Dave MacDonald: Corvette Racer… Corvette Man… Family Man
You can catch Part 1 of this story HERE.
Being hired by Shelby made the MacDonald’s life almost as fast as the cars he drove. In the 17 months between the beginning of ‘63 through to the ‘64 Indy race, MacDonald raced in 44 events. The ‘64 Indy crash was the first time the 500 had ever been stopped because of an accident. The media at the time, would regularly make big headlines over any auto racing mishap, and were all over the crash. While Indy officials quickly concluded that there was no driver error, the race was hotly debated for decades.
“After Indy, I was hurting so, I needed to change my life, so I moved a few miles away, but stayed close to my in-laws. From Indy on, I didn’t follow racing. My interest in racing was basically ONE RACE DRIVER.” It wouldn’t be until the early ‘90s when Corvette fans started recovering and restoring old Corvette race cars that MacDonald’s all too short racing career began to get attention. “It is so gratifying and nice to meet people that raced with Dave and hear how much they admired him, not only for his skill as a driver, but for being a really nice guy.” Today Sherry MacDonald is retired and as busy as ever with volunteer projects and her large family. Continue reading
“Corvettes and Racing” A Wonderful Marriage!
“Corvettes and racing” have been perfect together since 1956. Without the influence of racing, I’m sure that the Corvette would have morphed into something else and been gone long ago. The other day CorvetteBlogger.com posted a story about a 2011 C6.R Le Mans Winning tribute Corvette that’s For Sale. The car looks as if it was just rolled out of the transport and is ready for a few hot laps, but this is a street machine sporting a brand new LS7 crate engine and a host of delicious racing goodies. The car has 52,000 miles on the odometer and the asking price is just $55,000. Almost begs the question, “So what’s wrong with the car???”
Seeing the car got me to thinking about earlier Corvette street machines with a powerful visual racing reference. Arguably the most over-the-top race track-influenced Corvettes were the ‘70s wide-body IMSA Corvettes. The wide body design was the last of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s “racer kit” Corvette parts program and first showed up on John Greenwood’s Corvettes around 1974-1975.
Previous Corvette racer body parts were limited to the functional L88 hood and fender flares. The fender flares were pretty big, but as tires got wider and wider, something else had to be done. Corvette stylists came up with a wild-looking and functionally aerodynamic full body kit that not only cover up the Can-Am-size racing tires, but improved the car’s aerodynamics. In full battle regalia, Greenwood’s IMSA Corvette looked like “the future” and was quickly nick named, “The Batmobile.” Continue reading
The second time was the charm as the Corvette Daytona prototype STOMPS the competition in Hotlanta!
Congrats, Kudos, and Three Cheers to the Corvette Daytona prototype team’s first win! When the flag came down it was the electric blue Spirit of Daytona Corvette prototype to took the checkered flag at the Porsche 250 race at the Barber Motorsports Park, in Birmingham, Alabama. Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia drove the car 103 laps with a best time of 1:22.245.
The next race will be the Grand Am Rolex Series Grand Prix in Miami on April 27-29. For more info about the team’s first big win, CLICK HERE.
And for AutoWeek’s coverage of the race, CLICK HERE.
NOW Feast your eyes on this beauty!
The Civilized Grand Sport Corvette Replica – Sort of…
Today you can go to your local Chevrolet dealer today and buy a Grand Sport Corvette to your liking. Almost 50 years ago, there were only five Grand Sport Corvettes in existence and they were NOT for sale. “Unrealized potential,” “the ultimate could’a been Corvette” and many other expressions tell the original Grand Sport Corvette story. Unlike today’s C6 Grand Sports, the originals were all-out racing Corvettes, designed to give the Cobras a good run for it.
But GM had a completely different attitude about racing back then that can be nicely described as “backward.” Fortunately, all five original Grand Sports are still around. Along the way, there have been numerous companies that offered Grand Sport replicas – some, better than others. But today there is only one “officially licensed” by GM, Grand Sport replica, and that is the Duntov Motors Grand Sports.
Dave MacDonald: Corvette Racer… Corvette Man… Family Man
Could there have been a more exciting time and place to be into cars than Southern California in the 1950s? Probably not. It was postwar America, California only had about 1/3 its current population, Rock’n Roll was in its infancy, and the car culture was revving up. El Monte was just a semi-rural community in Los Angeles County, the perfect place for young Dave MacDonald and legions of other guys to pour their hearts and souls into cars. What’a time!
MacDonald’s Professional Racing Career
Dave’s first car was a fast 1953 Cadillac. But when Chevy put the small-block 265 into the ‘55 Corvette, 19-year old MacDonald had to have one. He saved his money and a year later, bought his first Corvette, a Gypsy Red ‘55 Corvette. The Caddy was fast and Dave did some street racing with the car, but it was the Corvette that got him into drag racing and eventually road racing. In February 1960, MacDonald had his first official “ride” as team driver for Don Steves Chevrolet at Willow Springs Raceway, and won the Sunday main event. In his first year, Dave entered 15 regional races, taking 1st place in three events, three second place wins, and 4 third place wins. Very impressive for his rookie year.
1961, was even better. MacDonald entered 20 races, won 13 victories, and three second place finishes. Dave’s last win of the year was in his purpose-built, tube frame, lightweight Corvette Special. This car is a story unto itself. 1962 was the year the spotlight really shown on MacDonald. While he didn’t totally dominate the year, he did finish on the podium in 16 races, including 10 victories. It’s also worth noting that MacDonald won every race entered from early February to June – seven wins in a row. The first three wins were with the lightweight Corvette Special. After that, the lightweight car only raced two more times. MacDonald had one race behind the wheel of another lightweight tube frame car, a Devin Corvette that provided Dave with a second place win. Continue reading
The once obscure L88s are now highly valued Corvettes!
It’s always an exciting thing when the heavy guns from the Corvette’s past go on the auction block. Auctions can be a quirky thing, be it a local farm auction or a high-level exotic cars auction. On one hand, the final sale price is a direct reflection of what the market place is willingness to pay. On the other hand, two people can get caught up in the adrenaline of the auction experience and drive up a final sale price. Either way, they’re always fun to watch to get a sense of the market value of Corvettes.
Keith Cornett at www.CorvetteBlogger.com does an excellent job of covering Corvette auction action. Well, it seems that there’s an interesting trend developing in the Corvette world over L88 Corvettes. L88s with the appropriate petegree are getting just just north of $600,000! That’s VERY impressive, considering that new, the cars cost in the neighborhood of $6,500 back in the day.
The L88 option was Mr. Duntov’s gift to his beloved Corvette racers. Just because GM didn’t want to go racing didn’t mean that Duntov couldn’t design and develop parts for independent racers to use. The L88 package was the ultimate racer kit for its day. On paper and in person, the L88 didn’t look all that spectacular. The only visual clue as to what lurked under the car’s body was the special cold-air-induction hood that was essentially a dome on top of the big-block hood’s dome. That was the ONLY visual clue. On paper the L88 was grossly underrated at just 430-horsepower. The real power number was never “officially” published, but it was estimated to be in the high 500horsepower range. Continue reading
Stockbridge police located Mr. Fitch. He’s okay! He’s okay!
A shock went through the Corvette community today when it was reported that race car driver, inventor, and Corvette legend, John Fitch was reported missing for a time, but was found, and was unharmed. Perhaps the most startling part of the report was that John is suffering from emphysema (an incurable condition) and mild dementia. If you have ever had a family member with dementia, you know what a rough ride that can be.
The Stockbridge police found John, which wasn’t too difficult, as he drives a black ‘05 Mercedes with yellow racing stripes on the sides. I’m sure they all know who John is and what he drives. John was taken to the local medical center and appeared to be in good condition. And his family was notified that he was found.
In Summer ’10 John was part of the festivities in Carlisle, Pennsylvania for a special presentation of the film, “The Quest.” The film is about Fitch’s involvement with the restoration of the 1960 Fuelie Corvette that he raced and won his class at the 1960 Le Mans race. In ‘10 after the car had been fully restored by Corvette Repair, the race car, along with the Miller family AND John went to Le Mans where John and Lance Miller took a lap in the car that Fitch raced full-out 50 years before. The moment and the car’s story is the subject of the film. Continue reading
The Most Affordable C6.R Corvettes!
Last September I took you through a behind the scene look at the delightful “You Build Your Ride” toy line of cars from RideMakerz, plus my personal experience of working on the body styling of many of the first wave of RideMakerz cars. Unfortunately for me, by the time RideMakerz secured the license for the C6.R body shape from General Motors, my art director and designer friend at Scrambled Eggz Productions in Medford, New Jersey, Don Amadio, had the time to do the styling on the C6.R Corvette himself.
The toy concept was essentially Build-A-Bears meets Cars and Trucks. Each toy was available either online or at specific RideMakerz stores where Dad and Junior could go, pick out their favorite body, body color, chassis type (static or R/C), then trick out their ride with a dazzling selection of ala’ carte options including wheels, tires, engines, wings, side pipes, nurf bars, wheelie bars, and graphics – just like a real car. And if all that wasn’t enough, each car had lights that turned on, engine sounds, pealout sounds, plus a tool box-styled cardboard case. It was a very cool concept! Continue reading
Mega Horsepower! Racing on Street Tires! And Blazing Stars & Stripes!
Here’s a sweet little bench racing, Corvette day dream for ya! Imagine if you have a Corvette restoration shop and you had ALL THREE Greenwood BF Goodrich Corvette race cars in for restoration work. Yes, I know – open headered, old-school, hard-ass Corvette racing machines. Could you stand it? Well, Kevin Mackay and the Corvette Repair team could and it was no bench racing fantasy.
Mackay’s Valley Stream, New York shop has been doing top level C1, C2, and C3 Corvette restoration work on production Corvettes for over 25 years and has developed a nitch for Corvette race car restoration work. Kevin and his team of craftsmen have brought back to life some of the most famous early model Corvette race cars and Chevrolet Engineering experimentals to ever wear a set of Corvette cross flags. It’s not uncommon for race cars to be thoroughly beat when a team decides to unload a machine. Once gone, most teams rarely if ever keep track of the car’s new owners. So, part of what makes Corvette Repair’s work so interesting is the car’s back story of what happened after a high-profile team sold the old war horse off. Some are well maintained and enjoyed on the track. Some are even converted BACK to street cars, such as the Cunningham Le Mans class-winning 1960 Corvette. And others aren’t so fortunate and are pretty much are one hoof away from the glue factory. Continue reading
Hemmings Motor News old sister publication takes a look back at the first special-built Corvette race car, the SS Corvette
(Be sure to check out the SS Corvette video at the bottom of this post!)
Back in the early ‘80s there was a new trend in the car magazine biz – specialty publications. Marty Schorr’s VETTE Magazine was ahead of the curve when it came out in ‘76. VETTE was the first “Corvette-only” news stand magazine ever published. By the early ‘80s there was a specialty publication for most brand cars. Hemmings Motor News branched out with a unique magazine called, “SIA – Special Interest Automobiles.” While I remember seeing the magazine on the news stands it wasn’t something I was interested in back then, as it featured many pre-WW II “classic” cars, and I was interested in other things at the time.
Fast forward to today and the wonderful world of blogging, Hemmings has one of my favorite car blogs. It’s the preverbal “box of chocolates” because “you never know what you’re going to get.” (thank you Forrest Gump!) Recently at http://blog.hemmings.com/ they posted an interesting and detailed story about the 1957 SS Corvette race car from the October 1988 issue of SIA magazine.
Don’t let the rather scathing introduction put you off, “…the SS was little more than a poorly executed and slapdash affair, deserving of its failure at Sebring and merely spared the pain of further embarrassment… “ The actual article from SIA is very good with lots of pictures, statistics, and some nice technical illustrations of the SS Corvette.
This is just my opinion, but I think that the introduction was a little unjust for the following reasons. While it is true that Duntov and his team copied the Mercedes 300SL race car’s birdcage frame and chassis, so did many other cars. The design was the standard road racing layout of the day. General Motors of the mid-’50s was arguably the least prepared auto company to even take on such a project, as they had NO experience what-so-ever in building race cars. The only part of the car Chevrolet engineers were familiar with was the 283 Fuelie engine. Plus, the small-block was only in its third year of production and F.I. unit was brand new. Continue reading
Here’s the latest installment from the Illustrated Corvette Series VETTE Magazine Column
It was early last July that Kevin Mackay of Corvette Repair sent me a link to the RM Auctions online version of their Monterey Auction Catalog. Kevin and I have had many conversations about early Corvette race cars, so he knows that I’m a big fan. Any time a Greenwood Corvette goes on the block it’s big news, so I posted a story about the auction right away. For the next 6 weeks or so, the car magazine and Corvette blogs were on fire in anticipation of the auction. RM Auctions broadcasts their auctions online, so I stayed up and watched the coverage and sale of the Greenwood ZL-1. I have to admit, it was a lot of fun. Here’s the post of the auction coverage.
Since the car has so much historical importance, I decided to cover the car in my VETTE Magazine monthly column, “The Illustrated Corvette Series.” The January 2012 issue of VETTE just came out, so I’m sharing the story and art with you below. Enjoy! – Scott
Illustrated Corvette Series No. 175: #49 Greenwood ‘69 427 ZL-1 Racer
“Stars and Stripes On The Block!”
Expectations were high when it was announced that the No. 49 Greenwood BF Goodrich “Stars and Stripes” Corvette was going on the block at the 2011 RM Auction Monterey event. Some estimated that the car would sell for $750,000 to $950,000. In ‘09 the Gulf One ‘63 Z06 Corvette racer went for an astonishing $1.113 Million! So there was quite a buzz in the Corvette community.
John and Burt Greenwood knew all about Duntov’s “racer kits” and like many others, took maximum advantage of the special hardware. The Greenwood boys had another advantage. Sr. Greenwood had been a WW II fighter pilot and worked at the GM Tech Center. Their Dad would sometimes take young John and Burt to work on Saturdays, to let the lads see the experimentals and prototypes. It was better than an invitation to Elvis’ house! Continue reading
R.I.P. Betty Skelton – Champion Aviatrix, Speed Record Holder, Advertising Executive, & Corvette Racer
A Genuine American Hero and Roll Model For Women
It is with great sadness that we inform you of the passing of another Corvette legend, Betty Skelton. The Corvette community first met Betty in January 1956 when she was part of the three-driver team of Duntov-modified ‘56 Corvettes that were on a hunt for speed records on the sands of Daytona Beach as part of Speed Week.
But Betty was already a champion – a champion of the air. She was the U.S. Feminine Aerobatic Champion in 1948, 1949, and 1950. Betty started flying when she was just 16-years old and in 1948 bought a Pitts Special experimental, single-seater biplane that she named, “Little Stinker.” She tried to join the military’s Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) but it was disbanded before Betty reached the minimum age of 18-1/2. Undaunted, Betty got her commercial rating when she was 18, instructor rating at 19, and became an instructor with the Civil Air Patrol. As if that wasn’t enough, she started aerobatic flying in a Fairchild PT-19. This gal definitely had “The Right Stuff.”
While all this high-profile flying got Betty a lot of attention, it didn’t pay well. She landed a job with Campbell-Ewald as a liaison between Chevrolet and racers that were given R&D parts for “field testing.” She was petite, cute, charming, and formed bonds with everyone she worked with. With her background in flying, and her champion credentials, plus her good-looks and charm, she was a shoe-in for the ‘56 Daytona Corvette team.
For the three-car team, Duntov drove his ‘55 mule Corvette dressed with ‘56 body panels, while Betty and John Fitch drove the specially prepared ‘56 Corvette. For the top speed part of the event, Fitch came in 1st place in the production-sports car class with a speed of 145.543-MPH and Betty came in 2nd place with a speed of 137.773-mph. It should be noted that there were very strong head winds that kept the Corvettes from running over 150-mph.
Four years later, Betty shocked the world by being the only woman to undergo and pass all of the physical and psychological tests given to the Mercury astronauts. There were 7 Mercury astronauts and LOOK Magazine put Betty on the cover in her silver space suit and helmet, with the headline, “Should A Girl Be First In Space?” (pardon the sexist “girl” reference, that just how people spoke then)
The Briggs “Swift” Cunningham 1960 Fuel Injected Corvette is Now a Movie Star! “The Quest” DVD – Available Now
After years in the making, “The Quest” DVD can be yours for just $20 Bucks!
The 1960 Fuel Injected Corvette famously known as the “Cunningham Le Mans Assault” car is now a movie star! It seems that for most of us, there’s a Time/Date stamp on our affection for Corvettes that coincides with that first moment we laid eyes upon the machine. For me, it was ‘66 to ‘69 big block Corvettes. For Chip Miller, it may well have been this car, the 1960 Briggs “Swift” Cunningham 1960 Fuel Injected Corvette. it’s not hard to “get” the passion. When you look at the machine, it screams “RACE CAR!” And while that is definitely correct, a closer examination of the car reveals how astonishingly close the car is to a stock ‘60 Fuelie Corvette.
For an excellent look under the pretty fiberglass, check out THIS PAGE from the Corvette restoration masters at Corvette Repair. Kevin MacKay and his team are arguably the masters at vintage Corvette racer resto work. Thanks to Corvette Repair’s work, this car has won the NCRS American Heritage Award.
Here was the deal for this Le Mans-winning Corvette. The car started life as a new Fuel Injection optioned 1960 Corvette. Cunningham’s team was well seasoned at preparing a car for endurance racing and took maximum advantage of Duntov’s “racer kit” options. RPO-579D got you the then top-of-the-line 283/290-HP Fuelie engine. RPO-685 mated the 4-speed manual transmission to the Fuelie. RPO-687 added the heavy duty brakes and special steering. And RPO 1625A added the oversized 24-gallon fuel tank. That’s essentially all that was needed from the factory to build a race car upon. This configuration was the 1960 equal to a 2012 Z06. From there, the Cunningham team removed items that race cars don’t need, such as front bumpers, and fancy interior door panels, and added safety and go-fast parts, including racing lights, louvers on the hood for additional cooling, headlight covers, side-mounted exhausts, Halibrand lightweight racing wheels, a quick-fill gas cap, and miscellaneous other touches. The car was AMAZINGLY stock. This will be obvious when you check out Corvette Repair’s Portfolio Page.
The rest is history. With John Fitch and Bob Grossman doing the driving, the Cunningham Corvette took first place in the GT 5000 class and finished in 8th place overall. Pretty damn impressive for a machine so close to a production car from St. Louis! Continue reading
We’ve made it “easy as pie” for ya!
Ever since we dropped a ZR1 LS9 engine into our blog site, we’ve been posting at least once a day, sometimes more. At first, I thought, “How in the world am I going to find interesting Corvette material to post every day?” HA! Silly me! With nearly 60 years of Corvettes to talk about, I’ve concluded that I could do this for another 100 years and not run out of material to cover! The topic is so broad and deep, there’s ALWAYS something fun and interesting to talk and write about in the world of Corvettes!
So, to make it fall-off-a-log easy for you to keep up with us, we’ve created the above handy-dandy, sign up form. It’s not a “newsletter,” just a brief email announcement letting you know that there’s a new post at CorvetteReport.com. The email you will receive will look like this… Continue reading
Former Hot Rod Magazine editor and publisher, Jim McFarland interviews Zora Arkus-Duntov in 1991
So, if you happened to have an extra $580,000, one of Zora Arkus-Duntov’s most famous “racer kit” cars could have been yours! The 1969 John Greenwood 427 ZL-1 BF Goodrich Corvette racer WOWed the crowd, but the bidders were tight with their bids. Very few people know how much the seller paid for the car in ‘06 when it was purchased from the Chip Miller Estate, or how much the restoration work by Corvette Repair cost. Suffice to say that the car was “well bought.” That’s auction-speak for “someone get a GREAT deal!”
Restored old Corvette race cars have become quite the prized possession for Corvette collectors. In early ‘09 the ‘63 Gulf One Z06 Corvette sold for an astonishing $1.113 Million. With the depressed economy as it is, it’s hard to say if the same car would fetch the same price today. No one knows for sure, but, ah, it’s not likely. What IS likely is that restored old “racer kit” Corvettes will continue to be high-profile machines at the auction, regardless of their sale price. From 1957 to the end of his working career, Mr. Duntov always made sure his beloved racers had “the good stuff” readily available from any Chevrolet Parts Department catalog. No one worked the corporate manufacturing system like Zora did and Continue reading