A self-made man, MacPherson got his start after a stint in the US Navy selling magazine subscriptions door-to-door in Los Angeles. So taken by his tenacity, the owner of Angelus Chevrolet gave Joe a job selling cars. In the 1950s, Joe opened a leasing company in Santa Ana, California. His business grew to a number of dealerships and the creation of two major auto centers in Southern California as well as one of the most successful and visible teams in off-road racing history.
MacPherson was one of the earliest and most ardent supporters and advocates of the sport, going back to the mid-1960s when he visited Baja with Bruce Meyers in a specially prepared buggy built by Meyers to tame the wilds of the peninsula. After the trip, Joe was hooked and in 1972 he formed Team MacPherson Motorsports with Jerry MacDonald, campaigning a 1972 production class Blazer in the Baja 1000.
From the team’s headquarters at Joe MacPherson Chevrolet in the Irvine (Calif.) Auto Center, Joe directed the team’s efforts over the next 28 years with vehicles competing in Class 4, 7, 8 and Trophy Truck. The team garnered 10 class championships and 83 wins over the years that followed and Joe was twice voted Off-Road Person of the Year by the membership of SCORE International. The Team MacPherson Class 7 Chevy S-10 entries won an unprecedented 7 championships in a row and the Trophy Truck known as “Big Mac”, built from the ground-up in the team’s Irvine, California race shop, was arguably the fastest ever in its class.
Over the years the team attracted some of the best drivers in the sport including Jerry MacDonald, Jeff Lewis, Steve Kelly, Butch Arciero, Ivan Stewart, Brian Stewart, Larry Roeseler, Jeff MacPherson, Doug Fortin and Johnny Johnson.
Working extensively with GM Truck & Bus Engineering, Team MacPherson was a test bed for product development and innovation and many features found in today’s GM trucks and SUV’s, including electronic four-wheel drive, were born in the MacPherson shops and the terrain of Baja California.
Always a stalwart champion of the sport, Joe MacPherson stepped up to support the efforts of SCORE president Sal Fish on numerous occasions over the years. His in-house marketing agency produced the official SCORE program for two years and his in-house television production crew produced and aired all SCORE television shows in 1997 on SpeedVision. Over the next five years, this production team produced a total of 47 SCORE and Best in the Desert one-hour shows for SpeedVision, all supported financially by MacPherson.
His interests ranged from off-road racing to Indycar racing where son Jeff MacPherson campaigned in 1987, placing 8th at Indy. Joe was also an ardent car collector, building and restoring an eclectic collection of cars, hot rods and motorcycles. His “Infinity Flyer” won the “America’s Most Beautiful Roadster” award at the 1994 Oakland Roadster Show. To house his ever-growing collection, Joe built “Joe’s Garage” in the Tustin Auto Center and it quickly became a preferred venue for parties, weddings and even hosted the annual SCORE year-end awards banquet in 2000.
Over the years, Joe contributed significantly to the community. His philanthropic efforts supported such organizations as Big Brothers/Big Sisters of Orange County, the Santa Ana Boys and Girls Club, the Juvenile Diabetes Association and through his “Help the Schools” program, has presented more than two million dollars to Orange County Schools.