known as Tee Rat] and the Earl-Ward Escort at the end of '71. Opus One went to Reg from Romford and was called Sunset Tee and was painted in rainbow colours. I would like to know where Tender Trap is now because my son Dave Jnr would like to buy it. He's a big lad and that's one car he could fit into. The boys who bought it from us came down from Nottingham and said they were at college so we let it go for £900 as a roller. The next time I saw it had a Big Block Chevy and had had loads of money thrown at it. I said 'You said you didn't have any money!'
Simon Groves: You went from the Cortina and before you had the Turtle Tee you had progressed to a pretty powerful engine - were you running nitro at that stage?
Dave Stone: We had a Can Am Chevy engine which we bought from John Woolfe Racing. It was a Reynolds McLaren block and no stock Chevy parts fitted it (The Can Am engine came out of John Woolfe’s collection of special GM 427 Chevs used in his McLaren M6B 1968). You couldn't put a Chevy oil filter on it because it was a dry sump system and I remember Dad smoking a lot. Where the oil pump was bolted on to the engine there was a tube and he was smoking and we were looking to see where the smoke came out so we could see where to run the oil pipes. He must have done 100 fags smoking that night, but once we got it going properly, it was such a light engine. It was 427cu in and went in Opus One instead of a 327cu. I remember getting a shiny aluminium Deist fire suit as we were running 30% nitro by then, if you ran alcohol you didn't need it. It was so bulky, like a space suit. It ran nines which was really quick in the day. We didn't find it difficult because being in the engineering trade and we were building engines anyway.
I remember Phil Elson who had the Sneaky T. He invited us up to Blackpool for a car show. He would take the engine out and it was a 392 Hemi, and put it under a tarpaulin in his back garden and it was there all winter and, come March he would lift it back in again. This was a racing engine, much better than we had. He was enthusiastic but not an engineer.
Simon Groves: How was the Turtle Tee named Doo Wot?
Dave Stone: It was my Dad, we went to Los Angeles a big bunch with Priddle and Gary Goggin. If you go to a restaurant and ask for eggs on toast they ask do you like them various ways, or ask for coffee they would tell you the different ways, he would say 'Do what?'
The serving lady with a hat would come round and it would be lunch time and in California it was the law at the time that they serve you a glass of water. So a young sprout came round with his pitcher and he was filling all the glasses up and he was splashing it everywhere and some got on to Dennis's napkin and he said 'I don't want any water' and the guy was saying 'Gee, I'll lose my job if I don't put water in your glass. So your Dad turned right and the kid came up on the other side of him and filled the glass again. And your Dad said 'What the hell do you think you're doing?' The people in the restaurant had to have a meeting because they couldn't understand what your Dad was saying.
Gary Goggin was very plumb in the mouth English and they'd love to hear him talk, but they couldn't understand a word that Dad was saying.
Dave Riswick: Your Dad had such a character and they weren't quite sure where he was coming from some of the time. They wondered whether to banter with him or just shut up because he would get up and put them away because he was no small cheese. By this time your Dad was really agitated because he had lost control of his destiny by then so he was looking through the menu. The waitress would come up and ask 'What would you like?' and he said 'I would like to have a steak' and she then said how would he like it and all the options and he would start saying 'Do what?' again. She would look at him as if to say 'What is he talking about?', and Goggins said 'He wants medium rare'. Then she asked 'Soup or salad' and Dennis thought she had said ‘Super Salad’. So he says 'Yes please' and she says 'Hang on, Soup Or Salad'. He would say what's the soup of the day and she said 'Clam Chowder', then he said 'I'll have salad'. Then she starts 'Ranch, roquefort, blue cheese..' and he would be off again - 'Doo Wot??' Kevin Pilling was there and he was rolling in the aisles.
Dave Stone: We painted it green and it had a brown chassis. It was supposed to have been painted based on The Flintstones. The signwriter came round to do it and he was going to make us all caricatures of the Flintstones, and he said 'I can't do that because it's copyright, as a business I can't do it'.
Simon Groves: Were any parts on Tee Rat from other altereds?
Dave Stone: The Keith Harvie altered [the former Lawce Bros & Gunn AA/A] caused so many rows because the fellow in Sweden who bought it, Bo Bertilsson, a magazine writer, said we stole the wheels but he had 5 spoke type wheels, and we didn't. Keith couldn't get on with it, it kept on going wrong, the transmission kept on blowing up. We had lunched the engine in Hemi Hunter and Clive Skilton was starting Pro Comp so we and the other drivers went up to Edwin McKnight’s farm and he said what are you running.
We said we were running Tee Rat on nitro as an injected fuel altered but would like to run a transmission as it was direct drive. I dread to think what it would have handled like with a transmission. We got a three speed B&J from Keith Harvie but then blew the engine in Hemi Hunter so we took the transmission back and said could we swap it for the blown alcohol engine and have that in the dragster and run it as a Top Alcohol Dragster.
Keith's blown alcohol engine was from Earl Wade Racing Engines and that is what started us running on alcohol. Taking that engine apart, we had all the notes from when it was built and they had measured the torque turning it without plugs in it so you could see how easy it was to turn. You could put a torque wrench on it and measure 15lbs/ft and that made it easier to rebuild. Afterwards all of cylinder heads we ran on alcohol were based on those two, but as they were iron they didn't last long. It also had a water system on it which took water from the top of the heads and took it back to the bottom.
Years later, we got a set of aluminium heads from Brodix Manufacturing Company (based in West Memphis, Arkansas, across the Mississippi from Memphis which is on the East side, in Tennessee). They were solid aluminium heads and had no water jackets and it took ages as we only had a week before the meeting, they didn't even have any valve guides in. I couldn't cut the valve seats without valve guides in it as it didn't have seats and came square. So I had to make a tool that could cut at 15, 45 or 70 degrees and every night Daddy Stone turned the car repair garage into an engineering shop with individual tables for each job and we were working 20 hours a day just to get the heads ready for Hemi Hunter.
It was the first time I had gone away from the combustion chamber shape from the Earl Wade engine because they came with a set of shaped cylinders that I couldn't alter. But that was the very first time and all the alcohol engines prior to that were based on the Earl Wade design, it was such a good design. I wrote the guys a letter, because I wanted to buy the car, I had seen it in an American Magazine, the it was just perfect with angle of the body. But before they got my letter, the car had been bought by Keith and was at the Pod.
Simon Groves: When you bought the original Tee Rat it was run by a previous team, you ran it for two or three years and then you had to replace parts of the chassis?
Gerry Andrews: The front got changed, the back got changed, it was hard work.
Dave Stone: Every November we took it to pieces and said 'What are we going to make it go quicker with come March?' You've got that time to do it, so rather than cover it up.
Simon Groves: When you replaced the roll over bar for '72 was it on the original chassis?
Gerry Andrews: Yes it was on the same chassis but it was a rule change, they required a six point roll cage, but that didn't make it go any faster.
Dave Stone: What did Garlits say? When they start racing trailers I'll build trailers. He was late into the eighteen wheeler brigade. I was looking at the picture of Tee Rat on the back of the Bedford and the wheels are horrible and the trailer unpainted, but you're not racing the trailer. If we had it would have been a pukka trailer. The race car just had to go faster.
Simon Groves: You had a brand new chassis for Tee-Rat in 1976?
Dave Stone: Tee Rat Two, what a car that was. We were rich in those days and it was the first time we had professionals build a chassis for us with the best P&S equipment on it. It was a nice chassis, pretty, comfortable and up to the latest specs and rather than use an Anglia steering parts they went over to P&S and bought the pukka steering box and spindles. Everything was American and looked good. It was alright until we put the wings on it and filled in the top of the T-bucket. It was alright when it was open but covering it and putting the wing on changed the aerodynamics and it was a bugger to drive. It was alright until three quarters down the track. And once the suspension collapsed and we went through the top end on the sump and also the steering column came loose.
I remember saying to Raymond Beadle the front wheel fell off the other month when the welding broke under the front wishbone. 'Oh yes' he said 'That happens now and again'.
Someone from Blackpool bought it, cut it in half and lengthened it by 3ft to make it more stable, but it never did run. Dad said do you want to make another run in it, I said no, let's take it home, let's not do it a third time.
Gallery: click on any thumbnail for a large image.
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