65 year old Dave Fry is the grand daddy of the Classic Hot Rod scene. Maybe senior in years but this does not diminish speed at the wheel of his eye catching all yellow Mk1 Escort with the stylishly retro matt black bonnet. Mr Fry, a veteran of forty years short oval racing, has taken the Classic Hot Rod points title three years running and currently his car proudly displays the silver roof.
Dave started his racing career of the local grass tracks of Prestwich, Stokenchurch and Maidenhead. He had is racing debut behind the wheel of an S type Jaguar of all things! “I did alright,” Dave recalls, “it just went from there really.” Bill ‘Tiger’ Smith and Paul Bowering were fellow racers at the time…so it is interesting how the fortunes of these drivers have continued together.
Dave progressed on to racing on the concrete club oval of Standlake in Oxfordshire by the end of the seventies and began to do very well in their Super Saloon class of hot rod. Dave’s steed? None other than a Mk1 Escort. What else? Dave Fry did very well here and won the points title for the Standlake class on numerous occasions.
Progressing up in his Hot Rod career, Dave moved on to competing at Matchams Park Ringwood where he raced a Starlet before deciding to dip his toe in with the really big boys when he moved into the National Hot Rods in the early nineties. Dave bought a Sonny Howard prepared Peugeot 205 from Mark Skilton. A top car, but Dave admits that Nationals is a whole different ball game. “It’s a circus that is so exacting.” He says. The veteran did three years in Nationals and did qualify for the World Final at Ipswich on each occasion but looking back feels that it was hard going.
Fry was going to retire at this point, but having a late change of heart, Dave took up the slightly less exacting class of 2 litre Hot Rods in the late nineties at Arena Essex. He found this class fast and competitive but more affordable with the single carb regulation on the engine. “So I did that for ten years,” Dave recalls in his relaxed manner, “and I thought it really was time to give up. I started selling my stuff 2003/4….and low and behold but what comes up but the creation of Classic Hot Rods!”
“As soon as I heard that the class was being created I said to myself ‘I do fancy a bit of that.’ After all, I’ve always liked the old escorts.”
But Dave’s all yellow Mk1 is no ordinary old Ford converted for short circuit racing….oh no…it’s a former dragster! When Dave bought the car it came complete with a V8 engine equipped to run on nitrous oxide! Dave recalls it was an extremely noisy car to drive on the road – a complete beast. But he wasted little time in stripping the drag engine out and replacing it with all the bits that were needed to make the car into a Classic Hot Rod complete with push rod engine. “It’s been a blinding car.” Dave explains. He feels that a lot of it was down to its time as a drag car. The bodyshell was strong and well prepared to take the stresses of high speed and now it’s seen Dave through nine seasons of Classic Hot Rods having taken him to many race victories and the afore mentioned Pints Titles!
Today, Fry races the car powered by a two litre Ford Pinto. He did start out in the formula with the 1700cc Crossflow, but then the class allowed the two litre in Dave believed that more power lay with that engine for less outlay. John Toovey provided Dave with the engine and although it’s had one or two issues, in the main it really delivered the goods for the driver of car 20.
Consistency has been the by word for Dave Fry in Classic Hot Rods. Three times Points Champ, the man who qualifies for his bus pass would really love to do it again this year. He acknowledges though that the challenge will be on for season 2013 with so many good drivers in the formula and more joining. “I think the ones I need to look out for this year are 16 Pat Smith and 29 Stu Donald.” Dave said with a knowing look in his eye. He will be best placed to look out for them though as Fry has to start from the back in each race. He admits though that he prefers that. “Let them make their mistakes and I’ll pick my way through.” He chuckles.
As for the circuits, Dave is a man for the big tracks, favouring Hednesford first followed by Northampton. Taking a dislike to Wimbledon for its tight and tricky nature and its unforgiving wire rope fence, Dave still attends the annual trip to the Big Smoke to keep the numbers up. “Tracks deserve to be supported.” Dave says. “Use them or lose them.”
As for the appeal of Classic Hot Rods itself, Dave is enjoying the renaissance these old Fords are having. He can understand why the fans like’em. Escorts, Mk1 and 2 are such a popular car. Every lad of a certain age wanted one and could dream of being a racer behind the wheel. Dave says that people love the appeal of Classic Hot Rods because they can relate to the car. “People just like the look of the old Escorts and Anglias!”
No doubt Dave himself loves them too and will be hoping that his yellow peril will bring him more success. Enjoying racing CHRs prevent the march of time and Mr Fry’s not ready yet to hang up his helmet.