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On Tour with the Blue Max - England 1978
Tue, 11 Oct 2011, 10:18 PM

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 fuel!

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 racing.

"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 line.

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.

By Steve Reyes

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