My Car Quest

April 23, 2024

Brock Yates Died

by Wallace Wyss –

I know I was intimidated by him, a living legend. I knew him long before he thought up that zany cross country race, the Cannonball Run.


I think he was the most irreverent writer on the Big Three car magazines, whereas Motor Trend was always treading lightly, scared they would lose an ad.

He was aided and abetted in his journalistic endeavors by David E. Davis Jr., publisher of Car & Driver, and Steve Smith.

He died from complications of Alzheimer’s on October 5.

Yates not only thought up the race but in the inaugural event Dan Gurney and Yates drove a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 across the country in 1971 in 35 hours, 54 minutes. Gurney said “we never exceeded 175 mph” – coincidentally the top speed of a Daytona…

His book on the race spawned a movie which he also wrote called The Cannonball Run. He co-wrote Smokey and the Bandit II with his friend Hal Needham.

I enjoyed his reports on Ford racing against Ferrari in Europe. Yates would call a spade a spade much like Henry Manney III at Road & Track.

Yates led the fight against do-gooders like Ralph Nader, the 55-mph speed limit and other bureaucratic bunglings that made enthusiasts feel like they were losing their freedoms.

He owned a few interesting cars and wrote about them, but was never your concours d’elegance nut, intent on winning a prize for best restored car.

I think the automotive writing world has been a little bit sadder since he left the scene (he has had the disease for some years).

Dan Gurney and Brock Yates

Dan Gurney and Brock Yates

Brock Yates Died
Article Name
Brock Yates Died
The car world lost a great one.


  1. William M. Craig says

    God Bless Brock. He gave us a “breath of fresh air, and dazzling humor” when big time Nadar was preaching that the “Triple Star” of Mercedes could kill a child. By the way the “Star” on my 300 S.E.L. 6.3 was spring loaded. The only defense we had back then was to expose the stone face of Ralph as as a sports car “McCarthy”-always finding the “communist” out to corrupt a “purity” only to be gained by reading the law-a little bit like Clarence Darrow did-based more on emotion than fact. Brock was a “purist” without being arrogant and he reflected the best of a breed which, sadly, like “Riverside” is gone. “Road and Track” exposed the ultimate vehicle of Ralph’s demented mind:”the Cyclops” (a fleet of them) chasing the last Ferrari off the top of Pike’s Peak. Thanks, Brock, You were our guy and you took it all with a grain of salt. Mike Craig

  2. Well done Wallace. You captured the man. As importantly, you captured how his readers felt about him and shared what it was like to be in his presence. He was an uncommon presence, who had a ‘tread lightly here” aura about him. Though there is always a need for a Brock Yates, there was only one Brock Yates.

  3. Wayne Watkins says

    Even in Australia we knew Brock and his crazy Cannonball race . Today in Bathurst NSW we have the famous Bathurst 1000 k/m car race on the famous street circuit up and down a mountain around Bathurst and the trophy is the Peter Brock Trophy remembering 10 years since our 9 times winner Peter Brock died racing in WA . Sad that both countries have lost a famous Brock . If you get a chance watch today’s race on TV .

  4. In response to William M. Craig’s comment “‘Road and Track’ exposed the ultimate vehicle of Ralph’s [Nader] demented mind: ‘the Cyclops’ (a fleet of them) chasing the last Ferrari off the top ofPike’s Peak” I suggest you read just one of the 21 Cyclops articles published by Road & Track before slandering the machine. Then you might get just a bit what Cyclops is all about.

    You see, Cyclops is a joke. It has been a satire of the whole automotive industry for 69 years. It has won, in the pages of Road & Track, Le Mans, The East African Safari, The Targa Florio, Indy, The Japanese Grand Prix, and The Great Wall of China Grand Prix. Hardly a machine Ralph Nader would endorse.

    I produced 174 published Cyclops cartoons. But I did not produce the one you imagined. If you actually saw it in print, someone else did the dirty. Cyclops has always been, and shall always be a symbol of automotive fun; usually involving insane speed, impossible situations, moronic conclusions. But never a symbol of restriction. Period. If you actually read one of my, or Robert Cumberford’s, Cyclops articles, or studied one of my Cyclops cartoons, you should be aware of the fact.

  5. Typo correction: “69 years” should have been “59 years”. Cyclops will be only 60 years old next March, having been introduced in March 1957 Road & Track.

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