Apollo 2. The second race car.................Winter 1978/9
Clive checking out the center of gravity of the new light weight chassis. With torsion bar front suspention.
Towards the end of 1978 we were begining to realise that the old Ford Popular could not cut it. The car was way to heavy and as aerodynamic as a house brick ! So the car was sold less the engine and gearbox. We needed something a lot lighter and more aerodynamic to go down the strip. We had our eyes on a turtle T bucket type of altered,
but we would not have the experiance in building a lightwieght chassis. So we went to see Norm Wheeldon of "Mr Norm's Race Cars" He gave us a good quote to build a chassis and a fiberglass body. But Norm wanted to do someting a bit different than his normal altered chassis. He suggested that he builds a small Funny Car style chassis which was copied off Tom Hoover's "Showtime" Funny Car that was racing in the U.S.A. at the time.
In October all three of us went out to the U.S.A. To the World Finals Drag Racing in Onterio Motor Speedway, California, America. We came back with lot's of photos and ideas !
January 1979. Tony painting the chassis with gloss black paint.
We collected the chassis towards the end of January. It was made from T 45 flexible steel tubing that was mig welded together. The wheel base was 108" long compared to the Ford Pop of 94", And only weighed 160lbs. The cockpit was designed for all three of us to drive with slight compremises due to our difference in leg lengh. The chassis was very light, one person could pick it up with ease in the middle and walk around with it.
Norm made up a droped front tube axle which would bolt straight onto the torson bar supention. We sent all these parts away to have them chromed. We also had this alloy fuel tank made up and anodized. Then bolted them all onto the front of the chassis. A high delivery electric fuel pump was also fitted onto the chassis to deliver the Methanol fuel into the tripple 2"carborators.
Started fitting out the new chassis, made up new fuel tank.
The rear axle, All fitted now complete with wheelie bars.
The rear axle came from a Mk 2 Jaguar. The axle was shortend to suit our chassis plus the half shaft's were also shortend by Ken Hessey to fit the axle. The axle casing was bolted into the chassis with no suspention at all. (the rear slicks are your suspention) The Differencial was welded up into a solid block. The axle was shot blasted and sprayed in red. The diff cover was chromed. We made some wheelie bars just in case the car pulled the front end up in the air.
February 1978. The rolling chassis is complete.
Trying the new rolling chassis on the trailer for size.
Started fitting the engine and gearbox.
A new fire wall had to be made out of alloy. We also made up the alloy engine mountings and then fitted the 3.8 cc Jaguar engine. The gearbox came from a XK120
It was a 4 speed close ratio type, it was also very short and lighter. We had to remove the alloy bell housing and replace it with a heavy duty 1/4" plate welded bell housing built by Ken Hessey as per the rules. Let's face it our legs were going to be eaither side of this clutch can and the thought of a clutch explosion with our legs close by just don't bare thinking about !
New rear brakes shoes and brake cylinders were fitted, plus new brake pipes and master cylinder with a alloy lever to operate the rear brake's. A short prop-shaft from a Land Rover fitted nicely. The rear wheels were 10"+15" Appliance Dish Mags with 12" + 15"
M & H slicks. The front wheels were 5" + 10" Cobra Super Slots using new 5"+50"=12" Cross ply tyres. To give the car more stablity over the finish line we fitted a wing on the top of the roll cage.
Clive just came back from collecting a new 1923 model 'T' fiberglass body.
Clive went down to "Mr Norm Race Cars" in Oxford to collect the new Ford 1923 T bucket body complete with alloy sheeting attached for the mounting points. We had to do a fair bit of cutting about to get this body to fit the chassis.
The Jaguar engine and a close ration XK 120 Jaguar gearbox fitted now.
A view inside the cockpit of the car. On the left of the Gearbox is the clutch pedal, on the right is the throttle pedal, steering wheel in the middle, Back left the lever operates the brake master cylinder to stop the car.
Steve trying out the driving position, a nice tight fit, just need to fit the seat belts.
Starting fitting the new fiberglass 23 'T' Body onto the chassis.
A close up of the new fuel system, still using 100% Methanol.
Jim Tester Enginering made the swoopy new exhaust headers for us.
The fiberglass body now sprayed in primer undercoat and fitted onto the chassis.
We bought new 12" + 15" M & H slicks to go onto the new alloy wheels
March 1979. The 3.8 cc Jaguar engine is all running and finished now
We took Apollo 2 race car to our new Sponsors car park to do some testing in Hayes Lane, Lye
With Steve doing the driving, Tony & Clive sorted out the teething problems.
The first real test on the car was when we secured a sponsor of Yassa Battries of Japan.
The dealership was just down the road. We asked them if we could borrow their car park
to test the running of the race car. We decieded to run the car without the body so we could keep a better check of things. We did suffer some teething problems.
Apollo 2 parked outside my house in Greyhound Lane, Stourbridge. On our way to the first race meeting at Snetterton Raceway in Norfolk.
June 1979. Steve Driving. We did a first steady run, I shut the car down early and the time ticket said 13.13 et @ 100.40 mph. That was the quickest E.T. I've ever been.
Our first race meeting was over at Snetterton Raceway which the B.D.R.A. named "Sugarbeet Racway" We were using part of the racing circuit that was 1/4 mile long with a 1/2 mile shut down area. Well again we used this meeting as a test session to see how the Apollo 2 Race Car would go. I do remember this very well, I managed to draw the short straw to be the desinated driver for the weekend. With the engne fired up Apollo 2 drove up to the start line, I managed to stage the car okay, On the green I dropped the clutch and put my foot on the throttle, not being used to slicks and the grip you get from them, my head went right back into the roll cage and all I could see was sky !
I had to ease off the throttle to pull my head forward to see where I was going, I decieded to shut the car off and coasted over the finish line. To my supprise I still did
13:13 et @ 100.40 mph ! Okay it was slow but I was the quickest E.T. I had done.
The second run was a lot better scoring a time of 12:56 @ 112mph. But half way up the track the rear axle broke (I did not know it at the time) All I remember was my bum getting very hot and a Fire Engine chasing me down the shut down area ! Upon examination the Diff had broken away from the rest of the axle casing, the diff was trying to come up through the drivers seat lucky for me we had put a 1/4" thick plate there to protect the driver, but It did not stop it getting hot !
Then I ran another steady run at 12.56 @ 112 mph getting better but at the cost of a broken rear axle !
We found that the casing on the rear axle had broken ?
John Ganner did the signwriting for the new car. July at Blackbush Airport.
Whilst we repaired the broken rear axle back in the workshop at Lye. We dropped the body off at John Ganner's house in Brierley Hill for him to do the signwrighting on the car. We called the car APOLLO 2.
This car cost us a total cost of £6,000 to build, Okay it was split three ways but it ws still a lot of money invested in something that could still crash into a barrier and right off in a few seconds !
July at Blackbush. Tony driving, first run 12.10 @ 115mph.
Tony just coming off the start line at Blackbush.
I know we lost the race but we did it with our best ever time of year ! So we were still happy with the weekend.
August 1979. At Santa Pod Raceway. We are pitted next to Team Paranioa.
Clive warming the engine on the rollers up for his first race at the Pod.
Unfortuatly after the third run the car broke on the start line ! Clive did run a best of 11.44 @ 117 mph before the rear axle broke !
September 1979. Tony racing on the 1/8th Mile Drag Strip at Long Marston Raceway.
Tony ran a 6.75 @ 98 mph. Which was a record for E class Comptition Alterd. The record still stands today as soon after this meeting the track was extended to a 1/4 mile.
We are having head gasket problems as well !
A very easy job to do, We can remove the cylinder head in about 5 minuits.
A nice line up of Compition Cars at Santa Pod Raceway. October 1979.
Steve driving. We ran a best of 11:19 @ 118 mph. The best thing, we did not break anything, for a change ! (Roger Gorringe Photo)
October 1979 (Photo by Chris Farrington) A nice acion shot of the race car moving at speed up the Santa-Pod drag strip. (Steve Driving)
Winter of 1979/80. 15 minuits to remove the engine.
After bolting the engine onto the newly made engine stand, we started stripping the cyilinder head off the block.
An exploded veiw of a Jaguar engine. Trying to find some more power for next season. Hopfully to break into the magic ten second barrier.
January 1980. We were invited to the World of Wheels Custom Car Show at the N.E.C. Birmingham.
Apollo 2 WON the best Compition Car at the show, we were awarded a 3ft high trophy plus some money to spend in the bar after!
An article that went into the County Express paper.
January 1980. Just bought the chassis back from Mr Norm's Race Cars, We had to have an extra bar put in the roll cage as per the new rules for this year.
During the Winter of 1979/80 we stipped the race car completly down to the bare chassis. Because of a rule change we Had Norm Wheeldon weld in another bar into the roll cage for added protection. The chasis was also checked over for any cracks that might of accured during the racing. Other rule changes for 1980 were that ALL cars must be self starting (Push starting down the fire up road would not be allowed any more)
We did not want to carry the extra weight of a starter motor so we made a detachable motor like they have on the Funny and Top Fuel cars. Due to the 15 to 1 compression ratio we had to link 2 heavy duty batteries together in the tow vehicle connected by some heavy duty leads to turn the engine over. A lot of late nights work went into this starter arangement. Plus one last rule change was the introduction of a six point seat belt harness. The engine was stripped and rebuilt as well.
Another new rule for this year was that ALL cars should be self-starting. A late night in the workshop making up a detachable starter.
Another rule change was that we all had to have a six point seat belt harness.
Febuary 1980. We bought another tow vehicle. An Australian Ford Farmount estate with a 5 liter V8 auto on petrol.
The Ford Fairmount was a better tow vehicle that the old van.
Easter at the Pod 1980. Top photo, Clive putting his fire suit on. Bottom photo. In the fire up road waiting to do our fist run. Mick Cheley came to see us whilst he was building Mr Shifter.
Apollo waiting for our turn, just hope the stelf-starter works.....A lot of cars did not start when required ! Ours Did Work....Phew !
First run down the dragstrip netted a 11:30 @ 118mph. Not bad for a shake down pass. But the second run sheared 10 teeth off the Crown wheel !! We are begging to think that this Jag axle is not strong enough !
May 1980. We are at Blackbush Airport.. Not much traction here so hopefully a bit kinder to the transmittion ! Our quickest run was only 11:80 @ 115 mph !
A posed photo at Blackbush Airport.
"Fire Up" Magazine that covered the N.D.R.C. events did a article on us.
June 1980. We fitted a new Chrysler 8 3/4" Rear Axle, with 4.56 to 1 zoom gears.
The Jaguar axle was not up to the job anymore, so afer talking to Ollie Burns we bought this secondhand ex-Funny Car rear axle off him. This axle could handle up to 1500 hp and as we are only producing around 600 hp we should be well inside the tollerance.
Little did we know later on this year we would start twisting prop-shafts ! We got through 3 of them before we had a special one built out of EN8 steel tube.
A cold day in August 1980. Long Marston Raceway on the 1/4 mile track. Steve driving and ran 11:20 @ 122 mph. the fastest speed.
Apollo 2 WON it's first FINAL in compition race. Steve receive's the trophy.
August 1980. Blackbush Airport. Tony driving, He ran a best of 11:18 @ 121 mph. Lost out in the semi-finals.
August 1980. We did a show at Langley Park, Rowley Regies.
September 1980. World Finals at the Pod. the long que in the fire up road. From left, Brian Thomas, Terry ?, Tony Little (Driving) Bob Jarrett, Stripteezer (Sat on wheel), Unknown, Alan Loten (Paranoia)
Clive driving. Clive went 11:76 @ 110 mph, Clutch slipping all the way ! Bottom photo. The Gear box is out, the clutch is stripped down to find it was a release bearing problem.
October 1980. We were invited to show the Race Car in the main entrance at Leeds Custom Car Show. We put Apollo on a turn table. And WON best Compitition Car. (Again)
This was an Express and Star Photo that appered in the paper on November 2nd 1980.
Winter 1980/81. Top photo Stripped car down to do a crack test on the chassis. Clive start's stripping and checking the rear axle.
Top photo. Tony fitting the new pistons in the block. Bottom photo. Engine nearly complete, Fitted new damper on the front, It gave us an extra 1,000 rpm.
After stripping the engine we did a re-bore up to 60 thou oversize with pistons to match.
The compression ratio was also upped to 15 to 1.
We also bought a Mercury filled crank damper off Jim Tester from Tester Enginering.
This damper was designed to take the stress off the long crankshaft. We had been suffering chattering around the main bearings shells, due to the crankshaft wipping around at high reve's. The damper stoped this from happening. I must admit the engine reved up a lot faster after this modification and would rev to 8,000 rpm !
Not bad concidering the Jaguar was only desingned to rev to 5,000 ! The rest of engine was rebuilt.
In the Febuary we bought this old 20ft caravan for a bit of comfort, instead of using the tent. We did a fair bit of work on this Caravan to make it habitible. We towed it down to Santa-Pod with the Ford Fairmount before Easter. They would charge us 50p per week to leave it in their Caravan storage area, This way we could just turn up with the race car and just put the caravan in the correct pit bay.
February 1981. We bought a 20ft old caravan for £20 which we tidyed up and would leave at Santa Pod Raceway. Better that using a tent !
Easter at Santa Pod. Clive driving. We had a fuel pipe come off on this run, but still ran 11.55 @ 118 mph !
A strange thing happened on this run. The car pulled the front wheels 1"up on the launch for the first time. But as the car went up the track the main fuel pipe came off the back of the fuel tank showering Clive with Methonol. Clive said the car pulled like hell when this happend ! The engine had leaned out ! Could this be a clue ?
Lunch time in the new caravan.Martin Griffiths (Barney Bear)serving up lunch for Tony.
May 1981. We suffered a fire in the bottom of the trailer on our way to Long Marston Raceway.
We were not sure what happed here but we did carry a lot of stuff in the bottom of this trailer including oily rags. We think someone had dropped a Cigerette end into the trailer and the contence caught fire ! Luckly the only damage sustained was part of the white bodywork on the race car was a bit scorched. Tony managed to clean it up and touched the paintwork up.
Tony driving. Ran a best of 11:34 @ 121 mph. Went out in semi-finals.
Started fitting large 2" valves with a three angle seating arangement. also increased the size on the ports.
I would often have 3 cylinder heads on the go ! One would be bolted on the engine, one was always in the back of the tow car as a spare, the other one was always in the workshop that we experimented with. Jim tester sold us some larger valves going up from 1" 7/8"th up to 2" diamiter, with the seats to suit. A three angle seating arangement was also done.
Jim Tester supplied the camshafts to suit the valves, and we did some porting and polishing in the cylinder head to gas flow the fuel better. This was done to our experimental cylinder head. This was now bolted onto the block.
June at Long Marston Raceway History was set ! Steve ran 10:93 @ 122 mph.....Wow, Those big valves helped a lot.
Apollo 2 Won Final round with a best of 10:89 @ 123 mph.
September 1981. World Finals at Santa Pod Raceway. Clive driving.
We bought the race car to the Pod to challange the forigners from Europe, Plus a secret weapon.....Mrs Agnes Mopp...........( Barney Bear alias Martin Griffiths)
Mrs Mopp was a good distraction for the compitition. ( They could not stop laughing at our back up Girl !)
Clive wins his first round against a Norwegien car, Apollo 2 won with 11:36 @ 116 mph. Notice the rear slicks fighting for traction.
Clive Won the FINAL round in Compition of the World Finals, beating Norwegien's and Swedish race car's to get there. Apollo 2 ran a best of 11:21 @ 120mph
October at Long Marston. Tony driving the car to a 10:88 @ 125 mph. The car's Quickest Speed !
Tony went two rounds before losing in the semi-finals.
1-Week later Apollo 2 went to Bingley Hall, Birmingham. We Won best Compitition Car. (Again !) I think we won more trophys and money showing the car than racing it !!!
November 1981. Steve Driving at Santa - Pod.
Disaster ! ...I lost oil presure on the burnout, shut engine Imediatly down and towed car back to the pit bay to strip the bottom of the engine down. Found a big end bearing had spun !
Winter 1981/2. Strip the engine down again to repair and rebuild.
As the Winter drew on, dicussions took place about the future of Apollo 2 and the team.
We had decieded that we would put the car up for sale due to a few changes in the team. Clive had met Maureen and Tony had met Juile and had been going out on a regular bases. They were looking to the future and decieded they wanted to get married.
We would not race the car this year but do some Custom Car events instead.