Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Donald Davidson Goes To The Airport

One of my most very favorite people in all the world is the track historian for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Donald Davidson. Anyone who’s heard Donald’s Talk of Gasoline Alley radio show each May knows the man’s knowledge of the Indy 500 and the Speedway is encyclopedic, complete, and endlessly riveting. He will tell you of individuals who showed up to the track in 1940 and thought about getting in a car, but never actually did. He will tell you of the sponsors behind the sponsors on the 10th place finisher for the years 1950-1957, inclusive. He will tell you, because he is asked to every year like clockwork, the story of Jim Hurtubise swapping out his engine for a cooler of beer on Bump Day. If you somehow haven't listened to him, check it out, a) because it's the best thing you'll hear all day, and b) because otherwise what follows will make even less sense than usual.

Hearing the guy makes my Month of May. But I thought given his eye for detail and love of history, we’d follow him around at various times this year to see what happens when he’s outside the IMS Museum. May I present:

Donald Davidson Goes To The Airport

TSA Agent: Sir, have these bags been in your possession the whole time?

DD: Sure, I’d be happy to do that one for you. This one on the left is a Samsonite, and I originally saw it in, well, it had to be 1968, because that was the year Dan Gurney had one just like it, and I believe Bud Tingelstad had one that many people mistook for the same model, only his was a deeper navy blue. It was named the Samsonite Roller Special, but it never turned a roller wheel at the track that year, because at the last minute I remembered I had borrowed an old front-strap Army haversack from Mel Kenyon, which worked out very well.

Let’s see…now, I took it on vacation in 1969, and it did well for me that year. 1970 I was laid up with back pain, so it didn’t make the trip. 1971, I believe I chose it 2nd to a Brooks Carry-All, which of course eventually won Consumer Travel Product of the Year. It suffered a broken wheel in 1972, and its bad luck continued when the side zipper went out almost immediately in 1973.

Still, it’s always been one of my favorites, and thank you for asking about it and giving us the chance to discuss it. We’re always happy to answer your luggage questions of a nostalgic nature, so…oh! You had asked about both bags. Well, this one on the right was actually a European design, and Dan Gurney…

(Join us next time as we follow Donald to the Westminster Dog Show!)


  1. I love this! still chuckling!

  2. The next question of course would be "is there anything flamable or perishable in these bags?"

    Donald: "Oh, I don't really like to get into the controversial stuff. I'll just say that whatever's in here wouldn't have been fit to fuel the Granatelli Turbine cars, which is another subject I like to stay away from."

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  4. Listen to Donald Davidson tell a story about a photograph from the IMS archives every weekday in Gasoline Alley Unplugged:


  5. Zachary HoughtonMarch 2, 2011 at 9:09 PM

    @Nicholas: Excellent link! I love, love that they're doing that on the blog now. I don't think I've missed a one. :)

    @Speedgeek: Nice, and spot-on!