I really enjoyed reading Stu Milnes book, Overalls Off and finding some information about Stu Smith that I didn’t know. However I’d like to make a correction and add a few stories.
When Stu did the Bristol/Belle Vue double, Easter 1976 he raced the Dodo at Bristol and Gertie at Belle Vue. I know this because my Dad and I took Gertie to Belle Vue for Stuart. I was reminded recently that I had problems starting the engine to get the car off the trailer until I realised the petrol tap was turned off. My Dad also took Gertie to Nelson later in the season when it was the Long Eaton meeting in the afternoon in case we got damage, on that occasion Stuart raced the Dodo at both meetings.
When is Stuart Smith’s, 390, birthday? In the book it says August . Yet in the Coventry World final programme from 2016 it he says he raced his first Mini Stox meeting a few days after his birthday in September.
I remember helping to prepare the Derek Coleman car for Stuart to race during the White City World Final meeting. Stuart had decided to lend the Dodo to Harry Van de Spuij as he wanted to give him a chance to use a decent car in the Final and had felt embarrassed seeing Harry driving the Coleman car. We spent the day prior to leaving for White City getting the car ready, sorting out the brakes etc.
During the 1975 season we had taken the engine out of Gertie for some maintenance, I went down one afternoon and Stuart had taken the cylinder heads off and was scraping the carbon off with a chisel, he then put the heads back on using the same head gaskets as before.
One night at Nelson meeting we bent the back axle, so returned to the garage to do the repairs ready for the next day. The axle was cut, straightened and then re-welded. However when we had finished Stuart decided he wanted to check it was ok, this was about 2:00am. We opened the garage doors onto Ramsey Street and Stuart gave the car a quick blast down the road and back. On his return we quickly closed the doors and turned all the lights off, sure enough a few minutes later a Police car turned up. We sat in the darkness and waited for them to go before we could leave.
On my first visit to Brands Hatch, during the 1975 season, we arrived at the track as dawn was breaking having travelled through the night. I was amazed when Stuart got out an old mattress, put it under the coach and went to sleep. After another visit to Brands Hatch I remember stopping at a Pub in London, along with John Hillam and possibly Harry Smith, we finally got back to Rochdale about 5:00am, just in time for me to start work at 6:00am. This was in the days before the M25, when we travelled through London and Blackfriars Tunnel, Stuart always enjoyed his Jellied Eels on these visits.
Coming home from Brafield one day, with Stuart driving, he realised we were in the wrong lane for joining the M6, however this didn’t deter him as we joined the M6, along with a few cars who hadn’t planned to do so.
Going to the opening Hartlepool meeting we reached the outskirts of Hartlepool with no idea of where the track was, however Stuart spotted the Brian Powles coach in front so said, ”Follow him, he’ll know where to go.” Fortunately he did.
Before selling vans Stuart used to sell second hand cars. One day a lady came looking, and found a car she liked apart from the colour. Stuart told her that he had a car of the same make and model coming in later in the week but in the colour she wanted. When she had gone the car was brought into the garage and resprayed. When she came later in the week she happily bought the car.
Stuart had the words “The Living Legend” on the Dodo. One of his fans came up to us at a meeting and quite seriously asked, “What is a Leg End?”
I can remember the incident on page 90 as I was on the bus that night when Hillary clipped the arm of the man. I seem to remember it was as we left the track and it was a group of supporters making a noise, cheering and jeering, when one stuck his arm out to thumb a lift.