Santa Pod Raceway
Santa Pod Raceway with Don Garlits in Swamp Rat 21

Santa Pod with Don Garlits

A Santa Pod meet with Pete - 1976 or 77


Either Easter Monday, 19th April 1976

Peter Crane British Drag Racing Hall of Fame extract 

To celebrate Santa Pod's tenth anniversary in 1976 Don Garlits came over with his Swamp Rat fueler for the Easter Springnationals. The British fuellers turned out in force to take on the "King of the Drags". After qualifying was over Peter Crane headed an eight car field with a 6.21 putting him up against Big Daddy in the first round which saw history in the making as Crane not only shut down Garlits but recorded the first five second run outside North America with a 5.97/218 backed up in the semis with a 6.03. It would be another ten years before this record was broken at Santa Pod.

"Big Daddy" Don Garlits British Drag Racing Hall of Fame extract 

The 1970s were highly successful for Don in racing. In that decade he won eleven championships in different sanctioning bodies, including 16 NHRA event wins, and in 1975 set a record for Top Fuel Dragsters of 5.637 and 250.69mph, which stood as records for more than six years. In 1976 he visited Santa Pod for its tenth anniversary, driving Swamp Rat 21, and inspired Peter Crane to run the first five second pass outside the US. Don returned the following year and won at the July International before returning his car, which in the meantime had been raced by Dennis Priddle, to the US for eventual display at the Museum of Drag Racing in Ocala, Florida. After his visits, Don's fellow racers could be easily enticed to race in the UK, furthering the boom in the sport in Britain in the late 1970s.


Santa Pod Start line


Pete and I had found a good vantage point near the start line opposite the control tower. A good place to watch as the burn outs were prepared, and then disappeared in tyre smoke. A little loud, as can be evidenced by the number of ear defenders. At least one film crew on the far side and one on our side.

The smoke of the first burn out cleared to reveal Don in the far lane. In the near lane the guy in the red overalls with his hand up, guides the nearside car back on its tracks.

Santa Pod from the air

An aerial view will help with the positioning. Part of an article in 365 Days of Motoring On-Line Magazine entitled 11-17 April: Motoring Milestones

Europe’s first permanent, purpose built drags racing venue, the Santa Pod Raceway opened [11 April 1966]. It was constructed on a disused World War II American air base, RAF Podington, in Bedfordshire. A world drag-racing record of 3.58 seconds at 386.26 mph was at Santa Pod in 1984 by American Sammy Miller in his rocket-propelled Vanishing Point Funny Car.

Or sometime in the summer season 1977

When Don Garlits returned to Santa Pod for another meet.

Searching the internet to try to establish which year it was, I found the following;

On a post about Swamp Rat 21 in the forum of UK Drag Racing Nostalgia. UKDRN

Don Garlits actually covers the story in his biography. He says that the original plan was to go to Sweden, race there and the Swedes would buy the car from him. That fell through but the British deal didn't. He raced at the Pod Easter 1976 and SPR kept the car.

He also says that whilst in the UK, he visited Lord Montagu's Motor Museum at Beaulieu which gave him the idea of opening his own museum back home. So I would assume that throughout 1976, he was making plans to start his own museum, and I would also assume that he got in touch with SPR about buying his car back which is why he came back over in the summer of 1977 to drive it at SPR again and then take it back to Florida.

See also Don Garlits Museum of Drag Racing.

Interesting but still not conclusive.

The search extended to other vehicles I had photographs of, starting with the most recognisable, 'Stripteaser'.

Again the UKDRN forum confirmed the car.  Another site can be seen here.

Also searched images of Santa Pod to see similar images to the ones I have, especially the same two vehicles together. No success yet.  

Stripteaser mini van 2 0005 

 Rollover the image to change it. Stripteaser racing with Fire.... ?

Bikes were there as well.

Bike 183 0003

What is 183?

To end, a couple of videos, perhaps for one of the film crews.

Don Garlits at Santa Pod 1976 Part One and Don Garlits at Santa Pod Part Two

Don Garlits returns to Santa Pod 1977












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