David Greenblatt, who died on Sunday, was a Canadian motor racing original. He not only raced himself in the late 1950s and 1960s – and quite successfully, I might add – but he designed and built (with others) his own racing cars.
Not too many people had the vision and determination to do that. Bill Sadler, Wayne Kelly and Doug Duncan are three others who come to mind. In any case, there weren’t many in those early years and Greenblatt was arguably the most successful.
In late 1961, Greenblatt – who had been road racing for three years and had just come off a championship season in Quebec – teamed up with Luigi Cassiani (a former Alfa Romeo technician) and Montreal fabricator Mike Saggers to build the first of what they called Dailu race cars (Dai is welsh for David and Lu was for Luigi Cassiani).
That first car, the Dailu Mk I (which was sponsored by Bardahl and called the Dailu Bardahl Special) was driven to its first victory at the 1962 Indian Summer Trophy Races at Mosport by John Cannon (who went on to become the first – and only –Canadian to win a race in the original Can-Am Series).
It marked the first time a Canadian-built car had won a race at Canada’s premier sports car racing circuit.
Jeremy Sale is the Editor of The Vintage Racer (www.varac.ca) and interviewed Greenblatt about that great day at the Indian Summer races:
“In all my years of racing from the fall of 1957 to end of 1969, over 200 races, there is one day which will always stand out,” Greenblatt told Sale.
“The BEMC, Indian Summer Trophy Races, 1962. There was no greater excitement and overwhelming feeling of achievement which I experienced that day.
“It was John Cannon’s first major event in the Dailu. We were the dark horse. The Miss Whiz Lotus 19, was the car to beat (Francis Bradley aboard) and Heimrath in his RS60 Porsche, the Sadler MK Vs amongst others.
“I had tried to get tires from Dunlop while at the track. But they informed me that they only had their racing tires available for certain select top teams, of which we were NOT one!
“Being unhappy with the performance of our Firestones, we switched to Goodyears which were only a slight improvement. I desperately wanted the-then awesomely good Dunlop tire but it was not to be.
“Even on the false grid, the top teams made fun of our home-made Dailu Bardahl Special. I’ll always remember the crew from the Miss Whiz Lotus offering me some of their car wax products to make our car go faster. I accepted a bottle from them and on the false grid waxed the Dailu as they laughed.
“In the preliminary race, Cannon passed everyone going into turn one, and led from wire to wire.
“Then came the feature race and I remember Chuck Rathgeb, head of Comstock Racing, with the Sadler Mk Vs, saying to me that our win was sheer luck and the feature race will really tell the story.
“Again, Cannon led from start to finish, the first car and driver to ever defeat the famed Lotus 19 at Mosport and the first Canadian-built car to win a feature race at Mosport.
“I always remember the crowd at the start/finish climbing over the fences swarming the track as Cannon arrived to pick up the checkered flag for his lap of honour, and a jubilant Heimrath running up and congratulating Cannon in his winner’s traditional Indian Summer war bonnet, with me sitting in the car grinning from ear to ear, a photo which appeared in major sports pages.”
I don’t know about you, but I can feel Greenblatt’s excitement by just reading those words.
Cannon qualified the car fifth for the 1962 Canadian Grand Prix at Mosport (an international field of drivers and sports racing cars participated) and led the opening lap. The crowd, as you can expect, went nuts over that.
That winter, Cannon qualified the car on the front row for a heat race at the Nassau Speed Weeks, alongside Masten Gregory in a Ferrari and Hap Sharp in a Chapparel. The kicker? He left them in his dust.
Unfortunately, in the 250-mile feature that followed, a spark from the car bottoming out (it had 286 litres of gasoline on board) ignited fumes from the overflow vent and the car caught fire. Cannon escaped, but the Dailu was gutted.
The Greenblatt-Cassiani-Saggers team then built the Dailu Mk II in 1963 and it was raced by both Cannon and Peter Lerch (who set a lap record in it at the St. Eugene circuit).
Dailu Mks III, IV and V followed, with the last being built in 1965. It’s believed that most of the cars are still around, owned by collectors.
Greenblatt was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1998. As his plaque reads:
“The Dailu . . . was exceptionally fast, if not always entirely reliable. But when it was running (powered by a series of monster V8 engines), it was the match of anything on the race track including Lotuses, Ferraris, Porsches and Chaparrals.”
Greenblatt’s old friend, Ross de St. Croix, the 1967 Canadian Driving Champion and a force behind the Hall of Fame in its early days, knew “Greenie” from their time together in Montreal (they both eventually moved to the Toronto area). Talking about a day they spent together recently, St. Croix wrote:
“What a time – to think back at those great memories we had at the beginning of the renewal of motorsport in Quebec. Ours was car club meetings, driving skill tests, hill climbs and rallying. A start with old airport surfaces, hay bales and really keen spectators. Then came St. Eugene, St. Jovite, Mosport and road racing.
“David was there in a "race what you brung" sort of way until he really caught the bug. Whether it was an early Jag XKE, a Ferrari, a real Corvette or one of his lightweight versions, you could expect a lot of noise, power and a lot of excitement from David and his group.
“On to the Dailu days, and five cars were built and raced with great success for a young man with no formal automotive training but lots of enthusiasm.
“As we all got older, David didn’t change much as he was always full of fun and laughter and – unlike some of us – still looked like good old Dave.
“I’ll miss his calls, his emails and, specially, his kind and encouraging words about life.”
In 2004 at the Vintage Auto Racing Festival at Mosport, Greenblatt drove the restored Dailu Mk 1 for a few laps. It was the last time they were together on track.
In case you missed it, here is the obituary that appeared this week in the Montreal Gazette:
GREENBLATT, David Gabriel Louis (Greenie) After a valiant battle with cancer, David died peacefully at Sunnybrook Hospital, Toronto, on August 16, 2009.
Beloved partner and soulmate of Suzan Lazanik (Alper). Loving son of the late Bessie and the late Michael Greenblatt, Montreal. Dearest brother and brother-in-law of the late Judith Baron Cohen (Vivian), London, England and Mackie (the late George Balcan), Montreal. Father of Melissa and Lianne. Uncle to several nieces and nephews and very special friend to many.
At David’s request, there will be no shiva observed. A private service was held.
In his memory, donations may be made to The Temmy Latner Centre for Palliative Care, 60 Murray Street, 4th floor, Box #13, Toronto, M5T 3L9, 416-586-4800, local 7884.
With warm gratitude to Dr. Russell Goldman, Heather Waylen, Marue and Sharon for their unwavering devotion to David’s comfort and well-being.
If anyone wishes to recognize David Greenblatt’s motorsport career, please paste this link into your browser: