Howard Dauphin is apparently not as well remembered as some of the other driving champions of the 1930's and that's a shame. He captured many midget and big car championships in Michigan and Ohio in the 1930's. He was killed tragically in August, 1941 after an accident at Cleveland, Ohio. Read on to find out more about this colorful and well-liked driver. This feature includes the memories of Howard from his older son, Howard, Jr. who is now 79 but was 14 when his father died.
The notation on this print, written by my father, reads, "Howard Dauphin Killed at Cleveland Aug. 17-41. My Friend - Ace."
Al Blixt, Sr. wrote a number of driver features for the Illustrated Speedway News under the title "Behind the Wheel". Here are excerpts from the one on Howard Dauphin written in 1939.
"If you see a lad carrying a shot gun and wearing a hunting outfit stalking around the "pits" of one of the Michigan speedways...it's Howard Dauphin, noted mid-Western lead-foot who very often dons his hunting regalia on his many trips to the speedways.
Dauphin was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 12, 1907, and had his first taste of speed when a friend of his invited him for a ride in a race car at one of the Toledo, Ohio tracks in 1926. Howard liked the thrill of speed so much that he started his career of racing that same season driving an S.O. Fronty for Al McCormick. He also piloted cars the same year at the Toledo oval for Ernie Whitehouse (Fronty) and Harry Nichols (Miller).
Rides As Mechanic At Indianapolis
Dauphin drove cars throughout the mid-Western district from 1926-1932, meeting with (as he says) fair success. In 1932 he made the trip to Indianapolis to drive; but the mount he was to wheel in the annual 500-miler broke up so he rode as mechanic for Ray Campbell, another Detroit pilot, in the Foll Farms Special on which more than $100,000 had been spent. Campbell was doing a fine bit of driving in this car, holding down third spot until the 280th mile, when a crankshaft broke retiring him from the race.
Howard trekked back to compete at the Zeiter half-mile speedway (later Motor City Speedway). He had a sensational crash at the Zeiter track, sailing over 200 feet in the air, going over the wall and into the moat filled with water. The crack-up saw Dauphin spending the next six months in bed.
In 1936 he really went to town, garnering one win after another, finally winding up with the Michigan outdoor championship for the small cars. In 1937 Howard proved he could pilot the big cars as well as the midget wagons when he drove the Pedley Bros.' mount to the Michigan racing championship. (note: see photos below) Continuing his winning streak in the 'thunderbugs', Dauphin chalked up additional titles to this credit during 1938 by walking off with the Michigan-Ohio championship crown.
Past Season Successful
This past season (1939) of outdoor racing in Detroit has also been a successful one for the local speed king. Dauphin wheeled the Louis David Checkerboard Special to many brilliant victories and placed third in the seasonal point standings at the Detroit Motor Speedway (Motor City Speedway).
Dauphin married Miss Mary Golba in 1925. They have three children - two boy and a girl. (Note: a fourth child, Donald, was born in 1941 after Howard's death.) His hobby aside from racing is hunting. His favorite driver is Ronney Householder. Dauphin is not only tops as a driver but is an expert mechanic as well and oes all the mechanical work on the Di Cicco Offenhausers. His only superstition is peanuts - in any form. His ambition is to win more championships, and we wish him well!"
Howard will best be remembered for piloting the famous "checkerboard" Offy build by Louis David which was painted with a distinctive red and yellow checkerboard pattern. The car is shown here in a full-page feature in the Detroit News dated October 16, 1938 that featured Howard as the Doodle-Bug Champion. The article notes that Dauphin won 19 features, placed second in four races, third in two events and fourth once. "In other words," the article states, "he has been in the money in 26 of 30 races he has entered." Many thanks to Donald Dauphin, Howard's son for supplying this article and many others for this feature.
Here is young Howard Dauphin, Jr. with a friend about 1938. In an interview, Howard, Jr. said that the Louis David Offy was the first Offenhauser engine to come to Michigan. He remembered racing at several venues in the Detroit area including the Hamtramck Speedway and indoor racing at the University of Detroit Stadium and the Michigan State Fairgrounds Coliseum. Howard described the Detroit area racing circuit that his dad traveled from 1938 to 1941. Monday and Thursdays were at Motor City Speedway in Detroit, Tuesday nights it was Grand Rapids; Wednesday was at Toledo, and Friday nights were at Flint (for a while. "It didn't work out at Flint" says Howard, Jr.). Sunday afternoon races were held in Cleveland followed by Sunday evening back at Toledo. Saturdays offered a day off to work on the cars.
My father was photographing throughout this period and Howard, Jr. remembers working for him selling photos in the stands when he was 12 or so. "I had a big advantage," he recalls, "because I could go into the pits and get the photos autographed by the drivers. I sold all my pictures while the other kids often had some left over."
1940 saw Howard continue his winning ways. He set a 50 lap feature record at the Detroit Motor City Speedway high banked quarter mile of 12:19.05 beating the old record by more than 26 seconds. He finished second to Eddie Ostwick in the Motor City Speedway midget championship in 1940.
Howard purchased Ronney Householder's #2 Offy about 1940 and drove it, I believe, until his death in 1941. Howard was severly injured in a crash during the feature at Cleveland, Ohio on August 17th of that year and died four days later. He was survived by his wife Mary and four children - Virginia, Howard Jr., Rosemary and his younger son, Donald, born three months after his father's death. According to Howard, Jr., Mary died in 2000 along with his older sister. Howard lives in Michigan's upper penninsula while Donald resides in the Detroit area.
Carson Zeiter, legendary "Voice of the Speedway" described Dauphin in his eulogy as "..the greatest friend I ever had, the most brilliant and crafty driver of all time, whose thrilling exhibitions of superb driving will live forever in the minds of those who saw him race. Those who knew him, loved him, -- not only for his feats on the track but for his ever ready smile, his humor, his friendliness and his willingness to help his fellow man at all times..."
Dauphin was nominated by his family to the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.