BREAK­ING RECORDS

Classic Racer - - PEOPLE -

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.

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