One of America’s earliest female racing drivers has passed away at the age of 86 from heart failure. Mary Davis raced during the 1950s, the sport’s formative years in America, and the long blond hair streaming out the back of her helmet quickly became her trademark. She drove a variety of Aston Martin, Mercedes-Benz and Triumph racecars, winning a number of ladies races as well as the 1957 Mobilgas Economy Run.
Apart from being a pioneer for women in racing, she also broke new ground in her business career, which was at least as noteworthy as her racing. In 1957 she opened a restaurant called The Grand Prix on Beverly Boulevard in L.A., which quickly became the watering hole of choice for most of the Southern California racing community. That was just the beginning for her, though, as she jumped into the development of the harbor in Redondo Beach with both feet, building the fabled Portofino Inn that would itself gain fame as the western terminus of Brock Yates’ famed Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash. She would eventually serve as president of the Redondo Beach Chamber of Commerce.
She was a longtime advocate for women’s rights, encouraging young girls to pursue their dreams and build careers for themselves. To all her many friends in and out of the sport, Vintage Racecar extends its sincerest condolences.