Let’s play drag racer word association!
“Jim Hughes,” You’d most likely answer “Hughes Performance,” makers of those bulletproof race converters, transmissions and components.
Well that would be partially true, but this super-sized version of the Energizer Bunny has many plates spinning: Hughes Motor Home and Trailer Sales, Hughes Motorsports (Hughes Performance multi-car, multi-class race team) and most notably DDRC, short for Don Davis Race Cars.
Halleluiah! Jim Hughes has resurrected Don Davis’ fabled race car operation. Don had developed a reputation for building competition-crushing ’27 T roadsters. Competing primarily in Super Gas. DDRS cars (from first to current), have won nearly 40% of national events entered and collected numerous Best Engineered accolades at IHRA and NHRA national events, including the U.S. Nationals.
Several years ago Don sold his business, but the new owners were unable to hold to the high standards Don had established. He had pretty much written off his beloved old company and was busy building and flying high-end model airplanes. Enter Jim Hughes: Jim had been a customer and a friend of Don’s for 20-plus years. He’ad commissioned Don’s former company to build a door car Super Gas/Top Sportsman car and when the project stalled, he headed to El Paso to do some detective work. Jim was appalled at what the new owners had done with the business and decided he wasn’t going to let Don’s legacy fail in such a manner. He bought what was left of the company and immediately brought Don back into the picture and dispatched sons Joey and Jake to El Paso for eight months, to learn the business. Son Joey a former Junior Dragster national champion and current Sportsman racer, had been chomping at the bit to become more active in Hughes Motorsports, so the timing was perfect. In 2011, after reestablishing the company’s credibility, Jim moved the operations to his home state of Arizona in Phoenix.
Jim and Don had to set new parameters for the rehabilitated DDRC. The mandate was to build high end, quality race cars that were affordable for racers competing in S/G, Super Comp and brackets. Building one-off custom-built cars as Don had done in El Paso, turned out class rides, but that business model was far from cost effective. The two went through each step in Don’s construction process, computerizing and streamlining the build techniques. The fruits of their labor are cars that can be identically reproduced, drastically reducing costs, and yet are also “custom-built” race cars. This cost effective technique is reflected in a variety of finished stages, with prices on a basic body and chassis kit from $22,000-52,000 for a complete roller, requiring only an engine, transmission and paint.
The custom nature of the DDRC cars are reflected in the ability to accept GM big- and small-blocks, multiple Ford and Mopar engines, multiple transmission types and driver location. Jim, being a race car driver the size of a football lineman, was insistent the new creation be comfortable for the driver. “You can’t drive well, if you don’t fit,” he emphatically states. To that end, the driver seat location, pedal assembly and steering wheel location are highly adjustable.
Now you have a bitchin’ chassis, how about a swoopy, aerodynamic body? DDRC created the designs and made the molds and fixtures for their narrow body C5 and 1957 Corvettes, brand-new ’69 Camaro and coming soon ’63 Corvette and late-model Mustang bodies. The bodies and components are available in both fiberglass and carbon fiber as an upgrade.
The premiere race car to roll out of the reenergized DDRC in 2011 was the trademark yellow JEGS ’57 S/G ‘Vette. When word leaked of Jim’s venture, Jeg Coughlin Jr. wanted not just a car he wanted “the first car!” Jeggie’s first outing was, appropriately, the 2011 JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals. Saturday he won the Super Class Shootout. The next day he scored a runner-up finish with it in Super Gas. He also won his first NHRA national event in Super Comp and almost doubled! Troy Jr. inherited the ‘Vette in 2013, and nearly won the S/G national championship in his first year in the car.
Obviously DDRC hasn’t lost a step in the transition from El Paso to Phoenix. To learn more about an affordable, custom race car build, visit Ddrccars.com. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.
Jeg Coughlin Jr. rolled away with DDRC #1 and immediately started winning races.
(L to R) Hardcore sportsman racers, Jim Hughes and Jim’s right-hand man Kevin Kleineweber prepare for another lap. Both are NHRA multi-national event and division race winners.
Welder extraordinaire Cesar Gonzalez creating another DDRC chassis. He signed on with Davis in 2002. Hughes was so impressed with Cesar’s skills, he relocated him to Phoenix.
Two newly completed chassis and a veteran DDRC racer. The ’57 ‘Vette body was once campaigned by
Top Fuel Shoe “Hot Rod” Fuller and Pro Stock diva Erica Enders-Stevens.
DDRC has created molds and fixtures for C5 and ’57 ’Vettes, ’69 Camaros and in the wings, ’63 ‘Vettes and late-model Mustangs. Available in fiberglass and carbon fiber, all made in Phoenix.
DDRC wiring and plumbing is masterfully crafted by Gerald King and his associate Mike Sytsma at King’s Finish Line Racing. He and Hughes have a business relationship going back some 20 years.
The DDRC S/G beauties of Jerry Calton and Canadian Ed Hutchinson. Ed won the NHRA Northwest Nats S/G crown last year in his ‘Vette.
Team Hughes Performance: A familiar site at NHRA races. Sportsman racers Hughes and troops are serious competitors. They also bring support to fellow racers. Like this rig? Hughes Motor Home and Trailer Sales will get you in one just like it!
The group (and one friend) who make DDRC the successful enterprise it is: (L to R) Robin Ortis, Charlie Harmon (race business consultant) Joey Hughes, Cesar Gonzalez, Don Davis, Kevin Kleineweber, Jim Hughes and Tim Brown.
Robin Ortis, Office/HR Manager and Vice President of Hughes Motorsports, is an integral member of Jim Hughes’ team.
Jim Hughes and the matriarch of all his enterprises, mother Lorraine. Mrs. Hughes has been actively involved in all aspects of the organization since she and her husband opened their original business in Phoenix in 1971
Scott Rollins, 2004 NHRA Division 7 and JEGS AllStars Super Street champ was in the market for another race car, perhaps a used ’63 ‘Vette S/G roadster. After a conversation with Don Davis and Jim Hughes and seeing a photo of DDRC’s new ’69 Camaro body, he jumped at the opportunity to order a brand-spanking new turnkey DDRC Super Gas Camaro.
He debuted the car at the NHRA national event in Phoenix this February where he was awarded the coveted Best Engineered Wally and went three rounds. A week later at the Division 7 race, he made four rounds a win can’t be too far in the future. Scott would like to acknowledge Bernie and Seth Polvadore, Jim Hughes, Don Davis, Joey Hughes, Cesar Gonzalez, Kevin Kleineweber, everyone at DDRC and especially his wife Stacey, for making this beauty a reality.
Don Davis race cars are noted for how they leave: hook hard with the nose up. Rollins’ ‘Vette shows that family trait.
The lift-up Funny Car-style body makes maintenance a snap. Greg Fleetwood, BoneScraperCustoms Phoenix, gets the accolades for paint and graphics.
Rick Watters Racing Engines built the 632-ci big-block Chevy. The Powerglide trans, featuring Hughes Performance internals was done by Scott’s friend, the versatile Bernie Polvadore.
DDRC offers a multitude of custom features, including driver location, engine and transmission adaptability.
Text by Pete Ward and Photos by Gary Nastase, Marty Reger and Jim White