Peter Crane

Peter Crane’s introduction to straight-line acceleration came in the early sixties when his interest in bikes led him to meet bike sprinter Bill Bragg. Teaming up with Bill he competed in sprints at Duxford and Ramsgate on his modified Triumph 500 street bike while Bill ran his Triumph “Yellow Peril”.

In 1965 Peter emigrated to California where he worked for Carroll Shelby. While there he would wander off to Lions Drag Strip and was blown away by the wild AA/Fuellers smoking the full quarter. He was particularly impressed by the Gassers built from small British cars with huge American engines which bounced their way down the strip and could also be seen cruising the boulevards or street racing when the cops weren’t looking. Peter returned to the UK the following year and got a job working for Alan Allard in Putney. The job included fitting Shorrock Superchargers to customers’ cars and he also bolted one to his own ’64 Cortina then took it along to the newly-opened Santa Pod Raceway for his first of many blasts down its illustrious blacktop.

Peter then started up his own car business in Bromley, just round the corner from Bob and Roy Phelps’ Fibre Glass Repairs and some years later got Bob and Roy to build a ‘glass Austin A40 body as Peter was now building a street/strip Gasser with 400 cubic inches of Pontiac power, no doubt inspired by the cars he had seen in California. Unfortunately due to work commitments Peter had to sell it before completing the interior and paint job and Cliff Jones finished it off as “Devon Cream” winning many awards at the Custom Car Shows in the early 70s.

Late in 1972 Peter and his long time buddy Ray Edmondson decided to go halves in buying a turnkey race car from America. Peter Billinton was about to leave for the States and was asked to keep his eyes open one and at 3 o’clock one morning a call came through from Florida to say that a ten-second 1970 Camaro had been found in Don Garlits’ workshops. It was an ex-Rod Shop car called “Eazy Ridin” that had been driven by Bob Bond with a big 440 Rat filled with all the right goodies. The car was shipped to the UK and Peter did the driving while Ray’s company Hunter Plastics sponsored the car. It ran in Pro Stock during ’73 and ’74 getting down to a 10.74/132 with the addition of Crower injection but became very expensive to run with constant breakages, and they decided that it wouldn’t cost much more to move up to the ultimate class, Top Fuel. Peter called on Bob and Roy Phelps again who knew of a car for sale. The Cannon and Soares team were moving over to funny cars and selling their Top Fuel car less motor.

It was a 240-inch Don Long chassis complete with trick front axle with one front wheel two inches ahead of the other. This was a Garlits innovation which gave the car more rollout. The car was shipped over to the UK and straight into Raysprays of Bromley later emerging with new custom paint job and the name “Stormbringer”. Peter and team couldn’t afford an exotic aluminium motor and went for an Ed Pink-prepared iron Chrysler with Roy Phelps prepared heads, Ed Pink blower and the fuel injection set-up from the “Stardust” Funny Car. At the 1974 July Internationals Peter had tried out “Firefly” to complete some licencing runs. The famously ill-handling slingshot fueller nearly put him off the whole idea but he was relieved to find “Stormbringer” drove like a Cadillac in comparison, running a 7.05 first time out and then into the sixes with a 6.91/186 at the August G-Max Trophy Meet. Peter rounded off 1974 with a fire burnout through Peter Billinton’s special brew and his first 200 mph terminal at the Winternats in December.

1975 kicked off with the Easter Springnationals and Peter Crane blasted Stormbringer, now fitted with Milodon power, to a 6.37/204 before the chute failed to open! At the Big Go in May Peter lowered his times to a 6.18/208 and he took the Top Fuel wins on both the Sunday and the Monday. The July Internationals saw another Top Fuel win as “Stormbringer” took out “Houndog” and the September Internationals saw Peter Crane in the final again this time alongside the slingshot of Dennis Priddle. Crane took the win with a 6.37/222 to Priddle’s 6.67/210.

To celebrate Santa Pod’s tenth anniversary in 1976 Don Garlits came over with his Swamp Rat fueler for the Easter Springnationals. The British fuellers turned out in force to take on the “King of the Drags”. After qualifying was over Peter Crane headed an eight car field with a 6.21 putting him up against Big Daddy in the first round which saw history in the making as Crane not only shut down Garlits but recorded the first five second run outside North America with a 5.97/218 backed up in the semis with a 6.03. It would be another ten years before this record was broken at Santa Pod.

Peter was invited by the NHRA to run the Winston Championship in the States for 1977 but unfortunately finances and work commitments prevented this from happening.

1978 saw the début of a new fueler for Dave Lee Travis called “The Needle”. Before the Radio 1 DJ was let loose in the car Peter was asked to do some shakedown runs and also ran it when DLT was unable to attend. Peter was driving at the 1979 Fireworks Meet and must have been thinking of Lions Drag Strip when he ran a strip engulfing smoker, lighting up the slicks for the full quarter and leaving the fans cheering for more.

Peter’s last season was 1980 when he got to drive the Santa Pod-owned “Hustler” Vega Funny Car. It was yellow and on the back window was written “Yellow Peril” as a reference to Peter’s involvement with bike sprinter Bill Bragg twenty years earlier.