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Roger Moore's major Triumph!

3.3.05. Brothers Roger and Dave Moore had their first taste of life in the fast lane when visiting Santa Pod Raceway in their late teens during the ‘80s. “At that time it was a bit of a wild place, the racing was enjoyable and it made a good trip out,” recalls Roger.

After a couple of years spectating, inevitably the brothers got the racing bug. Although none too sure exactly how to go about matters, they wanted to acquire a car that wasn’t of unibody construction because they’d decided to take the body off, install a V8 engine and refit the coachwork to the chassis.

Quite what vehicle was going to be employed as their entry to drag racing wasn’t determined until a friend told them about an abandoned Triumph Herald he’d noticed in a south London railway yard. As this particular model had a separate body and chassis they figured it met the criteria, so the car was loaded up and hauled home.

The next move was to procure something with eight-cylinder motivation. The answer came in the form of a Pontiac Catalina Safari that was being offered for sale as a breaker locally. Dave commented,“ we knew it would have a V8 lump, so that was fine.”

Knowing nothing of the engine’s capabilities in drag racing – “heck, Chevy, Pontiac, Olds … they were all the same to us!” – they figured it would be fine ‘as is’. Thus the 400ci engine and matching Turbo Hydro 400 automatic transmission were removed from the old wagon and the rest of the car was junked. “ It was only later that they found out that the rear axle had a very strong casing and should have been kept too!

A ’57 Oldsmobile narrowed rear end was instead acquired from an Altered and this was more than up to the job, as the engine’s stock specification remained pretty much just that - the only immediate upgrade being use of a bigger carburettor. They did look at using a Powerlok limited-slip differential from a Jaguar Mk II, though this notion was abandoned in favour of the General Motors’ alternative.

A set of ladder bars was installed along with Revolution 5-spoke alloy wheels and slicks mounted on the rear pair. The addition of a Triumph glass fibre front end plus hood scoop, roll cage and a coat of red paint completed the car’s initial transformation from junkyard refugee to fledgling quarter pounder.  The leisurely period of time taken to complete the task being about four years.

The premiere outing for the venerable Herald came at a Pod Run What Ya Brung meeting, where it recorded passes in the 15/16-second zone with terminal speeds of around 90mph, using just ‘Drive’ mode rather then shifting the slushbox manually. The hardly uprated mechanical specification was retained for one season as they took turns behind the steering wheel, and then the inevitable need for speed dictated use of go-faster goodies, starting with a race converter for the Turbo ’box and the addition of nitrous oxide injection. Mechanical attrition became part and parcel of life in the quarter-mile lane for the likely lads, but then again such are the perils of thrashing a Pontiac lump augmented by liquid horsepower!

Over the course of passing years, the set-up was adeptly refined to a point where the Modified ET entry started to regularly dip in to the 10-second zone, which necessited a new tube chassis to more safely harness the available horsepower.  Andy Robinson of Hampshire-based Robinson Race Cars volunteered to assist the twosome in their quest to build the replacement mild-steel chassis by drawing a set of plans and as they were relatively au fait with carrying out such a task – Roger’s a mechanical engineer at Shakespeare Engineering in South Woodham Ferrers and Dave’s a panel beater by trade – it wasn’t too daunting an undertaking.

A jig was constructed round the back of the family home and work began on bending, cutting and welding the cold-drawn seamless CDS-2 steel tube chassis rails and chrome-moly-tube driver’s compartment. The opportunity to extend the Herald’s 92-inch wheelbase by a further 4 inches to improve skittish handling was seized upon - the additional length going in between the doors and rear arches.  The year of 1994 marked the, er, triumphant return of the trick Herald to assaulting the Tarmac with a greater degree of confidence for all concerned.

The revitalised race car immediately started knocking out 9-second elapsed times and when the machine eventually began to attain speeds of around 150mph when crossing the finish line, the top-end handling became somewhat loose – not surprising when taking into account that all four wheels had a propensity to lose contact with terra firma. This unnerving aspect had to be eliminated, of course, and it was safely overcome by fitting a fibreglass rear aerofoil (modelled, incidentally, on a Jordan Formula 1 counterpart) along with a front splitter, the two being installed at the same time to balance the downforce.

With the alarming airborne aspect cured, the mechanical specification was further uprated with the purchase of a pair of CNC-machined cylinder heads from Pontiac guru Bruce Fulper’s Rock & Roll Engineering in California –“ this cost us a fair amount of money but it had to be done if the car was going to show a significant improvement in performance” –and with this free-breathing set-up and use of single-stage Pro Shot Fogger nitrous oxide injection, the car encouragingly went on to record high 8-second elapsed times in Super Comp, a heads-up class where entries compete on an index of  8.90 seconds.

Later, procurement of an Edelbrock Victor intake manifold, Holley Dominator 1150cfm 4-barrel carb and custom headers saw a further half-second come off the timing slips, credit for which also goes to the Tracecraft data logger they bought.  “This played a prominent role in getting the car to positively respond, the data enabling accurate decisions to be made in such tasks as setting the clutch,” said Dave. The much-improved elapsed times saw the car move up to the Super Pro ET ranks, where it ran as quick as 8.3 seconds.

This was fine for a while, but inevitably thoughts began to turn to how they could crack the 7-second barrier. “ We wondered about building a bigger and more powerful engine but decided the car wasn’t really suitable for what we had in mind.”

So a decision was made to buy a Lenco CO2-shifted, 4-speed planetary transmission replete with a Ram Pro Mod-style clutch and Browell bellhousing to take the place of the Turbo Hydro unit. The 10-inch twin-plate clutch may have been a little over the top for the actual application, though it will be more at home in their next car, details of which are sketchy at the time of writing.

Anyhow, installation of the Lenco set-up in 2002 involved taking a year off from their favourite motorsport, though when the fellows made it back to Santa Pod in ’03 they caused a bit of a stir when the car made its first 7-second run. (7.98) at the season-wrapping FIA Euro Finals. This was a milestone achievement for the duo that now regard any timing ticket for the Herald slower than a seven as being somewhat sub-par.

Over the course of the years the Moores have occasionally appeared in the winner’s circle listing, and they generally manage a top 3 or 4 finish in championship tables.

Winning is a bonus, but what they really enjoy is the challenge of getting the world’s quickest Pontiac 400ci full-bodied drag racing car to see off fellow competitors using more common forms of V8 motivation such as Chevrolet and Ford.

Amongst the highs and lows that go hand in hand with any form of motorsport, an example of the latter would have to the occasion when Roger attempted to make his first qualifying pass after installing the new Lenco set-up; the car overheated as it came into stage and some water dribbled onto the track. Nobody noticed this at the time, but when he hit the throttle pedal the small amount of liquid made the right-hand Center Line Auto Drag-mounted Hoosier slick immediately spin faster, forcing the wayward machine to demolish the starting line Christmas tree (as well as a cameraman’s tripod-mounted video camera!) as it veered across track, tip on its side and end up against the concrete barrier in the opposite lane. Fortunately the damage to the car wasn’t too bad, Roger was unhurt and the undaunted duo were soon back in the thick of competition, impressively churning out stout 0-60 mph times of 1.2 seconds and 0-100 mph in 2.7!  And with a best elapsed time and terminal speed of 7.87 seconds and 170mph, it’s safe to say the Stroud parachute is not just for show.

That's Dave behind with Roger seated

Thanks go to primary sponsors, Essex companies Shakespeare Engineering and Challenger Solutions, as well as the aforementioned Andy Robinson for his unstinting efforts in pointing the enthusiastic racers in the right direction.

Story & photos: Andy Willsheer                                         

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