The Dagenham based Stones drag racing team included BDRHoF member Dennis “Daddy” Stone, Dave Stone, Gerry Andrews and BDRHoF member Dave Lee Travis. The Stones Drag Racing Team induction into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame reflects the driving and engineering skills of all involved as they took some of the most iconic dragsters, funny cars and altereds down UK tracks in the 1970s and 1980s, pushing the boundaries of the sport and spreading the word to the continent.
The starting point was Dennis purchasing and racing a Ford Lotus Cortina in 1968. Two years later, the opportunity came at Martlesham Heath for Dennis to acquire the Opus One altered from Cliff Jones, and thus started a whirlwind of car development and honing of engineering skills by the team.
Once Dennis started racing and winning with Opus One, Dave was doing the same with the Lotus Cortina. In their first full season’s racing the Stones finished the year at the top of their respective NDRC classes. Dennis in Top Comp and Dave in Junior Street. The following year Opus One had an aluminium ex Can Am Chevy 427 fitted.
It was 1972 that Dave became the principal team driver after buying a Ford Model T altered, named Turtle T and eventually becoming Tee Rat, into which was transplanted the ex-Can Am engine, becoming the first UK altered into the eights and then, with nitro as the fuel, running a pair of 8.0s on their first overseas trip to Mantorp Park in Sweden in 1973. Dave also won the Castrol Top Comp Championship that year, whilst Opus One was exchanged for a Ford Escort that was named Rudolph and later Tender Trap, driven by Dennis and occasionally by Radio One DJ Dave Lee Travis.
Gerry Andrews, who Dave had worked with at Essex based Ford main dealer Reynolds, joined the team in 1974 racing the slingshot dragster Hemi Hunter built over a number of years by Allan Herridge for Pete Bennett. Later the broken engine from Hemi Hunter was swapped with the supercharged alky one from Keith Harvie’s altered and Gerry’s driving career started, moving to Pro Comp, which had been introduced in 1975.
By 1975 Tee Rat had a new chassis built by the late Roland Pratt. Dave, with a supercharger on the engine and went straight into the sevens. However, despite driving skills that were nothing short of miraculous, the fuel altered aerodynamics caused the car to wander at the top end.
In 1976 the team acquired the Stardust Funny Car brought over to the UK three years earlier by US star Don Schumacher, fitting their blown nitro Chevy from Tee Rat into it and running quick from the start.
The original Hemi Hunter was retired in 1978 and a new dragster was constructed by Allan Herridge, Hemi Hunter II, which initially ran on nitro, after Bob Phelps encouraged the team to compete in Top Fuel and Funny Car but methanol was the fuel of choice for Hemi Hunter after 1978. In that same year the team started running the Blue Max Mustang of Raymond Beadle, running it on loan from Santa Pod. The team, which over the years included Dave Stone, Gerry Andrews, Dave Lee Travis, Colin Thompson, Trevor Horncastle, Dennis’s nephew Andrew Swan, Mickey Pratt, Dick Cruse and Alan Bates took both cars to European events with Dennis ‘Daddy’ Stone as Team Principal keeping the lads in check.
The engineering skills of the cash strapped team enabled them to work their way around mechanical issues that they suffered, particularly in the engine department. However, in May 1983 the Mustang FC suffered a big fire, Dave’s driving career coming to an end and Hemi Hunter II was destroyed at the World Finals after a weakened chassis, from a previous accident in the August, caused the car to roll. Once again SPR came to the team’s aid with the ex-Roz Prior Maneater car, the late Dick Cruse joining the team as driver in 1986 after Gerry retired that year.
They are the only team to win three top classes at Silverstone – Top Street (Tender Trap) Top Altered (T-Rat) and Top Dragster (Hemi-Hunter). It is for running at the top level in these classes, winning championships and setting records that The Stones Drag Racing Team are being inducted into the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
Profile by Simon Groves