Don Davis has always had an interest in racing from his early years, attending dirt midget races in California to the local dirt tracks of southwest NM today, as an 82-year-old. He has been building various types of cars since the early 1960’s. Originally building circle track cars Don enjoyed much success on the dirt tracks in the southwest while also being employed with MSD ignitions as a product engineer. In 1985 he established Don Davis Race Cars (DDRC) in El Paso, TX. In 1991 DDRC became Don’s full-time job, going on to specialize in both the Super Gas and Super Comp classes in NHRA. He wanted to specialize in a class that had consistent rules throughout the country for both market share and consistency.
In 1994 after years of development and testing Don released the first production 1927 T roadster from DDRC to Jim Hughes where the car went on to win three NHRA national events with three different drivers in the first year including a win by Eric Reyes at Brainerd, MN in only its third outing. The immediate results from DDRC went on to solidify the long-standing relationship between Don Davis and Jim Hughes. Dave Slatten of Fort Collins, CO., was another customer that saw immediate results, including the Best Appearing Award at its first event and round wins deep into the event. This car remains in competition today in the capable hands of Kevin McClelland where it is still winning.
In the late 90’s there was a need for a more aerodynamic Super Gas roadster due to increasing speeds, and a collaboration began between Jim and Don, where the C5 Corvette was chosen as the base. This would eventually evolve within the class with the funny car style bodies that have become common place on all the Davis race cars. The aerodynamics of the corvettes have been a tremendous advancement over the 27 T roadsters in E.T. based racing.
The first C5 roadster was unveiled at the 1998 US Nationals where it earned Best Engineered Award. Attraction to the new sleeker more aerodynamic Corvette was immediate and a new precedence for aerodynamics was established in the Super Gas class. Scaled down versions of the factory cars with enhanced aerodynamic advantages are still available today. In addition to the enhancements made in the body, an all chromoly round tube chassis was specifically built to compliment the body. Many of the design specs of this chassis have gone on to set the standards for the class.
The 2000’s saw continued success of the C5 corvette, but there was a desire for additional product. With this demand for product Don decided to follow up the C5 with one of the most desirable cars and one of his favorites, the 1957 Corvette. Many months of hand fabrication produced the plug, from which the fiberglass mold was created. Again, another tremendous crowd favorite, the 57’ went on to immediately win many Best Engineered and Best Appearing awards as well as round wins.
Near the end of the decade, Don had decided to step away from the business and slow down a bit at age 68 and pursue other interests. The company was sold to a local businessman, where it remained with no significant product development.
The company was not producing products to the standards it had for so many years or within the timeframes expected; Jim had a car on order, but did not receive usual delivery updates, so he made a trip to El Paso to see what was going on. He was shocked to learn that the legendary shop that Don had worked so hard to build was on its way to the scrap yard. Fixtures, jigs, and molds all were piled on the floor, destined for scrap. This lead to an opportunity in 2011 for Jim to purchase DDRC.
Jim knew that this was not the way the DDRC was supposed to end, so he contacted Don and the two had lunch. After a short discussion the two decided that they would work together to resurrect the company and make the product better than it was before. One of Jim’s driving forces was the interest in the business that his sons had both expressed, making it a perfect opportunity for Jim to put together a business for his family. Over the next year Don and Jim worked to retool everything to improve functionality and ease fabrication.
During this time Jim also went to work to produce yet another body for the DDRC chassis, the 1969 Camaro. This was another terrific success for the first time in NHRA history, three NHRA Best Engineered awards were given to the same car, car owned by Dave and Sue Morris of Clover, SC.
Fabrication is a hard business and personal gratification can be slow to show at times; after years in the business Jim and his family all realized that it was not the fabrication that they enjoyed as much as the assembly of final vehicles where they all worked hand in hand and enjoyed the time spent together. Together Jim and family had produced approximately 14 cars with their final delivery taking place in 2014. With the demands of other business ventures and family demands it was decided that the company would be kept in storage, under Jim’s control, until the right people, time and place came for it to be put back in operation.
2020’s start out with another major development for DDRC, with a chance meeting at the 2019 PRI show between two long time friends. This resulted in a change in ownership of the company between Jim Hughes and former DDRC employee, Scott Anderson in Feb. 2020, just three short months after PRI. Scott Anderson originally joined DDRC in 1997 after serving 6 years onboard US Navy nuclear submarine, USS Kentucky. Scott had been with Don for the entire process of building the molds and fixtures for the entire Corvette roadster program up through the 57’ Corvette along with the super comp dragsters and eventually becoming the shop manager.
In 2005 Scott decided it was time to pursue other opportunities in race car fabrication by joining the Dale Earnhardt Inc. (DEI), race team in Mooresville, NC., widely viewed as one of the most prestigious teams in NASCAR. With virtually unrestricted budgets, Scott was able to learn, practice, and develop skills and techniques for fabrication that will help in continuing the legacy of DDRC well into the future.
Jim and Scott have been long time friends given their interactions with DDRC in the past so it was easy to understand how they could put together a deal to move the company forward with Don’s concurrence. Jim has a strong will for continuing the company forward for Don but does not have the interest in chassis construction the way that Scott does. Moving the company to China Grove, NC just outside Charlotte, NC will afford the company many advantages that were not immediately available in Texas, or Arizona.
There are a tremendous numbers of motorsports related businesses nearby in Race City USA to support the company. These includes multiple wind tunnels, waterjet/laser cutting companies, laser cutting services, advanced composite services, powder coating facilities, tube bending services as well as fabrication related supplies for materials and consumable goods. The talented work force here with motorsports background will ensure there is always a talent pool to draw from when positions become available.
Not expecting to purchase a business that consisted of four semi-trucks worth of goods, Scott spent the 2020 year dealing with COVID-19 (starting a month later), and building an infrastructure to accommodate the company while maintaining full time employment with a local utility company as a nuclear operator.
Time has been spent sourcing the vendors with the latest technology and equipment to provide a more refined product ensuring precision fitment to exacting tolerances using original DDRC fixtures and jigs. Corvette roadster bodies are built off site to exacting standards with the latest possible techniques and materials.
DDRC under Scott’s ownership will continue to innovate and work to build a diverse product lineup. We are a customer focused company that will offer the most innovative, performance driven, and cost-effective sportsman and bracket racing chassis'. We are extremely fortunate to still have great relationships with both Don and Jim. Both will continue to be involved with company going forward with the sales, assembly, development, technical aspects, etc. All three of us desire to continue to move this company forward as we have over the years.