Russ Carpenter is from Guildford, Surrey and started out in Drag Racing when he worked for a company fabricating and manufacturing diesel pile drivers. Russ’s first racing experience was helping Tony Anderson with his Ford V6 engined dragster named ‘Trouble’ in 1969. But it was the Daimler Hemi where Russ’s mechanical skills flourished and it is for his racing development of this engine and influencing others to go the same route for which Russ is being inducted into the BDRHoF.
The Daimler was the only British V8 Hemi engine. To check out its suitability for drag racing Russ contacted British Leyland and told them he had calculated that the team could get about 400hp out of it compared with 140hp standard. Leyland wrote back and said they had tuned the engine and after 200hp it became very unreliable and they didn’t feel it was a very practical engine for racing. However a friend of Russ’s at Shell tested the strength of the materials and found all the major components were made of high quality materials. So Russ and Tony stuck with the Daimler, which would eventually have been outputting well over 1000hp.
In developing the car the team built one of the first rear engined dragster chassis in the UK and eventually the car was on track in March 1972, named ‘More Trouble’. Developing a British engined car for drag racing meant making your own parts or adapting others and so Russ used a friend’s machine shop in the evenings and acquired aluminium from a friend to fabricate parts. The entire fuel system was made this way, topped by an adapted hood scoop, an adaptation for the Daimler engine of the design used widely on Top Fuel Dragsters.
Russ fabricated a slider clutch because a full size one would not fit the car and it was not possible to buy one the correct size. He achieved this by looking closely at the parts for a Top Fuel dragster and re-engineering it himself for his smaller car. A few years later he adapted a racing B&J transmission for the car, making new parts as no spares were available, and up rating the hydraulics on it to make it activate quicker.
After Russ took over the driving in 1975 he won many championships and events in the Senior Dragster ranks. He was introduced to AE Autoparts (Hepolite Glacier) by some friends in 1979 and from then on the car was renamed the Glacier Grenade. He continued to use stock engine parts including Triumph TR6 pistons even with the engine using increasing nitro percentages. With the support of AE Autoparts, Russ driving the Glacier Grenade in July 1980 broke two World Records becoming the first British engined car and the first car anywhere in the world under 5 litres to make a quarter mile pass in less than 8 seconds. The car eventually achieved a speed of 180mph in 7.2 seconds.
His performances were such that competitors were starting to complain that the rules favoured Russ and wanted to penalise him for weight. After the rule changes came in, Russ’s response was to fit a heavier but stronger and more efficient Ford nine inch rear axle, which made the car even quicker and his competitors asking for the weight break change to be revoked.
Russ took the dragster to Europe to compete. At Mantorp Park, Swedish competitors, to the consternation of the event organisers, protested he was allocated to the wrong class as the weight on the entry form did not include Russ’s own, not insubstantial, weight. Put into a less advantageous class, Russ proceeded to beat all Swedish competitors being pipped in the final by rival John Whitmore who was in the lower class.
At Le Mans in 1983 Russ was again protested, this time by Swedish Top Fuel racers when he was included in that class to make the numbers up. Dennis Priddle pointed out to them that they were only protesting because they couldn’t even run the same times as Russ.
Russ won the Euro Series Championship twice in the 1980s and had a rivalry with the Daimler V8 engined dragster of Robin Read until in 1989 small nitro fuelled cars were outlawed for the Euro Series. He nevertheless kept the car and has exhibited it regularly for over twenty years.
Russ has been the subject of the excellent in-depth ‘Pioneer Stories’ courtesy of eurodragster.com, which you can read HERE