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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Brent Fessler, crew member, David Powers, and John Riley. Photo courtesy: John Riley

Powers, David. (Dubuque, IA-- ). In October 1970 Powers left work at the JOHN DEERE DUBUQUE WORKS to work at the Kopper Ford auto dealership on Central Avenue. Powers was in charge of parts and service and then became general manager.

Prior to the company's move to the west side of Dubuque along Dodge, he bought in as a partner. The partnership also purchased the Terry McGarth Volkswagen-Mercedes dealership then adjacent to BIRD CHEVROLET and a dealership on the western edge of Galena, Illinois. The Kopper-Powers partnership was dissolved in 1972 with Powers buying the Ford dealership and Kopper purchasing the Volkswagen-Mercedes operation. Powers sold the Ford dealership in 1977. The business had one owner before Mike Finnin purchased the dealership.

Photo courtesy: John Riley

Powers and John William RILEY began a partnership when Riley worked part-time as a gas station mechanic and Powers stopped in to see the work being done on the cars. In 1958 the two set a goal of reaching the top in the world of drag racing. Riley had years of experience as a top-flight mechanic and Powers supplied the nerves and skills of a great driver.

In 1968, Powers won the United Drag Racers Association circuit championship. In 1969, he placed second in the Hot Rodding Magazine Championships. Ending his absence from the sport in early 2000, Powers re-entered the National Hot Rod Association as a team owner. In 2006 the Valvoline/David Powers Homes Top Fuel dragster stood at No. 6 in the world rankings. In 2007 Rod "Hot Rod" Fuller raced to his second straight Top Fuel victory in the Valvoline/David Powers Homes dragster with a 4.490-second run at 327.19 mph to claim his fourth career victory and take the series points lead for the first time in his career.

In an article in the Telegraph Herald in 2006 the two men claimed their success was due to never blaming each other.

Photo courtesy: John Riley

Nicknamed the "Hicks from the Sticks," the two worked their regular jobs, ate dinner and rested, and then worked on their cars until midnight. Friday began the weekend of racing.

Photo courtesy: John Riley
Photo courtesy: John Riley

In addition to winning races, the Powers & Riley team pioneered advances in racing. The partners designed and manufactured racing innovations which became standard equipment. Riley believes his team was the first to experiment with a "reverser" in its fuel dragster in 1967. Designed and built by Powers and Riley in Dubuque, the aluminum reverser allowed dragsters to backup. The component gave the Powers and Riley team a definite advantage for several years, but they manufactured the parts in Dubuque, assembled them locally, and sold them to other racers to use.

Powers and Riley also led the way in the development of adjustable clutches. Most racers then used clutches with triple discs and customary pressure plates with different spring pressures. After a competition, the unit needed to be taken apart and a new plate inserted. Powers and Riley developed a method by which the driver adjusted the clutch using an Allen wrench through the housing.

When the partners went into the Funny Car category, they were the leaders in experimenting with direct-drive units. Most funny cars used automatic transmissions, spring rear suspensions and regular differentials. The Power & Riley Mustang used direct drive prior to 1970.

Powers left Dubuque after the sale of the Ford dealership and became a highly successful home builder. In 2007, for the fourth year in a row, David Powers Homes was honored by The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year award and was given the 2007 ENERGY STAR Sustained Excellence Award in recognition of its continued leadership in protecting the environment through energy efficiency. The company was the only Houston, Texas builder to boast such an achievement.

In addition, David Powers Homes earned the following awards:

Prism Awards:

2001 Best Interior Design - $2000,000 - $400,000

2001 Best Product Design - $400,000 - $500,000

2002 Marketing Campaign of the Year

2002 Model Home Park Design - Victory Lakes

2005 Interior Design of the Year - $400,000

2005 Best Product Design - $400,000

2005 Best Print Ad of the Year

2006 Interior Design of the Year - Over $400,000

2006 Product Design of the Year - $300,000 - $400,000

Star Awards:

2001 Best Billboards

2001 Best Web site

Gold Aurora Award - Escape the Ordinary - Commercial - Bill Young Producers

National Awards - Regional:

2002 Best Single Family Detached - $250,000 - $400,000

Floor Plan and Product Design

2002 Best Single Family Detached - $250,000

Floor Plan and Product Design

2003 Best Broker Program

2003 Best Web site

2003 Best Electronic Media

2004 Best Single Family Detached $650,000 to $1,000,000

2004 Best Direct Mail

2002 Telly Award - Television Commercial - Escape the Ordinary

Sources: Interview of David Powers, http://www.davidpowershomes.com/