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Rammed to capacity!
The wait to get in a run may have been lengthy, but the number of competitors who attended the recent Hot Rod Drags at Shakespeare County Raceway spoke for itself, as many have-a-go hot rodders queued for hours for a brief opportunity to blast down the strip’s quarter mile of tarmac.
The fire-up lane was an impressive sight
Cars were backed up from the staging lanes right into the pits while their drivers awaited the opportunity to burn rubber. In fact, this was the busiest HRD event we can remember (not that we’ve been to every one, we hasten to add), with the paddock extended over a significantly larger area than we’ve seen before. Hot rodder, Louis Turner, was keen to see what his triple-carb, Chevy-powered, ’34 coupe could muster down the 440 strip and said he’d only managed to get in two runs on the Saturday from a day’s waiting – not that he was complaining, mind you.
Chevy gasser lurking in the pits
For spectators, the line-up of cars was impressive and the action pretty furious. It’s the only time you’ll see fuel altereds and dragsters lined up alongside roadgoing hot rods, or a pair of Willys coupes sparring with each other for ultimate bragging rights. Shakespeare County Raceway was packed to the gunnels with cars, and it was generally deemed a great weekend by all those to whom we spoke. There was also the entertainment of a cacklefest and a live band on Saturday evening, adding to the excitement in the nitro-fuelled air.
Wayne Green's recent US import goes as well as it looks
The black Willy coupe , owned by Wayne Green from Ipswich and freshly imported from New York, was one of the stars of the event to our eyes, the former drag strip refugee with full tube chassis and big-block Chevy motor simply appearing to cruise down the track in a very composed manner as it rattled off a 10 second quarter mile. The award for the most outrageous ride, though, had to go to the massively powerful Model T of Andy Fadster. With amazing, chassis-twisting (and breaking) launches and startling acceleration, the bluff-nosed little T clicked off amazing 9 second quarter mile times.
Andy Fadster puts in another 9 second run before a chassis-twisting wheelstand put him out of contention
All of this paled into insignificance, however, when Andy Frost wound up his 572 cu in, twin-turbo, Chevy-powered Vauxhall VX4/90 to another staggering mid-seven second quarter-mile pass for the road legal machine.
As for the dragster ranks, we saw some really lovely new creations on a nostalgic theme, with perhaps the most impressive being the Excalibur top fuel slingshot, which was presented to such an immaculate standard that it would not have looked out of place at the California Hot Rod Reunion – it was perfect.
We didn't get to see this new nostalgia-inspired fueler run, but it was still one of the highlights
We missed a number of the nitro cars that put on a show, but one of the usual crowd pleasers, the methanol-burning Havoc altered, uncharacteristically failed to stop after the burnout on Sunday, and simply trundled down the quarter mile at a leisurely pace – a real disappointment for this normally spectacular performer.
So was the event a winner? Despite all the media reports of economic doom and gloom, the grandstands were full, the pits were packed and the weather was good. This year’s Hot Rod Drags was undoubtedly a roaring success.
Story: Andy Kirk & Graham Jones
Photos: Andy Kirk
An original, steel '32 three-window is a rare sight in the UK
Al's Gasser has been tearing up the strip since the 1970s
Louis Turner put down mid-14 second times in his off-song triple carb'd coupe
Heavily tubbed Capri looked the part
Another beautifully tuned out dragster with what looks like Jaguar power
There were other cool hot rods you just stumbled across, like this '37 Ford
Quite possibly the baddest door slammer in the UK
We think this is a 33/34 coupe body that has been shortened to pick-up proportions and then treated to a severe chop and channel. Which ever way you look at it, that's an awful lot of work!
Milner's coupe put in an appearance
The HRD's is all about diversity with cars racing down the quarter mile representing all eras of hot rodding, as illustrated by this pair
Lots of newly completed dragsters seemed to be there, including these two beauties. Check out the neat tinwork behing the driver in the example above - very reminiscent of the style of the Sixties