David E. Davis, Jr., and Brock Yates are the grand pooh-bahs of automotive journalism. For five decades, beginning in the early 1960s, words penned by these erudite, opinionated high priests shaped the way several generations of readers worshipped cars. The two men collaborated at Car and Driver for more than a decade and both served as that august publication's editor-in-chief - Yates for one year, Davis for two stints totaling twelve years. While Davis focused his journalistic energy on magazines, Yates's portfolio includes a dozen books, two screenplays, and expert live commentary for CBS, TNN, and the Speed network.
Inevitably there were instances when the car-book commendatores did not see eye-to-eye. Their spats were as fiery as they were short-lived. Today, Davis and Yates are the best of friends, but the incendiaries they once hurled in the pages of Automobile Magazine and C/D constitute an epic rivalry well worth recounting.
DED, August 1991: "Brock Yates is a writer, and, when he's on, a damned good one. [H]e's written a new book [on Enzo Ferrari]. This book disappoints me, because the craftsmanship is so poor. Yates has never been able to edit his own stuff, and it becomes apparent . . . that the publisher didn't assign anybody to that task either. The book is lazy and self-indulgent, and one might think that it had been cobbled together and rushed into print to exploit the old man's death, except that the old man died three years ago."
BY, March 1992: "A long-standing friendship was wrecked by what was widely considered to be a personal attack on me by a pal and former colleague."
DED, July 1993: "It was Brock Yates who brought [restaurateur and famous racing driver René Dreyfus and me] together and got us to bury the hatchet [after a lengthy spat] in 1976. Now someone needs to do the same thing for me and Yates."
DED, November 1993: "[Yates is] not having anything to do with me at all. This is because I wrote an assault on his Ferrari book, which I hated, and took advantage of the occasion to air some of my long-held prejudices regarding the Assassin and his work habits, or lack thereof. . . . Yates has in the meantime made some intemperate comments of his own, most recently to a reporter . . . suggesting that I'd gotten fat and rich and didn't care about my magazine anymore."
BY, December 1993: "I last spoke with [Dreyfus] by telephone this summer, when he graciously called to volunteer as an intermediary to patch up a ruined friendship. That never happened."
BY, February 1994: "My old pal [DED] has recently added more fuel to our feud in his magazine, and that . . . mandates a response on my part. It all began a few years ago when Dave dive-bombed me, Pearl Harbor-style, with a mean-spirited review of my [book]. His complaints about the book were dismissed, coming as they did from a man whose major writing efforts consist of monthly 750-word diatribes recounting eating, hunting, and driving adventures - usually with other people's food, ammo, and automobiles. [DED's] critique of my book meant little. . . . What hacked me off were his remarks alleging slapdash work habits. . . . Those efforts seemed in my opinion to consign [DED] to the minor leagues of journalistic criticism. But to know him is to acknowledge his short fuse and his penchant for unpredictable, snorting charges at friendly targets."
DED, May 1995: "Brock Yates called the other day . . . "