Our heroes come at all stages of our lives and from every direction. I’ve had heroes from the family realm, the professional world, and that of sports. One of my early sports heroes was Dave MacDonald who was tearing up the sports car world through his emergence as a once in a generation driver.
It was in my early teens that I took note of his driving skills behind the wheel of various Corvettes then onto Cobras and then that fateful day at the Indy 500 (May 30, 1964). I can remember oh so clearly watching the race on TV (probably ABC’s Wide World of Sports) when on the second lap, coming out of turn four, it all came undone and in a heartbeat, or so it seemed, the world, and I, lost one of its legends well before it was his time. Every time I look at a TV screen I can still picture the cars coming from right to left across the screen and MacDonald sliding across the track after hitting the inside wall and then the inferno to follow claiming his and another favorite driver of mine Eddie Sachs. Something I will never forget.
In my world of SoCal he was legendary with the wins he was racking up with Corvettes. During a particular run from 1960 through 1962 he was virtually unbeatable. His racing career had him winning at 44 percent clip and finishing in the top three at almost a 64 percent clip … unbelievable numbers. It was the legendary Carroll Shelby who was once quoted as saying about MacDonald, “Dave MacDonald had more raw talent probably than any race driver I ever saw.” I would consider that the highest of praise.
Year Races Wins Top 3 Finish 1960 17 5 12 1961 24 15 18 1962 28 11 16 1963 35 17 23 1964 12 4 6 Total 118 52 75
He was a familiar sight in the Don Steves Chevrolet (La Habra, California) open cockpit ’60 through ’62 Corvettes roadsters often running the double “00” number on the cars. He moved onto the ’63 split-window for a short period before moving onto the Shelby American Racing Team.
I had many a dream about being a race car driver sliding and powering my Corvette through the turns and down the straightaways of the likes of Riverside and other tracks that dotted the California desert (now these areas are choked with thousands of cookie cutter homes). I can even remember the newspaper ad showing the ’62 Corvette the 00 car for sale. It really didn’t matter how much it was I wasn’t about to come up with the necessary money. (I found in my Rolodex, remember those, with Don Steves Chevrolet phone numbers OWen 1-6704 and LAmbert 6-3811 … how many remember this style of phone number?)
MacDonald’s 1963 Corvette coupe (VIN 308378100684) equipped with the first-ever Z06 package at an additional $1,156.70 included a 36 ½-gallon fuel tank, heavy-duty stabilizer, shocks and springs, knock-off wheels, Posi rearend, four-speed, and the fuel injected 360hp V-8. Oh, did I mention there was also a $100.00 credit for the “less heater defroster”! The total for MacDonald’s ’63 split-window was $5,324.40 and I noted on the window sticker “no delivery charge.” Why you might ask? Well, turns out Zora Arkus-Duntov, the man himself, flew MacDonald and his wife, Sherry, to see the car come off the St. Louis plant assembly line and they drove it home where the car made its debut two weeks later at Riverside. He would race this Corvette in the 1963 LA Times Grand Prix at Riverside Raceway. It was ordered through Don Steves Chevrolet.
A hero is someone that we wish to emulate or to experience his accomplishments. Of course, none of us can ever truly follow closely in the footsteps of our heroes nor experience their lofty heights but it’s what dreams are made of. He was inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame in 2014 and into the United States Road Racing Championship Hall of Fame in 2016. His racing history, as his life, was not nearly long enough but he did shine brightly for all of us to see. Vette