Dave MacDonald

23/7/1936 - 30/5/1964

Record updated 27-Sep-21

Dave MacDonald made his name with many victories driving production Corvettes. He was killed when he crashed the Mickey Thompson Special on the second lap of the 1964 Indy 500.

Dave MacDonald
Dave MacDonald made his name with many victories driving production Corvettes. He was well-known for his distinctive "00" racing number and his spectacular power-sliding tail-out driving style.

Dave MacDonald took his love affair with the Corvette from the drag races of El Monte, California to the winner's circle at Willow Springs, Riverside and Pomona. Along the way, he not only coaxed and cajoled his Corvettes into the winner's circle; he got them there in record-breaking times. MacDonald's impact on Corvette racing history cannot be ignored, and many fans and drivers agree there are few drivers who more deserve to be remembered in the Corvette Hall of Fame.

He was composed, soft-spoken, a gentleman on the track and off, MacDonald was nonetheless a fearless competitor, quick out of the gate and in love with the roar of the crowds.

He won both days at Pomona on July 8-9, 1961, defeating a full field of southern California Corvette drivers, including Bob Bondurant. The two later were teammates driving Cobras for Carroll Shelby and MacDonald became very well-known for his many triumphs driving Cobras for him.

In 1962 MacDonald moved from 'Corvette Race' winner to main event winner in his famous "00" Corvette Special. Actually an Ol' Yaller built by Max Balchowsky, the Special's lightweight fiberglass body used a stock Corvette as a mold.

The following is a tale from Chuck Lantz

One weekend in the 1960's we were testing a new engine during a Vacaville open practice session. Bikes and cars were on the track at the same time, which was kind of interesting. MacDonald and crew had the "00" white Corvette on the straightaway, pushing it wih a pickup truck.  

They'd get up to about 30 mph or so, and Dave would pop the clutch, and the rear tires would lock-up. They did this three or four times until the engine finally fired. I asked one of his crew what was going on, and he explained that they used "zero clearance" on the pistons during rebuilds. This entailed knurling the piston skirts, to the point where they had to soft-hammer the pistons into their bores. They then loaded a sandbag or two into the cockpit next to Dave and had to push the "frozen" engine until it finally broke loose and fired. Strange times.

The following is a tale from Dick Guildstrand

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.

In 1963 he won the Riverside GP for Shelby in a Cooper-Ford "King Cobra".

In 1964 MacDonald was hired to drive what was then a revolutionary car conceived by Mickey Thompson. This machine, the Thompson 63 - Ford "Mickey Thompson Sears/Allstate Special", had its engine at the rear, as the most advanced European cars, in opposition to the traditional front-engined American roadsters that had dominated the Indy 500 for decades. It had a low profile, fully enclosed bodywork with covered front wheels that made it look like a sportscar. Additionally, it was equipped with huge fuel tanks, so it could run the whole race without refueling.

But if the Sears/Allstate Special seemed to be ahead of its own time, it was actually a poorly designed and built vehicle. Its handling was terrible, and many drivers walked away from the team after testing the car, considering it dangerous. Things were made even worse when the USAC mandated the use of fifteen-inch wheels. The bodywork needed to be partially cut to accommodate larger tyres, which in turn caused an alarming front-end lift.

On the first lap of the race MacDonald overtook several other drivers, but it was clear that the car was difficult to manage, as it was wobbling all over the road. And then, on the exit of Turn 4, before he completed the second lap, MacDonald lost control of the fuel-heavy machine, spun it almost 180 degrees and crashed against the inner wall. The car exploded on contact, in a huge orange and black mushroom of fire and smoke, and slid down the sloping track into the path of the incoming cars. Eddie Sachs - an Indy veteran and one of the most popular American drivers of the period - had to guess which side to go; he steered to the right, on the high groove of the track. Unfortunately, that is where MacDonald's car slid, and Sachs hit it broadside. Sachs' car also exploded, and he was killed instantly. David MacDonald was critically burned and died within a few hours.

After this tragic race high octane petrol was banned in favor of the less explosive and relatively cooler burning methanol fuels which are still used at the Indy 500 and most of the other major open wheel series in the USA.