Dave Cooper was first introduced to the sport of oval track auto racing in the late 1930’s by his friend Eric Foster.
Dave drove his first race at “Langford Speedway” in 1941, participating in the “Street Stock” class with cars that included a 1936 Chrysler sedan. From these he graduated to the “Big Cars” (sprint cars) including one which he co-owned with Eric Foster. With the closing of the Langford track in 1950, Dave and his fellow competitors moved to Cobble Hill’s “Shearing Speedway” in 1952 with Dave competing in both the Big Car and “Stockcar” classes. In 1953, he was season points champion in both classes.
Andy Cottyn’s building of Western Speedway saw Dave as a qualified tradesman donate his time to install all the needed plumbing at the new track. His weekly job and his growing driving successes would earn him the nickname of the “Flying Plumber”. Dave was points champion for the Stockcar class at Western for the inaugural 1954 season in addition to setting the class track record and being voted the “Most Popular Driver” which won him a 21” TV set. The following season he repeated as top point winner, also placing first in the Labour Day “Gold Cup” race.
The 1957 season didn’t start off well for Dave as he was winless in the first 8 race meets, but he was virtually unbeatable after that, winning as well as his 3rd season championship, the “6 Mile Perpetual Trophy”, the “Vancouver Island Championship” race, “Roy White Memorial” and “Gold Cup” races plus “Most Main Events”(5). 1958 was pretty much a repeat for him with the exceptions of the “July” and “Gold” cups. He also set a new track record of 19.67 as he captured his 4th season championship. Dave recorded a clean sweep at the season’s first race meet at Western in 1959, other highlights being rollovers at two successive meets at Nanaimo’s “Grandview Bowl” and his finishing 5th in Island points for the season and also winning the first ever awarding of the “Dick Willoughby Sportsmanship” trophy.
1960 was a disappointing year with Dave finishing outside of the top ten in points for only the 2nd time since the track’s opening. 1961 saw the #66 driver and crew with a late start to their season, the first night of which included their new car’s front axle breaking during a heat race which sent it flying off the 2nd turn and rolling over and down a bank. A new axle and fresh paint and they were back in business with Dave finishing 9th in points for the year and also being honoured on Sept. 16th at a special “Dave Cooper Nite” which included him receiving a life membership in the “Vancouver Island Track Racing Association” (VITRA), the first one ever given out. He also served two terms (1961 and ’62) as VITRA’s “Membership Chairman”.
Dave did some sportscar racing during the later years, coming back to Western in 1968 at the wheel of a ’57 Chevy Super Stock owned by Dick Midgley. He continued to drive on and off for Dick until he retired from active competition in 1974, but his race driving days weren’t quite yet over.
He drove a “Hobby Stock” in an “Old Timers Nite” race in August of 1976 and was present again at the Speedway’s 25th anniversary celebrations in August of 1978 where he was surprised with the fully restored #66 red 1934 Dodge coupe Stockcar he had last driven in ’61 in which he won that event’s trophy dash for vintage Stockcars.
Following another night of racing in this same car in 1982, Dave finally hung up his helmet for good, capping a driving career in which the “Flying Plumber” had competed at every Island track, won countless trophies in various classes of cars, four track championships at Western as well as wins at many other Pacific Northwest ovals.
In addition to his induction into the “Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame” in 1984, Dave was also inducted into the “Greater Victoria Sports Hall of Fame” in 2008. Here is a link to his page on their website: https://www.gvshof.ca/inductees-2/all-inductees/21-motor-sports/148-dave-cooper-2008.html
At the age of 97 in August of 2018, Dave was present at the unveiling of a BC Provincial Government- awarded “Stop of Interest” sign erected behind the Speedway grandstands. In June of 2019, he attended an Old Timer’s get-together for the Canadian debut of author Bob Kehoe’s recently-released book on Billy Foster.