But sidecar racing is just one part of Dibben’s life. In the late Fifties he started work at the Perry Chain Company, developing and testing new chain designs. While at Perry, Dibben often worked with Dunlop tyres’ designer Andrew Mustard. It was a life-changing working relationship. “It’s stories within stories again,” says Dibben, his eyes lighting up. “Mustard was involved with Donald Campbell’s Bluebird land speed record attempt. He went all over America looking for a suitable site to break the record at but settled with Lake Ayre in Australia.” Then, one Saturday morning, while mowing his lawn, Dibben received a call from Mustard. “He asked if I could take leave of absence from my job – he wanted me to lead the labour force working on the Bluebird project over in Australia.” Dibben jumped at the chance. He was personally upgraded to a Pan Am flight, flying to Australia via stops at Frankfurt, Karachi and Beirut. Even now, 50 years on, Dibben’s memory for detail is staggering: “A voluminous lady sat next to me on the plane, sweating profusely. It isn’t often that the smell gets better on arrival in Calcutta.” The project was massive. Campbell had amassed sponsorship from around 100 firms. “That gives you an idea of his business acumen,” says Dibben. The car, built at Motor Panels in Coventry, reached a speed of 403.1mph. This was a record, even though Craig Breedlove’s Spirit of America had reached 407.45mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats the previous year. Breedlove’s result, apparently, was discounted as a recordbreaker because the car was a pure jet car, unlike Campbell’s. Dibben returned to the UK but not to the living arrangements he was accustomed to. “I was asked to move out of my cottage in Gloucestershire and report to the Manchester office, 200 miles away.” He was told that his Gloucestershire home was ‘a bit above his station’ and that he would no longer have a company car. So, in true Dibben style, he quickly sought an alternative. “Within two days I set up my own company as a motorcycle parts and accessories agency,” he said. “I was working for myself and loved it.” In 1965 he started selling NGK spark plugs. “I did all the race meetings and all the TTS working with Lester Simms of NGK Spark Plugs GB. He was then taken over by NGK Japan and they kept me on a retainer for 25 years.” But launching the biggest name in spark plugs wasn’t easy. “My first sales of NGKS were 10 sets of four to trial. I was selling on straight commission – if I didn’t sell I didn’t eat. I was doing between 50 and 60,000 miles a year and I’d make between 14 and 16 calls a day.”
“DIBBEN’S RETIREMENT PLANS, HOWEVER, WERE NOT BASED ON SPARK PLUG SALES BUT SUPERMARKET SHOPPING TROLLEYS.”
Game for anything; Stan tyre and chain testing in 1956 at MIRA.