Delmo Johnson, a Chevrolet dealer from Dallas who gained fame racing Corvettes in the 1960s, has passed away at the age of 82 [corrected from earlier report, ed]. Johnson’s racing exploits revolved mainly around Sebring where he began by racing his straight-axle Corvette, then followed it with a Sting Ray ZO6 and finally one of the five original Grand Sport Corvettes—which he got from fellow Texan John Mecom. Each of these cars has been tracked down, restored and can be seen today, as his straight-axle and ZO6 are displayed in the Rick Hendrick Collection, while the Grand Sport 004 resides in the Collier Collection.
As noted Corvette expert and author Richard Prince says: “Delmo Johnson crammed ten lifetimes worth of fun, adventure, accomplishment and trouble into his life. He loved racing, flying, chasing women, traveling, history, politics, cats, photography, business, building things…he loved life.”
Johnson raced a wide variety of cars during his career, including Jaguars, Ferraris, Listers, Renaults and, of course, Corvettes. He tackled the Carrera Panamericana upon its 1964 revival, driving solo in his 1963 Grand Sport. When the president of Mexico warned entrants that everyone from Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas to Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua had been warned to stay off the roads, but that there would still be people on the roads, so if you hit someone don’t stop, Johnson attached a cow-catcher to the front of his car. “In short,” Prince says, “for a long, long time he made everyone around him laugh very hard.” To his family and friends in and out of the sport, Vintage Racecar extends its sincerest condolences.
Delmo was most certainly NOT 99 years old. I am 80 and he was just two years my senior. I crewed a lot for him in local races with his Vetts and Chevvy powered XK-SS Jaguar. I was his employee at various times and also a friend for nearly 60 years. Delmo did have a great lust for life and lived it fully. One of our adventures was racing go carts INSIDE Johnson Chevrolet late on weekend nites. I had a number of great adventures because of my association with him,the movie “STATE FAIR” for one. I will mourn his passing for a long time.VAYA CON DIOS,My Friend.
Thanks. His age came from a reference his son made. We believe we’ve been able to confirm that he was 82.
Thanks very much!
Casey Annis, Editor
My dad[Bill Goodfellow] also worked at Johnson’s and was Delmo’s mechanic for many years. I stayed in touch with Delmo and he was the same as when I was a kid. I will surely miss him.
My dad[Bill Goodfellow] also worked at Johnson’s and was Delmo’s mechanic for many years. I stayed in touch with Delmo and he was the same as when I was a kid. I will surely miss him. I also remember the “State Fair” movie with his jag in it.
Casey, I know I have a vested interest in Delmo,but I think his career and personality would warrent a full blown article in your great magazine. Even with all the charactors in various forms of racing I would think Delmo would stand out. Amoung other things he is one of the few private pilots that i have flown with that I with that I felt comfortable with,a skilled pilot. Had he not had so many business interests to look after i think he could have been a driver on the international scence had he so chosen. Regards,Bob Walters
I think you’re right! He definitely sounds like one of those great, larger-than-life characters. We’re all the worse for his passing.
All the best,
Casey Annis, Editor
Do any of Delmo’s friends have photos of him racing at Hilltop, Green Valley, or War Bonnet?
Casey, My direct association with Delmo Johnson was pretty brief,just the six years I lived in Dallas,1955-1961. However we remained in contact and friends up untill his untimely passing. Should you decide to do a profile article on him (hopefully) his co-driver and very good friend ,Dave Morgan of Tulsa would be a good source of material on Delmo.During the times that i crewed for him in local races he always was very competitive,but I never knew him to deliberatly “kerf” someone to gain an advantage. His driving “fire” was always there. When he tried vintage racing he gave it up,telling me that “all they want to do is drive around and look prettyand not really “get with it”. As a side note”when I left Dallas he offered to sell me his Chevvy powered XK-SS Jaguar for $4,500. (At that time in my life it might as well have been $450,000) With todays market what a buy that would have been! Unfortunatly that particular race car ended up to butchered up as to be unrecognizable.Casey,I would appreciate any and all contact or information on Delmo. I knew a lot about him,but also true that there is a lot I don’t know. Regards,Bob Walters
Hello everyone, just for the record the late Delmo Johnson participated not in a Carrera Panamericana revival in 1964, but an entirely different race called Carrera Costa a Costa del Automovil Club de Mexico. He started with high hopes from Veracruz on the Gulf Coast of Mexico towards Mexico City on the first day and then on Sunday the second leg would wind down to Acapulco on the Pacific Coast. Johnson abandoned in the first leg on Saturday , a few miles short of Puebla intermediate finish line. That year Billy Sprowls, a mexican , won with a Dodge Coronet Ramcharger ( NASCAR style) with a time of little over 5 hours coast to coast.