Have you ever wondered how people got in to Drag Racing? Often it is a long, bizarre, and quite interesting tale! Here is ours.
Back in 1963 Charles Gleadow was running a bakery in Hitchin, and was providing outside catering services with a Trojan van. His sons Bob, Mick and Brian were working the van one day at a sprint meeting at Debden, and happened to catch a glimpse of a few dragsters. Not long after Charles came home with the news he had a deal to provide catering at something called ‘Dragfest’, and were the boys interested in working it? Of course they leapt at the chance, taking an additional 7.5 tonne truck and 2 marquees and still running out of food. The Gleadow boys, having had their eyes well and truly opened to the world of drag racing, were thinking about far more than catering and fairly soon their first car was built at their Dad’s bakery in Hitchin, Herts. A Ford Pop was the choice of car, and in it’s first incarnation it was known as ‘The Mangler’, painted green with orange lexan windows. This went on to fame and notoriety as Motor Psycho, first in purple then in blue. The car ran for a while before a rather impressive wheelstand which, on returning to horizontal, caused the motor to expire rather nastily. Bob and Mick were disheartened by this, and the car went up for sale. A young man by the name of Al O’Connor purchased it, and soon everyone knew the name ‘Al’s Gasser’. It can still be seen terrorising the strip today, albeit in name only as the original car was totalled in a rather severe crash some time ago.
In 1978 the Gleadow Brothers returned to the strip, this time with a slingshot dragster. The car started it’s life in 1966 as ‘Weekend Warrior’, and then in the hands of Roy Green became ‘Resurrection’. It was fitted with a Flathead V8 and known as Vintage Tin. This provided many good times and much fun, but eventually it became time for a new engine, and a Rover V8 was chosen. This also saw the arrival of a sponsor, H.T.Wells (a paint company). Indeed, it is to this sponsorship the very name Time Machine can be traced, given the similarity to H.G.Wells, author of a book by the same name. The sponsor may have been bought several times over by other companies and moved on, but the name stuck. Eventually, the chassis was sold on, and raced in Wild Bunch, campaigned by Mark Coulsell as ‘Limited Funz’. Mark now has a new chassis, but the rumour is that there is life left in the old girl yet.
Meanwhile, the engine found a new home between the rails of a T-Bucket Altered, and this car went on to be campaigned for many years. It became tradition for there to be a new paint job every season, and the car was slowly added to until it took on it’s final swoopy appearance. Always a head-turner, the car was well known all around, and its finest moment occured in 1989, on a trip to Hockenheim. The journey in a Transit Van may have been tiring and uncomfortable, but when there the car ran it’s best time ever, and went on to be included in a Top Trumps drag racing set! Look closely, and you can see Mick behind the wheel. After many years loyal service, the T-Bucket body was sold on to John Powis who never raced it. In 2012 the body and wing resurfaced when John’s widow was selling his collection of racing parts after his sad death. The front wing was duly purchased and fitted to the current Motor Psycho as it needed a bit more front downforce. This wing made it’s on track debut at the 2012 Summer Nationals which also saw a dramtic turn of events when the 1934 Ford body parted company with the car at speed and was somewhat damaged. Never ones to miss an opportunity to the team got in touch with Janet Powis and acquired the old T Bucket in order to be able to race at Dragstalgia 3 weeks later.
Meanwhile, back in the 1990′s, the ex Slick Tricks / Liquidator / Iron Horse / War Horse Mustang funny car body was acquired. In order to shift this new added weight, an injected Ford (well, Lincoln really) V8 replaced the Rover, and several seasons saw the car develop a truly mean stance. This body had quite a history before we acquired it, the full details of it can be found on the UKDRN Forum. It was sold on Paul Stubbings and Wendy Baker who ran it as a police car, before building it into the Time Warp Nostalgia Funny Car. After the Mustang we rebodied the car with a Mondeo body created from a generic Dodge Daytona and competed in Pro ET and even tried punching well above our weight by entering the Cannonball.
Eventually, the ageing chassis became too much of a handful to work with, and so 1995 saw a new era for Gleadow Brothers Racing. After much deliberation, it was decided to purchase Doug Bond’s Top Alcohol car, the original Le Patron as campaigned by Jim Read. Initially the car was driven by Mick Gleadow, but he had to step down due to growing commitments elsewhere, and so the hunt for a driver was on. It was decided to give the drive to Super-Pro star and long time friend of Bob Gleadow, Fay Fischer. Fay brought with her a sponsorship package from The Big Bus Company of London, and at one meeting competed both in Top Alcohol and Super Pro, by no means an easy task. The car reached a best of 6.47 @ 210.64mph, and was sold to Martin Canto, to be driven by the UK’s next Top Fuel star, Darryl Bradford. 1998 brought with it the purchase of an Ex-Leppanen car with very few runs on it, which lead us to new highs. In 1999 Dave Wilson took over the driving seat, and the European Tour was attempted. This provided a fun journey through Europe, culminating in a weekend on a campsite and a win in Norway.
At the end of 1999, we decided to step down from the European Drag Racing scene, as it was proving too stressful and time consuming for a hobby. This allowed Bob to concentrate on the running of his business, while Martin started University in Sheffield. However, we could not stay away from the track long, and as Adam had long had his heart set on a Junior Dragster, we decided to have a bit of fun and relax at the track. After renting the SPRC car for a weekend and seeing the grin on Adam’s face, there was no turning back. We purchased Phil Cook’s old chassis and set an engine of Paul Lindley-Allen’s between the rails, planning an assault on the ranks of Junior Modified. All set for 2000, we really went back to basics, sleeping in a short wheelbase Transit Van one weekend. However, we were plagued by various gremlins all year, and decided that we were going to do it properly. That car is now in the hands of Tom Watts, who along with his sister Lottie make up Full Throttle Racing. Since Paul Lindley-Allen was retiring a succesful champion, we purchased his car, and things really picked up for 2001. We won the Cannonball event, came second in the SPRC championship, and finished second in Hockenheim at the NitrOlympics as the first UK Junior Drag Racing Team to race outside the country. When Adam got too old for the Junior Dragster class the car was sold on to Smax Smith and his kids who eventually took it to Canada.
Stepping up a little from Junior Dragster we purchased a supercharged Model T altered which left a little to be desired. The chassis and body were sold on without having been raced, and the engine went into an ex Doug Ripley T Bucket which was more up to the job. The little Chevy never really ran right, and was ultimately replaced by the engine Doug had run in the car, an injected alky big block affectionately known as ‘Iron Dan’. Around this time we also acquired the ex Clive Mecheall 1934 Ford body and resurrected the Motor Psycho name. We initially ran this in matt black, first with a long nose and then we chopped the nose off at the firewall, retaining the grille. This dramatically improved the stance of the car. With a desire to go faster the ex Juha Leppanen Rodeck was acquired and a new ICE Automotive chassis built to take the power. Bill Felstead put it all together for us and it resurfaced in what has now become trademark Motor Psycho purple; a tribute to the very first Motor Psycho.
At the Summer Nationals in 2012 the 34 Ford body came loose at speed and was severely damaged – we still have it but it is not going to be on the car any time soon. We managed to get hold of the original T body from the Rover V8 T and get the car back out in matt black for the remainder of the season – being back on track 3 weeks later at Dragstalgia. When a rod decided to come out the side of the motor at the end of 2012 we spent 2013 rebuilding, and came out fighting in 2014 with the ex Wendy Baker Bantam body.