Dennis Priddles Chevrolet Monza AA/FC

Profile Contributed By Darren West

Having retained the Donovan motor from his Chrysler Avenger funny car at the end of 1976, Dennis found himself in the seat of Big Daddy Don Garlits Pro Fuel Dragster which was still in the UK. Dennis ran the car at Mantorp Park in Sweden and, whilst there, he was approached by a Swedish gent named Olavi Knuutinen who asked Dennis to build a top class funny car and run it in his name.

Dennis started work on what was to be a Chevy Monza bodied funny during

the winter of 76 and the mean looking black car debuted at the Pod in May 77.

Photo by Richard Heeley

1977 Spec

  • Dennis Priddle chassis.

  • Ken Cox body shell, (built in the USA).

  • Brand new 470c.i engine (built complete by Keith Black).

  • TRW pistons.

  • Cragar manifold and blower drive.

  • Littlefield 6.71 blower.

  • Enderle Injection.

  • Mallory Ignition.

  • Centreline wheels.

  • M&H slicks.

The car ran numbers of - 7.55/124 7.13/185 and 6.98/ 185 at it's first meeting. Knuutinens deal with Dennis and the Monza continued through 77 before the Swede's interest faded.

A deal was then struck with long running sponsor John Woolfe racing and the car reappeared in 1978 resplendent in its new blue paint.

A clutch explosion at the July International left Dennis with a broken ankle and an enforced lay-off for a couple of months. He decided to utilise the time to good effect designing a new super low chassis to lower the body over. The new look JWR Monza was ready in just seven and a half weeks thanks to the super-human efforts of Dennis' crew. The engine sat further forward, the seating position was more reclined and whole car was lower and swoopier than ever before!

The relaunch of the car came at the 78 September Internationals, Dennis ran an off the trailer 6.72 before a narrow defeat by Gene Snow (0.09 difference at the line)! The car continued into 1979 with a few more refinements.

Photo by Mike Dossett

1979 Spec

  • New lower Dennis Priddle chassis.

  • Body 4 inches lower to the ground and with enlarged front wheel bulges (Dennis first real attempt at glassfibre work).

  • New JWR paint scheme by Geoff Glasser.

  • Engine taken out to 484c.i. (running constant 82-83% Nitro load).

  • New Enderle injection system (replacing Crower setup experimented with in 78).

  • Lenco 2 speed.

  • Triple plate Crower glide clutch, SPE bellhousing.

  • Rear axle ratio- 4.11:1.

  • Centreline wheels.

  • M&H tyres all round (Goodyears with American racing mags were discussed as a possible cure for tyre shake problems).

The Monza ran a best time of 6.42/217 in Dennis' hands. 1980 Would be the last time we would ever see Dennis in a funny car as his attention switched back to dragsters.

The 'Panic' Years

Dennis sold the car to the 'Panic' team of the well known Page family, Clive,Gary, Dave, and enthusiastic mother Iris. The team were feared opponents throughout the 70's with the 'Panic' cars, running first a topolino altered which crashed heavily, but better known for there very successful Senior /Pro Comp model T altered.

The Pages bought the car from Dennis complete minus the motor, intending to buy a new motor from the states for the car. But the period between buying the funny (as the 'T' still hadn't been sold) plus the astronomical cost of all the transatlantic phone calls and shipping trying to get a new motor together, slowed the project down Photo by Bill Dossettconsiderably. The team decided that to get the car back on the track at all, a motor was going to have to be sought in the UK. The team returned to Dennis Priddle, and another deal was done for Dennis to put a motor together for the car.

The team had hoped to debut the car during 81, but the woes with the motor and cash flow meant the Monza finally made it back out in it's good looking 'Panic' colours at the Easter 82 meeting at the Pod.

The car was repainted white with the 'Panic' logo in the in-vogue (at the time) chrome/reflection technique for the 1985 season.

Bob Jarrett was behind the butterfly at the World Finals meeting in 85 and beat all comers to take the FC crown. The Nitro rookie showed his qualifying 6.73/207 was no fluke beating Tony Boden with a 6.86/202, then 'Cannonball' with a 7.01/201, (pulling the chutes really late on both runs), then beating Harlan Thompson in the final with a 7.05/202.

The car was really showing it's age up against the new longer chassied cars with aero bodies by 87. The team were still competitive though, and ran their quickest ever time with Gary Page at the wheel at the 87 World finals, If the motor hadn't started to go away towards the top end the 6.34/214 would of been quicker! That run was the last time the Monza ran on Nitro, the car being sold by the team after the meeting.

Photo by Bill Dossett

The 'Entertainer'

The team of Terry Revill and Mark Newby totally rebuilt the Monza , debuting the car at the 88 Fireworks meet. Setup to run on alcohol and looking fresh with new paint and lots of chromed parts. The team used this car to gently ease their way into the competitive alcohol class, before moving on to a newer car to be driven by Gary Page.

Photo by Darren West

And Now?

The car was seen at a Hot Rod gathering in Piugcerda, a small town on the Spanish/French border. Some of the Bristol Street Rodders and others were over there, and sent some pictures into Custom Car magazine who ran an article in their January 1999 issue. Vince Andrews had trailered the car over from France where it is now resident, for the event. The car can be seen on the trailer without any motor plumbing or wiring, with a white and striped paint job.

One of the many remarkable things about the Priddle Monza, is that it's one of the very few cars which has stayed pretty much together all these being nearly 24 years old!

Darren West