1974 RETRO REPORT

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Throughout 1973 much of my spare time was spent with my buddy Chris Pickup building our first BriSCA F1 Stock Car.

It was a slow process, but we managed to finish it ( except for the paint job) in time for the pre-season practice day at our local Brafield Stadium.

My Hillman Minx was unsuitable for towing a heavy BriSCA F1 so it was sold off and replaced by a 3 Litre Austin Westminster.

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We bought a towing ‘ambulance’ ( set of dolleys) from Colin Hayward and we were ready to roll.

On a bitterly cold Sunday afternoon in February we had our first taste behind the wheel of our unpainted car.

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Glyn Pursey (David John Collins Photo)
Glyn Pursey (David John Collins Photo)

Another new driver testing his ex Tony Neal car that day, was Glynn Pursey # 175, someone we would get to know well in the coming years.

With the car now ready to race, Chris and I applied to the British Stock Car Racing Board of Control for our licenses. Chris was issued with # 50 and I was given # 67.

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The car body was given a white base paint with red, white and blue stripes down the bonnet (hood) and sides. We chose this color scheme to emulate the Hesketh F1 Grand Prix team that was popular at the time.

The stripes and the sign writing work was done by Graham Lord, from New Southgate (London) who was a young fan we knew from the Harringay Supporters Club. He painted Chris’s name and number on one side, and ‘Dick Young’ on the other. The same was done on metal plates that would be bolted on accordingly, depending on who was racing. ( Yes that’s right, back then I was known as ‘Dick’ and not Rick as I am to day)

I still have that old name plate in my keep sake collection
I still have that old name plate in my keep sake collection as well as the Flying Jag emblem

In those days there was a lot more racing taking place in the Southern half of the UK than there is today and our local track at Brafield often clashed with Brands Hatch or Snetterton. We chose the latter options to make our debut. My first race was scheduled for Snetterton (March 31) and Chris’s was at Brands Hatch two weeks later on Easter Sunday (April 14).

Dad behind the wheel before we load up
Dad behind the wheel before we load up

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The big day arrived and the overloaded ‘Westminster’ was hooked up to the towing ambulance, that cradled the stock car. To assure we had enough equipment with us Geoff Dunsby followed us in his mini van with additional spares and tools.

One of the principle factors that made racing viable to the ordinary working guys such as us was the reasonable ‘start money’ available in BriSCA F1 racing. Unlike other forms of motor sport, where competitors payed to enter, the opposite existed. ‘Start Money’, call it appearance money if you like, was payed out by the promotors which helped offset the traveling costs. No one can dispute the fact that the 1970’s were the “Golden Days’ of BriSCA F1 stock car racing, and if it wasn’t for ‘start money’ I’m sure there would never have been the 500 + registered drivers that could be boasted. We, like many others at the time quite often relied on our ‘start money’ to put the fuel in our car to get home afterwards.

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We arrived early at Snetterton on a cold blustery day and were directed into the pit area. First thing on the agenda was to take the car to the scrutineer for the safety and tech inspection. We later nicknamed the scrutineers , ‘Scrotum Ears’ .

Once checked , I was allowed on the track.There was no practice, so I was straight out in the fourteen car heat one.

A new rule for 1974 allowed novices (designated by a black cross on their white roof) the choice of starting at the back of the grid for their first few races. ( In the UK the top drivers always start at the back) The idea of letting novices start at the back, was to prevent the potential first bend wreck following the ‘big push’ by the experienced drivers. I chose this option, took it easy and kept out of trouble. I was lapped at least twice and on one occasion experienced the force of Stuart Smith’s front bumper as he used me to slow down at the end of the ‘Esses’ straight. Seven cars finished the race and I was seventh ! The first eight qualified for the Final, so that meant we were in the big one !

I will always remember something that happened in the meeting Final. Frankie Wainman # 212 who was a recent addition to the elite red top drivers came storming past me down the narrow link road which also served as the back straight. There was a sharp, right angled turn at the end, with potato field beyond it. I followed Frankie into that turn and got a perfect view of him barrel rolling in to the corner.

Check this      A Face Book video of my first ever race at Snetterton on 31 March 1974 .  If you blink, you will miss me LOL , but it`s really neat to see a video clip of the memorable occasion.

https://www.facebook.com/nigel.barratt.3/videos/g.266525318840/10203324386470859/?type=2&theater

I guess he took the turn too fast !

Unlike Frankie, we came away from our first event unscathed, the car was intact and in good order for Chris’s debut at Brands Hatch a couple of weeks later.

 

Between the Snetterton and ‘Brands’ meetings , I was watching the races at Coventry (April 6) , Wolverhampton ( April 7 ) and Long Eaton (April 13) . Wolverhampton was another addition to the Mike Parker empire of tracks and a group of us traveled up to the opener at the Monmore Green Stadium in the City. This event will always be remembered by the spectacular first bend crash that seriously injured Cheshire driver, Arnie Ball # 216.

The night before Brands Hatch I was up at Long Eaton, but that didn’t stop us making an early morning trip down to the famous Kent racing circuit.

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At this point Chris still had his Vauxhall FB Victor, which was not ‘beefy’ enough to pull the stock car, so we used my Westminster as a tow car . Within the next month or so Chris replaced the Victor with a more suitable 3-3 litre Vauxhall PB Cresta. We had another good day at ‘Brands’ where Chris qualified for the meeting Final.

During the time we’d spent building the car , our old buddy Jonny Hewer had been watching our progress, and decided ,along with his friend Paul Carter, from Epping (Essex) to follow in our footsteps. They went out and bought the ex Geoff Weston # 96 car from Bob Boddington # 196. Paul was issued with # 115 and Jonny # 116.

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They replaced the battered Y type Ford body with one from a Ford Cortina and were at ‘Brands’ that day with Jonny at the wheel.

With it being Easter, there was still more racing on offer over the holiday weekend, and on Monday (15 April) I was up at Belle Vue watching.

There was no ‘on track’ activity for us the following week, but on Saturday (April 20 ) I was at the historic reopening to stock cars of the Leicester Stadium located in Black Bird Rd in the City. Charles Ochiltree who was the speedway and stock car promoter at Coventry also staged speedway at Leicester. Stock cars had raced there back in 1963 and this was the night they returned. The day after, I was at Brafield to see a BriSCA F2 meeting.

It was my turn to race the car and the next event was at the Harringay Stadium (April 27)  in London. I can’t remember too much about that night, but again we came away with no damage.

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In fact, after a quick wash down on Sunday morning we decided to haul it up to the second Wolverhampton meeting. We hadn’t booked in, but after a phone call to Mike Parker we got the OK. The ‘Dick Young # 67’ name and number plates were removed and replaced by ‘Chris Pickup # 50’ , as it was his turn to drive.

Promoters only booked in a pre set quota of drivers per meeting, according to their agreed ‘pay-out’ schedule ( start and prize money). With the large number of registered drivers at the time it was difficult for lower graders to get bookings at some of the more popular tracks and special events. Coventry and Leicester came under this category, but at this stage we preferred to go there and just watch.

On Saturday (May 4 ) , It was Coventry and the next day Chris secured a booking for Brafield’s World Championship qualifying round. In those days Graham Guthrie was the track manager and it was him you had to contact.

The rest of the month saw us watching at Long Eaton (May 11), Leicester (May 18), Brafield ( May 26 and Bristol (May 27).

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It was my turn to race at Brands Hatch (May 12) and the following week Chris drove at Lydden Hill (May 19). Each meeting at Lydden, TYRESAFETY of DOVER gave out a trophy for the smartest looking car, and on this occasion was won by Chris.

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I attended the traditional ‘first Saturday’ in the month races at Coventry (June 1) and then Long Eaton (June 8).

On Friday June 14, I raced at the Crayford Stadium in Kent. This turned out to be the last ever meeting for BriSCA F1’s at this popular track. I remember it well as I received two ‘big hits’ that night. At the start of the heat I got one from Bobby Burns # 329 ( he later became # 471). As he passed, his car bounced over the front of mine, ripping out the brake pipes. I then went the length of the next straight being pushed by the pack of cars until I could get out of the way and pull off.

The brake pipe was replaced for the consolation where an eighth, and last qualifying position for the Final was gained.

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I can’t remember if it was in the Final or the “Grand National’ ( the last race of the night) where I received the other ‘big hit’ . It was one that would really ‘rattle your fillings’ and came from Pete Guinchard # 258 as used me to slow his car down at the end of the race. Guinchard and Burns were both a couple of the toughest drivers in the sport and I had a lot of respect for them.

The next day (June 15) I was up at Leicester watching the action before we towed the stock car to Sunday’s Snetterton (June 16) meeting where Chris was racing.

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One week later on June 23, I had my first race at Brafield.

 

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oops The big news in 1974 was the opening of the world famous Wembley Stadium for stock car racing.

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This was the venue where the annual FA Cup was held , and the venue where the England Football Team beat Germany in the 1966 Football World Cup ( apologies, to my North American friends, who call the game of football by another name. Even though I’ve been living in North America for many years, I still can’t get myself to call it ‘soccer’ and prefer, like the rest of the world to call it Football). West Country promoter Trevor Redmond had been granted two dates for 1974. They both featured BriSCA F1’s, with the opener on Saturday June 29 and the other on August 18.

Wembley 1974 David John Collins Photo
Wembley 1974 David John Collins Photo
Wembley 1974 David John Collins Photo
Wembley 1974 David John Collins Photo
Wembley 1974 David John Collins Photo
Wembley 1974 David John Collins Photo

The second date was to be a mixed meeting , with not only BriSCA F1’s but the BriSCA F2 World Final too. Chris and I both applied to race at the opener but, as expected were unlucky, and only a hand full of white tops were accepted.

Jefferey Postlethwaite Pic
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Pic
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Photo
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Photo
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Photo
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Photo
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Photo
Jeffrey Postlethwaite Photo

We went along to watch and saw Oxford veteran Don Evans # 37 win the big race.

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The next day was a busy one for us. The BSCRSA who staged the annual JAGUAR DERBY had announced that because of the large number of eligible drivers the 1974 event would have heats staged at various tracks with the Final at Long Eaton on August 10. Wolverhampton had a heat on June 30 and I was booked into that one.

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Chris and I were still using the ‘Plume and Feathers’ as our regular pub, and our buddies down there had been watching our progress. Steve Bird # 52 bought a stock car less engine from a guy in Harrow , Middx and like us opted to use Jaguar power.

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Steve’s brother Mick had a flat bed Bedford TK truck they used as a transporter. We journeyed up the M6 together that day, and I remember the TK overheating and having to top up the radiator from a canal beside the Motorway north of Birmingham. Once on track , I kept out of trouble and managed to survive for a sixth place that put me through to the Long Eaton Final.

After a regular night at Coventry on July 6 , we were at Long Eaton on July 13 for Chris’s heat in the Jaguar championship. It was Brafield again on Sunday July 14.

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On Saturday 21 July I was at Leicester before heading down to Bristol on Sunday (July 22) with Chris, Mick ‘the beard’ and Brian Yates for a racing vacation.

We saw the The BriSCA F1 World Final ‘Semi’ at Bristol before going even further south west. Our agenda consisted of two days of BriSCA F2 racing at the St Austell Stadium (July 23) and the Newton Abbott Racecourse ( July 24) .

One incident I do recall from this trip was a painful knee injury I sustained. During the day the St Austell track hosted Go Kart rentals for the holiday makers and of course we had to have a go. While we were there we met up with some friends who had a ‘leaning’ more towards Spedeworth in their racing preferences. We ended up having a mock Spedeworth versus BriSCA go kart race. I got a little over enthusiastic, and ended up smashing my knee. On my return home to Bedfordshire a course of physiotherapy was prescribed at the Luton & Dunstable hospital !

The injured knee didn’t prevent me from having my first race at the Lydden Hill Circuit on July 28.1974m img004 (8)

The beginning of August started in the usual way with Coventry (Aug 3) and Brafield (Aug 4) . I was in the BSCRSA Jaguar Championship at Long Eaton on Aug 10, which was my first race at this track. Wow ! It was a bumpy ride ! and I was glad to come way without damage.

At Long Eaton, I was aproached by a race fan who was contemplating entering the sport and was interested in buying a Jaguar powered car. My buddy Jonny Hewer had hinted to me, that he and Paul were thinking of selling their car so I gave him the contact details. That fan, Nev Wodhull ended up buying it and made his track debut in 1975 with the # 43.

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I remained friends with Nev over the years and eventually his sons Phil and Mark took up the sport. In recent times, it was Mark # 335 who loaned his car to Canadian Dirt Modified driver Dave Heaslip when he contested the 2003 BriSCA F1 World Final at Coventry.

On August 18, I was at the second ( and last) meeting at the Wembley Stadium where Cornwall’s Dave Brown # 583 won the BriSCA F2 World Final.

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During the year Chris’s grandmother sadly passed away, and her house where we kept the stock car was put up for sale. We had to find somewhere else to maintain the stock car. Fortunately for us Mick ‘Blacky’ Black came to our rescue, and allowed us to use his back yard.

Taking it in turns to race the one stock car had worked well, but we both agreed the time was right to expand and have two cars.

David John Collins Photo
David John Collins Photo

Martin Crawley # 79 from nearby Harpenden , Herts had  his car for sale in the BSCDA Newsletter so we decided to buy it.

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We bought his 1936 Y Type Ford bodied car, ‘less engine’ so there was very little to do. It had previously been fitted with a Buick V8 engine but we preferred to stick with Jaguar power. We acquired another 3-8 Jag from Alan Laidlaw, one of Tony Allen’s #348 crewmen and went about installing it.

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It was summer time so while my mum and dad were on holiday we worked on it in the front garden . When my parents returned from holiday Chris’s parents were just beginning their’s , so we conveniently moved construction operations to his place. Instead of taking months to complete like our first car, this one took just a few weeks. Chris had by now got his Vauxhall Cresta, so after acquiring another towing ‘ambulance’ we took both cars down to Brands Hatch on Aug 25. Chris drove the new car which we named the ‘Marty Car’.

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It went well, ‘out of the box’ as they say, and Chris got a sixth in the consolation, while yours truly came in eighth.

Another local driver who made his racing debut in 1974 was Brian Bedford # 209 from Hemel Hempstead , Herts. We were all racing at the same events, so it wasn’t long before we became friends.

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Brian, his wife Anne and his team would join us for a mid week beer in the ‘Plume of Feathers’. Through Brian, I got to know John Plant # 390 , Joe Farelly # 338 and Mickey Rooney # 302.

Our other good friend, Tony Allen # 348 was still doing well, but had announced plans to emigrate.

Tony Allen David John Collins photo
Tony Allen  348               David John Collins photo

He’d toured New Zealand during the winter with a team of UK drivers and on his return to the UK had told us of his intentions to move there.

The day after ‘Brands’ was the August Holiday Monday and I traveled with Brian Bedford on a trip to Bristol where he was racing. Joe Farelly followed us down towing his stock car.

 

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In to September and I was at Brafield (Sept 1) before attending the BriSCA F1 World Final at Coventry on Sept 7 where defending World Champion Dave Chisholm retained his Gold roof.

 

Many years later, me beside the replica of the Dave Chisholm 'Gold Top' at a Heritage event at Coventry
Many years later, me beside the replica of the Dave Chisholm ‘Gold Top’ at a Heritage event at Coventry

On the same night at Wimbledon in South London, Steve Monk # 443 from Horley, Sussex won the Superstox World Final.

The next day (Sept 8) I did something a little different.

I was out of bed early to join Mick ‘the Beard’ for an early morning trip to the Oulton Park Circuit in Cheshire. We watched an afternoon of British Sports Car racing before calling in to the evening BriSCA F1 races at Wolverhampton on the way home.

 

I tried out the ‘Marty Car’ at Snetterton ( Sept 21) and didn’t like it !

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Chris was ‘slimmer’ than me ! so being quite a bit larger, I found it uncomfortable. There wasn’t much room in the cab !

Our plans were to carry on sharing both cars, but as time went by Chris started preferring the ‘Marty Car’ while I liked the old one. We alternated driving both cars at the remaining Harringay, Lydden Hill and Brafield meetings until the end of the season. When not racing, of course I was watching the action at all my usual tracks, plus a couple of additions.

After being absent from the BriSCA calender for a number of years the Hednesford Hills Raceway on the Cannock Chase , north of Birmigham was returning, with two late season dates.

sbThe first was on Sunday 20 October and the second on November 10. The paved 440 yard track had been popular in the 1950’s and 60’s and is credited as being the birth place of British Hot Rod racing. ( Hot Rods is the name given to non contact stock cars in the UK) .The ‘Plume of Feathers’ was represented at the first event by Steve Bird # 52, who’d since bought another car. ( he’d acquired the Dave Saunders # 227 Jaguar powered car).

Dave Saunders 227 David John Collins Photo
Dave Saunders 227 David John Collins Photo

I gained another new track on Saturday November 23 when I joined Mick the ‘Beard’ for my first visit to the Boston Stadium in Lincolnshire.

While BriSCA F1’s were booming during the early to mid 70’s , the opposite was happening with BriSCA F2. They were in decline, and apart from the West Country there was very little interest in them . With the lack of race dates a couple of independent groups had emerged to promote the smaller division. In the north of England, Mick Smith and his Trackstar company were operating at Kirkby and New Brighton near Liverpool, while in the East , Pete Baines and his Three Star organization were running at Kings Lynn and Boston. Boston was a 385 yard shale track and it was the Pete Baines version of Formula 2 stock cars that I went to see. Shale ( or dirt) has always been my preference (as a spectator) and the racing that night was full of action. In the coming years, the ( now defunct) Boston track would become one of my all time favorite tracks.

To finish a rather busy year , I ended 1974 with a trip to Belle Vue Manchester for the traditional Boxing Day BriSCA F1 extravaganza.