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Dave MacDonald was lucky enough to have found his automotive muse during the glory years of the 1960's, when racing was racing. He is fondly remembered by friends and fellow drivers whose kind comments and poignant memories are printed below - many of which were recorded in Michael Antonick's book California Screamin - The Glory Days of Corvette Road Racing .
"He was maybe the best natural driver ever born. I was racing when Dave came into it and all of a sudden, he was a presence. The guy was incredibly fast. Contrasting his style to Bondurant's and mine, there wasn't much difference. Dave was younger than both of us and maybe it was his reaction time or maybe he had a little inborn something we didn't, but MacDonald was faster than either of us. Oh, we had some hellish races! I won some, Bob won some and Dave won some. But I have to take my hat off to him; I think Dave was the fastest and overall you'd have to give him the edge. Did he hang it out more? Maybe, but we all did. He was just faster when he did it."
Corvette great - Andy Porterville
In the December 1991 issue of Vette magazinge Bob Bondurant says "Dave MacDonald was probably the best Corvette driver of all"
From Michael Antonick's book 'California Screamin - The Glory Days of Corvette Road Racing. "Willow Springs in 1960 was the first time I ever raced against him. And I thought, where'd this guy come from? He was so quick". "Davey was good. He was a tremendous driver and a very nice guy. After I raced him the first time at Willow Springs, you just never knew. One race he'd win, the next race I'd win. He drove sideways. I drove a little smoother, but we were both just as quick. Why was he so good? I don't know. He just had that instinct. He was very aggressive and he had a lot of car control. He'd put that Corvette sideways and drive it all around the corner that way. You could do that with those cars. I drove sideways, but not as sideways. I got a little more adhesion, I guess. He was tough and he was always fun to race with wheel to wheel. I always loved racing with Davey".
Legendary racer - Bob Bondurant
"Bondurant smoothly drives the corner while MacDonald power-slides through it. Smooth is usually faster, yet MacDonald was smooth in his own aggressive way, and these two extraordinary talented men ran virtually dead-even in one Corvette race after another."
Author - Michael Antonick
"Dave best Corvette driver" is what Zora Arkus-Duntov told Sherry MacDonald at an Anaheim California car show in 1991.
Legendary "Father of the Corvette" - Zora Duntov
At the post race press conference following Dave's victory in the 1963 LA Times Grand Prix, where he lapped the entire world class field in King Cobra CM/1/63, legendary auto racer and designer Carroll Shelby told reporters, "This is the happiest day of my life, I'm glad I took a chance with the kid and gave him the ride. He's just the greatest, isn't he?"
In a 2008 interview with Hot Rod Magazine, Carroll Shelby said "Dave MacDonald could have been another Mario Andretti had he lived. He had incredible natural talent and gave it his all when he stepped into one of our cars. We lost Dave at Indianapolis in one of the worst cars that was ever built. Mickey Thompson was a friend of mine, but I tried to get David to not drive that thing, because it was a death trap. What little Davie would have accomplished in life, who knows. It was cut short so early. I think he had more raw talent probably than any race driver I ever saw."
In a 2012 interview with MotorTrend magazine Carroll Shelby said “Dave MacDonald would have been one of the most brilliant drivers ever if he hadn’t got into that stupid Mickey Thompson car at Indy”
In a 2011 interview with 'Black Noon' author Art Garner, Carroll said "I just still feel very sad. Losing Dave, and then Ken Miles were two of the hardest things I ever had to face after I quit driving myself. Davey had a very, very bright future. He had the ability to win Indianapolis, win Le Mans, Formula One, any race in the world. It was just such a waste."
Legendary auto racer/designer - Carroll Shelby
In the September 2008 issue of Vintage Motorsport magazine, legendary Peter Brock had this to say about Dave MacDonald. "For those fortunate enough to have been there, back in the era when he raced, Dave MacDonald was a star of the brightest magnitude. Whether driving his own Corvette in the early 60’s or one of Carroll Shelby’s brutal USRRC-winning Cobras, MacDonald was the essence of style that epitomized that special time. Dave was a driver so at ease with his unique sense of car control that he alone seemed to capture the focus of those who came to watch. At the ’63 Times-Mirror Grand Prix, fans sitting high in Riverside’s famed Turn 6 grandstand would literally rise in unison when his car drove into view around Turn 2; a sizzling heat-hazed dot of color a full quarter mile away. Mesmerized, they’d watch as he thundered up the circuit’s long set of graceful esses in a series of subtle but exquisitely throttle-controlled drifts to finally exit, almost sideways, around 6, hard on the pedal at opposite lock, with only the slightest correction of the wheel and the nose pointed straight down the short chute to the next turn”. “MacDonald by choice was his own mechanic. Even as he rose to prominence within Shelby’s quiver of stars like Ken Miles, Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Bob Holbert, Ed Leslie and Phil Hill, he never sought publicity or fame in the usual way, preferring to let his skill on the track speak for him. As one of the best race mechanics in Shelby's formadible stable of wrenches, MacDonald was also that select group’s inside hero, the man the rest of the team related to and respected for his reserve and skill in their arcane art of gleaning those few extra tenths of a second from any car they worked on”.
"Dave MacDonald was being tempted with an Indy 500 ride by Mickey Thompson. He was torn by his loyalty to his friends and the Shelby team-ride but eventually agreed to race for Mickey at the Speedway. Having seen the results of tests with Thompson’s radical rear-engined racer, Craig Lang, Wally Peat and Joe Freitas begged Dave not to go back to Indy, believing the car was dangerous. MacDonald was certain his cat-like reflexes could make the car successful and when he passed seven cars on the first lap it appeared he was on his way. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way and MacDonald was killed in a fiery crash on the second lap. The Lang team was devastated. Without Davey to sort their new car they weren’t sure what to do. After a while, Craig decided that without Davey in the cockpit of his Lang King Cobra, it just wasn't fun anymore so he sold the car."
Legendary Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe designer and BRE founder - Peter Brock
In the September 1993 issue of Vintage Motorsport magazine, former racer and founder of world renowned Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance, Bill Warner had this to say about Dave MacDonald. "Having restored and driven the Lang Cooper, I can tell you in all honesty that it takes the talent of a Dave MacDonald, Parnelli Jones or Bob Bondurant to enjoy one to the fullest. In fact, the Lang was frightening to a person of limited talent (me) as the tires are fairly skinny, at least by today’s standard; the aerodynamics are scary, with lots of lift; and the power is impressive. These are not ideal vintage racers, as they require a deft touch and a brave soul. But in 1963, to see Dave MacDonald drift through Turn 6 at Riverside in a display of car control that would make Dale Earnhardt look like Eldon Palmer, was to experience a sports racing car-and-driver combination seldom, if ever, seen today".
Former racer and founder of Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance - Bill Warner
"One of the most famous of the bunch, he was always ready, always clean and sharp with a good sponsor. Boy, he was a hard act to follow. Never out of shape, never upset or rowdy, just an absolute gentleman. That's why everybody took it so hard when he drove for Thompson at Indianapolis."
"In Corvettes he was the front runner when I started. I was having a fit even finding him. But he was always helpful. If I needed to know something about the 4-speed or the fuel injection, Dave would always help. He was a great mechanic. Just before he got out of Corvettes, he built a really super modified Corvette, a real lightweight, like 2,200 pounds, trick-looking 1962 'Vette. Geeze, did that thing go. He only drove it a year before Shelby hired him for the Cobras."
"Was MacDonald aggressive in the sense of pushing and pumping on the track? Only if he had to. He wouldn't' initiate it. He wouldn't muscle his way through. But if he had to lean on somebody to get to the front, he'd definitely do that. He wouldn't back off. Absolutely not. But he was a lot more gentlemanly than most. Most would just take your fender off and not think twice. I think I ran half my races in primer."
"What can I say? MacDonald was a class act. He always had a new car, always immaculate. Among other things, he was known for driving his victory laps flat out. Usually they'd put the trophy queen into the winning car, hand her the checkered flag, and give her a little victory lap around the track with the winner. With MacDonald, the flag would be bent clear back and the girl would be in stark terror. And there's Dave with that giant grin."
Mr. Corvette - Dick Guldstrand
"Dave was an incredible talent. He was one of those guys who was a real leader, the center of the action, a guy absolutely everyone admired and liked. His death devastated a lot of people."
Corvette great - Joe Freitas
In the June 1961 issue of MotoRacing magazine, Cheetah creator Bill Thomas told journalist Joe Scalzo "I have never seen any race driver race any type of car as fast as Dave MacDonald does Corvettes".
Corvette engine-tuner and Cheetah creator - Bill Thomas
"Dave MacDonald was the toughest driver to get by because he was always sideways. He was the king of the oversteering car. He set up his car to oversteer, and it seemed to be his style. I did beat him a few times though. I've got a movie of him at Pomona where he did a 360, and at the end of it he had it pointed in the right direction and he just got on it and kept on going. He was probably the hardest Corvette driver to get by."
"We were close. We used to go back and forth in the motel rooms after practice or a race and shoot the breeze and drink a beer and rap. Dave was a very quiet person, almost at times introverted ... until he got into the car. He told me one time that if it wasn't for the crowds, he wouldn't be in racing. He liked the people part of it. I never forgot that, because to know the guy you'd never think he'd say something like that. But he was spectacular. He had his own style. In my way of thinking, I'm not sure it was the fastest way, but he made it work. He came up quick. When he started with Corvettes he started out right away with a good sponsor and with good equipment. He was just there one day. Then he got with Shelby and his career really took off."
Corvette great - Doug Hooper
"In a 2007 interwiew with Hemmings magazine, legendary Shelby American photgrapher Dave Friedman said "I knew Dave quite well and considered him a friend. He worked in the Shelby-American shop and I saw him every day. Dave was a California native and was a big star in California road racing. If he had lived, Dave could have been one of the true greats of all time in racing. There's no question in my mind at all about that."
Official Shelby American photographer Dave Friedman
In a 1992 interview with Sports Car International, Corvette superstar Paul Reinhart said "To make it to the top back then you had to be a winner and you had to be spectacular, and Dave was both. Between Bondurant and MacDonald it was pretty much a toss up. But if I had to put my money on anybody it would be on Dave MacDonald. He just wanted it more."
”Bondurant and MacDonald were two of the greatest drivers I ever drove against. Dave liked to come up north and race because we had become good friends and he liked to visit. He usually had his wife and kids along. He was a family man. Could you go wheel to wheel with him and not worry? You bet. I did it many times. Down at Del Mar, we looked like twins. I loved to race with Dave MacDonald."
Corvette great - Paul Reinhart
"Off the track, Dave was almost meek, but what a great guy. After Paul Reinhart and I got our Stingrays, he showed us how to set up the suspensions, after he was already driving Cobras for Shelby!"
Corvette great - Bill Sherwood
In the July 1962 issue of Today's Motor Sports magazine racer Bob Harris described his race long duel with Dave and his Corvette Special at Riverside this way - "Dave had a fight on his hands all the way, and sometimes he got that Corvette so out of shape it was impossible not to spin. But he never spun. I'd like to find a driver in California that could lap within two seconds of what he did with that car today"
Hollywood stuntman & veteran racer - Bob Harris
In an article for OnTrack magazine in June '92, long time journalist Joe Scalzo wrote "It's hard to describe how Dave raced because no one races that way anymore. He plunged into a corner, all corners, going insanely fast and absolutely sideways, with his lantern jaw tilted upward, almost like a sail; and then he'd snap the wheel the other way, nail the throttle and disappear still going sideways. His reflexes were amazing. And he never crashed. Dave's spectacular form was one of the prime attractions of sports car racing in the 1960's"
Motor Sports journalist - Joe Scalzo
Actor/Racer Steve McQueen in a 1971 interview with journalist Bill Libby talking about the Indy 500. – “I have great respect for the drivers, and great respect for a track like Indianapolis and the kind of race the 500 is. There is tremendous pressure beating down on you all the way. It’s not something you take lightly, it could kill you, no matter how good you are. The start there scares the hell out of me, all those cars bunched together and accelerating away at the same time. They’ve had some damn nasty tangles at the start. One of my good friends, Dave MacDonald, was killed when struck by Eddie Sachs’ car in one of those tangles not many years ago. Well, if you race, you just have to close your mind to those things."
Hollywood star and part-time racer - Steve McQueen
After Dave won the 1964 United States Road Racing Championships at Augusta Georgia, renowned ABC Sports commentator Chris Economaki wrote in the Augusta Herald "Dave MacDonald stamped himself as one of today's road racing greats"
Renowned sports broadcaster and journalist - Chris Economaki
California Sports Car Magazine ran this editorial in their November 1963 issue. "Without the skill and perfection of an outstanding driver like Dave MacDonald, who recently won both the Laguna Seca and the LA Times GP's, in a Cooper Cobra, Shelby might not be enjoying the successes he now proudly deserves".
California Sports Car Magazine Editorial
In the July '98 issue of Car Collector, Peyton Cramer said "The 289 Cobras were hairy beasts that scared off many buyers and were many times more car than most people could handle. But they were formidable competitors in the hands of drivers like Ken Miles and Dave MacDonald".
Former Ford executive, and Shelby American team manager - Peyton Cramer
"The first time I followed Dave MacDonald through a turn at Riverside I thought he was nuts the way that he threw his car into the corner. After following him for a few more laps, I realized that he knew just what he was doing, and that he was damn quick at what he did, driving a race car. Dave MacDonald was the only driver that could stay with, and beat, the Chaparral during the early part of the 1964 season. His death was a tragic loss to us all".
Racing great and creator of the Chaparral race car - Jim Hall
"Drivers and racing fans of the era, especially those in California, remember Dave MacDonald fondly. With a power-sliding style that delighted fans and intimidated foes, MacDonald and his Corvettes were dominating elements of the California racing scene. Called the "best natural driver ever" by veteran racer Andy Porterfield, MacDonald enjoyed the admiration and affection of all who knew him, in part because his Attila the Hun driving style was contrasted with a soft-spoken, gentlemanly off-track demeanor. With respect and admiration, California Screamin' is dedicated to Dave's memory".
Author - Michael Antonick
"It was after Riverside that Shelby called me to see if he could hire Davey. I knew it was best for Davey's career and didn't want to stand in his way. Before I hung up, I told Shelby, 'That kid is going to be the world's greatest racing driver, and you can put that in granite.'
Race team owner - Jim Simpson
Let that be his epitaph.