Danny Magoo Chandler Dies at Age 50

May 6, 2010
JC Hilderbrand
JC Hilderbrand
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Hilde is holding down the fort at MotoUSA's Southern Oregon HQ. With world-class dirt bike and ATV trails just minutes away, the hardest part is getting him to focus on the keyboard. Two wheels or four, it doesn't matter to our Off-Road Editor so long as it goes like hell in the dirt.

Danny Magoo Chandler
Danny “Magoo” Chandler.

Danny “Magoo” Chandler died May 4th as a result of illnesses related to paralysis. The Hall of Fame rider was 50 years old.

The Sacramento, California native was known for his wild style and wide-open charge. Magoo was a fan favorite from the time he turned professional in 1976. His first real success came with a top-10 finish in the 1981 125cc Motocross Nationals.

He signed with factory Honda in 1982 and began the biggest year of his career. Perhaps the most memorable victory was claiming the U.S. 500cc Motocross Grand Prix. Besting the Europeans at Carlsbad Raceway that day notched his name in the history books. He furthered his international fame by winning every 250cc moto at the ’82 Trophies des Nations in Germany, and every 500cc moto at the Motocross des Nations in Switzerland – the only rider ever to achieve the feat. He also won the ABC Wide World of Sports Superbikers race, which was essentially the first event of what we now call Supermoto.

Magoo went on to finish third in the AMA 500cc series in ’83 but suffered through ’84 with injuries. He switched to the World Motocross Championship in 1985, ultimately settling with an Italian Kawasaki team, but a crash at the Paris Supercross in December of 1985 left him paralyzed.

Following the accident, Chandler embarked on a mission to help spread motorcycle safety, particularly to young riders. Other endeavors included race promotion for mountain bikes and cooperation with the DARE drug awareness program.

The industry has been hard at work to provide Danny with a specially equipped vehicle to make it easier for him to travel and conduct his seminars. The Danny Magoo Chandler Van Fund was completed and the project finalized on May 4, the same day as his death.

The following is a press release from long time friend Brad Lackey:

It is with mixed emotions that I write to Danny’s friends and the world. While we are all extremely saddened by the sudden passing of our friend and my little motocross brother, we are also happy that Danny is at peace now. He is probably already looking at how to turn one cloud’s double into a triple and see if he can do it with one foot off and one hand off his bent handlebar!

Danny and I grew up racing in Northern California together and taking on our rival “SoCal” racers knowing that we would have something to prove. Danny was always up for the challenge. The red-headed dynamo from the Sierra Nevada foothills always amazed me and other much more experienced and accomplished riders with his fully-pinned approach to straights, turns and of course, jumps.

I was very proud of him yet hardly surprised when I learned that he had decimated the competition at the 1982 Trophee and Motocross des Nations winning all four motos. It’s what I would have expected out of Danny. It brought a smile to my face later when I heard a story about an official from one of the des Nations events. Apparently he complained to Danny’s team manager and my friend Roger DeCoster that Danny was riding too crazy, clipping trees on his jumps, etc. He said he was going to hurt himself. Roger simply just showed the official Danny’s lap times and walked away.

This is how we all will remember Magoo.

In the past 12 months a lot of great people and I have worked toward getting Danny a new van to improve his way of life, which had deteriorated since his 1985 accident in Paris. I know Danny was excited about it and extremely appreciative to all those who contributed. He was genuinely surprised and humbled at the outpouring of support by all of his fans. Although he never got the chance to ride in his new van, he did see pictures of it and approved the new graphics that were being applied at the time of his passing. He really thought they were cool.

I just wish I had started the van project sooner.

As they say about hindsight, even a year or two earlier would’ve given Danny the opportunity to enjoy his life and do more of things he wished he could have done before Tuesday, May 4th. Now, as this is all swirling about for Lori and I, we are conscious of what should happen with the unfinished van project and all the fine individuals and companies that contributed. There will be decisions made in due time; all with Danny’s and his family’s best intentions in mind. The van was going to improve Danny’s life by giving him the ability to get out and continue his passion for teaching kids motorcycle and motocross safety and I’m confident and hopeful that we can continue to fulfill at least part of Danny’s mission. As soon as Danny’s affairs have been settled, we’ll have a better idea of what to do and we’ll let the public know. Please bear with us and understand that whatever decisions are made, they will be done with concern, forethought and guidance by others close to Danny and the van project.

I will miss Danny with all my heart and I want to thank everyone around the world who felt the same about the incredible Mr. Magoo.

Brad Lackey