Peter Brock, the Legendary Designer of the Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe

With the experience of designing cars for General Motors and Shelby America and working with Japanese manufacturers, Peter Brock and his designs have become influential throughout the automotive industry. His résumé includes such greats as the Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray, the Shelby Daytona Cobra coupe, the Triumph TR-250K, and the Shelby–De Tomaso P70 Can-Am car.

Shelby Daytona Cobra
Shelby Daytona Cobra coupe in 1965, designed by Peter Brock. Photo by Lothar Spurzem via Wikimedia Commons.

TCA: What sparked your interest in automotive design? Who or what influenced you?

PB: My main interest in cars started really early—I was like 12 years old. I had a next-door neighbor who had an MG, and he raced that car. That was the coolest thing I had ever seen. This was in 1949, so there were very few sports cars in the United States at that time. He had this little racing MG, so I used to go to the races with him. I found out that about a mile or two from where I was going to grammar school was the shop where all these little race cars were being worked on. The guys and mechanics who worked there also raced the cars on the weekend.

So when I found out that, I convinced the owner that I should work for free there—you know, sweep or wipe down the tools and stuff. And after a while, they realized that I was pretty serious and wouldn’t go away. I just hung around, and the most important man there was building a supercharged MG special in the shop. I could stand and watch him do this over a period of six months, so I saw him create the car. It was really a pretty amazing thing for a young kid to see that happen—the whole thing come together and form the aluminum body and build the engine and put the supercharger on and all of the trick stuff. That influence there really got me going with my interest in automobiles and my desire for the race car. I was pretty serious little kid, being involved in racing one way or another.

But the one thing it really taught me about being around the shop and race cars was the reality of what it cost and what it would take to do that. So my fallback position was what do I do in school to back this up. And at first, I thought it was probably an engineering background, so that was sort of the way I geared my schooling after high school and stuff. But when I got into college, I realized college wasn’t something you’re going to get anything out of, that it’s a whole screwed-up system that doesn’t work. I had heard about this other school in the Los Angeles area called ArtCenter for designing cars.

So I drove down there on Easter vacation and literally parked in the garage in the back and went in with a guy and hung out, sat in the classrooms, and looked at what was going on and what was there. That pretty much fully convinced me to get me involved in automotive design. I used to draw cars in study hall, just like every guy at that age, and put interest in cars. I mean, these were really, really beautiful renderings. So it combined what understanding I had with engineering with the real aesthetic end of it, which was what appealed to me. What I had learned hanging out in the shop and building race cars from an engineering standpoint was really the skill that had to be clothed in the aesthetic form.

I was beginning to see a lot of these pretty exotic cars that were beginning to come into the United States at that time. For example, the Jaguar XK120 was introduced at that moment and just created an amazing impression on not only what I saw, but the whole American public. If you went over to the San Francisco auto show, there were 10 people around the car when it was first introduced. And the same thing happened with the Austin-Healey 100. I was introduced to all the beautiful little cars at that early age. And then I started really reading up on where all that stuff came from, and then going to the races at Pebble Beach, and going with all these guys who were racing. I began to expand pretty much where these things came from. And they were at the races, so I could see the exotics. Like Johnny von Neumann came in with the first 356 Porsches and later the 550 Spyders and all those kind of stuff. It was just a magical world of automotive design and engineering that kind of sparked me doing that.

Chevrolet Corvette SS
Zora Arkus-Duntov’s Chevrolet Corvette SS. Photo by Drew Lindberg via Wikimedia Commons.

How did you start at GM Styling? What was it like working there with Bill Mitchell?

It was a matter of being in the right place at the right time because when I had gone to GM, I didn’t have the money to finish ArtCenter College in design. I was only about halfway through my fifth semester there. During the first five semesters, I had gotten to know Chuck Jordan, who died recently. He eventually became the head of GM design. At that time he was the director for GM, and he used to come out to the school to look at the advanced students to see who he was going to hire to bring back to GM. I knew at that point going in that I wanted to work for GM because of what was going on and the programs for their overhead valve engines and some of their engineering.

So I got to know him. And when I reached a point with my parents where they were not going to cover my school expenses anymore, I called Chuck on the phone and said, “Hey, I’m out of money, and I still want to come to GM.” And he really saved my ass. He just said: “OK, I’ll have an airplane ticket for you tomorrow morning. Come on back.” So he hired me onto their design team. Getting me in there was a matter of timing. The thing is that—that was in late ’56, early ’57—there was a major shift in Detroit from the manufacturers at that point called the AMA ban—the Automobile Manufacturers Association—led by GM, who were going to get completely out of racing and all performance activity.

At that point the Corvette program was being cut off, which was a major blow to me because that was one of the major reasons I’d gone to GM and shown some interest in design and building modern sports cars. And Harley Earl, who had started GM design in 1927, was the guy who came up with the whole idea and said, “Do the thing.” But then there was really nobody in Detroit who knew anything about what a motorsports car was supposed to be. There was a lot of management there resistant toward it because Harley was trying to build this car out of fiberglass. Nobody back there knew anything about fiberglass. But he realized that he was a kind of a visionary, and that it might be a way that you could make limited production vehicles at a very low cost because the tooling wasn’t expensive. That was what he had told me, was that he would hire these young engineers and designers with this little small program called the Corvette to work on the new materials, the new engineering stuff. But there was nobody there who really knew anything, and that’s where Zora Arkus-Duntov came in. He’d seen the first Corvette at the New York auto show in 1953 and realized that there was a lot lacking there from an engineering standpoint.

GM’s top engineer, who was English, a guy named Maurice Olley, hired Zora. He contacted Maurice Olley and said: “Hire me, I will come back and lead your sports car program. I’ve been working for Allard, I’ve been working for Porsche, I’ve done all kinds of things.” And he talked his way in there as well. Zora became pretty much the head of the engineering program of Chevrolet on the Corvette. Mr. Earl at that time was retiring, and his handpicked replacement was a guy named Bill Mitchell. Bill Mitchell was probably one of the only reasons we still have Corvettes today. He loved automobiles, and he was not going to let that management destroy everything that had been built up. Mr. Earl was done with the Corvette, and Bill was going to continue the Corvette program.

The problem was that he couldn’t do it, and the obvious way was to bring the program into Chevrolet engineering and the Chevrolet studio upstairs. So in order to hide the program, he took it downstairs to where I was working as an intern at that time, where they put the young designers. They put them in there for a year or so to see what they really looked like in terms of what they could produce, what their qualities were mostly from an aesthetic standpoint of engineering, and their leadership, whether they were going to be a designer or a studio head. Bill had recently gone over to the Turin auto show in the summer of ’57 and had seen a bunch of really little trick little streamliners that were being built there at that point. But they all had the sort of similar form with the beltline that went around the middle of the car.

He brought back a whole series of photographs that he had shot over there and came down into the research studio where I was working. There were three of us intern designers down there. He kind of laid out the program that he wanted to do, and I think that he wanted to see if this young group of guys could do something different than what was being done upstairs in the conventional studio. Long story short is that he liked all the work that I had done. It was his direction of what we were going to do, and he came in and said: “You guys, we got a couple of weeks. I want to see what you can do.” He put all this stuff up on the wall, came in, and picked my sketches off the wall and said, “OK, this is the direction we’re going,” and gave me the project to continue on.

Then the challenge was to the rest of the guys to see if they could come up with something better. That was all of his thing, was to challenge everybody, pick something good out, and say, “OK, you’ve got to beat this.” So after a couple of weeks, we realized there was nothing there that was superior to that. We went ahead and went from a 1/4-scale model to building a full scale of the Corvette Sting Ray in clay. He’d come in every couple of days and say: “Do this, change this line. I like this, do this.” He’s really designing the car and explaining what he wanted, and I was the hands-on guy doing the car. That’s the way we did it.

XP-87 Stingray
XP-87 Stingray. Photo by Steve Ginn.

The car was all designed primarily as a coupe the way we finally saw the thing appear in 1963, and at that point he came into the studio and said: “All right. I have bought Zora Arkus-Duntov’s Corvette SS,” which is a program that Zora had started in ’55 or ’56. He had built this very beautiful little car called the Corvette SS, built on a Mercedes 300SL’s spaceframe, and then he had come in from management saying there would be no more racing. So essentially that car was supposed to have been crushed and all of that stuff destroyed. But Mitchell managed to squeak one of the chassis out. Zora gave the SS to the Indianapolis museum. They had saved it.

He came back and came to the studio and said, “OK, we’re going to not going to build a coupe, we’re going to build a roadster.” We cut the roof off that thing. He said, “You know it’s beautiful, but I’m going to pay for this myself, and we’re going to run the car as my private automobile.” But by then management had discovered what we were doing, and they told him strictly that if he wanted to continue, he could do it on his own, but he could not put the Corvette name on it and he could not identify it with Chevrolet. So that’s where he came up with the Sting Ray name. We put that name on the car, and then we built that car up to full scale.

At that point I ended up transferring over for Mr. Earl to work on another project, and the Sting Ray went into a secret studio that Bill Mitchell had built with the false front so management wouldn’t know what was going on behind it. Larry Shinoda and a guy named Tony Lapine took over the project, and they pretty much designed the actual production 1963 version from the XP-87, of which I had done the prototype. As that thing was finished up, Tony was promoted and sent over to do another special project, an Opel in Germany. Then Porsche went and picked him out of Opel and made him head of Porsche design. So Tony never really got a lot of credit for doing the production Sting Ray because he left the program. I had left the program. So Larry Shinoda was left there, and he was pretty much the guy who got most of the credit for doing the production version of the Sting Ray.

Were there any influences to the Corvette Sting Ray’s design?

What was really interesting working at General Motors design was that they had just finished the GM Tech Center campus at that point, and it was this beautiful Eero Saarinen design area in Warren, Michigan, where I went to work. Not everything had been organized or completed, so they had a room there that was going to be the GM library that had not yet been organized and such. I used to spend my lunch hours down there going through anything that I could find that I was interested in—the history of automobile design and engineering and what had been done in Europe. They subscribed to most of the European automobile magazines. There wasn’t much in the United States at that time except Road & Track—that was the key magazine here at that time. But there were a lot of pretty good European things that were in there. Going through all that I happened to find a small group of papers that were done on mimeograph. All written in German was a white paper that had been done in the late ’30s that Dr. [Wunibald] Kamm’s studio in Germany on the automotive aerodynamics of the prototype cars they had done for Wanderer and another company called Audi.

1963 Corvette development
1963 Chevrolet Corvette design. Photo by Chevrolet via Wikimedia Commons.

Dr. Kamm and a young guy who was working for him named Reinhard von Koenig-Fachsenfeld had really revolutionized the idea on aerodynamics von Koenig-Fachsenfeld had discovered while being a champion motorcycle racer. He was an aristocrat, very wealthy young guy, but he raced motorcycles in 1924 and became the champion in Germany. He did it by understanding aerodynamics because it flows things to shoot out the racing bike, and the air is flowing over you. You get to understand what’s creating drag and what’s creating the speed.

He had eventually gone to work for Paul Jaray, who was the recognized father of streamline design. He had developed that whole process just after World War I. He’d gone to work for the zeppelin factory and figured out how to make zeppelins the best shape so that the air flowed over with the least amount of drag. He applied that in a patent that he applied for in 1933 to automotive design with his streamlining back. It was not a very practical way to work because it had the length to frontal area ratio of the zeppelin. Otherwise, automobiles would have been 50 feet long, which was impractical. His idea was to streamline a tail that went to a point in the back, and that design influenced automobile design all over Europe and in America for years and years up into the ’40s.

Von Koenig-Fachsenfeld, in the late ’30s, realized that was not the ideal shape, and he and Dr. Kamm figured out that what really worked was to keep the roofline as flat as possible so that the air would stay attached. And it didn’t go down to a point, but it would go back to an angle that would reach a theoretical point some 10 feet behind that car. Since that was impractical they would take it back to just behind the rear wheels and cut it off directly. That became known as the Kamm tail. It was actually Reinhard von Koenig-Fachsenfeld who figured that out.

The German media, when they learned about what he was doing, realized von Koenig-Fachsenfeld was too long a name, and they called it the K-line tail. They really thought that was supposed to be Kamm, but it was really von Koenig-Fachsenfeld.

I read all this stuff that I found in the library at GM and took it to Mr. Mitchell and explained that I thought this was a really valid direction we should be looking at for the Sting Ray. He looked at it and said: “Kid, that’s gotta be the ugliest looking shit I’ve ever seen in my life. Get back and do what you’ve been doing.”

So I kind of put that away, and when I left GM to go back to California to build my race car and turned 21, I took that information with me. I was working in Hollywood for a guy named Max Balchowsky, who was a top builder of California racing specials at that time. It was the only really successful American special that was running against wealthy owners and guys who were running Maseratis and Ferraris. He was kind of the local blue collar hero. Working for Max was another great influence in my life, another matter of great timing.

That was where I met Carroll Shelby because he just won Le Mans in 1959 driving for Aston Martin. Carroll was having trouble with his heart and was going to retire and asked if he could drive Max’s old yellow car the last few races of the ’59–’60 season there. We kinda made friends and hung out together. He told me about this plan he had of building a new sports car and that he also wanted a race driver. Long story short, I ended up running his race driver school for him, and that’s when I started working for Shelby. At that point, he got the distributorship for Goodyear racing tires. I ran that program for him. There was only his girlfriend, the secretary, and myself. The four of us basically started Shelby American.

When you worked with Shelby, what inspired the Daytona Cobra coupes?

He found out that Ford was coming out with the new lightweight engine that would compete with Chevrolet V-8, and also that AC Cars was losing the Bristol engine and manufacturing source that they had, and talked his way in. Ford had given him a couple engines and enough money to travel to England to talk to AC. The guys at AC kind of saw that he had the Ford Motor Company behind him, and they said why not the chassis with that engine? So they gave him a chassis. He didn’t have any money, and he got the engines for free from Ford and the chassis for free from AC. Then he talked to a guy in Pennsylvania who had a big car dealership and then became the first distributor for the cars that eventually became the Cobra roadsters. The first was built back east. We built another one in California at the same time, which he gave to the editor of Sports Car International, who wrote a big glowing piece on the car.

At the same time, we took that car to the New York auto show. The Ford dealers were starved for sports cars because by then the Chevrolet Corvette was really creating a lot of interest with the American public. They suddenly had a chance at a competitor for the Corvette. He got enough orders at the New York auto show to be in production on Shelby American, so he ordered the first batch of cars from AC in England and they were shipped over. He got Ford to find the motors to put in those cars, and that’s the way Shelby American started.

I was his primary test driver at that time, and I was working out at the racetrack at the school and did a lot of the development on the car. At that point, when we had first started running the car, everybody wanted to drive the car. We had Dan Gurney, we had Ken Miles, we had Dave MacDonald, we had Bob Holbert on the East Coast. All the top guys in the country wanted to drive for him. We ended up winning the United States Road Racing championship in 1963.

Shelby Daytona Cobra
Shelby Daytona Cobra coupe in 1965. Photo by Lothar Spurzem via Wikimedia Commons.

At that point, Carroll realized that he had a chance to move farther than he had and decided in 1964 that we would go to Europe and we would compete against Ferrari. He had been sort of insulted by Ferrari earlier in his career when he wanted to drive for him. Ferrari said, “Well it would be an honor for him to drive, but I won’t pay you any money.” So Carroll said, “Well, fine, thanks a lot, but see you later.” He went to work for Aston Martin. That’s when he won Le Mans. So he wanted to go back and kind of really show up Ferrari. The problem was that the Cobra roadsters only had a top speed of about 165 mph.

At that point the Ferrari 250GTO had just been introduced at the Paris auto show, and it had a top speed of 185. We knew right off that unless we made a major change or got a lot more horsepower or did something, the car would not be competitive. This is when I came back out with the idea of von Koenig-Fachsenfeld’s chopped-off tail car and said: “Under the rules we can change the body completely, but we can’t change the chassis. But if you’ll allow me to design a car for you, I think I can get you some free horsepower at the top end.” And I had not told Carroll that I had worked for GM design. I only told him that I wanted to be a race driver and that that was what I was going to school for. So he was rather dubious because he didn’t know I was a designer. Since it didn’t cost anything to draw the thing up, he said: “Well, yeah. Go ahead.”

I drew it up and said, “This is a strange-looking car with a chopped-off tail and everything, but if you’ll believe what I’m telling you, I think we can be fast enough.” So he got pretty excited at the time. Then he said, “I need you to present it to all the rest of the guys in the shop and to our chief engineer Phil Remington,” who was probably the best fabricator and race car builder in the world at that time. We had a really top group of guys. We had just won the United States Road Racing championship with the roadster. So I made this presentation to everybody in the shop, and their reaction was, “It’s got to be the biggest hunk of shit we’ve ever seen.” Same thing. Nobody wanted anything to do with it.

Luckily Ken Miles, our chief designer, convinced Carroll there was some merit to what we were doing. He understood automotive design and history. He knew what the Germans were doing when he raced in Europe before he came to California. He convinced Carroll to let me continue with it. So Ken and myself and a young kid from New Zealand built the first Daytona off in the corner in the shop. And nobody else wanted to be involved in it because they thought it was really going to be a loser. But as we started to put it together, a couple guys came over and said, “You know, that’s not looking too bad.” And they began to help us design a little bit.

We got the car built, and the first thing we did was take it out to Riverside. I mean right out of the box it was 3 1/2 seconds a lap faster. Miles had driven it for 15 laps, went right back to the phone, and told Carroll the car was capable of beating any Ferrari he had driven. By the time we got back to the shop, the whole center of the shop had been cleared out. Carroll had told everybody: “I don’t care what you say or what you thought about it before, finish this car up. We’re going to go to Daytona with it.” And that’s what we did with it. From that point on, the car was very, very successful, and we ended up building six of them. And we won the world championship with it.

How much of the Daytona Cobra coupe’s design was for function and how much of it was for form?

It was all designed for function, but the aesthetic part of it came into taking a very strange-looking shape, which was this kind of big humpback thing with a chopped-off back end, and trying to make some success with that. By using a lot of glass in the thing, instead of looking large and heavy, which it could’ve been if I’d used a conventional small window in the back, it actually came out to be a pretty interesting-looking car. It is now considered an icon of design and one of the greatest designs that’s ever been.

If you look at a Toyota Prius today, it’s a Daytona all over. They’re all smoothed-up in the front, chopped off in the back. So all modern cars are designed like the Daytona. And it all came from von Koenig-Fachsenfeld in 1933. All I did was took what everybody thought was pretty ugly and figured out a way to make it look fairly pretty. And as soon as it became successful it was now considered aesthetic success. The rest is history so to speak.

You started Brock Racing Enterprises in 1965. What was it like working with Hino and Datsun? Was it any different than working with GM and Shelby?

Considerably different.

Here’s the interesting thing that most people don’t understand with the Cobra program. When we were putting that together, Ford Motor Company also had an interest in going into Europe and expanding their sales area there. And Henry Ford II knew at that time that the easiest way to do that would be to buy an existing company, put the Ford name on it, and race those cars in Europe as Fords. He essentially had made some questions with his minions into buying Ferrari.

Ferrari had initially said yes, they’d sell him the entire Ferrari operation for $12 million. So those cars would become Fords, and they would be released in Europe. What Ferrari was really wanting to do was get Gianni Agnelli and Fiat to come behind because he didn’t want to sell it to the Americans. But he resolved that that was going to happen. And when Agnelli realized the thing might go to the Americans, he came in and bought Ferrari, so to speak. Ford was really upset because he’d already made a deal with him and spent a lot of money and had people go there and tour everything and made up all the contracts and everything.

Ford’s engineering staff had said, “OK, there are other alternatives.” It wasn’t Shelby. They had convinced him he should go with Eric Broadley in England and buy the new Lola Mk6 that Eric Broadley had designed and just showed at the London motorcar show. So Ford put all their money behind Eric Broadley and building the Lola into the Ford GT. In 1964, when the first Ford GT and the Daytona appeared, it was a major, major battle for the manufacturers in the GT world championship because it wasn’t just Shelby, it was Ferrari and it was Jaguar and it was Aston Martin. You had all these guys trying for the world championship, and it was pretty obvious at the end of the year that the fastest car out there was the Daytona Cobra.

There were three entities in the United States that were trying to get the contract for the Ford GT. Broadley, who already had it, and Carroll’s old boss John Wyer, who had run an Aston Martin when he had won Le Mans. Ford had hired John Wyer to take over the Broadley operation to develop the Ford GT. That was one ending. There was a group of us in California, and this was led by a couple of people and Shelby. And they kept saying this guy on the West Coast is doing the right job for you, but most of the people within Ford were saying: “You know, neither of these guys is right. Where we should be spending our money is Holman Moody down in North Carolina, because they know Ford stock cars and that’s where we should be spending our money.” So they were trying to convince Ford to spend their money with Holman Moody and build the sports car down there, and they would take that to Europe.

Ford sat back and looked at the data and said, “The reason that we’re winning because they all were all Ford engines, because Shelby has the best team of guys.” They were lead by Phil Remington. But it had finally come around, and the thing worked. He took the contract and gave it to Carroll. And at that moment, when all of that money came to Carroll Shelby, part of the program was that they would forget the Cobras completely. All the money would go into developing the Ford GT to run against the Ferrari in the prototype class the following year. All these people were coming in from Ford. Carroll said, “Well, I don’t need you anymore,” and kind of threw me under the bus. I said, “You know, I’ve just won the world championship for you.” “Doesn’t matter,” he said, “I have all the money in engineering for the world now. You can do what you want.”

BRE Datsun 510
BRE Datsun 510. Photo by the Sylvia Wilkinson Collection.

I went off on my own and started working with the Japanese, and I started working with a little company called Hino. In that particular year, the SCCA did not have a program for racing sedans in the United States. The Sports Car Club of America only recognized sports cars. But the editor of Sports Car International at that time wanted this California Sports Car Club, which at that time was independent of the SCCA. But they ran all these races with the MG car club in California. They kind of worked for the SCCA. They said let’s put out the other professional race out here in California because the SCCA did not believe in professional racing. That was for guys who got big money and raced in circles, and that was the Olympian ideal.

So they got together with the Los Angeles Times, and they invented a race called the Los Angeles Times-Mirror Grand Prix at Riverside. They put up a lot of money for it. That became the new era of racing in the United States because there was more money being put up for that. And as a result of that, all the top drivers and teams came from Europe. You had everybody you could think of in the world at that time who was a great driver come out to Los Angeles. And this is a huge, huge race all of a sudden. The California Sports Car Club, this little club in Los Angeles, was running the biggest money race of the world. And the SCCA had to take notice of what was going on because these guys started this race.

The second year was really big. They said it would have an opening event before the Times-Mirror Grand Prix. Rather than focus on sports cars, which the SCCA recognized, they recognized this little group of sedans that had grown up right here in California. It was kind of a hooligan race for a bunch of sedans. At that time I was building cars for Hino, and I built up two really hot rod Hinos. Bottom line was that I won the race out there and my second driver was second. But the important thing was when we pulled into victory circle, it was almost solid Japanese, because the Japanese had come over to see how the Americans marketed automobiles for racing.

At that point we became a major name in Japan. Nobody had ever heard of us. Hino was not a name that was recognized in Japan as a very important thing. Over there it was all Toyota, Nissan, Honda. Suddenly, this little upstart company from Japan wins this big race in California. It gave a lot of prestige to both to Hino and myself. As a result of that, I got offers from every Japanese company to run their team. I ended up running the Datsun team for Mr. Katayama, the head of Datsun on the West Coast. And we won four initial championships with the 240Z and the 510, and literally changed the whole landscape of American racing. People recognized what good Japanese cars were. That was another major change in motor racing.

What do you think is your best work?

Whatever the next program is going to be. I love them all, and they’re all fun. I had a chance to build cars in England, I built cars in Italy, and programs that never became as world famous, but they were every bit as exciting and beautiful as the other things I’ve worked on. I’m just proud of those. There was the TR-250K for Triumph. There was the beautiful Can-Am car I did for Carroll and De Tomaso. They were all pretty exciting automobiles. Every one in its era was the important thing. I always surrounded myself with a great group of people who specialized in whatever they were doing, whether it was building engines or chassis or doing the developing. It always takes a team of people—it can’t be one guy alone. I had a little bit of leadership stuff I learned from Bill Mitchell at GM and a little bit more that I learned from Shelby, so when I finally got on my feet on my own, I had a little idea about how to put a program together and make it work.

Shelby De Tomaso P70
Shelby De Tomaso P70. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

Do you still do any designing?

Yeah, I still do. It’s very hard to get anything really good because most people who are planning on doing something serious are working with a major manufacturer that’s got literally millions of dollars behind all the resources. So for anybody to reach out to privateer is pretty rare. I occasionally get people who come over and ask me to do things, and they try to sell us on a larger scale. Unfortunately, those have not come to pass the way I’d like, but they were interesting programs. There’s still one out there that might happen.

But in the meantime, I set up this operation here in Nevada where we build really nice aerodynamic race trailers for privateer teams and concours cars, anybody that’s got a really quality super-good race car who wants to haul it. The Aerovault is now the best in the world.

Out of all of the cars ever produced, which one do you like the most?

That would have to go by eras, because I can look at anything designed from the early 1900s all the way to today and in each decade there is a star. And it was all designed by either an individual or a passionate, very small group of guys who did something that was spectacular and in many cases went completely against the common wisdom of what was also being done. If you look at the Peugeot that won at Indianapolis in 1913, it had every bit modern racing technology already designed into it that we still use today. And that’s how good these guys were back in their time. If you understand the racing history and what people were trying to do in these really early, early cars, they didn’t have all the machinery or the technology to put together exactly what they wanted.

If you want to take an example, there was a guy in Detroit in 1902 who made the most streamlined race car in the world. The problem was that it was so fast that when you got to the corners, it usually ran off and crashed. So he backed off, didn’t kill himself, and he built electric cars that were outselling all the gasoline cars there around the urban areas that time. That was the Baker Electric. But Baker, in 1902, had designed a terrific race car. Up until about 1950, nobody had never done anything as good as he’d done. But he didn’t have all the technology to make it work and steer and everything.

There were always visionaries out there that had great things done, whether you look at what Voisin did in France or Hans Ledwinka did with the Tatras in Czechoslovakia before the Germans destroyed him. They were all brilliant, brilliant designs that were way ahead of their time. And that sort of way you had to do something to really create any major effect upon the world. That’s really what the Daytona was. The Daytona Cobra, in spite of the fact we only made six of them and it was crude as hell, got the job done. It completely reversed people’s thinking on aerodynamics and the way things should be done. It’s still the principles that Reinhard von Koenig-Fachsenfeld figured out for racing motorcycles in the ’30s that are still applied today.

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  1. Great article on a great man. I am fortunate to own a Superformance Cobra Daytona Coupe and have done a lot of research on Mr. Brock. In the 60s and 70s I was a fan and owner of Datsuns, 510s and 240z and followed their racing , every time I get in my Daytona, I appreciate the genius of Mr. Brock and enjoy the fruits of he labors. He is in my mind as important to the history of the automobile as Ferry Porsche, Carroll Shelby , Enzo Ferrari, Sir William Lyons and all of the great names in motorcars history. Thank you for writing this great article and laying out what I believe is the Golden era of motor racing and automotive design.
    Michael Tatro, Car Collector

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