Bangernomics – Literally!

Words & Pictures: Mike Humble 

Triumph 2500 Banger Racer From 1977

I often wonder how funny and evocative certain smells can be and how, sometimes even after many years, a certain whiff can bring back a thousand memories. As a youngster growing up in a town such as Darlington that had its roots in heavy engineering since the Victorian era, I tend to go misty eyed and nostalgic for the smell of hot metal. 

My home town of old was blessed with many well known companies such as British Rail, Cummins Engines, Torrington Bearings and The Cleveland Bridge & Engineering Comapany, the latter designing and building the Humber Bridge, Thames Barrier and the huge arch on the Wembley Stadium. 

For me though, my favourite smell has to be a hot, well-grafted engine. Fairly recently, my ever-patient other half had to peel me away from the power car of a GNER high speed train after we arrived at Kings Cross – I just stood there breathing in the smell of a hot V12 diesel engine. She wanted to sightsee while I was quite happy with the trains. 

The smell of oil and metal must be in my blood, my late Grandfather worked on the railways, mainly in manufacturing, for over 45 years, so maybe I get it from him. However, I digress how, my favourite pastime of all as a child was my weekly trip to the stock car races. 

The sound was deafening and your eyes would sting with the fumes of exhaust, petrol and burning rubber as your heroes would tear round the figure of 8 circuit at Aycliffe Stadium. Just like CB radio and computer games on C15 blank cassettes, it all seems so long ago. 

Though the money and prizes were to be won in the Chevy V8 powered F1 stocks, my event was the banger racing with its demolition derby finale. Back in the mid-’80s, it was all early Granadas, Morris Oxfords, Princesses and Volvo 164s. We didn’t care if they were rare cars, we were there to see death and destruction. I will never forget seeing a Volvo Amazon T-bone a Citroen Ami at speed – that poor little Citroen was smashed like a wine glass. 

So, going back to 1985, certain cars were pretty rare even then, let alone now. Imagine my surprise to see this motor tethered to the back of a C-reg Transit beavertail…. 

Readers will have to admit that these are a rare sight on the roads let alone on the track. The car is owned by Ian Hall who is an MoT tester from Hampshire, only a youngish chap too but a petrolhead none the less. 

It was originally a fuel-injected car but now runs on carbs to fall in line with the rules and regulations of Banger racing. Although the car is a bit bashed, I can honestly say it’s got a shiny paint job and even sports its proper alloy wheels.

Mike Humble


  1. Mike is this a Saloon stock, rather than a Banger?

    I must admit I sent a stretched 123 to a Viking burial a few years ago now – its new owner entered it in a DD for its last trip (mind you, it was that rotten, I’m sure it snapped in half!).

  2. I recall that, back in the late ’70s, the big Farinas were everywhere, cheap and built like tanks!

  3. Hednesford Hills Raceway is not far from my house. A few years ago I watched a Reliant Robin 3 wheelers Banger race and, when they fell over, the driver would push it back upright using a yard broom!

    It’s not all about destroying cars, they hold oval races as well using old Ford Sierras. They put an extreme camber angle on the front near side wheel presumably to make it easier to drive around the tight circuit. It’s a good day out but it is a bit sad when somebody uses a half-decent classic – a few years ago someone destroyed Winston Churchill’s old Morris Oxford at one of these events – but, if the car’s beyond economic restoration, then why not give it one last blast before being turned into a domestic appliance.

  4. I personally hate the thought of so many classic cars coming to such an undignified end. Many of the cars used offer the potential to provide a source of spares for those looking to repair/restore a similar example, regardless of whether it is within or beyond economic cost.

    Many of the classic cars that attend organised Classic Car Shows and have been restored, will have been done beyond ‘economic repair’. Without this commitment, the classic vehicle scene would be noticeably smaller and many rare marques and models would no longer be represented.

    Even more recent classics such as the Maestro are not represented well in terms of spare parts availability, particularly in terms of some body panels and body structure parts.

    The thought of old Rover P5Bs having been used in this manner is just horrifying.

  5. A Triumph 2500 on a banger track! Great! And there was I thinking this was a site for BL enthusiasts…

    I can (just about) see the appeal that Banger Racing has to some people. How, though, anyone can justify going out of their way to smash up rare metal when there are so many worthless old Mondeos and the like about that could be used remains a depressing mystery to me.

  6. I remember going to Aycliffe Stadium when my mates raced F2 stock cars. It was a sad day when the track shut and I remember coming back up from Northampton in 1989 with my hot rod and came off the road to see what had happened to the old track. I went along a service road – and found myself in the centre green!

    I stay a 5 minute walk from the site of Newtongrange Stadium, which has now succumbed to housing. The street names reflect the past but even a crumbling old stadium can get the eyes misted over.

    Mike’s description of the smells is spot on and the smell of the posh hot rods that used Castrol R was a particular favourite of mine! Just like the old speedway bikes on shale at Powderhall in Edinburgh.

    I also remember the F1 stock cars coming to ‘Nitten’ and the huge crowds that came to see these beasts in action.
    The drivers were local men (and women) who you could chat to, but were treated like superstars – heroes (Jimmy Wallace, Jimmy Moodie, Charlie Milne, Hamish Buchanan) and villains (Jock Maxwell, Russell Taylor) but all entertainers.

    I can understand the comments about the undignified end for classics. However, hindsight is a wonderful thing and how many Minis were lost to Ministox racing – unfortunately those were the scrappers of the day and that’s where they often ended up. Better that than rotting at the bottom of pile of nonentities in a scrappie’s yard.

  7. I think some people have missed the point.

    What I aimed to portray, was how we didn’t care about the wanton destruction of cars when we were all younger.

    With regard to Wilko’s comment about “worthless Mondeos,” well, the likes of A60 Farinas, P5Bs, Princesses etc were all once worthless. I’m certain that, in years to come, people WILL get misty eyed over Mondeos, Vectras and 406s been hurtled round a banger track. Right or wrong??

  8. @Mike Humble
    I completely agree Mike. I’m not criticising people who smashed those cars up when they were ten a penny. However, unless I’ve read it wrong, your article is about a guy racing a Triumph 2500 in the present day.

  9. A lot of those cars were passed on from the original owners to new drivers joining the scene so they didn’t necessarily get trashed.

    They were basically box sections wrapped by a car shell and, if you look at Ian Hall’s Triumph, there are repairs done with sheet metal and the only original parts of the car will be roof, pillars and floor pan.

    If you want to go further, a lot of cars were butchered to provide running gear for F2 stock cars and Superstox.

    I remember a hearse in a Banger race at Newtongrange…

  10. @Mike Humble
    That’s actually a horrible thought – someone getting misty-eyed as a BMW MINI Clubman receives the final rites at the hands of a bug-eyed Granada…

    There’d be free slow-motion too, because everytime you hit something you’d have to get out and reset the engine computers… I wonder if modern car engines would actually run decently considering they rely so much on computer control.

    It’s of no matter anyway since, long before any of that happens, Banger and Stock Racing will have been health and safetied out of existence because someone might just possibly scrape a knee don’t you know!

  11. The rules would mean you probably will never see such a thing. No high pressure fuel lines alowed (for obvious safety reasons), so anything petrol injected would have to have carbs fitted first. Not so hard with older cars, but for some time now nearly every petrol car has had injection so carbs to fit them may prove hard to find.

  12. @Wilko
    That’s exactly what I say. Triumph 2000s are great cars and shouldn’t be banger raced nowadays. Indeed, in my opinion banger racing vehicles more than, say, 30 years old should be banned.

    Digressing now, I know what you mean, Mike, about the GNER HSTs with their Paxman Valenta engines – sadly, these have now been replaced with less interesting MTU engines made in Germany.

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