All of the pictures on this page were taken by Roger Phillips,
I am very grateful to him for the opportunity of reproducing them here.

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When I was approached with a view to contributing something to this excellent collection of Roger Phillps' photos I was very surprised and pleased to have been considered.  I have been a regular visitor and fan of Alan's excellent site since its birth and have nothing but admiration for the incredible amount of work he puts in to bringing us these photo collections.  To be asked to be a small part of it is an honour.

Initially I was not quite sure what I would be writing about but, having been presented with a few choices of subject material, I rather foolishly thought that the selection of ‘weird and wonderful’ photos would be a bit of fun to tackle.  Well although I enjoyed the experience perhaps fun is not the word that springs immediately to mind.  What I had not bargained on was the fact that finding information on some of the machines featured here would be harder than finding a politician with high moral standards.  So I make no apologies for the shocking lack of factual information in some of the cases here.  As for the rather cheap tactic of resorting to poking a little light-hearted fun at many of the vehicles in lieu of any other kind of factual information, I plead guilty as charged.

 All the photos here are from 1971 and 1972.  This was a time when big budgets and parts from the States were very hard to come by for your average racer.  The effects of this situation can clearly be seen in some of the innovative, imaginative, and in some cases scary creations featured below.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Nick Pettit for helping to identify some of the vehicles, Alan for letting me be part of the Archive, and Andy Barrack for providing the inspiration to get me writing again.

Chris Dossett
Webmaster of:



This takes the idea of a rear engined dragster, (something that guy Garlits was playing with around this time) one step further although this car had been around since the mid-sixties. This is John Rotherham in the ex-Mick Wheeler 'Scorpion'.  Mick had taken the car to a G Class Dragster record of 105.49mph in July 1968.  John took it to claim the 1970 NDRC Junior Dragster Championship running mid to high twelves.  The idea for this rather extreme attempt at efficient weight transfer was not a new one.  In fact over half a decade earlier Doug Church brought his Porsche-engined dragster over for the 1964 Dragfest which had a very similar configuration.  The motor in Scorpion is slightly less exotic.  It is from a Hillman Imp and probably began life somewhere like Coventry.  The car was reasonably successful despite the fact that it looks like the front wheels would be strangers to most of the racing surface once you hit the throttle.  Despite this, note the complete absence of any type of wheelie bar.  That's asking for trouble if you want my opinion.  Note also the treaded tyres.  Perhaps Garlits was ahead of the game after all.





Another couple of shots of Scorpion.  My guess would be that these are earlier pictures but I'm not sure.  If it is, then the idea of moving the exhaust to a more vulnerable position would seem to be a foolhardy exercise.  This shot shows just how little there was to the car.  It also shows a rather carefree attitude to safety footwear.  I wonder when the rules were changed to outlaw plimsoles in dragsters?  Incidentally the car in the other lane is Gerry Cookson's Joker.



Here's another racer with what today would be judged as a somewhat devil-may-care attitude to personal safety. This is Rick Fielding in his Imagination III altered.  Rick was a successful racer and innovative builder but his choice of T shirt and jeans as racing attire would send the Elf'n'Safety brigade into paroxysms of rage.
Rick's choice of powerplant here is a 1558cc four-cylinder Lotus lump.  I think this is the same motor that resided in the legendary Mk 1 Lotus Cortina. This car ran in the mid-twelves and, in 1970, was running in Junior Comp with enough consistency to become joint NDRC points champion with Brian Harvey and Roger Stride.  In 1971 Rick was having similar success in Middle Comp.  Again note the rear tyres in this picture.  Slicks were still out of the price range of most competitors.  The only slicks found on these cars were treaded tyres with most of the tread worn away.  This was a very tidy and well turned out machine and it's good to see that the use of wood as a fabrication material for race cars was still fashionable.


You couldn't tell whether this one had slicks or not!  Bruce Eggleton and Ron Billbury's Pony Express is a car that I remember well from my childhood because it appeared in a pack of the Top Trumps card game.  The little one litre Ford motor looks tiny compared to the half-car-half-boat vehicle surrounding it.  Ron was a US serviceman and around the time of this photo was running mid to low fourteens at around 90mph.  Bruce and Ron sold the car a year or so later to Cliff Watts and, with Jon Annear at the wheel, it was a consistent runner in the Junior Altered class.  Small capacity cars like this did well in the Junior Altered class until rule changes in the mid-seventies made these lower budget cars uncompetitive.  The car in the other lane looks like it might qualify for this collection too . . .



This is Marty Babb in his ex-Reg Sommers M.A.B. slingshot getting a haze off the tyres and, if you look closely, you can see that there is a fair bit of haze coming out of the oil filler too!  The wheezey motor here is a straight six Ford Zodiac unit but that blower set-up is pure Heath Robinson.  It may not have been pretty but it must have been effective.  Reg had debuted the car in September of 1967 and by the following May he he was having wins in the D Dragster class running mid 14 second passes at around 95mph.  He was running low thirteens at over 100mph the following year.  This car is one of the survivors and most recently appeared in the hands of the Scorpion team running a small block Chevy in pro ET.





These are a couple of great pictures.  This is Alan Sherwin's Travel Agent altered, powered by that ever-popular in-line six cylinder Jaguar motor.  Despite appearances Alan has not driven headlong into a belt sander, that's the blower drive on the front there. Almost everything about this car screams 'home made' at you.  From the agricultural appearance of the front axle and steering rack, through the upswept and erratic headers, to the rudimentary roll cage, er bar.  Oh, and check out the fumes escaping from the catch tank which appears to be an oil can held down with a bungee strap.  Adding perfectly to the charm is the demeanour of Alan himself.  With one hand on the wheel Wild Willie Borsch style, he has the air of someone out for a Sunday drive rather than a wild-eyed drag racer pushing his machine to the very limits of its physical capability.  I get the impression that the one handed style is less an expression of devil-may-care cool and more likely that he was reaching for his tin of boiled sweets.
Despite my best attempts at ridiculing it, this was a very successful car in the Competition Altered ranks.





Moving on to two wheels now.  Alan Thompson is the man responsible for this outrageous beast of a bike.  I was initially stunned by this picture.  I never knew this machine existed.  I'd love to know what became of it, I'd like to have a go!  The inspiration for this creation is undoubtably 'The Michigan Madman' E J Potter's insane V8 Chevy bike that appeared at Santa Pod half a decade earlier.  The fact that dear old E J was clearly off his trolley doesn't seem to have rung any alarm bells in Alan's mind and he built his own version.  Seems he may have drawn the line at the jack-it-up, rev-it-up and drop-it-down method of launch that E J favoured, and who can blame him!  Chevy engines were not commonplace at this time in the UK but that didn't deter Alan.  Instead he chose something even longer, er, wider.  Those trusty old straight six Jag motors turned up all over the place.  What I find most interesting is just how much more machine there is on the left hand side of the bike.  Also interesting, ok alarming, is the width of that rear tyre.  If all that Jaguar power manages to get through what must be a bulky transmission then that tyre is not going to be enough surely? The widest motorcycle ever built?  Did it handle?  Could Alan handle it?  Did it run fast?  I have no idea.  Probably not. That looks like Brian Chapman’s Mighty Mouse in the background.



"Irv's attempts at saving weight on his twin-engined Triumph had hit previously unimagined and desperate measures... "
This creation is the 'Revelation' rear engined Triumph of Irving Laughton. Irving was definitely a thinker.  This is the result of too much thinking!
Note the strategically placed, if rather minimal, heat shields on the downpipes.  In fact minimal seems to be the rule here.  Check out the tiny fuel tank and the tubing that makes up the frame.  Four lengths would seem to be all it takes.  The idea behind Irving's thinking seems to be the old favourite which sees the bulk of the weight being put as close as possible to the rear wheel to improve traction. Very sensible but there's a lot of space in that frame.  It would be impossible to take this concept any further, wouldn't it?



Of course not!  It had already been done.  This is a famous one, it's Dave Lecoq on the blown VW Dragwaye special.  Built in the early sixties, and running times in the mid-elevens at the Dragfests in the hands of creators Clive Waye and Howard German, this bike was really one of a kind.  The rider was placed all the way behind the rear wheel for maximum grippage.  Steering was achieved by cables!  Dave returned the modified bike to the strip at Santa Pod in August of 1971 and put in a string of nine second runs at over 150mph before losing to John Hobbs in the final.  This bike is undergoing restoration at the present time.







This is "The Crab", Ray Archer's 6 cylinder Jaguar-powered dragster.  There have been a couple of machines earlier in this collection that were inspired by US creations that appeared on these shores.  Well you can call this the third.  Looking, if not sounding or performing, very much like Tony Nancy's famous "Wedge" streamliner that came over for the first Dragfest.  I really can't find out very much about this car.  OK, I can't find out anything about this car.  Surprising really as it was obviously quite a distinctive and unique machine.  It doesn't look to be the most comfortable of rides.  I get the impression that if you saw Ray in the street he would still be wearing the helmet, bubble visor and shades but he would be looking straight down at the ground having been shoe-horned into the Crab one too many times.  Corsair and Consul pushcars complete with plank of wood push start attachments, aah those were the days . . .



What do you do when a blown 2660cc Austin Healey motor just doesn't have enough power to hurl your spindly chassis towards the horizon in a satisfactory manner?  Add more nitro?  Get a bigger motor?  A V8?  A Chevy?  Nope, just add another blown 2660cc Austin Healey lump.  Twin engined machines are thin on the ground these days except in tractor pulling, but a few guys in the sixties and early seventies were convinced that two must be better than one and persevered with incredible feats of engineering such as this.
This is John Harrison's 'Twin Jynx'. John was involved with UK Drag Racing from the very beginning and was often referred to as 'Hard Luck Harrison'.  In 1962 he and Allan Herridge formed the company Dragster Developments and built Bootsie's famous straight eight Buick rail.  In his time he built some memorable machines but this one still survives in single engined form and recently re-appeared at Santa Pod.



This is the perfect end to a compilation of oddities.  It is widely accepted these days that the Morris Marina was one of automotive history's less successful models.  Like the Edsel in the fifties this car was destined to fail from the start.  The irony is of course that the Edsel is now regarded as a classic of it's time.  The Marina, not surprisingly, isn't.  Nor will it ever be.  The Whitelake Racing team however had no such prejudices about how the future would judge them and bravely took a steel Marina body as the crowning glory for their 390ci Ford-powered Funny Car which they christened 'Snow Bird'.  If you're wondering, as I did, how you could not remember such a memorable creation as this it's probably because it never ran. The chassis lived on however and became the basis for Dave Prior's 'Texas T' altered with a model T body.  The shell probably went the way of all Marinas . . .


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(First posted on 5 August 2013)

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