Sure, Mike Nesmith’s mother might have concocted the original version of liquid paper, making life a little bit easier for inattentive receptionists here and there, but David Hobb’s old man invented an early variant of the automatic transmission, therefore making the whole motoring experience much less complicated for drivers worldwide (so take that, Monkee boy).
In 1931, Australian inventor Howard Hobbs packed up his wife and young daughter and left Adelaide for Great Britain, then the center of automotive manufacturing. It was in Ol’ Blighty where David Wishart Hobbs was born in 1939. Having been raised around automobiles, thanks to his father’s work, David joined Daimler Cars as an engineering apprentice upon leaving school. His fellow apprentices had their own motor club, in which they would go rallying and autocrossing together, so young Hobbs commandeered his mother’s Morris Oxford, swapped the lump out with a BMW B Series test bed engine from his father’s factory and went racing in 1959.
A year later at the wheel of his dad’s XK140, also fitted with an automatic gearbox, David rolled the Jag in his first race. He repaired the car as best as he could and went on to win four races in it, garnering notoriety for both himself and his father’s invention. The following year, the family bought a Lotus Elite to promote the gearbox, with which David won 14 out of 18 races entered. By this time, both Stirling Moss and Jim Clark also had Hobbs Transmission LTD gearboxes in their cars.
In 1962, David won on his open wheel debut in a F2 race at Oulton Park. That same year, he took part in the inaugural Daytona 3 Hour race as well as his first 24 Hours of Le Mans, where he would come 8th overall, winning both his class and the Index of Performance in a Lotus Elite. Over the next four years, Hobbs would take part in Formula Junior, sports car and tin top races around the world, including many events in the U.S.
David made his F1 debut at the non-championship Syracuse Grand Prix in 1966, where he took his BRM to the podium behind the factory Ferraris of Surtees and Bandini. His first championship points paying GP would come a year later in the 1967 British Grand Prix, finishing just outside of the points in 8th.
But even after such a strong debut, the F1 teams really never came knocking. Between 1967 and 1974, David would take part in just seven GPs for Bernard White Racing (BRM), Honda, Penske and even McLaren. Though he never once finished outside of the top ten, he never scored any points, either. Hobbs also raced in four Indianapolis 500s between 1971 and 1976, coming home with a best finish of 5th in 1974.
With what David himself described as a mediocre open wheel career, at least in F1 and Indy cars, he excelled at F5000. Between 1969 and 1976, he would win 22 F5000 races, 2nd all time, and take the ’71 title. But it was in sports cars that David really shone. He drove at Le Mans 20 times, finishing 3rd twice, in cars as diverse as Triumph Spitfires, Ford GT40s, Ferrari 512s, and the mighty Porsche 917, 956 and 962. He also won 11 IMSA races and claimed the 1983 Trans-Am championship.
In 1976, while still taking part in races himself, David also moved into the commentary booth, covering F1, USAC and Nascar for CBS in the States. He would stay with the broadcaster for the next twenty years while also moonlighting at ESPN. Hobbs would move to his current home with the then new SPEED network in 1996, where he keeps his current F1 broadcast cohorts Steve Matchett and Bob Varsha , along with their viewers, in constant fits of laughter and sometimes bewilderment at his witty banter, quirky stories and Cockney slang.
Though all might pale in caparison to Hobb’s introduction of the word “klag” into the American motorsports fan lexicon, David also owns one of the largest Honda dealerships in Wisconson, does loads of local and state charity and public radio work, has become a movie star of sorts with his role as ‘David Hobbscap’ in the Disney-Pixar film “Cars 2” and was inducted into the Motorsport Hall of Fame in 2009.