Peter Brock: Legendary Car Designer
Peter Brock, the legendary designer of the Corvette Stingray, the Cobra Daytona Coupe and other iconic high-performance automobiles, will serve as Grand Marshal of the 2013 Palos Verdes Concours d’Elegance.
Brock will drive his Superformance Coupe, a modern version of the famed Daytona Cobra Coupe, in the Concours’ Pleasure Road Rallye on September 14, and the car will be displayed at the Concours the following day.
About Peter Brock
Brock was first exposed to professional racing when he went to his first road race at Pebble Beach in 1951. 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”.
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 student’s 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.
Back in ‘62 when things were getting started at Shelby’s, and the Cobra race program was just underway, Brock couldn’t hold back his continuing desire for design. He dove into the entire design image of Shelby American. He designed the race car liveries, the details that made a Mustang a GT350, the company's logos, shirts, even wrote and shot the ads for the Cobras and GT350s... even the company business cards. Then, unexpectedly, there was the sudden opportunity he’d dreamed of… to get back into race car design. Shelby had dreams too; he wanted to take the Cobras to Europe and race against Ferrari. He realized the Cobra roadster would be too slow on Europe’s faster circuits so he casually asked if Brock might have a solution to the dream. Brock explained that the cheapest “free” horsepower was available in superior aerodynamics. He convinced the skeptical Texan that a new body for the Cobra roadsters could raise its speed and make it competitive with the world’s fastest GT, the Ferrari 250 GTO. The result of Brock’s efforts was the World Championship winning Daytona Cobra Coupe.
There’s no doubt the Daytona Cobra Coupe is the car with which Brock is most often associated. However, other less known vehicles that were also built during that time, have as much appeal as the famed Daytona to those who know the history. Cars like the Shelby/DeTomaso P70 sports racer, the still-born Type 65 427 Cobra Coupe for Le Mans and the beautiful Lang Cooper and Nethercutt Mirage. Brock would work at Shelby American thru the end of the 1965 season.
Brock Racing Enterprises
In 1965, Peter Brock left Shelby American to start his own company, Brock Racing Enterprises, most commonly known in the racing community as BRE. On his own with BRE, he not only was designing cars for companies like Hino, Toyota and Triumph, he started his own race team and literally put the Japanese automotive industry into the history books with his famed team of BRE Datsuns, winning two C Production National Championships with the 240Z and two 2.5 Trans-Am Championships with driver John Morton and his beloved BRE Datsun 510s. Brock soon became entranced with hang gliding and after a decade long affair with ultralight flight and building the largest hang gliding company in the world, Brock returned to automobiles. He taught automotive design for two years at his Alma Mater, the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena and then in 1990 began writing a best selling book on the history of the Cobra Daytona Coupes. Upon the book’s release, several magazine editors decided Brock might be a good person to contribute articles and yet another career was born. In 1997 he was contacted by Superformance about doing a redesign of the original Cobra Daytona Coupe, a project that has resulted in the production of a far more sophisticated and higher performance version of his original design. Today Brock spends his time primarily covering races all over the world with his wife Gayle, shooting the action and writing for a number of American and foreign magazines. He also enjoys designing and developing race quality parts and accessories for the small but constantly expanding, enthusiastic group of Superformance Coupe owners from around the globe.