The two of them go back to 1960. A bad heart had forced Shelby to quit driving race cars, but he was still a slick salesman who was about to become the most colorful entrepreneur in motorsports. Even before he hatched the Cobra, Shelby created the country's first race-driving school, at Riverside International Raceway, and he hired Brock to run it. Brock was twenty-four at the time, an aspiring racing driver recently arrived back in Southern California. When the Cobra came online, he helped develop it, and he outran proven hot-shoe Billy Krause in a head-to-head test. But when Shelby had to pick a driver for the car's race debut in 1962, he chose Krause. In retrospect, Brock says, he himself would have made the same decision. But he was royally pissed at the time.
Before long, top drivers were lined up around the block to race the Cobra, and Brock never got another sniff of a factory ride. Meanwhile, Shelby American was already staffed by a Who's Who of stellar craftsmen, so Brock expanded into other areas. He designed the team stationery. He fashioned car graphics. He shot photographs. He wrote ad copy. As much as he wanted to be behind the wheel, he discovered that his real talent lay outside the cockpit. And what most people didn't realize back then was that he was already an acclaimed designer.
Brock had briefly, and unhappily, attended Stanford with the intention of studying engineering. During spring break of his freshman year, he drove to Los Angeles to check out the transportation design program at Art Center School. When the admissions folks asked to see his portfolio, he replied, "What's a portfolio?" After being told that he had to provide examples of his artwork, he hustled back to his car, spent a few hours sketching hot rods in a three-ring binder, marched into the admissions office, presented his handiwork, and asked, "Will this do?" He was enrolled at Art Center before the year was over.
Halfway through the transportation design program, Brock was headhunted to join the famed styling department at General Motors. At nineteen, he was one of the youngest designers in the company's history. An after-hours conversation with design legend Harley Earl led to Brock conceptualizing and styling a tiny, rear-engine commuter car that would later take larger shape as the 1960 Corvair. At the direction of Earl's successor, Bill Mitchell, Brock also drew the initial sketch for what eventually became the 1963 Corvette Sting Ray. Brock still has this historic rendering, dated 1957. It's more stylized than the production car, and it's missing signature touches such as the coupe's split rear window, but there's no mistaking it for anything but a Sting Ray.
Still, Brock was no closer to his goal of becoming a race car driver. So he bought a trashed Cooper Monaco - an ex-works car that had been raced at Le Mans - and transformed it into a usable race car. He quit GM in 1958, returned to L.A., and got a job chasing parts for Max Balchowsky, the builder of the beloved West Coast special Ol' Yaller. That's where Brock met Shelby, who made him his first paid employee.