Mickey Thompson hired sports car star Dave MacDonald to run one of his radical new low-slung racers in the '64 Indy 500.
Oct 1963 article regarding USAC rule change. After the '63 Indy 500 many car owners and drivers complained about Mickey Thompson's
Photos below are from the November 1963 tire test session at the Speedway when Dave MacDonald, Masten Gregory and Duane Carter
first tested the Thompson racers using the larger 15" tires recently mandated by USAC. Here MacDonald sits in the #82 car with new
compliant 15" tires while Thompson checks the scales. They had no idea how the car would run on 15" tires. Photo The Henry Ford.
Dave MacDonald in the Thompson #82 racer is pushed to the track for initial test run with 15" tires. Notice the crude air intake template
Thompson brought his #82 & #83 racers to the tire tests (Dave MacDonald in car). Mickey ran these cars at Indy in '63 under a contract
Duane Carter takes his turn in the #82 car. Both he and MacDonald said the cars were lifting in the turns. Thompson's fears of the larger
Day two of November testing was much colder and Dave MacDonald puts on appropriate gear - for the sixties anyway. Behind Mac-
Duane Carter waits for Dave MacDonald to return before he sets out in Thompson's #83 car. The session was scheduled for five full days
November 26-27 1963 blurb from Motor Trend writer George Moore's "Indy Diary". Thompson at the Brickyard testing the cars he'll run
With the November tests proving disastrous Mickey cut the five day session short and trailered both cars back to his Long Beach California
With testing cut short my father left early for Nassau Bahamas and was at the shipping docks to greet the contingent of Cobra race cars
This photo is from the garage area during the 1963 Indy 500 but it shows the dramatic difference between Mickey Thompson's 12" slicks
Another photo from 1963 practice shows Mick comparing a larger tire with his 12" rubber on the '63 #82 car. Photo The Henry Ford.
Dec 6, 1963 - Los Angeles Times writer Bob Thomas asks Mickey Thompson about the November '63 tests at the Speedway.
Mickey Thompson was not only a hard charger and brilliant innovator, but a charismatic salesman as well. Just a sophomore at Indy he
The Thompson team back at the Speedway in March 1964 for much needed track testing. The Sears tire people were back too to get a first
Sears tire engineers performing tests after Masten Gregory's run. Both Gregory and MacDonald agreed with Graham Hill that handling
issues were still evident, nonetheless both drivers stayed committed to the team as Mickey promised significant improvements would be
made once the cars were back at his Long Beach California speed shop.
Eye popping changes! Below is April 26, 1964 Los Angeles news article with a glimpse of Mickey Thompson's new "Futuristic" design.
Mickey Thompson wheels out his newly redesigned Ford Sears Allstate Special racecar. Mickey completely redesigned the car from the
Driver Dave MacDonald (C) and car owner Mickey Thompson (R) with the newly designed Thompson #84 car.
Dave MacDonald and Mickey Thompson. Photo Dave Friedman
All eyes on Mickey Thompson's exotic full-fendered superskates when the team returned to the brickyard in May. Bright and early on
May 1, the Thompson #83 car (MacDonald's car) and Chuck Rodee's #87 are pushed out for some track time. Besides the aero kits, many
other adjustments were made to the cars following the March tests, including major chassis & suspension adjustments all in an effort to
resolve the instability issues. Mickey's rear wing attachment and side skirts were still ruled out by USAC officials. Photo courtesy IMS.
Mickey Thompson's new design was a dramatic departure from the traditional open wheel Indy racer. Thompson was a brilliant innovator
and his aero kit's were far ahead of their time but still unproven on these cars, and at the Brickyard. To date only wind tunnel testing had
been performed and now they were about to find out if the aero kits would successfully counteract the car's lifting and floating caused by
the higher roll center. Dave MacDonald's #83 racer pushed to the pit area and readied for initial testing. Photo Courtesy The Henry Ford
Out first was Masten Gregory in the #82 car and here he is returning from his initial practice run. Gregory tells Mickey the car is not only
Mickey Thompson sends Dave MacDonald out in the #83 car. Dave would return and give Thompson an assessment similar to Gregory,
anything above 145 mph and the front end is lifting. Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Throughout the day on May 1 the Thompson team made adjustments to the cars of Masten Gregory and Dave MacDonald and here the
Sign Mickey Thompson hung in his Indy garage. Mickey was already unhappy with USAC for banning his tiny 12" tires, and then when
Late in the afternoon on May 2nd it was time for Dave MacDonald to perform his rookie test. The cars remained in adjustment mode and
Success! Dave back in after his rookie test run. Mickey Thompson and track safety director Paul Johnson look on as Dave removes his
rookie stripe. Johnson and veteran USAC Director Jim Thompson were overseeing testing that day and were both impressed with Dave.
He laid em in there very consistently, said Thompson, Hes a very good looking boy. Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dave Friedman photo.
Jimmy Clark (L) and Dan Gurney congratulate Dave MacDonald on being the first rookie eligible for the '64 Indy 500. Photo courtesy
of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dave MacDonald chats with friend and reigning Indy 500 Champion Parnelli Jones (R). Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mickey Thompson in a Brickyard conversation with Honda founder Soichiro Honda (hat) and an interpreter. The motorcycle company had
Rookie test aside, the crew knew that cruising at 130 mph is far different from racing at 180 so they continued to work towards finding a
setup that would provide speed as well as control. The Thompson crew would work on MacDonald's car while he flew back to California
to run a race for Carroll Shelby. Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Carroll Shelby had agreed to let Ford use MacDonald at Indy but did so with confirmation that Dave would also be able to run his Cobra
Dave ran a strong race at Laguna Seca but came up a bit short and finished 2nd to Jim Hall and his Chaparral.
Dave flew back to the Speedway immediately after the Laguna Seca race and was testing the Thompson #83 car again here on May 4th.
An unhappy Masten Gregory brings the #84 car back in and is becoming increasingly vocal about his car's handling woes. (Friedman)
Meanwhile the Thompson garage was always bustling as the crew worked on the three race cars round the clock the entire month of May.
Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Photo The Henry Ford
Suspension and frame get a complete makeover, everything was strengthened. Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Photo The Henry Ford
Dave Friedman photo from The Henry Ford Collection
Dave Friedman photo from The Henry Ford Collection
MacDonald's #83 racer nearly ready to go back on the track. You can see the rubber gas bladder on the left side. Photo The Henry Ford
Adding further controversy to Mickey's cars was Colin Chapman's discovery of a radical third-wheel steering arm connected to the right
rear wheel of Mickey's racers. This went completely unnoticed by track officials during car inspections. When this news hit the wires any-
one who wasn't already talking about the Thompson superskates was now. Mickey was a brilliant innovator, and while many of his con-
cepts were revolutionary they didn't always receive proper development time to flesh out potential problems. This was more of an experi-
mental solution Mickey concocted in an attempt to deal with the floating issues. (By all accounts it was disconnected by race time).
May 4 blurb from Motor Trend writer George Moore's "Indy Diary" referencing the third-wheel steering.
Mickey brought in several different nose cone configurations from his Long Beach California speed shop in an effort to find some down-
draft to keep the cars on the track.
Dave MacDonald's #83 car gets fitted with a new front aero kit and is pushed from the garage to the painter to be numbered. A new rule
May 6 blurb from Motor Trend writer George Moore's "Indy Diary" detailing the Thompson crew attaching air tufts to MacDonald's #83
car. The crew also stationed cameras at several points throughout the track to monitor and film the movement of the tufts. Mickey also
had air vents cut into the front cone and would try various configurations to help improve handling.
Photo showing Dave MacDonald in the #83 car on May 6 running with the air tufts. A fresh number 83 painted on the cone to sastify new
May 9th Dave took the redeye back to Kent WA to run the 5/10/64 USRRC Championships for Carroll Shelby. He raced the King Cobra
to victory, outdueling Jim Hall and his high flying Chaparral - Dave invited Jim to share in the victory lap - this would be Dave's final vic-
tory. While at Kent, Dave confided in his friends that Mickey's Indy car was still not right. Ken Miles, Bob Holbert & chief mechanic
Wally Peat all urged him not to go back to Indy. Carroll Shelby told Dave the car needed much more development and not to run it, that
he'd build him a better car for the '65 Indy - he'd even call Mickey for him. Dave told each of them that he was obliged to Mickey, Mickey
was a friend and he had given him his shot at the big show, he would not back out on him, and the crew was continuing to work diligently
to sort out the problems - he would fulfill his commitment. Photo Dave Friedman.
MacDonald pilots King Cobra CM/3/63 to victory in USRRC Championships at Kent Washington on May 10th
Dave flew back to Indy on the redeye and going thru Chicago arrived in Indianapolis at 8:30AM on the 11th. Wally Peat, with Shelby's
Fresh off the King Cobra win at Kent on May 10, Dave is back at the Brickyard running practice laps in the #83 car on May 11.
Masten Gregory (Googles) continued to complain to Mickey Thompson (left) about the handling of the #82 car. Masten is beginning to
Thompson instructs Peter Bryant to fit the #82 car with a new front cone and prepare it for Dave MacDonald the following day. Mickey
Testing continued through the morning. Only a top speed of 120 mph was reached as anything beyond that was unstable. (The Henry Ford)
Dave MacDonald telling Mickey Thompson that the #82 car is as bad or worse than the #83 car. Photo The Henry Ford.
Mickey and the team push it straight to the garage and Thompson chief mechanic Peter Bryant brainstormed with the crew for a solution.
Team owner JC Agajanian, his driver Parnelli Jones, and Dave MacDonald in what looks to be a serious conversation.
May 13 and Masten Gregory back out for a practice but this time running the #84 car. He loses control and slams into the outside wall.
Gregory is unhurt but says he has had enough and leaves the Thompson team. Before storming off he tells Mickey he believes a major
factor to the car's instability is that air is getting trapped beneath the encolsed fenders.
During their nightly phone conversation Dave MacDonald tells wife Sherry that on May 13th teammate Masten Gregory crashed the #84
May 14th Indianapolis AP article about Masten's crash
Masten Gregory then took an open spot with the Dean Van Lines team and began openly criticizing Mickey's racers in the press.
Mickey & crew get their first look at Masten Gregory's crashed #84 racer back in the garage. Photo Dave Friedman
Photo Dave Friedman
An already stretched Thompson crew realizing the additional workload getting the #84 car race ready. Dave Friedman photo
In this photo of Gregory's 84 car you get a good look at the rubber gas bladder Mickey put in his Indy cars. Photo The Henry Ford.
With his wrecked #84 racer at his side a dejected Mickey Thompson ponders his next move. He'd also need another driver.
Mickey Thompson responds to Gregory's "trapped air" criticism by grabbing a file & hacksaw and begins to cut fender channels in Mac-
Mickey tells crew chief Peter Bryant to take over. Dave Friedman photo from The Henry Ford Collection
The team pushes MacDonald's #83 racer to the track, with Dave still inside, and continue to cut crude fender channels. (Dave Friedman)
Mickey sent Dave back to the track with the fender channels and Dave promptly clocked his fastest laps of the month - a four lap average
The following morning the Thompson team is back at the track ready to run the #83 car with the new fender channels. (First Turn Productions)
Dave MacDonald strapped in and ready to continue testing with the newly cut fender channels. On his return he would report that handling
Still down a racer after Gregory's departure, Mickey Thompson put word out he was looking for an available driver. Bobby Unser brought
young 24 yr old Mario Andretti by the Thompson garage and Mickey immediately offered him the ride. Andretti agreed to come by the next
day and test the car but never showed. Thompson then turned to 15-time Indy 500 competitor Eddie Johnson and invited him to the team.
Johnson accepted but during his initial runs with the 82 car he was only able to get into the mid 140's.
Later in the day as Eddie continued to familiarize himself with the Thompson 82 car he ran considerably faster, Mickey was pleased.
Overhead view of Dave MacDonald's #83 car shows the handmade cuts to the fenders. Intake vents were added to the cone as well.
May 15 - Sherry MacDonald receives a call from Dave who's disappointed his #83 car won't be ready for Pole Day tomorrow, the first day
May 16th, Pole Day! A record crowd of more than 200,000 fans turn out to see what is promised to be record breaking speeds. Dave Mac-
Donald and Eddie Johnson arrive at the track to find out Mickey Thompson has decided to attempt qual runs in the #83 & 84 cars after all.
The crew worked through the night preparing the cars and Mickey wants to take advantage of first day qualifying benefits. Thompson says
if speeds aren't there he'll decline the attempts and try again on Sunday.
The moment of truth has arrived and Dave settles into the Ford Allstate Special before his qualifying attempt. Dave Friedman photo
Broadcaster Chris Economaki sneaks in a word with Dave before his qual run. Mickey Thompson & Dan Gurney look on. (Dave Freidman)
Before Dave MacDonald is pushed out Mickey Thompson checks his custom-cut fender channels for tire clearance. Photo The Henry Ford
Out goes MacDonald in his first-ever Indy 500 qualifying run. Photo Dave Friedman
MacDonald takes the red Ford Sears Allstate Special down pit road and onto the Speedway.
Dave MacDonald exiting turn 4 on his Pole Day qual run. Distinct difference between this photo - with the car at speed - and the photo
Handling issues aside, Dave qualifies Mickey's Sears Allstate Special at an average 4 lap speed of 151.464 MPH and is successfully into
the 1964 field. (Dave would eventually be placed in the middle of row 5, in 14th position).
Car owner Mickey Thompson and Dave MacDonald in a celebratory mood after Dave becomes the first rookie in the field of 33. Sherry
A happy Jim Clark after cranking an average speed of 158.858 MPH, which would be good for the Indy 500 pole. Photo The Henry Ford
The Thompson crew finished repairs on the #84 car, put fresh new body panels on it and pushed it to the track for 5' 5" Eddie Johnson's
afternoon qual run. Eddie could only manage a mid 140's average and Thompson, knowing it wouldn't be fast enough to make the field
did not accept the run. Eddie would have to wait to try again. Dave Friedman photo from the The Henry Ford Collection
Better results however for Dave MacDonald's Shelby Cobra teammate Dan Gurney. Colin Chapman leans in to tell Dan he just smoked
That night Dave MacDonald calls his wife Sherry to tell her the good news! Sherry was caught off guard thinking they weren't even
Late in the day on May 17th Dave MacDonald is out practicing in between sporadic day 2 qualifying. He rounds turn 2 and the engine on
his Sears Allstate Ford gives out. The Thompson team tows Dave back to the garage. The team had no more engines available and a Ford
engineer told Mickey it would be days, maybe a week before Detroit could send another. Mickey was not allowed to use an engine from
the #82 & 84 cars as Detroit made it clear the priority was to keep them running and get them in the field too. MacDonald wanted the
track time but with nothing to do he flew back to California later that evening to be with his family. Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Towards the end of day 2 qualfying on May 17th, Eddie Sachs runs his Ford powered American Red Ball Special to a four lap average of
On May 19 Eddie Johnson discovered that even with the improved stability of fender channels the cars were still a work in progress. In a
late morning practice run in the #82 car Johnson lost control at speed and put it into the outside wall. Already overworked, Peter Bryant
and his crew would now need to put the #82 car back together. Photo William Oates
May 19 blurb from Motor Trend writer George Moore's "Indy Diary" referencing Eddie Johnson's crash in the #82 car. Eddie was unhurt
The Thompson crew removes Eddie Johnson's crashed #82 racer from the tow truck an pushes it to the garage. Photo The Henry Ford.
Mickey and crew work feverishly in the hopes of qualifying two, or even all three cars into the field. Eddie Johnson will try to qualify the
Saturday May 23rd. The final weekend of qualifying had arrivied and if drivers were going to get their cars into the '64 field it would have
Eddie had a great run averaging 152.905 mph and Thompson was confident it was fast enough to avoid getting bumped from the field on
Article noting that Eddie Johnson had put a second Thompson racer in the field.
Veteran racer Chuck Arnold was out of a ride after his Chevy powered MRC Special failed to make speed. After seeing Johnson qualify
But Peter Bryant knew the crew didn't have time to prepare the #82 car for a Sunday qual run and he told Thompson as much. Mickey,
Bump Day the 24th and with the #82 body panels on MacDonald's #83 car Mickey sends driver Chuck Arnold out for a spin - literally.
Two spins in one day was enough for Arnold and he left the Thompson garage in search of another ride. Photo Lloyd Masing
Typical Bump Day at the Brickyard, fast paced car hopping was in full swing. Drivers and car owners frantically searched each other out
With less than an hour left in qualifying Mickey Thompson went looking for of all people, Masten Gregory, who was at the Brickyard to
Days later famed journalist Chris Economaki hears rumors about body panel swapping in the Thompson camp. Econamaki wrote about
Bump Day excitement and the joy of Eddie Johnson qualifying ended quickly for Dave MacDonald when he learned good friend Glen
Carb Day May 28th and drivers get one last day of practice to dial in their cars before the big race. Dave MacDonald is out most of the
Dave MacDonald back in from his Carb Day run. Some reports say that at one point during the day World Driving Champion Jimmy Clark
Some have questioned whether Jim Clark actually told Dave to get out of the car. But Jim's girlfriend at the time, Sally Stokes (C), is on
Dave MacDonald wraps up his final practice run in the Mickey Thompson 83 racer. Caption below mentions late adjustments for a full fuel
The field is set and IMS introduces 33 of the best drivers in the world at the 1964 Indy 500 media day festivities. You can see on pit wall
that Dave's last name was misspelled, this was a common occurance in newspapers throughout his racing career. Photo Dave Friedman.
Drivers seated in makeshift stands enjoying the festivities. Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs are next to one another (middle of row 2)
A closer look at some of the drivers. Photo Dave Friedman.
Still in his sweater & tie Dave MacDonald is back at the Thompson garage signing autographs.
Thompson, Bryant and the rest of the crew worked tirelessly to get the cars ready, right up until the night before the race. (Flip Schulke)
Final starting positions for the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Dave MacDonald is in the middle of the 5th row
MCA-TV (Music Corporation of America) announced the first ever Indy 500 broadcast to a national closed-circuit TV audience
Race day and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is brimming wth excitement. Nearly three hundred thousand fans arrive for the 500.
Thompson teammates Dave MacDonald and Eddie Johnson chat as the day's activities get underway. Photo Gordon Martin courtesy
Eddie Johnson's 84 car ready to go. Notice the last minute air scoop addition to the right of the driver. This late modification appears only
Crowd favorite and Indy veteran Eddie Sachs in his rear engine Ford will start in the 17th position. Photo courtesy IMS.
Eddie Johnson will start the Thompson #82 in the 24th position. Photo courtesy IMS.
Dave MacDonald will start the Thompson #83 in 14th position. Photo courtesy IMS.
Dave's autographed Indy photo. From the collection of John Douglas, used with permission
Another nice autographed print of Dave from the Gordon Bandemer collection.
L-R Peter Bryant, Mickey Thompson, Fritz Voigt
Cars and drivers fill the grid for the start of the race. Dave MacDonald and John Mecom (R) in a pre race chat. Photo Dave Friedman
John Mecom (L) and Dave MacDonald (C) again. Photo Dave Friedman
Benson Ford sits in sparkling new Ford Mustang - 1964 Indy 500 pace car. Photo courtesy IMS.
Several more Ford Mustang Pace Car's would circle the track before the race. Photo unknown
Photo The Henry Ford Collection
Pace lap - Dave in the middle of row 5
1964 Indy 500 goes green - Jim Clark in the #82 Ford Lotus gets a great start and is already separating from the pack. His lead would be
Eddie Sachs makes an early move to the outside and jumps Dave MacDonald, Johnny Rutherford and Ronnie Duman and was 13th when
they went through turn 1. MacDonald drops one spot to 15th and 1963 world champion Jim Clark leads the pack
Coming round to complete lap 2 Dave MacDonald has repassed Eddie Sachs and is now running 10th. As he exits turn 4 and onto the
front straight toward the start/finish line he's closing fast on Walt Hansgen, who is closing fast on Jim Hurtibise. Dave pulls driver's left
to pass Walt and a split second later Walt made the same move pulling out driver's left to pass Jim. Two cars behind MacDonald was Len
Sutton who would later say Dave turned again to avoid Walt and his car got sideways.
The aftermath. The fire truck at the very bottom of this photo is parked next to Dave MacDonald's car. The dark marks on the track show
After winning the 1964 Indianapolis 500 a happy but subdued AJ Foyt holds a glimpse of what tomorrow's headlines will read. Two
popular racers - Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald would die in the fiery crash. RIP Dave and Eddie. Photo courtesy IMS
A record payout for the 1964 Indy 500 and race winner AJ Foyt's share was a staggering $153,650. The richest Formula One race in the
world at the time was the 1964 Monaco Grand Prix and race winner Graham Hill's payout was a mere $2,000. It's not hard to understand
why the best drivers in the world flocked to Indy every year.
The Thompson team was awarded $11,000 in prize money - $5,900 for Eddie Johnson and $5,100 for Dave MacDonald. Dave's portion
JC Agajanian was kind enough to offer Mickey and a distraught Sherry MacDonald a ride back to California on his chartered plane.
Letter from USAC's Henry Banks to Dave MacDonald's wife Sherry after the 1964 Indy 500
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
Los Angeles Times
Sherry MacDonald at Dave's funeral in California