The Dick Venables Era
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.
of 1962 Dick acquired the auto repair shop where he was working and he
still continues to own and operate today.
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.
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”.
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
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
Venable & Threadgill's first dragster in 1960. Olds power with 6 highly
modified Stromberg 97 carbs. They replaced the stock dump
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.
Dick Venable & Buggs Threadgill pose with their home built
1960 Threadgill & Venables Blown Olds.
1961 Threadgill & Venables SBC with 180 degree crank.
Threadgill & Venables
Threadgill & Venables, AA/FD Houston 1962
Home bulit chassis, SBC with a Robbie Robinson
180 degree crank with new roll cage.
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
together. This was Dick's first AA/Fuel dragster
with a 392 Chrysler.
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 sitting in the cockpit.
Another view of Dick in the cockpit.
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.
Left to right: Bob Holley, Dick Venable, Don Morrison
(Holley's brother-in-law) & the guy on the right is
“Hero” Collier the driver.
The Green Gang AA/FD, 1969 Dallas.