Surrey Street Rodders' story and history - part 1

As told exclusively to

Harold Martin first met Dick and Paul Lambert at Santa Pod in 1973 and attended the first meeting of the newly formed Surrey Street Rodders at a house in Ash Vale near Aldershot. Dick became the first chairman and soon, like many drag racing and hot rod clubs, met in local pubs. After a couple of years Tony Allen took on the chairmanship and the club began to organise Hot Rod and Custom Shows at Blackbushe drag races, helping to run the events as well.

As part of the National Association of Street Clubs, Surrey Street Rodders organised the 3rd Street Rod Nationals in 1977 at Bisley Shooting Ground, Woking, which was a great success. The new clubhouse at Shackleford Village Hall hosted many drag racing members and activities, as well as the Wheels Days (which will be covered in Part 2) included a charity rod run from John O'Groats to Lands' End, slot drag racing at the Custom Car show at Olympia, members taking a belly tank lakester and running it at the dry lake - and producing a club magazine. There were plenty of escapades along the way.

Harold Martin’s memories.

My name is Harold Martin, and I am a Surrey Street Rodder. This is my journey and recollections with the club from the last 50 years.

I met Paul Lambert at Santa Pod in 1973 and we got chatting about hot rodding and drag racing in the Surrey & Hampshire area. The National Street Rod Association had their meetings in London, Harrow or Croydon and the Southern Roadsters had theirs in Portsmouth. So, Paul and his brother Dick were thinking of starting a club for those living in the Surrey, Berkshire and Hampshire border area.

I met him again in 1974 at Blackbushe and he said that he and Dick were going to start a club, and would I like to come to the first meeting? I said yes and gave him my phone number. He rang me some time later and said that he and others were going to meet up in a house in Ash Vale near Aldershot where a guy called Bob Brown lived. Bob had a Morris Traveller turned into a pickup which had been in Hot Car magazine. There must have been about 8 to 10 people there and we discussed starting a club, forming a committee, having Dick Lambert as the chairman, finding a place to meet and having no subs because we didn't want the hassle of money.

A well-dressed Bob Brown

Bob’s Custom Morris in the February '74 Hot Car magazine

Dick Lambert's Rays Rods Plymouth Coupe and a Beetle with artwork by Keith Seume

A little time later Paul rang me to say that they had found a pub on the A30 in Camberley called The Queen and the club was to be called the Surrey Street Rodders . After a short time, a better place to meet was found in Eversley at a pub called The Lamb. It had a wooden building next to the car park which was perfect. When we had the first meeting there, I remember there were pictures of nude ladies on the walls and roof from Playboy, Parade and other naughty mags of the time. By the second meet there they had been changed for pics of dragsters and hot rods from Paul and Dick’s collection of mags.

The Queen is now a Tesco Express

Hot Car May 1975

The Lamb is now The Frog & Wicket

The club became popular, and we soon had about 150 members. The trouble was that if we were invited to go somewhere you would only get about 5 or 8 show up. The way we paid for the hire of the shed was to collect money on club night at the door, about 5 shillings [25p]. With paying for the shed at club night we had to have a treasurer and started to pay subs.

Harold’s straight six Zephyr powered Jago T buildup shots.

Article from Hot Car July 1976:

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The club members had Hot V Dubs, Morris Minors, Pops and some Dragsters. After about two years Dick said he didn't want to be chairman anymore and a guy called Tony Allen took on the post. Tony came from Worplesdon near Guildford and had a business called A&N Tyres. With Tonys help the club got some orange T shirts and jackets with the club's name on them. The orange T shirts were popular with everybody, especially with flies as they would make a beeline for us when we wore them at events. We would sometimes help at the drags at Blackbushe, helping sort out cars for the hot rod display and one time helped take the money on the gate because they were short on manpower on the day.

Blackbushe hot rod display 1975. Nick Pettitt pics.

Custom Minor painted by Richard Park at Custom City and owned by Southern Roadsters member Graham Moss

John Jewell's 1500cc Ford powered Jago T with Paul Lambert's full-race 1275cc Minor behind flamed by Keith Seume

Surrey Street Rodder Peter Harris ran this Custom Avenger

The Warlord was a Bournemouth Rod & Custom Club car powered by a Ford Galaxy lump

Gerry Roger's Foxy Lady 1500cc Ford powered Jago T

Phil Chappell's V4 Pop and Graham Loakes Y behind

Paul Bird's first Pop fitted with a tweaked 100E motor, Viva front and Cortina rear

Al Knellor's Jago T Classical Gas

Well it was the '70s

Rod Turner's Matchless chopper featured gold plated spokes

The National Association of Street Clubs was formed in 1974, an umbrella organisation for the rapidly growing number of street rod clubs throughout the UK. They put on a National event called the Street Rod Nationals each August Bank Holiday. The first one in 1975 was held at Wicksteed Park in Kettering. It was only a small show, but it was very good. Custom Car mag slagged it off and not long after the editor left. The next year it was in Leicester with a much bigger turn out. The idea was that a local club would host the show and it would move somewhere new each year.

For the 3rd Street Rod Nationals in 1977 the Surrey Street Rodders offered to find somewhere for the show and we found Bisley Shooting Ground near Woking. They said we could put the show on there. It was the perfect place and hundreds of Hot Rods, Pops, Ts, Yanks and Custom Vans filled the grounds. Jeff Beck turned up with three hot rods. A US ‘32 Ford show car called Super Prune, a Graffiti coupe clone and another US deuce coupe painted black and flames. I took my T bucket along.

NASC Street Rod Nationals 1977. Dave East pics:

This line-up includes Brian Surey's red '57 Chevy convert, Roger Butterworth's black '57 Chevy, Steve Braunton's green '57 Chevy, Dudley Wren's '56 Chevy and just getting in the pic Andy Harvey's '57 Pontiac

It wasn't all jack-up kits and side-pipes in the 70s, this A30 looked good with hammered top, laid back screen and lowering

Another Kool Kustom was Roger Hamilton's A55 pick-up

Ray Ollis's '33 Austin 10/4 had Rover V8 power

Bob Wellstead's chopped and sectioned 283 Chevy powered '35 Hillman Minx, Moulin Rouge, took Best of Show

The Rutherford brothers' gasser style Pop was for sale at £3500

John Jewell's 1500cc Jago T and Neil Houghton's V6 Jago T

Pete Carter's Custom CF

The Custom Car magazine project Fiesta with artwork by Ron Giles sprayed by Chris Boyle

Steve Smith's Moonshine Marina which was up for sale at £4000

Derek Chapman's V6 '39 Standard 8, fresh out in '77

Modified rear on this Consul including twin antenna in a sunken spam can. Further major modifications by Mark Spooner followed in '78 as this car became better known as Lemon Squash

Brian Lucas was there with his 283 Chevy powered Jago B roadster

New paint job on Mike Key's Model B

Highlight for many at Bisley was the appearance of three Hot Rods courtesy of Jeff Beck, this was Super Prune

Another of Jeff's rods was this black and flamed deuce originally from Roy Fjasted in California

Jeff's third rod was this Graffiti clone

Hosted by the Surrey Street Rodders

Dash plaque

It was about this time that the club moved to a new clubhouse at Shackleford Village Hall which had a club room, bar and snooker table. We still had a lot of members, and some drag racers as well like Russ Carpenter, Bill Haynes John Hunt, Bob Glassop, Bill and Steve Dunn with Tokyo Toy, Rob and Mandy (drag bike), Terry Gibbs with Black Magic, and Bob Swansborough who was running a 105E Anglia called Mr Torquer with help from Andy Cobb. It had a blown V6 in it and Bob went on to build a Fordson with the same name and 327 Chevy power which is still about but with a different paint job.

Russ Carpenter wakes everyone up as he blips the throttle on the nitro burning Daimler Hemi in Glacier Grenade. Nick Pettitt pic

Tall injection stacks on Bill Haynes' Ford powered Quarter Horse Two. Richard Agar pic

John Hunt's Daimler Hemi powered Golddigger at Blackbushe. Nick Pettitt pic

Terry Gibbs with Black Magic getting ready for a run at Blackbushe

Bob Swansborough's V6 Anglia. Soloman Dee pic

Bob Swansborough's 327 Chevy powered '53 Thames. Nick Pettitt pic

Grahame Smith's Kustom '63 FB Victor debuting at the '87 Wheelsday. Nick Pettitt pic

In 1987 Grahame Smith spoke to Tony Beadle at Street Machine Magazine about a charity rod run from John O'Groats to Lands' End. They agreed to put their name to it and the run was put on. One of the participants had some T-shirts printed with the End to End Cruise on them. Grahame Smith went and flew the flag for the Surrey Street Rodders in his kustom Vauxhall Victor and didn't break down.

Another memory is the club display at the Custom Car show at Olympia where we had a model drag strip which members of the public could have a go on. The best bit was we had some Custom Car Gremlins there like in the CC cartoon strip at the back of the mag, and if someone got too close the Gremlins would squirt water over them. Great fun. Then when we were packing up the drag strip some of the Choppers in the show started to do burnouts in the hall.

Back in the day we had a club magazine. The first one was called The Wheel Spinners and Rod Gazette. We had some adverts in it as well. One was for a shop called B.R.A. In fact, it was three club members, Bob, Robin and Andy who put a spoof ad selling things like jack up kits for Jag rear ends and other silly things. In fact, the three of them rented a chicken shed in Badshot Lea near Farnham where they built and kept their hot rods in. As with most club mags it is hard to get members to write things to put in it and as the club got smaller it died after some time. As time went on, we tried to start another newsletter. This time we called it Gas Line. Grahame started it I think, and it ended up with Ian Dury doing it until he moved away to Norfolk. Then we lost the clubhouse at Shackleford Village Hall. I started sending an email to club members on the Sunday night before the Tuesday club night meet at Elstead Cricket Club and that is how we keep in touch with club members now.

Club members Paul Wright and Viv Bowyer wanted to build a Belly Tank and go to Bonneville. They found a Belly Tank and a Flathead out of a speed boat and an old supercharger. Flathead stuff was cheap then because nobody wanted it, so off they went to the Rally of the Giants at Knebworth with a shopping list of the stuff they needed. They came back with plenty of what was on the list. As in hot rod tradition they spread it all on the garage floor, put the belly tank beside it and marked out a chassis on the floor. I had an old T bucket chassis I didn't want so they had a start. They called the team 'Bonneville Challenge' and set the 1992 event as the target, but as is usually the case they had no money.

So, they started to look for some sponsors which they managed to find in dribs and drabs until they had enough to go. In true Surrey Street Rodder fashion there was a last-minute panic and the team and club members worked late into the night so they could go. The team only got it running just before it was time to go. As they didn't have much money the club paid for the trailer to take it to the shippers. So, the belly tank was sent off and soon after the team of Paul, Viv, Nick, Martin and Kevin Moules flew out with excess baggage of a big tool chest.

Paul had made friends with a Flathead racer in the States, Don Sproull, and told him what they were doing. He helped them a lot by organizing a motorhome and trailer to put the belly tank on. They were met at LAX by Don in his 70s Impala and cruised out to the burbs to collect the motorhome and trailer then on to collect the belly tank. Leaving at 3am from LA, Nick drove the team to Las Vegas and then on to Wendover in time for evening dinner. Off to scrutineering the next morning they went and the scrutineers only found some small things wrong which were luckily easy to fix. It is neat to think that something like this was built in a garage behind a terraced house in Farnham Surrey, got there and only needed a few small things done to have it on the salt.

Kevin Moules, Bill Summers, Nick Martin, Viv Bowyer and Paul Wright

Kevin Moules, Gordon Radcliff, Paul Wright, Don Sproull and Nick Martin

Disney’s Condor Flats garage display

The next day they got to the start line in the scorching heat of the salt flats surrounded by rainclouds. The team unpacked, setup then off Paul went, but before he got too far the belly tank had a problem with the supercharger and gear selection. 1992 was a wet year and they couldn't try again for a day, but then again, the same problems with the supercharger and gearbox appeared and with more rain the event was called off and that was the end of that. The belly tank was left in LA and the team came home hoping to have another go, but it didn't happen.

A couple of years later Paul moved to the US on his own and he managed to run the belly tank at the dry lakes, then it was sold and formed part of the Condor Flats garage display in Disney's California Adventure Park in LA.

Surrey Street Rodder Adrian Sidwell got a call from Kev Elliot from Custom Car asking if he would like to show his Opus at the Goodwood Festival of Speed. Adrian thought about it for one second and said Yes! When he got off the phone it dawned on him that it was in no condition to show at Goodwood. So, a mad panic set in and the whole car was rebuilt in about three months. As the date drew closer, he was running out of time and asked for help to meet the deadline. So, we all helped out and ending up helping till 2 o'clock in the morning on the week the Opus was going to Goodwood with Adrian doing a 26-hour shift on the day he had to get it there. It was neat to see his Opus there on the lawn and to think we all helped in a small way.

Ian Dury’s Model A roadster pickup

Another memory of Adrian is with a club member Ian Dury who built a Pinto powered model A roadster pickup. It had red oxide paint, some neat wheels and white walls. We made arrangements to go to the NASC Nationals which was just up the M1. I can't remember the name of the place but it was only there for one year. Off we set, him in his A roadster pick up with Adrian riding shotgun and me and my wife in my track roadster T. The trip up there went well and got there in good time.

Then when it was time to come home Ian asked would my wife like to ride shotgun. The weather was changing so she said no. We set off home and all went well till we got onto the M25. We were cruising along; the traffic was busy and I was about 200 yards behind Ian. All of a sudden, the traffic stopped and Ann, my wife said that Ian's roadster had flipped. So, onto the hard shoulder I went and down to where they were. The roadster was facing the wrong way on the road Adrian was laying on the road in front and a doctor, who happened to be passing, was seeing to him. I told the doctor that Adrian had broken his neck playing rugby several years ago. I then looked for Ian, I could not see him anywhere so I went to the back of the roadster and I saw his feet poking out of the back of the roadster on the road with the diff about an inch off his chest. The ambulance and the police soon got there to sort it all out.

I asked the policeman who was going to tell their wives about the accident, he said you can do it. Thanks, a lot! After finding out which hospital they were going to, we set off home. When I got home, I rang the wives to say that the boys had had an accident and I would take them to see them. After they had seen them, one said to me, you didn't tell the truth about what had happened, yes I said, I thought it better to get there and see them rather than panicking on the way. Ian and Adrian were home after about two days and the A was replaced with a 1958 Chevy Impala.

Harold’s cine films:

UK Hot Rodding 1976 -’78
UK Hot Rodding 1979 -’81
UK Hot Rodding 1982 -’86
UK Drag Racing 1976 -’84

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