1978 was a very good year for me, especially because I went on "tour" with Raymond Beadle and his
Blue Max Ford Mustang funny car. Not only did I get asked to go, but I went twice to jolly 'Ol
England, once in early 1978 and once in September. I just could not turn down a chance to see how
drag racing was done in the United Kingdom.
Sure there had been a couple of US teams to cross the pond and race at Santa Pod, but this was
different. Beadle and the Blue Max were going to race any and all funny cars from Europe and
Scandinavia. Yes, there were quite a few Euro floppers there as well. Most were formerly US based
funny cars as Roy Phelps, manager of Santa Pod as well as its promoter, had purchased many a car
and had them shipped to the United Kingdom. Phelps would bring the cars over and then sell them to
racers throughout Europe or just race them at Santa Pod. Alan Herridge and Ronnie Picardo
maintained Phelp's funny car fleet. In fact Phelps had purchased the Blue Max and Raymond Beadle,
"Waterbed" Fred Miller and Dale "The Snail" Emery were to drive and maintain the Max.
On the second trip to England, Gene Snow brought one of his funny cars over for Phelps and it would
be either Snow or Ronnie Picardo at the controls. A lot of the funny cars in England started out
as fuel altered roadsters but when funny cars became really popular, funny bodies would soon adorn
the fuel altered's. Both trips over proved to be fun. The weather was great and the racing was
very close. The fans at Santa Pod treated Beadle and Snow like rock stars and every race was
packed with spectators.
For me it was like going back in a time machine with a lot of top fuel motorcycles and altered
roadsters. Anglia's and Austin's were everywhere. The second race was an International event
featuring racers from all over Europe and the Scandinavian countries. It was crazy hearing all
those different languages in one place and if I remember correctly, they raced Chicago style funny
car racing. Each car ran three times and the two low ET's ran for top eliminator. Something
like that anyway, but Beadle won both races.
It was a surprise to see Slammin Sammy Miller at the second race with this rocket funny car Vega.
Ol' Sammy put on quite the show with his rocket funny car. How about four seconds at over 300 mph?
Sam was cranking out the 300 mph like it was nothing and the crowd loved it. Yeah, there were some
top fuel cars there but I will save that for a part 2 of my adventures in Jolly Ol' England.
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Beadle put away Swedish challenger Lee Anders Hasslestrom and his Monza. Hasslestrom's Monza
ran very well and this was a very close race.
Lee Anders Hasslestrom was a big Ol' Swede who looked like a Viking with his long blond hair.
The funny car he ran was the former Pisano and Matsubara Monza. He would race his flopper all over
Europe and Sweden in the late 1970's and early 1980's Sadly he was killed in a huge fire and crash
in his funny car in during the 1980's.
The Hound Dog vs. the Gladiator in a local Santa Pod funny car duel. Nobby Hills owned the
Hound Dog and Owen Haywood drove. On the far side Alan Herridge drove the Phelps owned Gladiator.
I believe the Hound Dog was a former fuel altered and the Gladiator was once owned by Leroy
Chadderton and Glenn Okasaki.
Boy, does this one look familiar? It should as Don Schumacher owned it and ran it as his yellow
Stardust Cuda funny car. In the United Kingdom it was now part of the Stones drag team. I think
Trevor Young drove both the funny car and the team's top fuel car.
This was the first Capri funny car I ever saw and it belonged to Phil Elson. When funny cars
got really popular in the United Kingdom Phil dropped a Capri body on his fuel altered and he had
an instant funny car. From what I saw Elson didn't set the world a blaze with his Capri.
I was told that many United Kingdom drag fans considered Dennis Priddle the UK "Don Garlits."
Well, here Priddle gets spanked by Beadle and the Blue Max. Priddle should have stayed with top
Santa Pod manager and promoter Roy Phelps purchased the Chadderton and Okasaki Vega funny car
and raced it as the Gladiator. Alan Herridge would maintain and drive the car for Phelps. His
nickname was "Bootsie" and everyone liked the mild mannered, hard racing little guy.
Unfortunately, he died in an English built jet car in the 1980's which was a great loss to UK drag
"Waterbed" Fred Miller readied the Blue Max at Santa Pod. Ask Fred about Wheetabix and you
will be in for a very entertaining story. While in the United Kingdom, Miller and Emery would help
tune up others in the fuel funny car class, lending a hand to any funny car racer who needed help.
Dale "The Snail" Emery and "Waterbed" Fred Miller had Raymond Beadle and the Blue Max really
chargin' down the English quarter mile. The Max defeated all comers at both United Kingdom races
in 1978. I think Emery and Miller were sad to leave this car in England because they had it
running so well.
"Bootsie" gave Beadle a great race but a hole shot sealed the Gladiator's fate at the starting
Beadle and his gang received a extraordinary welcome from the crowds at Santa Pod. Beadle gave
an outstanding interview with the Santa Pod announcer and the crowd loved Beadle's Texas drawl as
well as his take on funny car racing in the United Kingdom.
Santa Pod was an old RAF airstrip from World War II and it could get a little rough in the shut
down area. The Blue Max got a little air off of one of those bumps. Beadle said it was just like
being at some of those old Texas drag strips!
The Snowman crossed the pond when Phelps purchased another one of Snow's funny cars. This could
be Snow driving or Phelps' driver Ronnie Picardo at the controls.
Just like in the USA, the two rivals from Texas squared off in England and Beadle prevailed in
what was a very close race. The crowd at Santa Pod went wild when these two raced each other.
Slammin Sammy Miller's Vanishing Point rocket funny car zoomed down the English quarter mile at
4 seconds and over 300 mph. Yes, that was in 1978 so eat your heart out NHRA.
The Swede's seem to like the US built and raced funny cars so when Tommy Svensson was in the
United States scouting for a funny car, he purchased the Iverson and Kimble Cox built Monza. Once
the car was in Sweden, John Andersson became the driver of the nitro burning Monza.