My pick for Racer of the Week is British Drag Racing Legend Dorset Horn, from Bridport, United Kingdom. Dick was recommended to me by his son, Dan Sharp. Thanks, Dan!
Dick Sharp would like to start by saying what a great honour it is to have some recognition from across the pond in the birthplace of his beloved sport. He would also like to say thank you to the people who have made it possible both past and present, but most to his long suffering wife Carol who’s support and backing has enabled this to happen over the years.
My crew members Tim Russ & Bunt Willcox who both made up the main original team in the 70’s and have life long friends. Bunt sadly lost his fight to cancer earlier this year but was my best and closest friends since the late 60’s and had shared the addiction from the start. Bunt and myself resurrected the car in the 90’s until our massive top end crash in 2003. Current crew members Terry Selman, Scott Chilcott and my biggest fan my son Dan Sharp. Dan & Scott have built their own car which they race “Little Big Horn”. Sponsors over the years have been many but the few I really need to mention for their massive support are; Richard Waters & Lee Johnstone , Specialist paintworks Scott Aldom and my good friend Pat Cuss of Fibreglass Applications.
I first found my love of drag racing as a school boy in 1963 being drawn to the awesome cover of Hot Rod Magazine which I quickly subscribed to. At University along with some friends Santa Pod Drag way Northampton UK was visited i was hooked and the seed was sown.
In 1970 after recruiting six mates for their time and money into the pot we set about creating my dream child. As with all young lads we used to race around the town in our street cars. “Twan” was well known for having a really hot 998cc Austen A35 (the predecessor to the Mini). I decided that it would make a really cool drag car. My younger brother Dave worked at a boat builders so that gave us access to the fibreglass. A mould was taken off the Austin and this became the 1st Dorset Horn body made at the local youth club. The chassis was was built in a friends parents garage constructed out of exhaust tubing from scratch creating one of the first tubular chassis altered’s in the UK. Not bad for first times with no experience.
I wanted to use Pontiac Power as this was King according to Hot Rod Magazine. We acquired 421 cu in Poncho motor from a scrapped Bonneville along with its 3 Rochester tow-barrels.
After 3 years hard graft and £600- £700 later we made our debut at Santa Pod’s 1973 Easter meeting. Dorset Horn 001 was red, white and blue all done the gel coat of the body, 421 Poncho Power, standard Austin A35 body with a wheelbase of 78”. This car was was so much fun to drive with people saying it looked like a clockwork mouse when it ran swirling all over the place.
In the early days in the UK although Santa Pod was Britain’s spiritual home for drag racing, there were a few different association running meets at disused airfields and we tried to make all of them. Unbelievably in our first year we came out as the NDRC Senior Competition Altered Champions, regular winners of senior comp altered at Santa Pod plus senior comp altered champs at both Blackbushe airfield meetings. We had a storming first year and loved every minuet of it, the car was also a crowd favourite. In fact it wasn’t until October 1973 that Motor Sport News reported us losing in the final saying “ for once Dick Sharp ‘s Austin Pontiac did now dominate Senior Comp Altered, in fact it looks as though the team at last have met their match in the Page’s Topolino Altered”. ~We had some great years following this tussling with long time friends the Page family.
Over the winter we made a new body, this time with an air dam on the front, a roof chop and a full flopper style, doing away with the doors on the previous one, that I use to have to unbuckle my harness over the stripe to hold shut! After replacing the engine block, rods, pistons and making improvements to run methanol we were back out in 1974 with Dorset Horn 002, painted white with red flames this time. By the second meeting we had dipped well into the 10’s and the first few meetings were reported as “Dick Sharp and the Page’s dominating Senior Comp Altered until the pages wrecked it at the end of May 1974. We ran the ‘74 season again dominating the class with the absence of the Page’s after their mishap. In Late August the Page’s debuted their new Model T “ Panic” 427 Altered. We then back to tussling in the finals at every meet.
Over the winter of 74 –75 we built Dorset Horn 003. The aim was a 9 second car , Par Cuss of Fibreglass Applications built us a body from our mould, agreeing to it as long as we agreed to increase the wheelbase.
Dorset Horn 003 was ready in 1975 with a stretched body weighing 80lbs instead of 250lbs, a wheelbase of 98 inches instead of 78. The engine was rebuilt and spoilt with an Isky race cam brought home from the states by a crew member and hillborn injection to achieve the 9’s. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. On its maiden run it ran well and hard, all seemed good and set for a 9 but shifting from 2nd to 3rd the rear wheels span up gripped and turned the car hard into the guard rail after fishtailing right at the finish line.
Dorset Horn 004 was built over the rest of 1975 and we were ready to get back to it in 1976. Dorset Horn 004 was basically 003 rebuilt with the Hillborn Methanol injection and it’s isky cam the motor was up to 428 cu inches. The body was its now iconic yellow with a flame job and sporting 20 inches more horn.
We ran this car with great success over the 76 – 77 season with numerous senior comp altered wins and trophies, even running at the fames summer of 76 meet when Garlitts came to the UK to race and the crowds were huge. We went on tour with a great bunch of other races and friends also now all iconic cars of the UK Drag Racing history to Sweden. These two seasons racing were up there with our best ever and luckily all caught on film, by my friend Nick Gilbey in the period documentary “Drag Mad”. Right up until our unfortunate end in 1977.
This crash saw the end of the car and team, although we remained friends, whilst everyone settled down, had kids, got mortgages and all the rest.
Fast forward 18 years, we took my son Dan drag racing by the suggestion of my wife Carol as Dan had managed to become drag racing mad all on his own accord from watching my film and studying the scrap books. I hadn’t been back at the track for more than an hour or so and the reception from old friends asking when I’m bringing Dorset Horn back out again, coupled with a friend saying “I’ve got your old body mould in my field” the seed was sown again.
I dug the old Pontiac motor and the chassis we threw together before mothballing it in 78 in my Father in laws lock up. We cleared out the mouse nest from the sump and found the motor internals all good and shiny. Good old Wynn's additive!
We opened a money kitty and over the next 2 years Dorset Horn 005 was born. Very generously Pat Cuss made us three body sections from our mould which we slid and stretched until we got it right. J & W Automotive painted it in our Dorset Horn yellow with flames and sporting “20 years on & Hornier” and in 1997 we were ready to race. The same but refreshed 428 Pontiac motor from the 70’s although now with a Ford 9” rear end , much to my disgust to have Ford parts!
We joined the Wild Bunch Nostalgia Drag Racing Association and went racing with a great group of like minded racers, who want to keep the fun feel of racing of yesteryear, who we still race with now.
Between 1997 – 2000 we picked up trophies every race meeting and at the year final awards, for numerous Best Altered, Best tuned out, Best mph in class along with a couple of 2nd, 3rd, and 4th place in championships as well as event places. We had also dipped well down into the 9’s with the addition of The Ron’s Flying Toilet Injection.
2002 was a great year for us running with the new Dorset Horn 006 four link and full suspension chassis. We were constantly in the 9’s and starting to really get down there. We constantly picked up Best Altered, Best turned out and Best engineered trophies, also winning a couple of events and placed well in others. We were invited to show the car along with good friends & fellow racers at the internationally acclaimed Goodwood festival of Speed for the first ever celebration of drag racing, parking the car on Lord March’s lawn and VIP passes for the weekend. All this accumulated to us winning countless trophies at the end of year awards ceremony including the converted Don Garlitts Spirit of Drag Racing Shield.
2003 set out to be yet another great year for us, again taking lots of best of trophies , consistent mid 9’s and best mph and best ET in class at one point. However in August 2003 I was on another good run when the car turned hard left at 100ft, I went across the strip on my side at 120mph going on to barrel roll 6+ times totalling the car and giving me an overnight in hospital.
In the wake of this wreck and after talks with Bunt he decided that he couldn’t continue in the team for financial reasons.
After a while of thinking it was all over Terry joined the crew with my son Dan and Scott. We rebuilt Dorset Horn 007. We have had had one small mishap since with a throttle sticking open causing the car to slide away on it’s side, after some considerable body repairs we now have Dorset Horn 007.5.
As yet our current best is 8.7 at 152mph, which I ran alongside my son Dan in his car which he built himself with Scott, this was my proudest moment of my racing career. We are hoping to make a firm stamp on it being an 8sec car once we rebuild the motor after we spat number 1 & 2 rods, still attached to the crank pin, across the track at dragstalgia 2016 at Santa Pod, seeing the dramatic end to the crank that has served us since 1973!
Now, back to me…if ever I have seen a worthy candidate for the British Drag Racing Hall of Fame, here he is, folks. He’s been in it for 50 years and he’s still going strong! That’s my take on it.
I'm posting the links to the 3-part movie that Dick's good mate Nick Gilby filmed of him for his Photography course in 1977. He won an award for it, and it was shown in the British film society cinema in Leicester Square in London!
I have watched the entire movie and it is an outstanding historical drag racing film.:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n55OaaU ... H5SMCrScIY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZLj_qi ... E2gvocp-Bw
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=raxHC1L ... S2YMBK4jSI
Dorset Horn, we wish you good luck, safe racing and the best of times in the future!