My Car Quest

April 14, 2024

The Unique Story Of The Hino (BRE) Samurai Race Car – Part 1

by Mike –

Ron Bianchi, a My Car Quest reader, contacted me recently asking if I knew the whereabouts of the Hino (BRE) Samurai race car. I replied that I did not which led to Ron sending in his story.

Ron Bianchi once owned and raced the Hino (BRE) Samurai and then sold the car to Peter Brock, its original creator. The same Peter Brock behind the styling of the Shelby Cobra and Brock Racing Enterprises (BRE).

Hino (BRE) Samurai Race Car

Today Hino Motors is a Japanese manufacturer of trucks, buses and engines and is part of Toyota. Once they were involved in motor racing.

BRE, with the help of the great Troutman-Barnes team, created this unique race car which was featured on the November 1967 cover of Road & Track. Brock had a vision to enter this car in the 1967 Japanese Grand Prix and he aspired to race it at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The Japanese Grand Prix officials decided that the Samurai did not have sufficient ground clearance and the car was disqualified.

Hino (BRE) Samurai Race Car, Peter Brock

Peter Brock and The Samurai

Before the Samurai Brock got his start in racing Japanese cars with Hino and had a great success driving the 1300cc Hino Coupe winning the 1966 Times-Mirror race at Riverside Raceway. Another BRE Hino came in second. This all led to Brock getting involved with Nissan but that is another story.

by Ron Bianchi

I began racing sport cars in 1958 with the then California Sports Car Club soon to become a part of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA); then on to IMSA and an FIA license.

Prior to that I had raced midgets both on the Red Circuit on the East Coast with a few midget races in California.

My sports car racing career spanned well into the late 1970s. I raced production models to prototypes.

Some of my most memorable starts and finishes were a first, second, and third in three different classes in four different sports car Grand Prix races.

For the most part I drove for automobile dealerships and private owners. In my career I have owned but two race cars of my own.

Hino Samurai

The most challenging was the Hino Samurai.

Hino (BRE) Samurai race car

I was driving a Porsche at Riverside Raceway in California for Mr. Bud Patterson when I first noticed what I thought was the sharpest race car I had seen in years – the Samurai.

I went over and spoke to the owner. I had no idea it was Mr. Terry Hall whom I had raced against in the Porsche class several years earlier.

Terry was very disappointed at having put a connecting rod through the engine block of the Samurai during his race in C Sports Racing. Terry complained that he just could not get the race package together and hinted that he might sell the Samurai.

Several months passed and I did not see the Samurai entered in any races. I called Terry and was told the Samurai was for sale, and he asked if I was interested. An appointment was made and a deal was struck. There were literally hundreds of spare parts but no manuals available. Of the four engines, all stripped, there was a push rod engine and parts for three twin cam engines, plus the blown engine in the chassis. The side windows had been removed, there had been slight but repaired damage to the nose section.

I took the Samurai to my shop where it sat for the remainder of the race season while I continued to race for Bud Patterson driving his Porsche.

I was introduced to a mechanic that said he could put a twin cam engine together from the parts for the new season. He would set up the chassis and go through the braking system. After many delays we entered our first race about one quarter into the season with disastrous results. The engine did not produce enough horsepower, the brakes were less than what I expected and the chassis was a handful to control. I tried another mechanic with the same negative results.

Hino (BRE) Samurai

I was contacted by a race engine company that was interested in installing a Fiat engine in the Samurai for the purpose of creating publicity for their engines. The working relationship was not there!

Building the team

I decided to form my own complete race team.

The first thing was to talk to camshaft companies. I settled on one and had them profile a set of camshafts. Then it was off to a race engine machine shop. This engine was assembled, dyno tested and showed promise but I was not comfortable with the power band. The engine seemed to be more in tuned to a dragster engine.

The first race with the new engine and the qualifying went fine. During the race the engine went flat, lost power.

Back to the drawing board and a new cam builder. This one knew exactly what I needed.

After a complete rebuild and during the installation of the engine into the chassis late into one night we developed a heating problem. A gentleman was standing at the opening to our garage looking at us work. He asked what the problem was and could he lend a hand. The guy was fast and in no time had located and fixed our problem. I felt I owed him something but he refused any payment.

I extended him an invitation to be my guest at the next race to be held at Riverside Raceway, which he accepted. I picked him up at his home at the appointed time. For the remainder of the day at the racetrack he was not to be seen. We had a fourth or fifth place finish as I remember. As we were loading up he returned, when we arrived at his home he invited me in to meet his wife. Both spoke with a heavy accent, I learned she was from Holland and he had been raised in Germany and Holland. I asked if he was into racing.

Hino (BRE) Samurai

Both looked at me strangely and I was invited to look at Mr. John Hamilton’s trophy room. The room was full of trophies and photos of John with the Mercedes racing team. Seems he had been a 550-motorcycle champion in Europe, joined Mercedes with the race development department and supported his son Freddie driving twin-engine go-carts. Freddie had several wins and I believe two go-cart championships at the time.

John joined our team of one! The guy was a past master at machine work and preparing a race car but light on engines.

I was told about a young man just in from England that was working in a local Jaguar service department that may have a racing background. I called and spoke to Mr. Paul Albertson; an appointment was made for a meeting at our race shop. Paul did not show. Several evenings later this unlikely looking thin, about a hundred pounds soaking wet guy with a thick British accent entered the shop. Apologized and said his wife would rather that he did not get involved with the race crowd again. Paul had letters of completion and recommendations from International race drivers and had worked for the Cosworth race engine department and had the portfolio to prove it.

Paul joined our team of two.

Next came Paul White. Paul was into tires, compounds, pressures, etc.

Enter Paul W. into our team of three.

Sorting out the Samurai plus more in Part 2.

Hino (BRE) Samurai, Road & Track

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