29/11/1923 - 29/4/2008
6Chuck Daigh was a racing driver from the United States. He participated in 6 Grand Prix driving a Scarab and a Cooper, debuting on May 29, 1960. Chuck Daigh died 13 years ago, he was 85 , He would have been 98.
Charles George Daigh was born in Long Beach, California, to Harold and Mildred Daigh. He built hot rods prior to WW II and ran at the Dry Lakes.
Prior to enlisting in the Armed Forces he worked for Morrison-Knudsen getting rock from Catalina to build the Long beach breakwater which was intended to help protect against the threat of Japanese subs. Once completed he had the option of delaying his Military service by continuing in civil engineering work, transferring to the Trans Alaskan Highway where his brother and some of his friends were already working.
However Chuck decided to enlist, serving as a paratrooper during WWII and seeing action in France, Belgium and Germany, including fighting in the Battle of the Bulge. He received a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for heroic achievements in 1944. Chuck received a honorable discharge as a Corporal in Company C, 517th Parachute Infantry in 1945.
On his return he went to work for Bill Stroppe preparing the Bob Estes entered Lincoln Capris for the Carrera Panamerica Mexican road race. He was the co-driver on three occasions, in 1952 and 1953 with Walt Faulkner, finishing 8th in 1953, and with Chuck Stevenson in 1954 when they failed to finish.
He started road racing in the mid-fifties campaigning a modified Mercury-Kurtis 500S special that belonged to Frank Kurtis, winning the Willow Springs and Santa Barbara Sports Car races. He also won feature races at Paramount Ranch and Santa Barbara driving the Trountman-Barnes Ford powered sports car.
In the early days of the SCCA, drivers would be suspended for competing in professional series. Thus Chuck would occasionally race in USAC stock car event as Charles George and even set a new track record in the USAC 250 Mile Stock Car Race on September 15th, 1957 on the Milwaukee Mile at a speed of 90.614 mph.
He joined Pete DePaolo Engineering and, in 1957, they were selected by Ford Motor Company for an all out assault on the Daytona Beach Speed Week Trials in February. Chuck managed the works supported Ford stock car team and was involved in the building of the four special Thunderbirds that became known as the 'Battlebirds'.
Later he worked for the Rathmann Chevrolet NASCAR stock car team. But in 1958, after Rathmann's Chevrolet stock operations shut down, he became involved with Lance Reventlow, working on the Scarab Sports Car and Formula One projects. Chuck was taken on as No. 1 driver, as well as the chief mechanic and expert on fuel injection.
However the FIA announced there would be a 3-litre limit in the World Sports Car Championship from the start of 1958 so the Chevrolet-engined sports car had to run in SCCA races. The Scarab was beautifully prepared and proceeded to dominate the opposition in the "B" Modified class. Daigh beat Phil Hill's Ferrari at Riverside and also won the Governor's Cup, beating Hansgen's Lister, and the Nassau Trophy.
In 1959 he drove the winning Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa in the 12 Hour race at Sebring, sharing the car with Dan Gurney, Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien. He also went to the Indianapolis 500 with Agajanian to qualify the number 98 car but is not listed as having made any qualification attempts. In July he drove a GP Maserati at Lime Rock in July, finishing second in the 60 lap final having posted two thirds in the heats.
By the time the front-engined Scarab F1 car appeared in 1960 it had been rendered obsolete by the rear-engined Cooper and Lotus cars. Chuck struggled and the car was withdrawn after three races, though it reappeared on home soil at the end of the season. Daigh did get to drive the third works Cooper at the British GP.
That year he also raced at Le Mans, driving Lucky Casner's Camoradi Maserati Tipo 61 'Streamliner' with Masten Gregory. In practice their car was touching 170 mph on the Mulsanne, some 10 mph faster than the next quickest. At the start Gregory couldn't get the car to start and finally left the line down in 24th place. However by the end of the Mulsanne straight he was in the lead! At the first driver change the starter motor failed and it was an hour later that Chuck returned to the track. Over the next four hours they took two laps back from the leader but then on lap 82 they retired officially with electrical problems, though according to Joel Finn, it was due to Daigh over reving the engine. However we should add that it appears that Maston was at the wheel when the engine let go.
In 1961 the Scarab F1 car raced again in the European Inter-Continental Formula. Chuck finished eight at Goodwood in the Lavant Cup and seventh in the International Trophy race. In practice for the British Empire Trophy, he crashed sustaining a cracked pelvis.
Daigh recovered and raced one of Jim Hall's early Chaparrals at Sebring in 1962. Chuck went to work for Frank Arciero in 1963. He rebuilt the Coventry Climax motor in their Lotus 19 and used it to win the Player’s 200 at Mosport beating Graham Hill, Parnelli Jones, Roger Penske and others.
He married Doris Wingard in 1950 and had two children, Denise Daigh, and Daniel Daigh. They divorced in 1965.
One of his last projects was building a Flat Head Ford Lakester to trying to break the class land speed record. Sadly he never got to finish, he passed away at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California where he had been suffering from heart and respiratory illness.