Member:  Nobby Hills

Inducted:  2007

We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of UK drag racing pioneer Nobby Hills, to natural causes last week aged 87.

Norman “Nobby” Hills was one of the few surviving pioneers who had raced at the 1964 UK Drag Festivals. After visiting Silverstone to watch the Mooneyes dragster of Dante Duce and Sydney Allard’s Allard Chrysler in September 1963, Nobby became inspired and using his many engineering skills set to work and built a 3.4 litre Jaguar engined dragster named Houndog which was entered to race in the September Drag Festivals at Blackbushe in 1964 the following year. A supercharged Jag engined Houndog 2 followed in 1965, “Movin” Mike Hutcherson took over the driving, and Houndogs 3 and 4 had Cadillac power, the car going through six of the engines in 1969 as Nobby learned of frailty in their design.

In the 1970s, Nobby switched to Chrysler power for two further slingshots, Houndogs 5 and 6 , and the times improved rapidly. Then in 1973 Santa Pod Raceway came to him with an offer that couldn’t be refused: the Plymouth Duster Funny Car brought over by Paula Murphy. It became Houndog 7, had a fantastic paint job, and the fearless Owen Hayward made a great driver. In their day jobs at heavy earth-moving and construction equipment distributors SLD Olding, Owen was Nobby’s boss, but at the track Owen had been a team member since 1966! The following year, 1974, had a second new car in the Houndog stable, the beautiful Houndog 8 dragster based on the latest US rear engine design from Tony Nancy. Mike Hutcherson left the team after March 1975 leaving Owen as the main driver of both cars. All Nobby’s cars were beautifully turned out, attention to detail along with high performance were two of his well-known trademarks.

Nobby and the team got quicker but there were setbacks. In August 1977 the Duster Funny Car was destroyed in an accident, but Owen was unhurt. Alan Bates took over the driving of the Houndog 8 dragster whilst Nobby and the team prepared their new Funny Car Houndog 9 nicknamed ‘Pup’. The Houndog 8 dragster was dismantled at the end of 1977, with some parts going on DLT’s Needle Dragster.

The last three cars of the team were all funny cars: the 1978 Houndog 9 Vega based on a home built chassis and, a couple of years later, a Challenger bodied funny car again with a home built chassis debuted in late 1979 became Houndog 10, which came to a firey end at Mantorp Park in 1983 and finally the repaired chassis with a Corvette body Houndog 11 was run by Nobby through to the end of the 1980’s with former crew chief Alan Bates in the driver’s seat, the beautifully finished Corvette was the first Funny Car in Europe to record a five second run receiving a 5.99/251.8mph timing ticket on 25 May 1986.

A born showman, Nobby and his team never failed to entertain the crowd, whether it was building a Model T body for the funny car chassis to create a fuel altered whilst a new body was being prepared, or bringing SLD Olding heavy lifting equipment to the track to raise the Vega way above the crowd at a rainy event in 1978, or the many show trophies won, or their final project after two decades away from the sport, a nitro-burning Camaro Funny Car Houndog number 12.

He was literally a giant of the sport at 6’4″ and could always be identified in the pits by his Stetson and, if you looked down, a pair of flip-flops. Nobby joins daughter Jodie who was killed in a motor accident in 2004 and shared with Nobby a love of country music and American cars. We send our very deepest sympathies to Nobby’s wife Anne, daughter Katie, six-year-old grandson Beau, an engineer in the making, and to all friends and team mates. RIP Nobby.

Courtesy Simon Groves for