British AA/Fuel Altereds: The Beginning
By Danny White
Photos by Alan Currans
|Mike Hall's Shutdown|
British drag racing in 1971 had reached a point of a major growth spurt. Like the United States in the early sixties, the Top Fuel class began to establish itself as the premier class. But like in America not all liked dragsters or could afford to race them. These had a choice to run funny cars or the true nitro outlaw, the AA/FA. In 1971, fuel altereds made their debut in England.
The first fuel altered star in England was Freddie Whittle. His AA/FA called the Shutdown had a 392 Chrysler for power and a Bantam body. He was the first to break the nine-second barrier with runs that filled the damp English air with smoke. He was the King of the AA/FAs in England at the time but he would have successors to the crown.
|Freddie Whittle's Shutdown (Alan Currans photo)|
Roland Pratt was one of these gentlemen who plotted to unseat Whittle. He went a different route. The Hillbillies altered was clothed with a beautifully painted Fiat Topolino body and was powered by an injected 427 Chevy Rat on nitro. The car could match times with Freddie but without the massive smoke banks that the Shutdown car produced. Pratt had his mind on being the first fuel funny car racer in England. The nine-second altered was sold and the first British funny car debuted.
|The Tee Rat (Alan Currans photo)|
The team who would become the most famous AA/FA racers in England was Dave Stone and the Stones. The racer also made his debut in 1971. The Tee-Rat was a 23T with an injected Chevy on nitro. Stone and Whittle battled for the next great hurdle in British altered racing, the eight-second barrier. Stone was the first, bypassing Whittle as the British AA/FA king by yearís end. Whittle would sell his car by 1973. Stone replaced the injectors with a blower, and the blown car broke the seven-second barrier soon after.
Mike Hall bought the Shutdown from Freddie Whittle, and took his place as the number two altered in British drag racing for the next two years. Hall could run low 8ís well enough to beat the competition but not enough to beat Dave Stone. The repainted Shutdown altered was now becoming outdated but would not be replaced until a major rules change took place at the end of 1974.
The Tee Rat and Shutdown faced a strange and unique trio of cars.
The first was the Metronome of Mark Stratton and driven by Ed Shaver. The car was based on the Bond Bug 3-wheel car made in England. The Metronome had a high sitting Chrysler for power. Ed Shaver was an American serviceman stationed in England and he became well known in England. The Metronome was short lived and was parked by the end of 1972. Stratton then built a rear engine funny car in keeping with his flair for the different.
|Phil Elson's Sneaky T (Alan Currans Photo) |
Phil Elson was an AA/FA racer from 1971 to 1974. The original Sneaky T was a scary looking homebuilt piece that clearly was not built to SFI rules. Philís car was always a step behind the Shutdown and Tee Rat. He did thankfully update the car to a full tube chassis by 1974. The car got into the low 8ís to run behind Stone.
|Freeman Rogers' Aardvaark (Alan Currans photo) |
Freeman Rogersí Aardvark was the number four altered in a four altered country. The scary looking piece was even scarier looking than Phil Elsonís first altered. Rogers, like Shaver, was a United States serviceman. He managed to piece a homebuilt altered together with a strange looking body on it. The car debuted with a Chrysler Hemi for power, which Freeman then replaced with a big block Ford wedge for some reason. The car managed an anemic 10.40 best clocking in 1973.
By 1974, funny cars were an established class of their own. The British followed the American lead of the year before. They axed the T/CA (AA/FA) class and joined into a new Pro Comp class for 1975. Elson went to funny cars, Hall built a new (TC/A) AA/A, Rogers retired, but the Stones built a new Tee Rat to take on the fuel funnies.
The old Tee Rat had to be replaced after one too many accidents. The new Tee Rat was a beauty, running a 7.55 at 198 while the front end broke. After 1975, the Stones read the writing on the wall and bought the Stardust Cuda from Santa Pod Dragway. It had been a wild four years but the British AA/FAs were dead Öfor now.
Photos by Alan Currans