Danny “Magoo” Chandler was one of the original Wildman showman of motocross. His loose and atomic aerial antics on KTMs won him wide fame before he ever hit it big as a racer. Magoo was not a win machine like McGrath or Carmichael, but when he had an on day, and usually at a fast track, he was unstoppable. He battled wheel-to-wheel with Bob Hannah at Sears Point when Hannah was on top of his game and Magoo was on a 250 Maico – hardly the best 250 of the era. Soon after he hit hard times. He raced a Yamaha YZ125, and then got help from Bobby Moore’s father who owned Pro-Trac trailers. Moore got him on Honda CR125Rs, and he won the series and a Suzuki support ride in the 125cc class. He had a strong year as a privateer, and earned a try-out ride for the Trans-AMA series – the AMA fall series at the time. Honda supported three riders in the series on preproduction CR480R Hondas. Magoo was one and Flying Mike Brown was another. Whoever won the series earned a Honda ride for ’82.Magoo won the series and the ride, and 1982 was the highlight of Magoo’s career, including his epic four-for-four win at the MX and Trophee des Nations. For the remainder of his US career Chandler showed flashes of brilliance including a USGP win and dominating the Superbikers made-for-TV race that spawned modern Supermoto racing. In between he struggled with injuries that prevented him from winning any major titles. He did win the support of the fans around the world, though.
The stories about Chandler are legend, but at Dirt Rider we have a couple that others may not have heard. When the 1985 liquid-cooled Honda CR500R was given to the press we had to keep the bike very secret. We could only ride it at private tracks, and Honda didn’t want any outside test riders on the bike to spread rumors. We solved the problem by asking for Chandler to be our photo model. We shot the cover in the studio with the bike hanging on cables. Chandler, wearing all new gear and boots, would climb on the bike like some demented swinging mechanical bull, wait for the photographer to give him the thumbs-up, and he would flip the bike over and hang upside-down clinging to the bike with sheer strength and looking in the boot soles. He would hang as long as he could stand it, then swing the bike back up. The following day we went to the private Petersen Ranch motocross track, but Chandler didn’t approve of any of our normal jumps. He found a hill he could jump completely over in fourth or fifth gear whipped completely sideways.To get the angle he wanted, ace photopher Rich Cox parked a van with a shooting platform on top next to the jump, and he shot from the roof. Chandler whipped the rear wheel right next to the van repeatedly at 60 mph. He was in the air for over 100 feet. He said that was easier than hanging the bike upside down on the cables!
Later a group of the Dirt Rider staff attended the Last Chance Trail Ride that went from Sacrameto to Lake Tahoe. Along the way it went through Magoo’s home town of Forest Hill. At the time Factory Effex owner and former factory Bultaco and Suzuki racer Bryar Holcomb was an ad sales guy for DR, and he ran into Chandler flying around in the woods on a CR500R. Chandler was prepping for the Superbikers race, so Honda had sent him a rear wheel with a Dirt Track tire to practice with. The problem was that the wheel was for a works Honda with disc rear brakes, and Magoo’s practice bike had a rear drum brake. So Chandler is blasting through the woods with a smooth dirt track tire and no rear brakes on a 500cc motocross bike. He convinced Holcomb to leave the ride for a bit and follow Danny on his trails. Bryar was on an IT490 Yamaha, so he had the top speed to stay the pace, and he just keyed off Magoo and did what he did. Finally, Magoo approached a sunny gap in the dense forest, and hit a jump that launched him out of the forest into the sunlight in fourth gear. The landing was back in the woods. Holcomb gulped, manned up and jumped blind right behind the Honda speedster. The jump was into the sun because it crossed a paved road! Magoo jumped it without even checking traffic. That was enough for BH, and he rejoined the trail ride.When options ran out in the U.S., Chandler took a KTM ride in Europe, and he was faster and more consistent that anyone expected, and that earned him a Kawasaki ride for the following year. At the Paris SX Magoo crashed off the track and was left paralyzed with reduced control of his hands. Danny showed the heart of a champion and went of to promote races and work with children for the remainder of his life.The motorcycle industry never forgot Danny, though, and recently Brad Lackey had been spear-heading a project to get Chandler a specially equipped van that would allow him to continue his work.
When I was covering national MX, few riders were as approachable and friendly as Danny Chandler. I witnessed him shake off incredible pain at Lakewood Colorado, pick up his bike and get back in the race. He never gave up, and always had time for the little guys. He will be missed.