I was born on June 19th 1944, in London England, not long after ‘D’ Day. Hitler was not finished with us Brits yet, and shortly after my birth, a flying bomb hit the building I lived in. My father told me, the ceiling had fallen down on me and he had to dig me out and recover me from my cot. “God, obviously had a purpose for my life,” he would laughingly say years later.
My father as a young man left his father’s business, my Grandfather, to start on his own to help out with the war effort. As a child I grew up close to his factory and although my father, didn’t believe in the value of higher education, my mother insisted that I was educated at some of the finer schools in England. From humble beginnings I saw how my father went from his modest factory in Northolt, near London, to a company employing over 800 people by the 1970’s.
I was in boarding school from the age of eight, and remained so until my senior year of eighteen. Between my Grandfather and my father I was never allowed to forget how the bread was put on our table. Hard work, dedication and innovation were the keys to success. “Never try to be like anyone else, be yourself, the greatest gift of all, and learn to teach by example. I have to say that if it wasn’t in my blood to become an entrepreneur, then I was definitely in the wrong place. In spite of all these great experiences, I was taught to have a sense of humor and embrace a “sense of the ridiculous.” I had, you might say a very unorthodox upbringing, surrounded by a family who believed that there wasn’t such a word as can’t!
In 1967, at the age of twenty-three an opportunity arose for me to go to Texas and help with the F-111 fighter program that was being manufactured by General Dynamics in Fort Worth, Texas. I had finished my apprenticeship as a toolmaker/machinist and gained certificates in mechanical engineering from Guildford Technical College, by one day a week and night classes. My father didn’t believe in university, so after my school years, it was ‘get out on the factory floor and get your hands dirty.’ After five years I was well prepared for this opportunity.
I had only planned to be in Texas for three years and then return. It was like day and night to the world I knew, the only thing we had in common was that we spoke the same language. However, I met a very special family that took me in as one of their own, and that had the effect of changing my complete understanding of Texas, and more importantly the United States of America.
I married in 1970 a Texas girl, but returned to England to work with my father for the next five years. I, like my father wanted to go it alone! So I returned to the States and started my own auction business for selling antique furniture and cars. Unfortunately the dock strike in England in 1979, after nine months, put an end to my venture. When my containers arrived, I had to sell everything for 10 cents on the dollar to pay off the bank. Nothing like starting over! After returning to my trade on the factory floor, a year later I eventually ended up with the job I was seeking. General Manager of a company owned by Curtiss Wright, in Dallas. I remained there for five years. In 1982 I was finally in a position to start my own business, again. By that time, Dianne and I had three children, two daughters, Delisa, Mary, and Alex. My youngest Alex, was born here and is a native Texan, as is my Grandson Ashton today.
The first ten years were the toughest of my life, It took me over twenty years to build the largest wing panel manufacturing company in the world. We held 100% of the business, in regional jets, for companies like Bombardier, Embraer, and De Havilland. In business jets we held 100% of the market for, Mitsubishi, Israel Aircraft, and Lear. And 60% of the wings for companies like Gulfstream, Raytheon, and so on. I had plants in Montreal, our main headquarters on 25 acres, Wichita, Kansas, and Terazona, Spain.
In 2004 I sold my business to a Belgium consortium and decided to return to Texas, to be with my family, from Montreal. After a lot of research I found the right plot of land and started again, from a green field site to build a 2.5-mile road racetrack, in April of 2006. I always had a passion for motor racing as well as horse racing. I had earlier experiences with my brother in 1971, when he brought over, from England, his Brabham BT35 to run in the Formula Atlantic Series sponsored by ‘Yellow pages’. It gave me a chance to experience road racing in North America for a season, after then finishing my work in Texas, at that time, before returning to England. I had always been a passionate follower of Formula 1, and have since learned much about many other classes, including Nascar and the Indy series.
When the track was finished, life finally gave me the opportunity to go back to my other passion, writing. Over the years I kept copious notes of my travels and meetings.
It’s taken me a lifetime to reach some of my many goals, not all successes, but sometimes we learn more from our mistakes. I hope my maker keeps me alive long enough to achieve more!
David Francis Cook
David Francis Cook