Recent stories about a housing development on the site of the former Long Eaton Stadium brought back many happy memories for Brian Taylor , of Derby.
IF, like me, you were a bit of a “petrol-head”, a great Saturday evening’s entertainment could be had, at quite a reasonable cost, at Long Eaton Stadium. Here you could be entertained watching the racing, which used to be held at the circuit, including stock cars, BriSCA minis, Hotstox and a favourite of mine, banger/bomber car racing, all while having a beer or two.
The stadium in about 1980, with the Pavilion Hotel in the background. The cars include models from the 1960s and 70s, notably a blue Hillman Super Minx (No 5) and yellow with red sunrise painted Vauxhall Firenza, followed by a red Ford Capri (minus front wings), a yellow, red and white Wolseley 6/110, a Riley 4/72, old “granny” Rovers, Ford Anglia 105E and others.
The stock car (with big V8 engines) and BriSCA car racing were fast and spectacular, with many crashes along the way. The cars would sometimes be badly damaged but, fortunately, driver injuries were rare. The banger/bomber cars would consist of old, usually MOT failure cars or any cheap cars, which were then stripped of their glass and flammable interiors, with the doors welded shut and with scaffold tubes welded inside for driver protection. The radiator would be re-sited inside the car, with the driver to protect it from damage, or sometimes replaced with an old 45-gallon oil drum filled with water!
The drivers would have to climb in and out of their cars through the cut-down front windows. The cars would be brightly hand painted to enable them to end their days in a blaze of glory, blasting round the oval dirt track in a “no holds barred battle” to the end. A lot of cars would not finish as this was very much a contact sport and if you could push your opponents out of the way it made your chances of winning better. This would sometimes bring about a contact sport of a human kind on return to the pits as tempers flared and rivals would try to sort out their differences off the track!
The racing was a truly brilliant spectator sport and relatively cheap and great fun for the participants. You could watch the events from the grandstand at the Pavilion Hotel, with perhaps a burger and a pint of beer, or stand around the circuit and watch from the perimeter fence or on the grass bank. I would sometimes meet up with my friend Terry Ferguson, who was co-owner/driver of one of the tow trucks that were used to remove the resultant wreckage of the cars to clear the track for the next race.
Incidentally, this truck was a vintage 1950s Fordson bread delivery van which had been converted by having its rear top cut off with the sides cut down and had a hand-cranked crane bolted to the rear chassis. The cars would be picked up and returned to the paddock area for possible running repairs – usually bending back bent bodywork or suspension parts with the aid of large seven pound sledgehammers and long crow bars!
It was all wonderful entertaining stuff to watch this going on as the pubic also had access to this area. Brilliant memories abound of these days, all now unfortunately gone but never forgotten.