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Brock Yates, 82

by David Zatz on

Brock Yates, the famed automotive writer and editor, has died at the age of 82, of Alzheimer’s disease. After spending some years racing, he joined Car and Driver as the managing editor, and stayed at the magazine until 2006 — a 42 year career. Along the way, Yates wrote several books and created the original Cannonball Baker Memorial Trophy Dash. This cross-country race led to the One Lap of America; Yates also wrote the script of the first Cannonball Run movie, a fictional comedy centered around the concept.  Yates was also a NASCAR television commentator.

brock-yates

The Cannonball Baker Trophy Dash was run from 1977 to 1979; the movie was released in 1981.

Retired Chrysler Corp. product planner Burt Bouwkamp wrote,

I met Brock Yates in February 1957, when we were both working out of Brewster Shaw’s San Juan Motors (a Chrysler dealer) in Daytona Beach. I was there to help Chrysler 300 owners run fast on the beach; a stock Chrysler 300C turned 134.1 MPH.
Brock was there with a supercharged 1957 Plymouth Fury to set a flying mile record in the experimental class. They did — at 159 MPH. Their car (named “Suddenly,” I think) was sponsored by Hot Rod magazine and was driven by Wally Parks. Brock was only about 26 years old then. I was 33.
A side light: Ed Mason (Chief Engineer of Research) and Bob Graham (research engineer) were also at Daytona Beach in 1957 to run an experimental Chrysler 300 in the same class. I arranged for their driver; it was first Buck Baker, but when he “stood us up” on the day of the run, I hired Vicky Woods. She didn’t even finish the first North-South run because the clutch disk failed. A post-mortem showed it to be a centrifugal force failure. Warner Clutch said the clutch had to have turned 10,000 RPM to have failed that way.  We never blamed Vicky.
Ed and Bob’s expectation was a two way average of 150 MPH – but that would still have been 9 MPH short of “Suddenly.”
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