Massachusetts native Danny O’Day is best-known for his famous record-setting wheelstanders. But there is much more to Danny O’Day than being a great showman at the drag strip. He is also a mechanical wizard.
In the early 60s had a friend who was racing a new 1963 Falcon, Danny has been a Ford man ever since. When it was Danny’s turn to race he found a 1957 Ford sedan that he raced in J/Stock.
Danny joined the Air Force in 1968 and spent time in Southeast Asia before returning home in 1971. Soon after, Danny opened a body shop and his mind and hands started to create one-of-a-kind automobiles, like the time he collaborated with AK Miller on a supercharged Ford 6 cylinder engine that he stuffed in a 1964 Corvette. Danny again collaborated with AK on his next build, a turbocharged Ford 6 cylinder. That went into a Vega wagon that ran in the ten-second zone with the front wheels four feet in the air. That car was a sign of things to come.
Danny’s friend Tim Nolan suggested he add a wind-up toy mechanism in the car because it ran so quietly with the turbos. That lead to a series of wind up cars with dummy keys attached to the back.
In 1984 Danny constructed his first purpose-built wheelstander, a 1984 Pinto Wagon powered by a Ford 460 engine. Then in 1987, Danny converted the Pinto into a Ford Ranger pickup. In 1988 he updated the Ranger with dually fenders and stuck on an 8:71 blower. That change increased the pickup’s performance to 9.85 seconds in the quarter-mile.
In 1994, after several years of successful exhibition racing, Danny took the wheelstanding community to new levels. A Chevy Lumina Funny Car body was certainly different, but what really changed things in the wheelstanding world was Danny’s redesign of the drive system. He designed a gearbox and transfer case that allowed the engine to be lowered in the chassis. This change made it possible for Danny to break the 8-second barrier at Indianapolis in 1995. Don’t fret Ford Fans, Danny had also fitted the chassis with a 1996 T-Bird body. This new design was fast but it handled like a refrigerator on two wheels. Perhaps that was a good thing because Dan could get a cold beer once the car was back on all fours.
Danny’s mind was never at rest. Next, he came up with the idea of the “Rod Stander” a 1934 Ford coupe-bodied wheelstander. Danny took the technology he had perfected in the funny cars and incorporated it into the “Rod Stander.” The 1934 Ford Coupe is the quickest and fastest wheelstander in the world, traveling the quarter-mile in 8.35 seconds at 161 miles per hour.
Danny attributes one major component in his success, his wife Donna. As Danny says it was “the Danny and Donna Show.” The last several years Danny was on the road Donna was at home caring for her Mom. Danny was a bit of a lost soul without her, but you knew he was thinking of her as he mentioned her frequently. Something many may not know is that Danny and Donna drove a moving van cross country together for a while. I recall the day the Mayflower moving truck rolled into New England Dragway and parked outside the main gate and the Pie Wagon rolled out to race for a day.
Today Danny and Donna reside in Grassy Creek, North Carolina overlooking the scenic countryside where the mad scientist continues to work diligently building his next wild ride, a 1957 Ford station wagon with a twin-supercharged 1957 Y block Ford engine.
The Orientals Hot Rod Club is very pleased to recognize Dan and Donna as inductees into the New England Hot Rod Hall of Fame.