Peter Brock is strapped to his racing seat by a five-point harness. In the gutted cockpit, he's surrounded by a geeky paradise of analog gauges and rocker switches poking out of a black-crinkle instrument panel and center console that look like they belong in an old-school race car. (Actually, the material comes from a pickup truck bedliner that he cut to fit.) The Datsun 510 sedan is painted a silvery shade of green that blends seamlessly with the majestic firs and pine trees that dominate the landscape around Brock's home near Seattle. The camouflage will come in handy if any cops are around, because, at the moment, Brock is hammering the throttle hard enough to break loose the rear wheels in third gear. But how, you ask, does a puny Datsun four-banger spin the tires at 4000 rpm? It doesn't. Which is why Brock fitted the sedan with a small-block Chevy V-8 and dubbed the sleeper Datzilla.
"I've always been a hot-rodder," Brock says over the roar of the 300-hp crate motor. "Most people don't realize that. I talk to Cobra guys and they have no idea I was involved with Datsun, and I talk to Datsun guys and they have no idea that I worked on the Corvette. Later on, my company was the largest hang-glider manufacturer in the world, and I recently designed a new aerodynamic trailer that's so much better than the competition that we can't build them fast enough. Most people know me for one segment of my life and not the others."
Datzilla is the perfect showcase for Brock's multiple personalities. It's an import-tuner special, and it's also a V-8-powered muscle car. It's a styling coup, and it's an engineering exercise. It's a race car, and it's a street car. Although he's known best as the designer of the Cobra Daytona Coupe and the architect of the Trans-Am-winning BRE 510s, Brock has played a seminal role in countless arenas. Today, at 73, he's as fully committed as ever, running (with his wife, Gayle) the Brock Racing Enterprises memorabilia empire, spearheading complex restoration projects, making presentations to enthusiast groups, and, having reinvented himself as a photojournalist, covering races all over the world. But even more impressive than his energy is his attitude. Despite setbacks that would have crushed a lesser man, Brock remains unfailingly upbeat and relentlessly enthusiastic.
"I wish I had his energy," says car-show impresario Bill Warner, who selected Brock as his first judge when he started the Amelia Island Concours d'Elegance fifteen years ago. "He's been successful at whatever he's undertaken. I think it's because he has such an inquisitive mind. If he takes an interest in something, he's going to master it."
Brock's career doesn't begin and end with Carroll Shelby. It just seems that way. Brock is the first to admit that the Texas snake charmer gave him the opportunities of a lifetime. But Shelby also demolished some of his most cherished dreams, and much of what Brock has to say about him can't be repeated in polite company.