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Peter Brock (born November 1936) is an automotive and trailer designer, author and photojournalist from the United States.
Peter Elbert Brock (named Elbert after his grandfather E.J. Hall, co-designer of the Liberty engine and co-founder of Hall-Scott Motor Car Company) grew up primarily in the Sausalito area of northern California. When he was 12 years old, his next door neighbor had an MG TC. He’d never seen anything like a sports car prior to then. The owner would occasionally take Brock for a ride. By the time Brock was 16 he’d saved just enough to acquire a broken-engined ’49 that had been impatiently shunted away in the back of the shop where he worked. In addition to all the work Brock did on the car, he painted it white so the car’s livery would match America’s international racing colors of blue and white. Every weekend was a racing adventure as he spent many a rainy Northern California night sleeping under the MG’s long sweeping fender. Since many of Brock’s friends raced he was seldom at the track alone and had access to the pits and a chance to learn about racing from the inside at an early age.
Brock was first exposed to professional racing when he went to his first road race at Pebble Beach in 1951, photographing whatever he saw that interested him. In the 1952 race, Phil Hill made a lasting impression on Brock, as he recalls; “Phil Hill was driving an XK-120 and I was hooked for life. Cars were the focus of my life at that young age, and the whole new sport of road racing, which was just coming into its own here after WW II”. As he was still too young for a racing driver’s license (SCCA requirement was 21 at that time), he hung out with the guys who were building the fastest cars and took pictures; lots of them.
Soon after, Brock’s family moved to Menlo Park, away from his road racing friends in Sausalito. There he found a new group of younger car-guy friends. No one seemed to know much about sports cars and as much as he loved his MG, Brock found he was just as interested in hopped-up flat-head Fords. He started looking for something faster than his MG and found a half-completed ’46 Ford convertible on a used car lot. It was love at first sight.
Brock started in on the customization of the Ford, which included converting the livery into his favorite white and blue American racing scheme (white car with two blue stripes down the center). While still in high school, he would win the Oakland Roadster show with the car, by then referred to as the Fordillac because of the Cadillac engine Brock had installed.
Brock would win the show again with the car in 1956, months before he would be leaving California for GM Styling in Detroit.
Brock’s family wanted him to be an architect and upon graduating from high school he started college at Stanford University in the engineering department. It wasn’t very interesting, and soon Brock heard of a school in Southern California where students designed cars. During Spring break, he drove straight from San Francisco to Los Angeles, parked his car in the back lot of the Art Center School and unofficially wandered through the hallways, poking his head into classrooms and chatting with students. Within an hour Brock was certain; THIS was the place he needed to be!
Brock walked into the admissions office and declared he wanted to enroll and asked, “When can I start?” They asked to see his portfolio. He was so naive that he didn't even know what a ”portfolio” was and asked for an explanation. The admissions officer, obviously surprised, but very kind, explained it was a collection of one’s best work... samples you’d show to a prospective client. Client? The admissions officer patiently explained the Art Center was a school established by, and for, current professionals who attend to further their skills once they are already established in the industry. Undaunted, Brock went out to his car, dug out his school binder (the type with three rings and blue lined note paper) and went to work. A couple of hours later, with a few pages of hastily, but carefully, drawn images of hot rods (the kind most car crazy kids draw when they’re bored with class) he marched back into the admissions office and presented his "portfolio". Amazingly enough, the admissions officer saw past the inexperience of this kid and recognized the raw talent. Brock was admitted.
GM styling and the Corvette "Sting Ray"
While attending Art Center College of Design, Brock met GM head hunter Chuck Jordan, who was then scouting future talent for GM’s Styling Division. When Brock's funds dried up for continuing at the school, he called Jordan and explained his situation. Within days he had a ticket to Detroit and at the age of 19 was the youngest designer ever hired by GM Styling. In November of 1957, Brock drew the sketch which GM VP of Design Bill Mitchell picked off the wall to become the next Corvette, the Stingray. As GM had made a commitment to not engage in racing (known as the AMA ban) Brock worked with Mitchell thru 1958 in a secret room in the back of one of the design studios, creating the prototype Corvette called the Stingray racer. The production car was renamed the Sting Ray and was released in 1963, almost 4 years after Brock had left GM.
Back to racing, California and Shelby American
Knowing that the opportunity to create a car such as the Corvette Stingray at a large corporation was rare, and having turned 21 so that he could get his SCCA race license, Brock left GM in 1959 to return to his native California. In a chicken coop in Detroit he'd been working on a mid-'50s Cooper that had run at Le Mans. Returning to CA with the Cooper in tow, he started working for Max Balchowski at Max's Hollywood Motors shop during the day and worked on his race car at night. A frequent visitor to Max's shop was Carroll Shelby. One day in 1961 Shelby and Paul O'Shea met at Riverside Raceway to discuss opening a driver's school. Brock was there. When Shelby and O'Shea got into a disagreement about who would work for who, O'Shea left in disgust. Shelby turned to Brock and asked if he wanted to run the school. Brock said yes and became Shelby's first paid employee, running the Carroll Shelby School of High Performance Driving. Brock would work at Shelby American thru the end of the 1965 season. During his tenure he created the Shelby American brand via creating the logos, merchandise, ads, car liveries, etc. He designed the Shelby components of the Shelby Mustang GT350s and designed race cars for Shelby such as the Lang Cooper, Nethercutt Mirage, De Tomaso P70 and most famously the iconic Shelby Daytona Cobra coupes that won the FIA World GT Championship in 1965.
Brock Racing Enterprises
In December of 1965 Brock started his own design firm and motor racing team, Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE) which worked with Hino, Datsun and Toyota. GT cars Brock designed for BRE clients included the Hino Samurai, the Toyota JP6 and the Triumph TR-250K. All the while Brock kept close to racing, now driving his own Lotus 11 MKII and various paid rides with a TVR and Mercury in the NASCAR series. Partnering with Hino, Brock began performance development on their Hino 900, which then evolved into their Hino 1300 Contessa. When Toyota took over Hino, Brock approached Datsun. BRE became the west coast Datsun factory race team and competed in 1969 in the SCCA DP class with Datsun 2000 roadsters, in 1970 and 1971 in the CP class with the 240Zs (SCCA National Champions '70-'71) and in 1971-72 the 2.5 Trans-Am Series races with the Datsun 510s (National Champions '71-'72). The race team was disbanded at the end of the 1972 season when Brock moved on to Hang Gliding.
Hang gliding years with UP (Ultralite Products)
“I was driving by the beach on the way to the BRE shop one day and saw these crazy guys jumping off a small hill with nothing more than canvas tied to some sticks. All my adult life I’d been focused on how to make things stick to the ground. I saw this and thought ‘I’ve got to get in on this’.” After a decade-long stint of successfully managing UP, Ultralite Products, which he built into the largest hang gliding company in the world, and developing the sport of long distance hang gliding competition, Brock saw liability laws put a strangle hold on innovation. He soon returned to his first love, race cars and the automotive industry.
Brock went back to the automotive industry, becoming an instructor at his alma mater, Art Center School of Design in Pasadena, CA. In the early '90s he authored the definitive book on the Daytona Cobra Coupes which led to a successful 20+ year long photojournalism career, primarily covering endurance racing for automotive magazines. In 2013, he authored "Corvette Sting Ray: Genesis of an American Icon" describing his insider's view of the development of the 1963 Corvette.
In 1999 Brock partnered with the Hi-Tech company in Port Elizabeth, South Africa to create a modern version of Daytona Cobra Coupe, called the Brock Coupe. Over 150 Brock Coupes have been produced in South Africa and sold by Superformance, LLC (Superformance Replicars). He owns an example of the coupe (chassis #0073) painted Amulet Red with a Wimbledon White half-cove.
Brock now lives in Henderson, NV in the Las Vegas area with his wife Gayle, working together as freelance automotive writers and racing photographers.
Brock also continues to design, his clay models of new automotive designs always of great interest to visitors to the BRE shop. In 2008, Brock designed an aerodynamic car trailer called the Aerovault. It has brought pleasure to many a weekend racer with its sleek aerodynamic looks and lightweight aluminum construction, resulting in superior handling and fuel efficiency.
Gayle runs the current day BRE operation which offers memorabilia from the '60s and '70s, builds the aerodynamic Aerovault car trailers and offers aftermarket parts and accessories for Datsuns and Daytona Coupe replicas.
Awards and recognition
In 2010, the International Society for Vehicle Preservation presented Brock with their International Automotive Media Lifetime Achievement Award.
Later that same year, the Art Center College of Design awarded Brock their Lifetime Achievement Award for "Outstanding accomplishment in the fields of automotive design, technology, innovation, motorsports and journalism".
In 2012, BRE received a Commendation from the City of Henderson for "their contributions to the automobile industry and in appreciation of their community support."
Most notably, Peter Brock in January of 2013 was awarded the prestigious Phil Hill Award by the Road Racing Drivers Club (RRDC). The RRDC presents the Phil Hill Award to the person they feel has rendered outstanding service to road racing. Brock (who was presented the award at the Daytona Speedway by Bobby Rahal), joins an illustrious group of past recipients such as Juan Manuel Fangio II, Danny Sullivan, Brian Redman, Bob Bondurant and Roger Penske.
In recent years, articles on Brock's career have appeared in Classic Motorsports, Automobile, MotorTrend Classic, Grassroots Motorsports and Car & Driver magazines.