9:00am Saturday, 29 January 2011, Peter Brock day here in Santa Clara, California.
The festivities will begin within the hour.

by Curt Scott

It was 5:45pm Friday, 28 January (2011) before I finally hit I-5 northbound to attend/cover "Peter Brock Day" festivities in Santa Clara (San Francisco bay area, adjacent to San Jose... and it's a long way to San Jose).

As fortune would have it, for about 250 miles of that 350-mile drive I had to slog my way through pea-soup fog... all the way from Bakersfield to Gilroy and beyond. Just before I hit the fogbank a Guardsman Blue Superformance Daytona Coupe breezed by me at about 75 mph; I fully expected that it was headed for the same event... but alas, it never showed up... wasn't there. I'm not quite sure if it was headed someplace else, or if it just disappeared forever into the murk... The Coupe That Never Returned. A bummer, since it's a bona fide beauty and would've been yet another crowd-pleasing drivin' machine with the Shelby-metal throng.

I arrived in Santa Clara sometime past midnight and at the gathering on El Camino Real just before 9:00am Saturday, where I began clicking my shutter. Here's your photo-feature peek into the fun and festivities at Peter Brock Day...

Cobras, GT350s, Daytona Coupes
and droves of attendees


FFR Coupe builder Russ Thompson (Richmond, California) at left, chatting with Peter. Left-to-right are fellow Coupe owners: in the red shirt is Ron Steble, then Peter Brock, then (wearing 2-tone baseball cap) Hank Lopez and Carl Critz grinning perversely at something offscreen.

Peter unfailingly enjoys talking about (and listening to personal anecdotes about) performance cars and road racing; here Carl Critz (his back to camera) and Hank Lopez take their turn to bend Peter's ear.


Dennis Peck [owner of (Superformance Dealer) Dynamic Auto West, Redwood City, California] at left, sharing war stories with Peter amidst the revelry.


Peter signing a Daytona Coupe T-shirt for Bob Gardner (also of Dynamic Auto West).
Dig the spiffy Shelby shirt Bob's wearing!


(left-to-right) Russ Thompson, Russ Foster and Ron Steble standing in front of the Guardsman Blue "Katrina Rescue Coupe"—swamped in New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina in August/September, 2005.


above: Peter's grand touring Superformance Brock Coupe, which he and Gayle had just driven down
all the way from Redmond, Washington.


above: Peter beginning his discourse on his part in the "The Legend Years" when he (in close collaboration with Ken Miles and John Ohlsen) played a key role on Team Shelby, especially his and Ken's and John's part in shaping and designing and then testing and tweaking the Coupe's aerodynamics. Pete's most challenging task was to convince the doubting Thomases that the aerodynamically-optimized sculpturing would itself provide the extra edge that the small-block Cobra chassis needed to wrest the crown from Ferrari.

Brock: "Ken Miles was really the champion in backing my concept with Shelby. At first Carroll seemed all for the idea, but there were so many naysayers within the shop that he was uncertain. Especially with Remington down on the idea it looked like it might not go. Ken understood and believed, as he was learned enough to know that the Germans had built some pretty trick cars in the late '30s. John Ohlsen, being a Kiwi, was an "outsider" to the close-knit California guys, who weren't keen on the idea either. Rem' gave the job to Ohlsen and to his credit he did most of the initial fabrication. He was the real "crew chief" on the project. In fact it was he who was severely burned at Daytona when he crawled under the car to inspect the rear end in that fateful stop. Lucky he wasn't burned to death! After he recovered he was back at LeMans... again leading the teamand the car won!"

Peter explained to me Ken Miles' bewilderment upon Ken's track-testing of Peter's new/untested Coupe at Riverside (it didn't get graced with the "Daytona" label until it was scheduled to debut at Daytona Speedway): "Ken's confusion was that the rear-end ratio was in questionKen was sure we had a lower (higher numerical) gear as he was getting so much more rpm and speed out of the corners; when he had gauged the speed of the car via reading the RPMs, he couldn't believe the numbers, and deduced that the rear end ratio must have been changed. It's easy to verify a ratio by jacking up the rear and turning the rear tire one revolution. At the same time you make a mark on the driveshaft and then count the revolutions as you spin the tire. Example... three and three quarter turns would represent a 3.77:1 ratio. Ken was confident that we had a lower gear as he knew the track by heart and would gauge his speed in the roadsters by how many RPMs he was turning at certain spots. The coupe was 3.5 seconds quicker right out of the box! Also speed went from 160 mph to about 180 mph... moreover, we didn't know the fuel mileage improvement until we got to Daytona and ran some tests... 25% betterwhich would of course translate into fewer pit stops!"

In the end, it was Peter's dogged persistence that enabled his finely-tuned coachwork to transform the fire-breathing (albeit aerodynamically-challenged) Cobra roadster into a world-beating/Ferrari-trouncing racing machine. The proof-in-the-pudding was Team Shelby's* seizing the 1965 WMC (World Manufacturers Championship) from the clutches of Enzo Ferrari.

Peter's presentation lasted over 90 minutes... and you could hear a pin drop throughout his presentation. Peter is 'history on the hoof,' and no one was willing to miss a word.

*Peter corrected me on my giving unwarranted credit to "Team Shelby." Here's how Peter set the record straight: "It all looks fine with the exception of giving credit to 'Team Shelby' for capturing the World Championship. Actually it was Alan Mann Racing, of the UK, that did the job. Shelby American 'won' the championship simply because they were the manufacturer of record with the FIA. The only reason the Daytonas raced in '65 was the fact that Ray Geddes, our main liaison with Ford, figured that we might as well give the cars to Alan Mann to race, as the contract to race the GT40s for Ford had been given to Shelby, provided he didn't race the Cobras! At that time the Daytonas were faster than the GT40s, but Ford didn't want those $1.98 west coast hot rods blowing off their $12 million investment in FAV (Ford Advanced Vehicles). The GT40s clearly had more potential, but you can't beat a well-proven old racer with a brand-new unproven one! Once Phil Remington and the Shelby crew got hold of the GT40s they began to develop them into winners... but it took more than a season... and even then they had to toss out the 289 engines in favor of the 427s. PB"


Peter explaining how Enzo Ferrari's pursuing an FIA rule change in 1963 opened the door to rebody the 289 Cobra chassis with his Daytona Coupe coachwork... in Enzo's case it's a definitive example
of the maxim "Be careful what you wish for."


above: Pat Benedict's Malachite Green Superformance 427SC.

Shades of Route 66... if you're eagle-eyed, you've already spotted that silver/blue 1960 Corvette in front of it. The license plate number on that 'Vette is "ZORA"... as in Zora Arkus-Duntov, enshrined as "The father of the Corvette."


Ron Chin's Guardsman Blue Daytona Coupe. The license plate
is as close as was available to render "DAYTONA."


Peter will promptly advise you that you're gazing upon the eminence grise of
BRE/Brock Racing Enterprises—his very lovely bride Gayle.

This "Peter Brock Day" event coverage was brought to you
courtesy of the CobraCountry.com megasite!


  

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