Some time ago I promised an account of the legendary Vanishing Point Vs Oxygen match races from 1981. Well at last here it is. This account by Al Eierdam is reproduced here by courtesy of Bill Pratt of the Drag Racing List Online. Thanks Bill.
The Sammy & Al Show
It was the middle of September l981 at Santa Pod Raceway outside of London, England. We had been trying to do this type of race for quite some time here in the States, but we were unable to obtain the proper spectator liability insurance due to NHRA's Ban on Rocket Cars,etc. Since Sammy had been racing the Vanishing Point for a couple of years already in Europe, we decided that was the only place that we could do it in front of approx. 35,000 fans. Sammy had unveiled his Rocket Dragster the previous year here in the states and did some extra- exciting exhibition with the Dragster. That car was called the OXYGEN and was state of the art at that time. The OXYGEN was powered by a 10,000 lbs of thrust Radial Design Rocket that Sammy and George Garboden built at GG Industries in So.California. Now picture the 10,000 lbs Thrust engine that weight appox. 56 lbs and the entire rolling car that weighed 810 lbs total. It does give you a picture of a tremendous power to weight ratio. The Mustang Vanishing Point car that Sammy had such fantastic success with had a 7500 lbs. Thrust Radial Design engine that Sammy and George also built. This car was built previously to the OXYGEN and weighed in at 940 lbs ready to go.
I could go on with tidbits about these 2 cars and their many different exhibitions that we put on forever, but to get back to the Side by Side race in England. Sammy and I had known each other for several years by this time, since we would meet at Race Tracks around the States and Canada while he was racing the Vanishing Point Vega and the Vanishing Point Mustang and I was touring our Exhibition circuit with my Emergency 1 jet car and later the Invader Jet Dragster. While having dinner together one evening, the subject of being able to do something that no one had done before came up, and eventually after many dinners,etc. We decided to "Go for It"
Santa Pod was contacted and in about 30 seconds the Track Operator Roy?? ( can't remember his last name ) (Roy Phelps-Chris) said "Get those Rockets over here". During the time the cars were shipped over to England, Sammy and I flew over and started doing publicity for the race. Now Sammy is considered almost a National Hero in Europe at that time since he had set all the track records previously in the Vanishing Point Vega and had a very enthusiastic following of Fans.
I bring that subject up to show what I had to put up with while trying to beat the beloved hero on the track. We raced side by side on 4 different occasions over the 3 day event. All the runs were in the mid 4 second bracket at over 330 mph. The fastest and quickest times were saved for the final passes on Sunday (Obviously).
Sammy had beaten me a best 2 out of 3 times at this point ( He was the BOSS!, remember. The 3rd pass that we did I was able to beat him, but I learned real quick who the fans wanted to see win and it was not me. As we were being towed back to the starting line after a 351 mph vs a 342 mph pass the fans were very upset with the results of this run and begun throwing eggs and fruit at me while I'm still in the Vanishing Point.
The next we closed out the event with a best 4.07 368 mph for Sammy and the Oxygen and a losing 4.21 & 350+ mph run. Sammy and I enjoyed that event for a long time after that. It is still fun to look over the Video's that were taken and the Magazines articles and photos. We would still do special projects together up intil the time I sold my last Jet Car and retired in Arizona.
Now you've read Als account of the event go to the 1980s section and check out the actual times and speeds recorded that weekend, you will see that Als memory of the races is slightly distorted! However I think we can forgive him, after all driving cars that accelorate quicker than anything else on the planet must screw your head up a bit!