To the regular visitor, the Santa Pod experience is associated with the vernacular known as ‘pod-face’, where the lack of natural cover against the elements often results in some level of sunburn. That aside, it also happens to be the best-known drag strip in the UK. The Retro Show is somewhat typically, offered a mix of sunshine and squally showers, but this isn’t the MET Office, so we’re happy to report that there was also a staggering amount of classic and retro machinery there, too.
Various retro themed drag racing classes was the main attraction of the day, including supercharged Outlaws and Gassers, with the added bonus of the traditional RWYB – Run What Ya Brung. This serves as a public event which welcomes everything from retro family hatchbacks to Breaking Bad RV’s, as well as the usual Old Skool Pros. Furthermore, jet-fuelled dragsters capable of reaching 300mph within 5 seconds kept the crowds mesmerised. Not to be outdone by the 1/4 mile drag strip, there was an autotest handling track, drift challenge as well as the somewhat more sedate show & shine, Kitfest (a show for owners and enthusiasts of kit cars) and club stands adding to the appeal of the long-running show.
Show and Shine
For the non-racing owner, there were opportunities to display your vehicle in the show paddock and to participate in the Show and Shine event. There are nine different categories, so the chance to walk away with some silverware or goodies makes it almost irresistible not to take part.
The Show and Shine line-up included Steven Groves’ KPGC10 Nissan Skyline, and also by some co-incidence his old 240Z. He sold the former project car to free up some funds several years ago. The car had originally belonged to Cambridge Motorsport who had prepared it for rally use with reasonable success. The new owner had a different vision for it though, yet it retains some of the original features including the eye-catching 240Z side stripes and interestingly, a damaged side door which was caused by an unintentional accident in the workshop. Steven also has four other KPGC10’s…
As well as the excellent and varied selection of cars chasing trophies, around 30 car clubs were on display, with a genuine mix of the weird, wonderful and tasty. In all, there were around 500 cars on display.
The RTOC – Renault Turbo Owners Club had a particularly strong display of Renault 5 GT’s and Turbos. The Retro Show serves as the club’s AGM, and this year offered an exceptional display of SuperCinq Turbos, but we decided to focus on the car’s predecessor, the original Renault 5 Gordini. Mark Prowling brought along his pristine 1981 Renault 5 Gordini, to contrast phase two models. Mark seemingly has Renault in his blood, having owned dozens of hot Renaults over the years. He purchased this car fairly recently, after dwelling on the regrettable sale of his previous Gordini. When this Silver car came up for sale, he knew he wouldn’t find another RHD example in such original condition and it joined his stable of Regies filles. His only regret about the car is the paint colour – he would have preferred it in black!
Further along the track, we came across the Wray Family. As part of their family run business, Kejja Motorsport, specialising in tuning and restoring old school Fords, specifically Escorts. The owner brought in his Cosworth-powered RS2000, his daughter drove in a standard XR2, and sons Jake and Kevin were showing a brace of beautifully prepared Escorts. The icing on the cake came in the form of a recently imported Ford Transit from Sweden, which has been garaged all its life.
While the show cars and club stands provide a little respite for the ears in case you weren’t deafened by the jet-engined dragsters, there was an opportunity to also impair your eyes and nose by watching the smoky but exciting Retro Drift challenge. The event has been running for seven years and is open to any pre-99 RWD car. One of the participants, Rich Newton, was in his Lexus powered FC Mazda RX. Considering he last raced the car 10 years ago and it’s only just been finished for the event with very limited testing, he managed to qualify for the event and that was more than enough for him!
The sight of the classic gassers lined up and being prepared was a genuine treat for the Old Skool Podder types. Graham Barton’s Austin A40 Devon was one of a dozen gassers harking back to Santa Pod’s grassroots racing. Typical of the types of drag racers of the ’60s, it’s powered by 327cu Chevy engine and was actually imported into the UK fairly recently after spending much of its life tearing up the drag strips in the Chicago area. Along with the early Ford Anglias and Populars, they were highly competitive within the American Hot Rod Association events thanks to the better weight placement and improved weight transfer, compared to the homegrown metal.
Other static highlights of the event include this rotary powered BMW E21, and this 1974 Toyota Carina which has been owned by the same family for over 20 years.
There were also a fair number of standard family cars, with a couple of outstanding models like this late MK1 VW Passat and now rare Austin Montego.