Mickey Thompson hired good friend Dave MacDonald to run one of his radical new low-slung racers.
Below photo is from Nov 27th 1963 when Dave MacDonald and Duane Carter tested the Thompson #82 car using 15" tires recently man-
dated by USAC. After the '63 race, many car owners and drivers complained about Mickey's low-slung racers and USAC subsequently
mandated that all future 500's be run on tires no smaller than 15". The ruling devasted Mickey as his cars were designed to ride on the tiny
low profile 12" tires originally approved by USAC. This November session was scheduled for 5 full days of tire testing but Mickey can-
celled it after day two. He trailered the car and took it home to Long Beach for more development telling the LA Times "The trip was
disterous, the cars just wouldn't handle, there was too much body roll due the higher center of gravity".
Mickey Thompson was not only a hard charging innovator but a charismatic salesman as well. Just a sophomore at Indy he was nonethe-
The Thompson team back at the Speedway in March 1964 for much needed track testing. The Sears tire people were there too to get a first
Sears tire engineers perform tire tests after Gregory's run. The new tires seemed to perform well but the cars handling issues remained,
specifically floating and lifting in the turns. The poor results forced Mickey to return to his Long Beach shop and begin the monumental
task of redesigning the car from the ground up. Thompson blasted USAC officials claiming the rule change to 15" tires cost him $250K.
Below is an April 1964 photo op of Dave MacDonald and Mickey Thompson with the newly redesigned Ford Sears Allstate Special race
April 26, 1964 - Local LA newspapers run photos of Mickey Thompson's new "Futuristic" design.
Mickey Thompson and the team were back at the brickyard in May and all eyes on the exotic full fendered superskates. Early morning on
May 1, the Thompson #83 car (MacDonald's car) and Chuck Rodee's #87 get pushed out for some track time. Besides the aero kits, many
other adjustments were made to the cars following the March tests. Major chassis & suspension adjustments were made in an effort to
resolve the instability issues. Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Mickey Thompson's new design was a dramatic departure from the traditional Indy racer. Thompson was a brilliant innovator and his aero
kit's were far ahead of their time. However, only wind tunnel testing had been done thus far and they were about to find out if these kits
would successfully counteract the car's lifting and floating on the track. Photo Courtesy The Henry Ford
MacDonald takes to the track in the #83 car (and Gregory in the #82 car). Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Masten Gregory back in from his run with the #82 car and he tells Mickey he's not comfortable with the car at speed. Both drivers say the
MacDonald back in with the #83 car and reports the same results as Gregory and the Thompson crew looks to make adjustments.
Late in the afternoon on May 2nd it was time for Dave MacDonald to perform his rookie test. The cars remain 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, “He’s a very good looking boy.” Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford.
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 with good friend and reigning Indy 500 Champion Parnelli Jones (R). Photo Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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. While Carroll Shelby agreed to let Ford use his number one driver at Indy he did so
with confirmation that Dave would also be able to run his Cobra commitments. Thus Dave left Indy on May 2nd and flew to Laguna Seca
in Monterey California to run King Cobra Lang Cooper CM/1/64 against Jim Hall and his Chaparral's on May 3rd. Below: While Dave
was gone the crew continued to work on the #83 car. Photo The Henry Ford
Dave ran a strong race 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.
Meanwhile the Thompson garage was always bustling as the crew worked on the three race cars round the clock the entire month of May.
Photo The Henry Ford
Photo The Henry Ford
Suspension and fram work get a complete makeover. Photo The Henry Ford
Photo The Henry Ford
Photo The Henry Ford
Photo The Henry Ford
Dave MacDonald's #83 racer nearly ready to go back on the track. Photo The Henry Ford
Mickey brought in several different nose cone configurations from his Long Beach Califronia speed shop in an effort to find some down-
draft to keep the cars on the track.
Some of the nose cone configurations in front of the garage. Photo courtesy of The Henry Ford.
Dave's #83 car gets a new front aero kit and is pushed from the garage to the painter to be numbered. A new rule required all cars to be
On May 6th Mickey had the crew attach air tufts to MacDonald's #83 car and then 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 configutations
to help improve handling. A fresh number 83 painted on the cone and Dave MacDonald is sent out. Photo courtesy The Henry Ford
On 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. Carroll told
Dave he'd build him a better car for the '65 Indy and that he'd even call Mickey for him. Dave told them all that he was "obliged to Mickey
and would not back out and the crew was working hard to sort out the problems and he would fulfill his committment". Photo 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 WA Dave is now back at the Speedway and the crew pushes him out for a run in the #83 car.
Masten Gregory continued to complain about the handling of the #82 car and Mickey orders the crew to prepare it for MacDonald to get
Dave MacDonald back in after only a few laps in the 82 car. Photo courtesy The Henry Ford.
Dave reports the #82 car is as bad or worse than the #83 car. He motions to Mickey that the car is lifting. Photo The Henry Ford.
Mickey and the team push it straight to the garage and Thompson cheif mechanic Peter Bryant brainstormed with the crew for a solution.
The team has the #82 car back at the garage for additional modifications.
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. When that hit the newswires anyone who wasn't already talking about the Thompson superskates was now.
Mickey was a brilliant innovator, one of the best in his era, and while many of his concepts were revolutionary they didn't always receive
the development time needed to flesh out potential problems. This was more of an experimental solution Mickey concocted in an attempt
to deal with the floating issues. By all accounts it was disconnected by race time.
May 13th and Masten Gregory back out for a practice run but losses control of the #84 car and slams into the wall. Gregory says he's had it
and leaves the team. Before going he tells Mickey he believes a major factor to the car's instability is that air is getting trapped beneath the
encolsed fenders. Gregory took an open spot with the Dean Van Lines team and began openly critizing Mickey's racers to the press.
Masten Gregory's crashed #84 racer back in the Thompson garage. Photo Dave Friedman
May 14th Indianapolis AP article
Days later an angry Thompson responds to Gregory's criticism about trapped air by ordering the crew to grab a hacksaw and cut channels
Mickey sent Dave back out on the track with the fender channels and Dave promptly clocked his fastest laps of the month - A 155 mph
Down a racer after Gregory's departure, Mickey invited 15-time Indy 500 competitor Eddie Johnson to the team and told him to go out
and run the #82 car. Both cars now had fender channels. Johnson was only able to get in to the mid 140's in his initial runs. Meanwhile
over in the Van Lines camp Masten was having trouble getting the Offy up to speed. Photo Dave Friedman
Fender channels offered improved stability but the cars were still a work in progress as Eddie Johnson discovered in his next run. Trying a
run at speed Johnson loses control of the #82 car and put it into the ouside wall. Already overworked Peter Bryant and crew would now
need to put the #82 car back together. Photo William Oates
Another view of Eddie Johnson's crashed #82 racer as it's pushed from the tow truck to the garage. Photo courtesy The Henry Ford.
Testing continues and Dave MacDonald puts the only healthy Thompson superskate back on the track.
Team owner JC Agajanian, his driver Parnelli Jones, and Dave MacDoanld in what looks to be a serious conversation.
May 16th, Pole Day! Dave MacDonald had called his wife (Sherry) the night before qualifying began and told her they were still sorting
things out on his car and they had no plans on attemptng to qualify on Pole Day. Thompson has a change of heart and decides to give it
a go. Dave settles into the Ford Allstate Special. Photo The Henry Ford
Dave MacDonald is pushed out for his qualifying run. Photo Dave Friedman
MacDonald takes the red Ford Sears Allstate Special down pit road and onto the Speedway.
Despite lingering problems, Dave qualifies the Sears Allstate Special with an average 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). Photo courtesy The Henry Ford
Broadcaster Chris Economaki sneaks in a word with Dave after a successful qual run while Mickey Thompson & Dan Gurney look on.
Gurney would later successfully qualify his Lotus and be placed on the outside of row 2 in 6th position. Photo Dave Freidman
Car owner Mickey Thompson and Dave MacDonald in a celebratory mood after Dave puts the car in the field. Sherry was completely
The Thompson crew finishes repairs on the #84 car and Mickey sends 5' 5" Eddie Johnson out to try and put it in the field. Eddie was not
able to get the car up to speed and will have to wait a few days to try again. Photo courtesy The Henry Ford
May 17th and MacDonald is back out practicing when the engine on his Sears Allstate Ford gives out and he's towed in. The Thompson
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 get those cars in the field too.
MacDonald wanted the track time but with nothing to do he flew back to California to be with his family. Photo courtesy Indianapolis
Dave MacDonald left California Friday morning May 22nd and was back at Indy that evening. He and the team were all at the track
Happiness ends quickly for MacDonald however as the next day he hears good friend Fireball Roberts is involved in a serious crash at
Carb Day May 28th and drivers get one last practice session before the race. Dave MacDonald is out with the #83 Ford at the same time
Dave MacDonald back in from his Carb Day run.
The field is set and the 33 best drivers in the world sit down for the 1964 Indy 500 drivers photo. Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs are
seated next to one another in middle of photo. Dave is wearing a sweater & tie. Photo Dave Friedman.
A closer look at some of the drivers. Photo Dave Friedman.
Directly across from the driver's meeting was the driver's stand so all the drivers were looking right at it. As usual Dave's last name was
misspelled. Throughout his career sportswriters would spell it MacDonald & McDonald.
Final starting positions for the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Dave is in the middle of the 14th 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.
Pre race photo of Eddie Johnson. Eddie will start in 24th position
Pre race photo of Dave MacDonald. Dave will start in 14th position
Dave's autographed Indy photo. From the collection of John Douglas, used with permission
Mickey (center) and the crew
Crowd favorite and vertran Indy racer Eddie Sachs in his rear engine Ford will start 17th
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
Dave MacDonald (C) and John Mecom (L) again. Photo Dave Friedman
Pace car for the 64 Indy 500 was a sparkling new Ford Mustang
Pace lap - Dave in the middle of row 5
After winning the 1964 Indianapolis 500 a happy but subdued AJ Foyt holds a glimpse of what tomorrow's news headline will be.
Los Angeles Herald Examiner
Los Angeles Times
Sherry MacDonald at Dave's funeral in California