The Dick Venables Era

Dick Venables always loved cars and at the age of 6 or 7 he could identify any car made as he would see them on the highways. He took drivers education in Jr High School and got his drivers license at the age of 14. The same day that he got his license he bought a 1935 Plymouth coupe and began tinkering with it.  

In 1959 at the age of 20 he and Buggs Threadgill had a fuel burning Oldsmobile powered rail with 6 Stromberg 97’s highly modified by Buggs with ¼” dump tubes so they could run a large percentage of nitro. The nitro was purchased from the Herb Stelter motorcycle shop in downtown Houston. They would take 2 empty 5 gallon paint thinner cans and siphon nitro from a 55 gallon drum, for 10 gallons it would cost $22.50.

Except for a few outings Venables and Threadgill always ran Olds power and eventually the Strombergs and Oldsmobile were replaced by a blower and a small block Chevy with a 180 degree crank that they purchased from Robbie Robinson which didn’t last long. They ran the same chassis for a several years and lengthened the car over time and adding a full body and eventually switching back to the Olds.

In October of 1962 Dick acquired the auto repair shop where he was working and he still continues to own and operate today.

Around 1966 Dick saw a article in one of the drag racing magazines that featured a detailed report on a Don Long chassis that got him thinking. He talked his wife’s cousin Sam Neely into building a chassis with chrome molly tubing and no uprights, a flexible flyer and of course it was powered by blown nitro burning 392 Chrysler. Crower had just come out with their nitro blower hat a huge “bimbo” fuel pump as he believes they called it and he had to have that set up. Dick and Sam finished the chassis and Dick built the short body for the car and assembled the engine and running gear with the help of C.J. Fenn and Richard Warwick doing the machine work & balancing. They had some real nice parts from Donovan including the clutch can and driveline with a greek coupler.

The car was ran several times until a Wednesday night when Dick crashed the car at Green Valley in 1967 and this was Dick’s last time at driving a dragster. He took his engine & parts and teamed up with Bob Holley with Ray “Hero” Collier doing the driving out of Angleton Texas and became known as the “Green Gang”. Collier drove the car at first and eventually Ronnie Martin finished up the driving duties.

In 1969 Dick teamed up with Steve Stephens with a Lester Guillory full bodied front engine dragster. This was one of the most successful cars that he ever campaigned during his years of drag racing with Steve Stephens doing the driving. They purchased parts before the car was ever completed and ready to race. Once the car was completed they began stocking up on parts knowing they were going to win everywhere they went during the 1971 & 1972 season.

In 1971 Rahn Tobler went to his first drag race at the World Finals in Amarillo Texas with Stephens & Venables and has been hooked ever since.

In 1972 Ed Mabry built the first rear engine car for Stephens & Venables and on the very first run at Green Valley the car crashed because the parachute release failed. Another identical car was built a little later and was equipped with a Donovan  417 and ran several times.

Around 1974 Dick and Steve purchased the “Quicksilver” alcohol funny car built by Romeo Palamides for Roy Cullen it was complete with a Keith Black 426 engine. We immediately switched everything to run nitro and named our dragster “Quicksilver” also. We ran the Vega body for a little while then switched to the Monza body, we replaced that body from a explosion with a Charger body. We mainly did match racing with this funny car in Texas and Louisiana while running the dragster from to time.

In 1975 Sid Tarter joined the partnership with Stephens & Venables and his contribution was a beautiful Lester Guillory built rear engine dragster painted to match the “Quicksilver” Monza funny car and we named the dragster “Quicksilver Too”.

The funny car was sold not too long after getting the dragster ready to run again and they campaigned the Stephens, Venables & Tarter Top Fuel Dragster. When NHRA did away divisional points for the Professional categories and not being able to afford to run the full tour with the new point structure for the World Championship the car, trailer and spare parts were sold in 1980 and Dick then became a spectator of the sport.

Even though Dick has been retired from drag racing for about 25 years he continues to go to Houston, Dallas & Indy events every year. He is very proud and enjoys the success and of his only son Dickie Venables and Rahn Tobler as they continue to work with some of the best drag racers in the business today.

 

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Venable & Threadgill's first dragster in 1960. Olds power with 6 highly

modified Stromberg 97 carbs. They replaced the stock dump

tubes with 1/4 in copper tubes as it was hard to get enough fuel
to that engine. The manifold for the six carbs was a Crower you

fab it yourself kit. The kit came with some tubing and flanges that

you brazed together. Buggs Threadgill at the back of the car

and Dick Venables driving.


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Dick Venable & Buggs Threadgill pose with their home built

A/FD in 1960.

 

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1960 Threadgill & Venables Blown Olds.




1961 Threadgill & Venables SBC with 180 degree crank.




Threadgill & Venables


 

Threadgill & Venables

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Threadgill & Venables, AA/FD Houston 1962

Home bulit chassis, SBC with a Robbie Robinson

180 degree crank with new roll cage.

 

 

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1966 Dick Venables driving with the Sam Neely built chassis. 

This chassis was home built by filling the chrome molly tubing with

sand and heating it with a torch to get the bends then it was heli arc

welded together. This was Dick's first AA/Fuel dragster campaigned
with a 392 Chrysler. 

 


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Dick Venables, AA/FD 1968 Houston. This car was destroyed

a few months later and it would be the last car that Dick drove.

 



Dick Venables

 


Dick Venables sitting in the cockpit.

 

Another view of Dick in the cockpit.






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Ray "Hero" Collier driving for the "Green Gang" AA/FD 1968 Houston.

The Green Gang consisted of Dick Venables, Bob Holley & Ray Collier.

Dick Venables furnished the motor, Bob Holley furnished the car & Ray

Collier did the driving.

 

 

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Left to right: Bob Holley, Dick Venable, Don Morrison

(Holley's brother-in-law) & the guy on the right is

Ray “Hero” Collier the driver.

 

 

The Green Gang AA/FD, 1969 Dallas.