daigh ford

(Racing One)

Chuck Daigh rumbles his big Ford Thunderbird across Daytona Beach during the February 1956 Speed Trials…

Born in Long Beach, California on 29 November 1923 he commenced fiddling with cars at his fathers garage business. Whilst still at High School, he ‘ran’ a Union Oil garage in Long Beach close to his home in Paramount. Both he and his older brother were typical ‘hot-rodders’, prior to WW II they ran at the Dry Lakes, one of the cars the marriage of an A-Model Ford chassis and Alfa Romeo engine.

Purple Heart Winner…

Prior to enlisting in the Army he worked for Morrison-Knudsen to build the Long Beach breakwater.

He served as a paratrooper in the ‘517th Regiment/82nd Airborne’ during WW II seeing action in France, Belgium and Germany, including fighting in ‘The Battle of the Bulge’ in the Ardennes Forest where he was later to race a Scarab at Spa-Francorchamps in 1960.

He was a remarkable leader and brave soldier awarded a Silver Star, Bronze Medal and a Purple Heart for heroic acts in 1944, he was shot in Luxembourg and ‘mustered out’ of the army in 1945.

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Chuck Daigh in his Scarab F1 car during the teams fraught 1960 GP season, very wet! place and date unrecorded. Check out the ‘Reventlow Automobiles Inc’ logo on the cars scuttle (Popperfoto)

Post war he worked for Bill Stroppe preparing the Bob Estes entered Lincolns for the Carrera Panamerica Mexican road race. He was the co-driver on three occasions, in 1952 and 1953 with Walt Faulkner, finishing 8th in 1953, and with Chuck Stevenson in 1954 when they didn’t finish.

By this stage Daigh’s engineering capabilities were widely known and highly respected, Carroll Shelby remarked; ‘There are only two people i can think of who can sit down, take a welding torch, build their own chassis, go out and test it and then win races with it. They are Jack Brabham and Chuck Daigh. I put Chuck in the same category as Jack.’ Shelby was well placed to judge, he engaged Daigh as Shelby American’s carburetion expert on its ongoing Ford GT40 campaign in both North America and in Europe after Chuck’s driving days were over in the early-mid sixties.

He started road racing in the mid-fifties, his first sportscar race was at Moffet Field, California in 1953 driving Jim Lowe’s Frazer Nash. He ran a modified Kurtis 500S Lincoln special owned by Frank Kurtis, winning the Willow Springs and Santa Barbara sports car races in 1954. He also won races at Paramount Ranch and Santa Barbara driving the Troutman-Barnes Ford powered sports car.

In the early SCCA days drivers were suspended for racing professionally. Chuck occasionally raced in USAC pro stock car events as ‘Charles George’ to avoid the SCCA’s wrath, setting a lap record in the USAC 250 Mile Stock Car Race in September 1957 on the Milwaukee Mile at 90.614 mph.

He joined Pete DePaolo Engineering, chosen in 1957 by Ford for an assault on the Daytona Beach Speed Week Trials in February. Chuck managed the works supported Ford stock car team and helped build the 4 special Thunderbirds nicknamed ‘Battlebirds’ achieving better than 200mph in one of the T-Birds, the first to do so.

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RAI’s race shop in Culver City, LA October 1958, 2 Scarab Mk2 Chevs being fettled. Note superb standard of workmanship. Spaceframe chassis and bracing from drivers back bulkhead via the roll bar to the rear unusual for the day, huge finned brake drums, front wishbone IFS, you can just see the end of the de Dion tube @ rear and its locating linkages. Beautiful, huge ally fuel tank. Angle of steering wheel naff! and uncomfortable no doubt. Halibrand alloy wheels on the floor (Bill Bridges)

Later he worked for the Rathmann Chevrolet NASCAR stock car team until its demise then joining Lance Reventlow, on the Scarab Sports Car and Formula One projects. Chuck was engaged as number 1 driver and chief mechanic/engineer.

The FIA announced a 3-litre limit for the World Sports Car Championship from the start of 1958 so the Chevrolet-engined sports car had to run in SCCA races rather than internationally as originally planned by Reventlow in 1957.

The Scarabs were all superbly built and prepared and dominated the opposition in ‘B Modified’. Daigh beat Phil Hill’s Ferrari at Riverside and also won the Governor’s Cup, beating Hansgen’s Lister, and the Nassau Trophy sharing the drive with Reventlow in 1958.

The purpose of this article is Daigh’s career not the fabulous Scarab’s of which Daigh played a key roll, albeit i get a bit carried away with the Scarab RE later in the article. The Scarab’s are topics for another time.

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Daigh #5 and Reventlow #3 back to camera in blue helmet, ‘saddle up’ their Scarab Mk2 Chevs prior to Chucks 1958 Riverside LA Times GP win. Spaceframe chassis, Chev injected V8’s of varying capacities, wishbone front IFS and de Dion rear suspension with Watts linkage, huge finned drum brakes, Borg Warner 4 speed ‘box all clad in the sexiest body this side of Northern Italy (unattributed)

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Daigh, Scarab Mk2 Chev, LA Times GP Riverside 1958, he looks lonely out there! (Dave Friedman)

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Celebrating his 1958 Riverside LA Times US GP Sportscars win in October 1958 with his children. Guy at left is the promoter and famous entrant JC Agajanian (The Enthusiast Network)

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Daigh in the Scarab Mk2 Chev during the Nassau Speedweek in early December 1958, Lance Reventlow had the luck at this meeting, but Chuck shared Lance’s car after his car, this one retired with driveshaft failure to win the ‘Nassau Trophy’. Superb lines of the car obvious, Scarab derivative of everything at the time in terms of its styling but individual with it (Dave Friedman)

In 1959 he co-drove the winning Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa/59 at Sebring sharing the factory car with Dan Gurney, Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien. Gurney said of Daigh; ‘ Chuck was not only a good engineer, but he could also drive the wheels off a car. When i got into racing, i soon found out who the real heavyweights were, in those days Chuck was like a god to us.’

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Gurney/P Hill/Gendebien/Daigh factory Ferrari 250TR winning the 1959 Sebring 12 Hour (Dave Friedman)

He also attempted to qualify for the the Indianapolis 500 in 1959, in fact he had three qualification attempts, never contesting the event with inferior equipment the problem. In July he drove a Maserati 250F at Lime Rock in July, finishing 2nd in the 60 lap final having posted two 3rd’s in the heats.

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Nassau Speedweek 1958, Daigh facing this way, Reventlow left smiling and winning the ‘Governors Trophy’  and ‘Nassau Trophy’, the latter with Daigh sharing the drive in a Scarab Mk2 Chev. Carroll Shelby to the right of the fella with the hat, drove a Maser 450S in the ‘Nassau Trophy’ DNF. They all look fairly ‘chillaxed’! (Dave Friedman)

By the time the front-engined Scarab F1 car appeared at Monaco in 1960 it was obsolete, the first rear-engined Cooper Climax GP victory was in the 1958 Argentinian Grand Prix.

Quite why Reventlow thought a front-engined car was ‘the go’ by then is a topic to explore separately in some articles about the fabulous Scarabs themselves; Lance raced for most of 1957 in the UK including a number of F2 events in a Cooper T43 Climax so had a first-hand experience of the new generation of mid-engined single-seaters. The ‘writing was surely on the wall’ by the time the key decisions about the conceptual design of the Scarab GP car were determined…mind you no less than Colin Chapman built the front-engined Lotus 16 in 1959 i guess! Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

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Reventlow racing a Cooper T43 Climax FWB at an F2 event at Crystal Palace, and signing a few autographs on 10 June 1957. 6th in the ‘London Trophy’ won by Brabham’s works T43 FPF. Having raced a mid-engined car how could you not build your F1 car in the same configuration?! (Ron Burton)

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Scarab GP; spaceframe chassis, IFS front by wishbones and coil spring/dampers, IFS rear suspension with wide based lower wishbone and coil spring/dampers, drum brakes all round, 4 cylinder DOHC, injected Offenhauser built engine, circa 220bhp@7500rpm, Borg Warner 4 speed ‘box (unattributed)

Both Reventlow and Daigh struggled, the GP car was withdrawn before the seasons end but raced in the US GP at Riverside to keep the faith with local fans. Daigh drove the third works Cooper T51 at the British GP in 1960, having proved the quicker of he and Reventlow who also tested the car, qualifying 19th and retiring on lap 3 with an overheating engine.

Daigh showed enough promise in very difficult circumstances to have a decent GP drive in 1961, its a shame that did not occur.

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Monaco GP 1960, the Scarabs race debut. #46 Reventlow, #48 Daigh. The 2.5 litre DOHC, fuel injected 4 cylinder/spaceframe chassis cars impressed all with their build quality and finish if not their weight and speed. Indicative of the paradigm shift was Ferrari racing their first mid-engined car, the 246P at this meeting; even the most conservative of manufacturers were testing the waters with a view to change, the Scarab’s were at least 2 years too late  (Dave Friedman)

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Daigh Monaco 1960. Both cars DNQ, Stirling Moss also did some laps of the Scarab in practice to give his opinions of the car. The difference between his light, nimble mid-engined Lotus 18 Climax and heavy front engined Scarab complete… (Dave Friedman)

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Daigh at Monaco, nice profile shot of the big Scarab (Dave Friedman)

 

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Zandvoort, Scarab Dutch GP 1960, Daigh here in practice. The Scarabs didn’t race after a squabble with the organisers over start money resulted in 4 cars electing not to take the grid (unattributed)

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Richie Ginther and Daigh at Zandvoort (Dave Friedman)

 

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Spa, Belgian GP 1960. Daigh Q17 and retired his Scarab on lap 16 with engine failure. RHF  wheel off the deck on this fast, daunting circuit (unattributed)

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Riverside, November 1960 USGP. Daigh Q18, 10th in the cars only GP finish having missed the French, German, Italian and Portuguese GP’s. Reventlow quickly realised they were ‘on a hiding to nothing’, the paradigm had moved on but the car raced for the American fans in California, RAI’s base in Venice Beach, LA (unattributed)

In 1960 Daigh also raced Lucky Casner’s ‘Camoradi’ Maserati Tipo 61 ‘Streamliner’ at Le Mans with Masten Gregory. In practice the car topped 170 mph on the Mulsanne, 10 mph faster than the next quickest.

Gregory couldn’t get the car underway, finally departing in 24th place. By the end of the Mulsanne Straight he was in the lead! At the first driver change the starter motor failed, an hour later Chuck returned to the track. Over the next four hours they took two laps back from the leader but on lap 82 retired officially with ‘electrical problems’, although it appears that Gregory was driving when the engine failed. Olivier Gendebien and Phil Hill won the race in a Ferrari 250TR59/60.

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Gregory/Daigh Maserati Tipo 61, Le Mans 1960 (Klemantaski)

In 1961 the Scarab F1 contested the European InterContinental Formula, a class created to allow the 2.5 litre GP cars to race, the class’ upper limit was 3 litres.

Chuck finished 8th at Goodwood in the Lavant Cup and 7th in the wet International Trophy Silverstone race. In practice for the British Empire Trophy at Silverstone he crashed sustaining a cracked pelvis in a bad accident. And that was that as far as the GP car was concerned, RAI raced it no more.

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Chuck Daigh, Scarab,  Lavant Cup, Intercontinental Formula race, Goodwood 1961 (unattributed)

Daigh recovered from his Silverstone shunt and raced Jim Hall’s Chaparral 1 at Sebring in 1962, the Chev engined car strongly derivative of, and developed with the knowledge gained by the Troutman/Barnes duo on the earlier Scarab sportscar program. It was co-driven by Daigh, Hap Sharp, Ronnie Hissom and of course Jim Hall to 6th place, the race won by the Bonnier/Bianchi Ferrari 250TR/61.

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The Sharp/Hall/Hissom/Daigh Chaparral 1 Chev at Sebring in 1962 (unattributed)

‘Formula 366’ was being explored as a single-seater class at the time and was a precursor to Formula A in proposing cars with a mix of stock-block 5 litre and 3 litre racing engines.

The proposed/possible class was well suited to Reventlow Automobiles knowledge of stock-block V8’s, so they built a spaceframe chassis, mid-engined car powered by the then new, light aluminium Buick V8, a Colotti 5 speed transaxle the other key component. The Scarab RE Buick with its Travers/Coons modified 3.9 litre V8 was shipped out of LA, RAI’s base at 1042 Princeton Drive, Venice on Culver City’s ‘Speed Alley’ and set off for Australia to race. Lance wanted to build cars commercially, to sell the cars he needed to demonstrate the strength of his product so a one-off race in far away Australia with Daigh strutting its stuff against a world class field made sense. He was punting on ‘Formula 366’ getting up but then again money was no object!

In those Pre-Tasman 2.5 litre formula days Australian National Formula 1 was Formula Libre. The promoters of brand new Sandown Park were happy to assist Lance Reventlow’s booming V8 Scarab to attend the circuits opening meeting in amongst the mainly 4-cylinder Coventry Climax engined hordes on 12 March 1962.

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Drivers gather before the start of the 1962 ‘Sandown International’, the dudes in uniforms are members of the band. L>R; orange clad Daigh, dark blue jumpered McLaren, nattily dressed Reventlow, light haired John Youl at rear, with a flat-cap official type chap. Roy Salvadori in front of Youl, Lex Davison in the light colored flat-cap. To his right Jim Clark, a balding Angus Hyslop beside and behind Jimmy, the similarly hirsute Stirling Moss in front of Hyslop, obscured Ron Flockhart, (shortly thereafter in April to die 25Km away in the Dandenong Ranges when his Mustang P51 ex-fighter crashed shortly after take off on a record breaking attempt to Europe) sports-blazered Bib Stillwell, then Doug Whiteford behind Jack Brabham, Bill Patterson and far right Austin Miller (John Ellacott)

Other entrants included Jack Brabham, John Surtees, Bruce McLaren, Stirling Moss, Jim Clark, Roy Salvadori, Ron Flockhart and others.

Jill St John was Reventlow’s wife at the time, sleepy Melbourne was abuzz with the attendance of a Woolworth’s Heir and his glamorous actress wife to the suburban wilds of Sandown Park. The ‘Movie Star’ was all great stuff for the local tabloids so there were plenty of ‘bums on seats’ during the race weekend pleasing the Light Car Club of Australia, the promoters, no end.

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(John Ellacott)

Jack won the ‘Sandown Park International’ in a Cooper T55 from Surtees and McLaren in Cooper T53’s all three cars powered by 2.7 litre Coventry Climax ‘Indy’ 2.7 litre engines. Daigh gave a very good account of himself, the brand new car qualifying on the front-row of the grid alongside Brabham and John Surtees. The cars straight-line grunt was impressive and exhaust note despite running rudimentary mufflers outstanding, its performance under brakes, into and through corners was inferior to the well-developed Cooper hordes; Chuck was 4 th, with the cars potential clear.

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Sandown International grid; Surtees on the outside (left), Daigh’s Scarab the meat in a Cooper sandwich, Jack on the inside on pole (autopics.com)

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#5 Daigh’s 3.9 litre V8 Scarab RE Buick at Sandown, attractive, effective first attempt at a mid-engined car. It looks long but isn’t, wheelbase at 91 inches 1 inch longer than a T51 Cooper. Yellow Cooper Austin Millers T51 Chev engined car DNF  and #9 Bill Patterson’s Cooper T51 Climax 7th (John Ellacott)

In the wider scheme of things in terms of the machinations of the CSI’s decisions making about future racing classes, Formula 366 didn’t eventuate, Sandown was the RE’s only race although the learnings of a mid-engined V8 racer were applied by RAI to its successful Mk4 Scarab Sportscar.

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‘Sports Car World’ clipping, date wrong. Daigh, ‘Sandown Park International’ 1962

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Historically significant photo; Jack Brabham is taking a close look at the Scarab RE’s 3.9 litre aluminium Buick V8, the first time he had seen one. The sister engine to this, the ‘Oldsmobile F85’ was the basis of Brabham’s Repco Brabham ‘RB620’ 1966 World Championship winning 3 Litre GP engine (Jack Brabham by Doug Nye)

Chuck worked for Frank Arciero in 1963. He rebuilt their Lotus 19’s Coventry Climax FPF engine and won the Player’s 200 at Mosport beating a class field including Graham Hill, Parnelli Jones and Roger Penske.

Outside racing…

Chuck married in 1950 and had two children, Denise and Daniel. His interests extended outside car motor-racing to offshore ocean boat racing having a successful career in ‘Thunderball’ and other powerful craft.

One of his last projects was construction of a Flat-Head Ford ‘Lakester’ to try to break the class land speed record. he didn’t complete it passing away at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, California after suffering a brief heart and respiratory illness, on 29 April 2008 at 84.

A remarkable man and World Class soldier, engineer and driver.

Etcetera: Scarab RE Buick ‘Intercontinental’ Sales Promotional Brochure…

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Bibliography/Photo Credits…

historicracing.com, racing.nimmo.com, Dave Friedman Archive, Getty Image, Bill Bridges, Popperfoto, The Enthusiast Network, Ron Burton, John Ellacot, Klemantaski Collection, autopics.com

Tailpiece: Chuck Daigh cruisin’ the dusty Sandown Paddock in the Scarab RE Buick and its wonderful 3.9 litre Coons/Travers built V8…

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(John Ellacott)

Finito…

Comments
  1. Hamish Keddie says:

    At Sandown 1962 Chuck was on the second row of the grid in both his heat and the final. In the final he was alongside Stirling Moss, behind the Coopers of Brabham, Surtees and Mclaren. He had a thrilling race long battle with Moss, they often passed each other several times in a lap. Eventually Chuck finished fourth ahead of Moss. It was a very good drive even though he couldn’t catch the leading trio of Coopers. I was there, of course only a a boy at the time it was the first motor race meeting I ever attended so I remember it well even now..

    • markbisset says:

      Ha Hamish! I would love to have been there, a great shame that the car never raced again, it would have been an ideal car in Oz, with suspension sorted, in those Libre pre-Tasman formula days, the engine stayed here of course, the whole car would have been better! Mark

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