In the early 1960s there were not many, if any, race car drivers hotter than Dave MacDonald. He set many records on drag strips and road circuits in his early years. He was so successful running his Corvette at the races, he caught the eye of Zora Arkus-Duntov, Corvette’s Chief Engineer. In June 1962, Zora invited Dave along with Dick Thompson to test the new 1963 Sting Ray at the Milford Proving Grounds. Later that year Dave was picked again to receive the first 1963 Sting Ray Z06 VIN #684. That Corvette Z06 was driven across the country and immediately prepped for racing and entered its first race at Riverside a month later.
This was about the same time that General Motors was hammering down on the Racing Ban. They soon would squash the Grand Sport program and other factory backing of racing projects. Carroll Shelby saw a rising star in Dave MacDonald and offered him a job. Seeing the writing on the wall and Ford not restricting its programs, it just made sense for Dave in his racing career to switch to Shelby. Zora agreed and encouraged Dave to make the move. It did not take long for him to start winning for Shelby. Dave was key in the development of the Shelby Cobras, Cobra Roadsters, King Cobras, and Cobra Daytona Coupes. It also believed he would have been a key character in the development and racing of the up and coming Ford GT program.
Dave MacDonald raced not only sports cars but also spent time behind the wheel in NASCAR and INDY CAR. Tragically, we lost one of the greatest race car drivers in a crash at the running of the 1964 Indianapolis 500. During his 4-year professional career, Dave MacDonald completed 118 races, of which he finished first in 52 of them and had 75 top 3 finishes. Many times he set new records. Dave MacDonald was 27 years old at his passing.
I met Doug MacDonald, Dave’s younger brother by 12 years, in August 2014 at the National Corvette Museum’s Anniversary Celebration. At the time Doug had a 1963 Grand Sport replica that he had designed as a tribute to his brother Dave and his racing career. Oddly, I had just been to the 2014 Corvettes at Carlisle the week before and saw the tribute ’63 Grand Sport in the show field. And now it was at another event 650 miles away. I was lucky to be at both.
On that weekend, Dave MacDonald was being inducted into the Corvette Hall of Fame at the National Corvette Museum. The main hall of the NCM is known as Corvette Boulevard and it was on the boulevard they had created a display of three Corvettes with a connection to Dave MacDonald. First was the red 1955 Corvette that Dave MacDonald had owned. It has been restored and looks fantastic. It is owned by Scott and Marilyn Davis from Arizona. Second was the 1963 Corvette Z06 race car that Dave MacDonald picked up from the St. Louis factory and drove cross-country to race. It has been fully restored to its famous White, Blue and Red “00” racing livery and is in a private collection in Ohio. And third, was the 1963 Grand Sport replica from Doug MacDonald. By the way, Doug had trailered the Grand Sport replica from his home in California to Carlisle, PA, and then to Bowling Green, KY. Since I had seen the Grand Sport just a week before, I approached it and the next thing I know is I am talking to the owner, Doug. As usual, when talking Corvettes and Corvette racing history, for me, a friendship was born.
Doug bought the 1963 Grand Sport Replica with the intent of making it a tribute to his brother and his racing career. Dave MacDonald had owned a 1963 Split Window Coupe even after he had moved over to run for Shelby. Well, that was until Ford “requested” that he sell it. But it was Dave’s early years of racing Corvettes that cemented Doug’s love for Corvettes that still resides in him today.
Doug MacDonald and I kept in touch over the next couple of years. Then one day I receive a message from Doug informing me that he will be back in Bowling Green, KY, which is near my hometown. This was going to be another special occasion. Doug had sold his 1963 GS Replica and had bought a brand new 2017 Grand Sport. He would be receiving his Grand Sport at the National Corvette Museum as part of the R8C Delivery Program. He had ordered the RPO Z15 Heritage Package. By coincidence, one of the options was an Arctic White Corvette with a blue stripe on the hood and red hash marks on the fenders, very closely resembling the 1963 Z06 race car his brother raced that was white with blue stripes and red accents. It was a fun day for Doug and Sherry, Doug’s girlfriend. We got to catch up a bit and of course, talk Corvettes.
A short time later, I saw a post on Facebook where Doug was wanting to do some custom work on his new 2017 Grand Sport to resemble his brother’s race car as a tribute. Doug posted a photo of his car with small lines to resemble fender stripes like the race car. I jumped on a photo editing program and played around with the photo to actually put the stripes on the car. After some back and forth on design, Doug asked me if he could use my design on his car as a tribute to Dave’s Z06 race car. Of course, I agreed! What an honor that was! The Grand Sport has been updated with blue fender stripes and red pin-striping. Many of the accent pieces on the car have been painted a matching blue and the “00”, Dave’s racing number, has been put on a few of the body panels. One of the nicest updates is the airbrushed image on the 1963 Z06 race car on the hood liner. It is truly a touching tribute to his older brother.
At the end of August 2019, the National Corvette Museum was holding their 25th Anniversary Celebration with caravans coming in from all over the country. Doug and Sherry decided that would be a great opportunity to come back to Bowling Green. Of course I was there as Doug and Sherry were top on the list of friends I needed to meet up with. Once again we got to catch up and talk Corvettes. This gave me the opportunity to photograph Doug’s design for the newest tribute to his brother. I have to say, I was impressed. After visiting multiple times over the weekend, we said our goodbyes late Saturday afternoon. Doug and Sherry were heading back to California.
Doug and I still stay in touch and he is a true friend. While putting this write-up together, I asked Doug, “What was it like growing up as a teenager with an older brother as a Corvette race car driver, and what would you like others to know about your brother?” He answered, “Don’t know how to answer that one, other than, he was… My Idol.”
Thank you, Doug, for your time and your love for the Corvette community.
For more information on Dave MacDonald and his racing career, you can visit www.davemacdonald.net.
Story and Photos by Jeffrey Wagner
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