Santa Pod Raceways Gladiator Vega. A profile by Darren West
|Following the huge success of the Stardust
funny car, Santa Pod Raceway were looking for a replacement flopper for crowd
favourite Alan "Bootsie' Herridge to drive. Pod owner Roy Phelps arranged
for the team of Chadderton & Okazaki to bring their 74 Vega FC over to
run at the Pod in 75. Leroy Chadderton having Previously driven for Roland
Leong and was known to be a highly competent driver, the mechanical expertise
coming from Okazaki who worked for Ed Pink developing superchargers. The
team had success with the car during 74, the last runs for the Vega in the
US in late 74 at the Super Nationals in California. Chadderton losing to
Shirl Greer who went on to win the event.
Come the European Grand Prix 5/6 July at Santa Pod, famed US tuner and occasional driver Dale Emery was piloting the Vega. Engine damage left the car with a brief debut appearance. Chadderton made it over for the September internationals, the team struggled with the motor all weekend long; they made it to the final though with a motor that was hurting badly by this time, but that didn't stop Leroy keeping his boot in all the way until the motor let go in a spectacular fireball in the lights!
As was customary at the Pod the car stayed in the UK after the meeting. Phelps and Herridge rebuilt the car over the winter down at FGR in Bromley in readiness for it's debut in 76 as the Gladiator.
Lenco 2 speed / Hays Slider Clutch.
|The huge Easter meeting at the Pod saw 'Bootsie'
concentrating on another US visitor 'Big Daddy' Don Garlits. The debut for
the new Pod Vega coming later in the season with the car arriving solidly
the sixes at the July European Grand Prix beating Dave Stone in the
A trip to Sweden followed for the second round of the Tor-Line funny car cup. Bootsie' made it to the final but red-lit a 7.1 sec run away to Skliton's new Cavalier.
The car got quicker as the car year went on hitting an easy 6.7 at the July Internationals.
|The 77 season started with a trophy,
but not for racing. Best competition car at the Crystal Palace drag racing
show was duly awarded to the SPR Vega.
The car was parked again for the Easter meeting as 'Bootsie' concentrated on the Pro Fuel Eliminator with the Alleygator. But was back out in the Vega to run the quickest time of the meet at the Jubilee Internationals 6.77/221 and went on to run 6.78 and a 6.72/208 to beat John Andersson's Manta in the final.
A bad accident which completely destroyed the Alleygator rail in Drachten Holland in August 1977; left 'Bootsie' spending the rest of the season recuperating and building another rail for 78.
|'Bootsie' was back, and running better than ever with the Vega. A 6.60/216 at the Spring Nationals, a losing! 6.79/197 at the May Day meet, and a 6.70/207 at Whitsun proved the Pod team had a handle on the car for 78. Best ever times came at the September Internationals a brilliant 6.56 was no match though for Beadle's incredible 6.36. The Vega was back out at the Fireworks meet, 'Bootsie' managed to hook up on the damp track with a 6.64/219 winner.|
|For the early part of the year 'Bootsie'
brought the Alleygator back out, returning to the seat of the Gladiator at
the July meeting. The car went out early but was readied to run as first
alternate for the final. As it turned out Snow grenaded the Arrow's motor
all over the startline but never the less the Vega was fired up and 'Bootsie'
attempted to run over the oil still with the 'Snowman' car 60ft up the track
against the rail. When the lights went green Beadle was gone; but the crowd
went wild as Herridge snaked wildly up the strip after him.
Disaster struck at the August Super Nationals with the over tight clutch biting way too hard, sending the Gladiator into a huge wheelstand flipping the car right over. The car slid past the half track mark in a shower of sparks. 'Bootsie' was OK but the team had some rapid repairs to make to the car before the World Series meeting only a month away. The car reappeared with a smart new silver paint job in September, and qualified with a strong 6.51 but went out to the returning 'Snowman' with a losing 6.60.
|The Vega was retired as Gladiator after the World Series meeting as the team concentrated on sourcing a replacement funny car for 1980. The Vega did reappear though as a deal was done with Peter Crane, and the car was back out with a bright yellow paint job and a new name - 'Hustler' The car made a few appearances over the season but struggled to keep up with the leading protagonists in Nitro funny car.|
|A change of personnel for the car once
again. Hustler mechanics Bill Sherratt and Chris Filsell where approached
by Roy Phelps as potential drivers for the Vega. Bill was keen and convinced
Roy he was the man for the job with a sterling 6.5 sec test run! The car
was promptly hauled up to John 'Moggy' Mills Pro Paint North shop for the
Vega's latest make over as 'Rain City Warrior'. The silver and blue car running
on alcohol for a few meetings with Bill at the wheel. Sherratt's competent
driving earned him the seat of the ex Prudhomme Arrow 'Cannonball'. This
left the drive in the Vega free for Chris Filsell who took up the reigns
for the remainder of the season.
The ageing Vega was shelved in the winter of 81 as Chris was moving up to the re-nosed ex-Snow Arrow for 82, and Wild Bill was once again to shoe the potent Arrow.
|A surprise return for the ancient Vega
in 85 came at the hands of new driver Geoff Bosworth. The Vega returned to
the track as 'Mad Max' and was a welcome addition to the depleted British
funny car ranks. Promising looking observed runs at the Labour Day meet set
the team up for appearances at the Cannonball and later the Fireworks meeting.
The team never really got a handle on the car though and 85 was to be the
Vega's last ever season.
Thanks to Alan Currans, Mike Dossett and Jon Spoard for the photos