The Stones Racing Team's story - Part 2

As told exclusively to

The Stones team bought an Escort at the end of 1971 and set about re-engining it to a small block Chevy and training Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis to become its driver. Then in 1973 they bought the Hemi Hunter slingshot dragster and, with Gerry Andrews joining the team, campaigned it in Top Dragster and, from 1975, Pro Comp. The team expanded in manpower and in 1976 they bought the Stardust Funny Car previously campaigned by Don Schumacher and Allan Herridge, fitting a Big Block Chevy and, in 1977, moving to Rodeck equipment.

Tender Trap and DLT

Simon Groves: Gerry, what was your first drag racing car?

Gerry Andrews: It was Tender Trap. I started with the V6 and then the V8 and all the different gearboxes until DLT had a go.

Dave Stone:: It was undriveable when we got it, it wouldn't go in a straight line. They put a V6 in it which was too big for the cross member that went underneath and for the rack and pinion steering which was originally mounted on top of the cross member. So they took the rack off and put it underneath the cross member which was the same distance but put the geometry out so that every time you hit a bump the track moved by two inches. You could wear a set of front tyres out in six meetings. We sorted that out by putting the rack back on top and lowered the suspension. We spent loads of time taking the suspension legs apart and making it so you could push down on it but couldn't lift it up. We spent more time on that car than the other two cars put together.

Hood scoop with DLT shown as driver in 1975

Some work being done in the queue

By 1974 the V6 engine had been replaced by a 305ci small block Chevy

Simon Groves: It was running in Pro Stock so it was up against Gary Goggin and Tony Dickson in Money Hungry?

Dave Stone: At Dragstalgia 2013 when Garry Goggin was there we did an interview at the startline and John Dickson later in the VIP area said his brother Tony didn't like the idea of an Escort running in Pro Stock which was an American car class. You can go down the road and get a Camaro but you can't go down the road and get an Escort with a V8. Later there was another problem with the Brooklyn and London Heavy cars that had Hemis and Lencos. [Tender Trap was sold to Trevor Hirst]

Dave Lee Travis posing in front of Tender Trap in 1974.

Simon Groves: How did DLT join the team?

Dave Stone: It was the Custom Car show at Crystal Palace. Brian Taylor thought if DLT joined up he would be good for us and the sport.

Brian was with Taylor Startup promotions. But we never did get any cash prize, it was all product, Castrol or Champion. Well Castrol would send a lorry down, Champion plugs turned up in lots of 50s and we had boxes and boxes of GUD oil filters. We would have oil delivered that was more than the area of the house. We got 20 gallons of brake fluid - we only needed a little, it's not something you use a lot of. And there was automatic fluid and anti-freeze.

Gerry Andrews: The best one was Vandervell. We went to their open day and when they found out we wiped the Iridium off their bearings they almost had a heart attack and said 'This is one of the dearest minerals on earth and it takes us so long to put this micro layer on the face of the bearings and you're taking a piece of wet and dry to take it off!'

The coating used to hold the dirt and we didn't want the dirt staying in as after they were run in and bedded in and the engines were so perfectly clean, we didn't want anything interfering with them.

Dave Riswick: What was the team's greatest achievement?

Dave Stone: That was the NDRC meeting at Silverstone in June '74 when we won three classes and I don't think it's been done since that one team won all three top classes. If I remember rightly Tee Rat ran 197mph uphill and went right across on the outer track straight towards some railway sleepers. Hemi Hunter was fairly bullet proof against Roz Prior and Bruce Brown and DLT's was the only fly against Mustapha Errol in the Easy Ridin' Camaro, a fairly good car, but DLT was good on the lights and drilled him off the line.

We were there all night partying. DLT won in Pro Stock because he had the producer from Top of the Pops and he was supposed to go to another event and he phoned them up and said 'I'm not going, I'm staying here'. We stayed at Silverstone all night long, it was raining and the cars were stuck outside in the pouring rain because it had never been done before.

Simon Groves: DLT stayed with the team for a few years?

Dave Stone: He liked the team and we got on. Because all of those people have such big egos they have to be the centre of attraction. When he was in the pits, we would say go and do your card tricks and entertain the people because he would be doing it on the bonnet of the Escort and we said 'We're working on it, take all the people over there' and that was great because it took a lot of pressure off us and we could carry on with the work. It was down to Dennis to bring him back down to earth because Dennis wasn't one of those people who took to egos very well and DLT had to be put back into the zone - he would say 'You're driving for me, you do as I say and it's as simple as that', there would be none of the larking with the crowd, all the stuff he was good at.

His timing was good. We had to put a new gearbox in it, he couldn't drive a stick shift four speed, it had one of those shifters with a forward and back gate and he couldn't get his head around it so we had to put an automatic gearbox in it but it was a clutch automatic so you had the launch potential and then pulled the lever in one direction to change up. It was a Turbo 400 very big, absolutely huge and very strong.

Gerry Andrews: The first time I drove it I took Daddy Stone up to the start line and I thought someone had run into the back of us.

Tender Trap was repainted to match Stardust in 1977

When DLT was not available, Daddy Stone drove Tender Trap

Dave Stone: I remember a time we went to the Pod for testing, there was just us and we had to clear the sheep off the track. It was when DLT was learning to drive it. I was sitting in it and there were no seat belts for me and I'm hanging on to the roll bar.

Because of the noise, the exhaust came out and finished where your feet were, so it was all sign language, and he pointed to the rev counter and I thought he said 'What should I change gear at' and I pointed to the eight thousand, and what he actually said was 'What should I leave at?' Gerry and me would leave at eight thousand but I wasn't going to let him learn that way, but all of a sudden it left and just went skywards and I realised 'That's what he meant' and he went 'Wow!' and wouldn't change gear because he was so shocked at seeing the sky so I wacked the gear lever into second and it came down but it chucked a rod out as it had stayed too long in first gear.

All the water from the system had gone on the headers so I opened the door to let the smoke out and he thought I was getting out so he opened his door to jump out I said 'No! No!' and thought 'This is hard work, you couldn't have written this story.' It was a real comedy. The money we spent on that car and its engines...

The original basis of the engine in the Escort came out of Riswick’s Gordon Keeble. The aluminium block in Tee Rat was something else, they only made five of them and it was one of the strongest blocks in the world.

Dave Riswick: The engine that was donated to Tender Trap was originally out of John Woolfe’s Lola T-70 sports car. It produced just under 400 hp at 5800 rpm.

I first put it in my Gordon Keeble but it scared me so much I had to take it out and put the stock engine back in. I ran it at Blackbushe at an NDRC meeting in June 1970 with a 14.83 et and a terminal of 111.00 but I lost to David Render’s Ginetta. Later that year, Mick Collins did a write up on Keeble. I took him for a run out on the country roads towards Kimbolton. He was not amused by the violence it created when I put my foot down. Even Ernie Knott, the author of the Keeble history book The Gordon-Keeble: A British Supercar of the 1960s, made note of it when he would collect the Keeble to service it. Another JWR 302 Chevy was used by Mike Treutlein in Chicken Coupe.

Dave Stone: If we were spending $50 per conrod on the other two cars Tender Trap was costing thousands of dollars in conrods, they wouldn't last. Because the rods were made mainly for NASCAR and steady runs they would stretch and the sides would come in and the two edges would act like scrapers, come in and scrape all the oil off and burn the pistons.

Speaking to Bill Jenkins he said 'You've got to elongate the big ends' and sent a picture through, you have to take the pins out, shave down the cap, make it egg shaped, so when you put the cap back on, you had an egg shaped rod and at speed because it stretched it became round and we had no more trouble. We were just pushing it too hard and weren't supposed to rev them to 8-9000 rpm.

They were lovely sets of rods, shiny aluminium ones but we went through so many and the other engines would work like a clock, tick tock down the track. But the Escort weighed 2700lb, that's a lot of weight. We figured it out and by the time we sold it it would start with a key.

Simon Groves:: How much help did you give DLT to transition to Top Fuel?

Dave Stone: None.

Simon Groves: Did you get involved in the running of The Needle at all?

Gerry Andrews: No we'd got enough problems of our own

Dave Stone: Quite a lot of people wouldn't know when you were hurting an engine. There is a feeling with them that they're suffering and they're not going to suffer any more. You go up the track and you come off and they say 'Why did you back off?' and you say 'Because something wasn't right' and you look at it, and something wasn't right.

Hemi Hunter

Gerry Andrews: Hemi Hunter earned enough money to keep the other cars going, it was like a metronome. We were asked 'How often should you change the rods?' Just before they break! The hardest break was with Hemi Hunter when we broke the crank, we knew we were pushing our luck, we had done 110 6 second runs and they said it should have been changed at 30 but we never had the money. We kept on pushing it and it was one run too many.

Dave Riswick: You guys did well with what you had. You were right on the edge all the time.

Gerry and Mick getting Hemi Hunter secured on their trailer in 1974

Injected BBC engine from Tee Rat and immaculate paint job

Stones lettering was applied to the original paint from when Pete Bennett owned Hemi Hunter

Simon Groves: Who built Hemi Hunter?

Dave Stone: Hemi Hunter was built by Allan Herridge for Peter Bennett. But for whatever reason Peter didn't want to drive Hemi Hunter and he wanted £1000 for a complete Top Fuel car including engine. I remember Dennis phoning you (Dave Riswick) up and you said you've got to have it. You can't get equipment like that for that kind of money. We already had two cars!

Dave Riswick: Dennis later said 'You talked us into it, now you'd better lend us some more money'.

Simon Groves:: What was the orginal engine in Hemi Hunter like?

Dave Stone: The Bennett engine, a 427, was fairly fool proof. Admittedly it was on 50% fuel, by today's standards it was nothing, but it sounded good. It ran down into the mid sevens which was good for those days. Bill Felstead who has run altereds came into the garage in 2013 and he wanted some parts. He asked what was the quickest you ran in Stardust with a Chevy engine and I said 6.4. He said 'Well, someone's just run in an altered into the 6.4s and I said congratulations, you are where the Stones were 30 years ago!' If you put it into those terms it seems they have caught up to when we did it.

It always surprised me that there weren't more people in the sport who could put an engine together correctly as in blueprinting. Rob Loaring and I were discussing engine balancing at dinner near Long Marston and we used to do our own balancing and I used to balance it to within a tenth of a percent.

We swapped engines by taking the injected engine out of Tee Rat and putting that in Hemi Hunter and putting Hemi Hunter's blown fuel engine in Tee Rat. We took it up the Pod and Allan Herridge was with us and I said 'It's going to wheelstand, you can lift the axle.' But because we put the aluminium block in it there was better weight distribution. So Dad said 'You'd better drive, you know the engine. It was the first time I'd driven a front engined dragster, the rear wheels were in front of you rather than behind you. Did it wheelstand? It stuck it up like that.

Gerry Andrews: We had 110lbs on it in the end.

Dave Stone: Because it was injected it was well throttle happy, as when it was on its way down you could feed the throttle back in and the engine note would change and it got back up again. I said 'I told you it would do that' and we put loads of weight on it. We still managed to get the front wheels up to five feet off the ground, and then we had to speak to Allan and had to move the back axle back so the engine was further forward relative to it.

Gerry Andrews: You couldn't move the engine because it would upset the paintwork. I did hundreds of runs, it was fabulous to drive. I then had the blown engine out of the Earl Wade altered and put it into Hemi Hunter in 1975.

Hemi Hunter just fitted into the back yard

Crower bug catcher and blower fitted in 1974

Deifinitely a tight fit

Dave Stone: Gerry said what should I expect? I said hit the throttle if you don't like it, come out of it. Simple. I remember you staged got on it and you said the shock of hitting the throttle with a supercharged engine was a phenomenal difference. You came off it for about a second, if that, then back on and you vanished. It was the initial shock.

Gerry Andrews: The first run with a blower was the one that will always stand out in my mind. We ran it on alky as it had come out of the Earl Wade car.

Simon Groves: Was it on nitro at all?

Dave Stone:: We tried 15-18% nitro a few times and retarded the mag just to make up the Pro Fuel field like at the Easter '76 Garlits meet. It wasn't enough, I remember speaking to Ed Donovan and he said '20% nitro is washing up liquid, don't race on 20%.'

I remember Ed Donovan at a bar in London and we were sent to pick him up. We found him sitting at the bar drinking beer and eating peanuts. He had rented a car and went only 300-400 yards before he left it parked in the middle of the road. He said 'You're car's in Whitehall, go and pick it up, they're all mental over here.' We had to give him a lift in Riswick’s Gordon Keeble.

Gerry Andrews: The only parachute we could find that Daddy Stone could afford was one that they used on planes, an Irving one with no vents in it. We were at Blackbushe and they asked 'Why didn't you use the chute? If you don't you're going to damage the car and hurt yourself'. I said 'Because it hurts, every time you pulled this chute out it just stopped you dead, we've got pictures of Hemi Hunter in mid air, it's so harsh it just lifts the car, your belt hurts your groin when your thrown forward.

Push back from a burnout, Hemi Hunter with the ex Earl Wade BBC engine in 1975

Gerry with a winners trophy

...and another

Dave Stone: An eight foot chute would have been perfectly adequate but this thing was 14 foot.

Gerry Andrews: Twice at the Pod it didn't work and it went off the end. We were in so far I thought 'This isn't too bad it's a smooth ride, but I didn't realise I was off the ground and when the nose cone came down it picked up all the manure and it all came into the car and no-one would come near me. Allan Herridge was driving the fire truck, the old Buick, he drove off the end and he got bogged down and he stood on the bonnet and lassooed me with a tow rope to tie it around the roll bar On the way back to the pits Marion Owen the top fuel bike rider said 'What you trying to do boy, bury it?'.

Dave Stone:: You had the chassis but the body was being painted by Eddie Wimble in N London. We went up there. The paint job was to die for. Eddie reminded me of Marc Bolan from T Rex.

Team Members

Simon Groves: Running three cars did you have other team members and who did what?

Dave Stone:: What a lot of people don't realise is the logistics side of it is huge. Bringing in pieces to keep the thing running all the time, which I never did because Dad did all that, booking a ferry and so forth. I did none of that as I was working in the garage building engines and chassis.

Mick was on the team from early on. He worked in the same garage as Gerry and me and what he was good at was machining. You couldn't buy anything, you had to make it, so you would make a bracket out of quarter inch plate, and we used to buy lots of steel plate. We said to Mick, here's a hacksaw, here's a three foot length of plate, we want it made into a motor plate so that it's got to be round, and he would work all night.

In the end we bought an electrical mechanical saw and got a sign made up and put Mick's name on.

If we wanted to drive to York Mick would sit there with us in the back and said 'Would you mind keeping the noise down while I'm driving' We were sitting in the back with a few cans of beer and said 'Drive on Mick'.

Simon Groves: What became of Mick?

Dave Stone: He went to Cornwall and later moved to York.

Dave with trophy

Mick relaxing

Mick and Gerry chatting

Then there was Trevor Horncastle. I found a letter from Trevor when he was 16 and an apprentice at Ford at Dunton and his friend Colin which said 'We've been following your career and if there's any chance of an opening we'd be interested'. He lived in Dagenham and gave his phone number and I said is there any chance of you coming over to see us rather than talk through the mail.

I could trust Trevor to do anything. If I wanted a Lenco rebuilt I showed him the way to do it and he would remember and could do it forever afterwards. Where he was working in Ford's experimental department at Dunton. Because he was Ford educated he had good knowledge and he is still working at Ford and coming up for retirement. Also Colin Thomson of Tk Engineering was important because of his engine machining.

He was the only one I could trust to turn it round if I was doing other things. If you've got three cars and in the top classes of their time, Top Dragster, Top Altered and Top Street, especially when DLT was driving. Dad was doing logistics. We did leave running the Escort to Dennis as he had a way with DLT.

Dave Riswick: Was Dave Collis ever part of your team or help you?

Dave Stone: He lived in Dagenham but wasn't part of the team. He built a Vauxhall and was a builder. Inside the car was trimmed out and each of the rivets are measured and drilled exactly the same, two inches apart. We were in a rush and had got to get it done quick so we just guessed. He might have taken four years to build his car but it was picture perfect to look at. But that was no good to us because by the time you got it on the track it was four years old, people had moved on.

Dave Riswick: Lots of people only had one car and therefore they could make everything supporting that car but you couldn't get enough quick enough and if you had another garage you would have had that full of racing cars.

Dave Stone:: When I look at your place, what can't you do in that building?

Gerry Andrews: The hardest thing about racing three cars was the fact that it was a working repair garage and everything had to be back out of the way by 6pm Sunday night. Even when we came back at 2am from a race meet we had to put it away and had to start work.

Dave Stone: They say wouldn't you like to do that again? Well - no. I hardly ever saw the family, perhaps that's why they don't like it now, Vickie is alright because I used to take her when she was young. I never spent a bank holiday with the kids, there was always a big meeting on. I was never around and Colene was like a one parent family..

I couldn't go back because I was working on cars until 6pm and then came home. Cliff Jones got into American car racing with a Camaro and used to import brand spanking new unpainted short blocks ship them down to me and I'd rebuild them and charge him £200. There were very few new parts I could put on to them as they were new but they needed putting together correctly. He used to go out and invariably he'd win. He would say to me 'When I started it up it knocks'. I said 'That's because the pistons are not big enough for the bore, but I bet you it didn't knock when it was warm. When you got it from new, the manual said 'This engine will knock from cold'. And it did. When it was warm all the clearances would come back in and it would be a diamond.

Stardust FCs

Simon Groves: When you acquired your first FC how did it happen when you got the Stardust 'Cuda?

Dave Stone:: That was a Bob Phelps thing. It was a gift, it was a Santa Pod car and I didn't know whether we had done a good thing or a bad thing because we could have had it with a Ed Pink Hemi in it but we said 'We run Chevys and they said it would be a lot of work to convert it over to running Chevys. If we gone down that road and run a Black or Pink we would have had to have started learning all over again. But when you consider, everyone does now does run Hemis. Now you can't get a Chevy for nitro. I liked the engine John Force had 500ci, it says Ford, but the finish is anodised blue and they look lovely, it seems a shame to wrap them all up like they are told to do today!

The differently shaped bug catcher for the Crower injection on the BBC is clearly visible.

The previous Don Schumacher livery was adapted to credit The Stones which worked well

Stardust with its BBC along the similarly engined Hemi Hunter.

Simon Groves: How were you able to fit the Funny Car?

Dave Stone: I got it from Allan Herridge, and he was much shorter than me, the sitting position was so high I thought 'How I am going to drive this thing?'. The original driver Don Schumacher was not that much bigger than Allan either. We had to take all the frame round the seat out and drop everything down. We also moved the engine forward.

It was such a big car, we were working with a T altered before and the Barracuda was a big car. It was not like Funny Cars are today, it took four fairly big people to lift that body because it was really thick fibreglass. So we rarely bothered to do that. We pushed it into the garage and if we wanted to take the engine out we put a crane above the hole in the body where the supercharger was and lift it up. We couldn't lift the body off ourselves and we had to store it outside because it was too big to store in the garage.

Simon Groves: It was a good looking car but must have had some problems?

Dave Stone: It was an absolute darling to drive. The sides of the chassis came down the side of the driver and you could rest your elbows on it by your side, it was just like sitting in an armchair. You could rest your foot on the big front firewall. It had front suspension so you could do things with it you can't do with Funny Cars now.

Gerry Andrews: You thought you were doing a wheelie every time but you weren't you were just coming up on the suspension stops. They were all taken off as funny cars progressed.

Simon Groves: So you ran the 'Cuda for a couple of years and then bought the Blue Max Mustang from Raymond Beadle?

Dave Stone: Yes, and we then had it repainted in the Stardust colours. The Barracuda was sold on to Mike Allen, a Capital Radio DJ. Carlo Gandolfi said he would do the body if I did the chassis. He had to take all the paint off and repaint the whole thing. I didn't get past the Santa Pod management because Bristow and Bo Mefta who was owning it at the time. I tried not to get involved with politics as I was too busy thinking engines rather than who's running what track. There was a lot going on at the time.

Simon Groves: Did you buy Blue Max or was it loaned by Santa Pod?

Dave Stone: It was a Pod car and we ran them at Santa Pod and took them abroad a lot.

Hemi Hunter II

Hemi Hunter II in the pits alongside Tender Trap

Simon Groves: Going back to '78, Was Hemi Hunter II built in '78?

Gerry Andrews: Yes, Allan Herridge built that and The Needle side by side In '78 we started running the Hemi Hunter II on 85% nitro and I remember Nobby Hills at the top end saying 'I don't like the look of this'.

Gerry Andrews: We were sold the wrong aluminium for the engine mount and the engine used to twist in the chassis as it wasn't rigid enough.

Dave Stone: We made the motor plate out of aluminium and it would bend back an inch and we showed it to Alan Herridge and he said it was too soft, it needed to be out of Duralumin. We bought a big sheet of Duralumin and Mick cut this up and we had no more trouble.

Dave Stone:: It would have been nice to see what it would have turned on nitro once we had sorted it out. It was a Bob Phelps thing. The Tor Line event in September '78 all the Swedes and Norwegians came over and we were running in Top Fuel and Funny Car and we weren't into alcohol then. There were four Scandinavians in the finals and when we went back to Bob's caravan that night and he went mental. He said 'What's the matter with our blokes why can't we build cars to run against Scandinavians'. We said 'You go into that class then, we were running alcohol and now we're running nitro'. He said 'No I want you to go and beat those guys'. We said 'Oh well' and we went back on alcohol after that.

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