The First Independent Purpose-Built Corvette Race Car
The Corvette Racing Team has proven that the Corvette is more than a match for any sports car on the planet. But in the early days, racing a production Corvette would only get you so far. To get to the next level, “purpose-built” race cars were the order of the day. Tube frames (aka “bird cages”) with a thin fiberglass or aluminum body were super lightweight and the low power-to-weight ratio made for a race car that was a handful.
Dave MacDonald was one of the young lions of Southern California sports car racing. He was a natural and quickly earned the nickname, “Master of the Oversteer.” Dave and his racing partner Jim Simpson started racing in 1960 and in their first year won 3 out of 15 races and never finished lower than 4th. In his second year Dave racked up 15 wins and three 2nd place finishes in 24 races and was on his way to being a dominant force. But like all racers, Dave and Jim wanted to move up into something faster. It was Carroll Shelby who suggested the guys get a Max Balchowsky chassis and build a purpose-built car. (Be sure to check out the video of this car. Click the “Continue reading” link)
Continue reading “1961 Chevrolet Corvette Special – Dave MacDonald and Jim Simpson”
This could have been the beginning of a grand adventure for Corvette racing!
This is how we tend to think of the ’63 Grand Sport Corvette, with its aggressive fender flares, scoops, vents, and fat racing wheels and tires. Initial production was supposed to be 100, but Duntov envisioned at least 1,000 Grand Sports!
For those of us who are fans of the early days of the Corvette, the name, “Zora Arkus-Duntov” casts a very long shadow. GM’s chief of styling, Bill Mitchell once referred to Zora as, “Just a lowly engineer on a low-volume production Chevy.” While that may well have been correct, thanks to friends in very high places inside Chevrolet, Duntov got away with some astonishing things. And the Grand Sport wasn’t the first or last bodacious stunt he pulled.
There wasn’t much under the thin fiberglass body. The car had magnesium Hallibrand knock-off wheels, an aluminum bell housing, transmission case, and rear differential, plus a 36-gallon fuel tank. Note how the side pipes came off the stock cast iron exhaust manifolds. FIA rules mandated that the cars carry a spare tire. (GM photo from the book “Corvette Grand Sport” by Lowell C. Paddock)
For this adventure, Duntov’s GM “angel” was Simon “Bunkie” Knudsen. While Bunkie personally never raced cars, he did work on the GM assembly line as a college student in the ‘40s and was passionate about race cars. While general manager at Pontiac from 1956 to 1961, Knudsen was responsible for Continue reading “Corvette Timeline Tales: July 1962 – Production of the “Lightweight” aka Grand Sport Begins”
Dave MacDonald – “The Master of Oversteer”
“I think Dave had more raw talent probably than any race driver I ever saw.” – Carroll Shelby
The original Grand Sport Corvette is considered by many to be the ultimate “could have been” Corvette. Well, when it comes to drivers that raced and loved Corvettes, El Monte, California race car driver, Dave MacDonald is arguably the greatest “could have been” Corvette race car driver. That’s not just my opinion – that’s what I learned from researching Dave MacDonald’s racing career, from his contemporaries. Many drivers and team owners from Dave’s day are on record stating that had Dave’s life not been cut short at the ‘64 Indy 500, he would have likely been one of the greats. MacDonald’s shining star was about to go super nova!
Here’s the signature-style MacDonald rear-wheel-drift.
While I was familiar with Dave MacDonald from books in my Corvette library, it wasn’t until I started researching Dave’s background while working on a story for VETTE Magazine that I learned what a terrific guy he was. If you look in your Corvette books that have chapters covering the early ‘60s road racing scene, look for the “00” Corvette with the tail hanging out. That’s Dave “The Master of Oversteer” MacDonald. Continue reading “Corvette Timeline Tales: July 23, 1936 – Happy Birthday to Corvette Racer, Dave MacDonald”