Surrey Drag Racing Pioneers - Tony Anderson

As told exclusively to

Preface: Tony was one of the engineering brains behind development of British engines for drag racing use. Starting with a Ford V6 engined slingshot 'Trouble' in 1969 he developed the fuel system to a smaller version of the blown and injected setup used on AA/FDs, running the engine on nitro. When he decided to go rear engined in 1972, he switched the engine to the Daimler 2.5 litre hemi unit and set a trend for drag racers that has lasted until today. After back problems forced Tony to reliquish the driving seat in 1974 to team mate Russ Carpenter, Tony built cars for other Surrey-based racers, eventually getting into engine building for boats, and marine steam engines. wishes to thank Tony for providing his story and John Hunt and Nick Pettitt for help with editing and proof reading the feature and making archive images available.

Part 1

I have been interested in all things mechanical from an early age. Apparently, my pram fell apart when I loosened the wing nuts!

It all started in 1964 when I went to the Dragfest at Blackbushe with my father. Watching Don Garlits, that was it, I was hooked!

I was 19 at that time and had some experience of engine tuning on my Mini but knew nothing about drag racing. After much reading of Car Craft and Hot Rod magazines I was gaining a bit of knowledge about drag racing and contemplating building some sort of car but in 1965 I was engaged so those ideas were shelved.

In 1966/67 that fell through so I was back on track again with thoughts about a race car. With many trips to Santa Pod I got talking to Harold Bull and Derek Metcalf about the prospect of them building a dragster frame for me along lines of Harold’s car but bigger to accommodate a Ford V6. I was living with my Mother at Worplesdon at that time and was fortunate to have an excellent workshop. The building was originally a stable with a hay loft and had been converted into a triple garage with substantial room above. I think this would be around 1967/68 with the first racing in '69.

The first car “Trouble”

Original unblown setup
Tony Anderson collection

Tony running 12s unblown with manual gearbox in '69
Tony Anderson collection

I started looking for a suitable motor and was lucky to find an almost new 3 litre V6 at Bayliss breakers at Normandy. The Zephyr was only about 6 months old but had been in a bad smash with only about 3000 miles on the clock. There was some superficial damage to the engine with impact to the crankshaft but turned out it was just the damper which needed replacing. I started off with the motor pretty much stock, but running on methanol using an injection system made from a 2 barrel carb. The jets were removed and the fuel supplied under low pressure to the float chamber with the float removed and the breather sealed. This simple system worked remarkably well and ran mid 12’s during the 1969 season, using a 2 speed manual gearbox.

John & Gina, John Smith, Geoff Miles, Russ and Tony
Tony Anderson collection

I was working at Solatron in Farnborough at this time and I had help from several chaps who worked with me there. Roger English and Ricky Cann were a great help in the early days. I would run the car up in my drive on occasions and Geoff Miles who lived nearby wondered about the noise and called in to see what it was all about! He crewed for me and introduced me to Russ and Sue Carpenter and John and Gina Coleman who all helped out.

In 1970 I fitted a Wade blower along with cam and head mods and relocating the distributer. The gearbox was dispensed with and I built a twin plate clutch with sintered bronze pads on the plates supplied by AP. The fuel system used a pair of big Strombergs modified in a similar manner, but this arrangement was less successful.

Stromberg and blower setup
Tony Anderson collection

Revised blower setup with bugcatcher and injection
Tony Anderson collection

Later, I managed to locate a suitable pump for an injection system from Nobby Hills (Houndog) and started to build an injection system around this pump, along with the “bug catcher” scoop bought at Dicks place. Once it was set up this worked well and the car ran consistent 9’s at around 140 mph.

Radio Luxemburg's Paul Burnett with Tony and Martin Canto, Blackbushe 1971
Tony Anderson collection

Rotor clash in the blower was a problem and I destroyed at least 4 blowers, fortunately Bayliss had a plentiful supply of these from the Commer TS3 trucks. The problem was eventually fixed by using steel gears and later, Teflon seals.

I have always been more interested in achieving a good time on the car rather than winning the race so with this in mind I went to Elvington to try to set a record. I think this was 1970. The car was not running particularly well but I did take the record. It is listed in rather a strange way showing the average speed over the 1/4 mile of 84.4 mph. I seem to remember the ET was in the low 10’s with terminals of about 130 mph. For me this was the best ever event, Elvington is fantastic place to run with nearly 3 miles of good tarmac and practically nothing to hit if things go wrong.

Having said this, I can remember having some really good racing with Ray Hoare. Our cars were turning very similar times but the terminal speeds were vastly different. Rays car was an injected small block Chevy, all revs with all the power at the top of the rev band and mine was the complete opposite. I would go charging off the line ahead of him and he would always catch me up and often win at the finish. Then there was all the Ford/Chevy banter in the pits afterwards. Great fun!

Links: (i) Article from Drag Racing and Hot Rod about Jersey Show (Tony unable to attend but 'Trouble' was shipped over) (5MB file)

(ii) Mike Lintern article from February 1971 Custom Car about Tony and 'Trouble' hosted by The Acceleration Archive.

Part 2

The second car “More Trouble” (The Humpback!)

Around this time, I was thinking about building another car. I did have a few incidents of getting covered with oil or fuel as well as the restricted vision with the sling shot layout and was keen to go for a rear engine design. My welding was getting better so I decided to build the chassis myself this time. Garlits had just come out with a radical rear engine design after losing part of his foot in a clutch explosion so I decided to try to copy it as closely as I could from the photos and scale it down to fit 2.5 litre V8 Hemi.

More Trouble, showing Daimler Hemi setup
Tony Anderson collection

More Trouble launching at Santa Pod
Tony Anderson collection

I had long admired the design of the Daimler hemi with its potential for running significant loads of nitro with the right compression ratio blower and cam, and with this in mind I found a suitable motor from a Daimler/Jag (again from Bayliss). I had a great deal of help from Graham Roe of Roe Engineering in Fleet. He had done all my machining and balancing over the years and selected a set of suitable pistons for the Daimler to reduce the compression ratio to around 6:1 to make it suitable for running nitro. Martin Rowat was also very good with ideas as he had the Daimler motor in a slingshot frame around that time. The car first ran at Martlesham Heath in March 1972 and eventually was turning high 8 second runs on about 40% nitro and using a 2 speed transmission made from an overdrive gearbox. However, I had not got the chassis design quite right and it became known as the “hump back” So, something had to be done!

The third car “Even More Trouble”

Rear engined dragsters are always more difficult to keep going in a straight line than a slingshot. I think it’s because you’re looking down the whole length of the car and you can apply any correction earlier. Also, if there is problem with the motor you can often see it and lift off before any serious damage occurs. However, the advantages of good visibility and safety outweigh this. The chassis on the third car proved to be quite stable in this respect and there was only one occasion when I got seriously sideways, I ran into the other lane but managed to bring it back without hitting anything!

Geoff Miles and Russ at Blackbushe
Tony Anderson collection

At Goodwood with the original body on the car
Tony Anderson collection

This car used basically the same motor/transmission as the previous one with some changes to the injection system including port nozzles to help even out fuel distribution between cylinders. It also incorporated a girdle at the bottom end as the center main caps were only 2 bolt.

Around this time Russ Carpenter had a 4.5 litre Daimler engine dragster called “Trouble & Strife” which was not particularly successful and he came into partnership with me.

During ‘74 and ‘75 it was running low 8’s I was having problems with my back and neck so Russ took over the driving in 1974 and eventually the car as well. The majority of this car still exists in Russ Carpenter’s Glacier Grenade that we all know today.

That was the end of my driving which I seriously missed. I had a ‘69 Pontiac GTO which I ran a couple of times at the Pod turning low 12’s but it wasn’t the same.

In 1975 I built a chassis for Bill Haynes which he raced as Quarterhorse III. In 1978 I built 3 more chassis along the same lines. The first one was the Daimler engine car Beautiful Noise and I was helping out with the setting up of this one around 1980. I cannot remember the names of the 4 chaps who ran it but we never managed to iron out all the problems. It was eventually taken over by Barry Miller in partnership with John Newman, who I have known for many years.

The second one was for Martin and Richard Jarman for a Cosworth GAA V6 engine. The third was for John Hunt. In the early 80’S I was building a 32 boat from a hull moulding and John and Brenda Newman spent a lot of time sailing it with me to France and Jersey.

50 years on (at 76) I am still building engines. Mostly steam engines, (I currently have a steam boat with triple expansion engine) but last year I rebuilt and changed the motor in my 73 Trans Am. This car was used in the film-shoot of the Rihanna music video We Found Love. I still find it great fun to drive and occasionally take it out for a good burnout down a quiet road!

Links to Rihanna videos (click on link to open video):
We Found Love ft. Calvin Harris
We Found Love (Behind The Scenes, Pt 2) ft. Calvin Harris
Rihanna in Belfast

Gallery:click on any thumbnail for a large image.

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