Steve Davidson
Race Cars




Quality control inspector Hollybell, Steve's border collie, checking out the Craig-Berger-Schwartz top fuel dragster.


Steve Davidson Race Cars began in a small shop around 1993 in Prunedale, California. Steve was an experienced welder and fabricator. He had worked for years building aircraft cargo and baggage loading equipment for Lantis Corporation in Salinas, and had also been working for some time with renowned chassis builder Robert Stirling. This lifelong Salinas Valley resident first took up welding as a student at Gonzales High School (Gonzales, California). After graduation (1986), Steve worked for a small job shop before moving on to Lantis where he started out as a trainee welder. Lantis Corporation was a major employer with over 300 shop employees. Steve steadily proved his worth, eventually moving to the management side of the business. However, when the company was sold to an overseas buyer, the culture of the workplace changed dramatically, and Steve knew it was time for a change. His growing frustration with Lantis pointed him in a new direction, one closely linked to the fortunes of Robert Stirling. Steve had known Robert since the mid 1980s when his dad, Lee, decided to switch from racing boats to drag cars.

Steve: My dad had purchased one of the Safeway Sandblasting REDs to race in NHRA's Super Eliminator. He took it to Stirling to have it updated. This is when I first met Robert. A little later, I had an opportunity to build a junior fuel dragster and went to Robert for a quote. Knowing that I was a fabricator, he said I could have it for less if I wanted to do some of the work. I guess he liked my work because I started working for him on weekends. When the situation at Lantis became too much, I jumped at the opportunity to build chassis for Trick Design. This was a fully equipped shop but the owner needed a chassis builder, so Robert sent me over to him to fulfill obligations on three front engine dragsters. I built three FEDs in that shop including one for Brian Van Dyke and one for Terry Caldwell. About a year later, Robert sold his property in Salinas and moved to Kingman, Arizona. That forced me to open my own place, the small shop in Prunedale. I was there about eight years before moving to a bigger site on Spence Rd. Today, Steve Davidson Race Cars is located in a shop that I had built adjacent to my home in the Salinas Valley.

WDIFL: How did you learn all the fine points of chassis design?

Steve: Robert Stirling gave me direction, but basically, I'm self taught. Robert said "…..this is the way you do it…..this is the way you bend tubing." There was a lot of trial and error, and of course, I had to ask a lot of questions. I was fortunate to be mentored by Robert, and I got a lot of technical help from Don Long, too. Another big influence for me was my grandfather. He was an engineer for Chrysler Corp. for 35 years, the quintessential "car guy" from whom I learned a great deal.

WDIFL: Anything unique or different about your approach to chassis design, especially with reference to the front engine nostalgia dragster?

Steve: The Craig-Berger-Schwartz dragster is the prototype for my top fuel dragster design. I started building it in January 2007 and it hit the drag strip in time for the '07 Governor's Cup at Sacramento Raceway. At that race, we qualified #2 at 5.95-244.02 and improved to 5.92 a month later at 'The Reunion'. The car has run a best of 5.81 at 253 mph. I front halved it in 2009, adding some additional tubing and safety features. The introduction of the Hoosier tire caused a lot of problems for the nostalgia fuel dragster teams. The construction of the tire was fine, but it was breaking welds on the frames left and right. The Hoosier tire grips more than the M&H and the havoc happens when it grips then slips very rapidly; the M&H just slips when you over-power it. The Hoosier is worst at low power and you really have to put the coals to it to get it through the shake zone. However, on the CBS car (Craig-Berger-Schwartz), it would only bend the tubing because of a design feature I call the "floating X in the bottom bed." This allows the frame to flex under high stress without breaking welds. Also, I use Brutis welding rod as opposed to mild steel welding rod. Brutis has a tensile strength of 130,000 PSI as opposed to mild steel which has only 35,000 PSI tensile strength. Brutis was originally used to weld the engines together on the space shuttle. Besides being rust and corrosion resistant, it is very attractive too with its gold seams. It is everything you would want in this business except the cost which is about $100.00 per pound. But, I use it because it is just superior to the alternatives and it allows me to "weld with confidence".


Steve Davidson Race Cars is located at 1280 Old Stage Rd. on the east side of scenic and serene Salinas Valley.


WDIFL: Any other projects on the jig?

Steve: I'm working on a NHRA pro dragster for a client in Colorado. I also have a contract to build a 7.0 Pro car for a racer in Arizona. Then, there is my ongoing Indy Car project for Shadow Racing. Other than chassis construction, I tackle small fabrication and design projects as well as high end aluminum welding for clients. I built the latches and installed the canopy on the Champion Speed Shop Chevy dragster.

WDIFL: You are a lifelong resident of the Salinas Valley. You mentioned that your grandfather was a real car guy. Anyone else involved in racing or motor sports?

Steve: My family has been involved with drag racing for many years. My dad started in Super Eliminator in the 1980s and still races his Stirling car in NHRA Super Comp today. When I was growing up, I played baseball, football, and wrestled. As an adult, I played ten years as a catcher and pitcher in league play. My daughters, Krystal (20) and Rebeka (16) are both talented softball players and their agenda has taken Michelle and I all over California for their competitions. So, there is a lot more to our family dynamic than just drag racing.


Steve and ex-top fuel pilot Doug Aumack (Aumack Bros.), a mechanical
engineer by trade, discussing the fine points of design at the shop.


The Brutis welding rod has a goldish hue to it as shown on this close up of the welds on the Craig-Berger-Schwartz top fuel dragster.


Don Williamson looking over photo albums of race cars Steve has built; Don was the original owner of the Hairy Canary funny car. His sons, Rick and Bret, are both experienced drivers; Rick with the C-B-S top fuel dragster and Bret with TA/FC and
pro mod.


All of Steve's tanks are custom made in-house for each client.


Another dragster chassis jigged up for a customer..


The welding table where Steve tackles some of those smaller projects that require meticulous and precise execution. Airgas Corp., the largest distributor of specialty gases in the U.S., has provided Steve with invaluable technical support over the years.

Steve also builds motorcycle frames for flat track racing. The one to the right of Hollybell belongs to current dirt track "phenom" 14 year old Briar
Bauman of Salinas


Ahh…..the favorite pastime of the off season: bench racing. Steve, Mike Craig, Don Williamson, and Doug Aumack relaxing and catching up on old times.


Steve at the 2010 CHRR before E1.


Steve and the legondary Steve SanPaolo at the 2010 March Meet.


"…..Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife. Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray; Along the cool sequester'd vale of life They kept the noiseless tenor of their way." -Thomas Gray.

Steve, Rebeka, and Michelle sharing time amidst the pastoral beauty of the Salinas Valley.





Mike Salinas and his 7.0 Pro dragster.


Steve Sheridan's A/F dragster in the winner's circle at Sacramento Raceway; Jeremy Sullivan drove the Davidson car to victory at the 2008 Fremont Reunion Drags.
Steve Wallace photo


When Steve Sheridan and Al Hawkins split up, Al had Steve build him a new A/F dragster; Jeremy Sullivan at Sacramento Raceway.


Jeremy Sullivan at the 2009 CHRR (post paint).
Bob Brown photo


Dan Maciel from Jamestown CA driving Lee Jennings Sr.'s, immaculate '32 Bantam 7.0 Pro car.


Lee Paul Jennings' American Revolution nostalgia funny car made its debut at Funny Car Fever in 2009; after Steve had completed Code 3, he updated this Plueger chassis for Lee Paul.


The Craig-Berger-Schwartz nostalgia top fuel dragster has been a contender from the moment it hit the strip, most recently with a semi-final finish at the 2009 CHRR, this coming on the heels of a R/U at the 2009 DragFest.




Special Thanks

Michelle-who, for 22 years, has helped Steve follow his dreams .

CBS Racing
Mike & Kathy Craig
Brad Berger
Bill Schwartz
Jerry Schultz
Rick Williamson




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