I’ve written before that I was a fan of the work of David E. Davis Jr., the former editor of three car magazines and author of my favorite quote about cars:
We drive our cars because they make us free. With cars we need not wait in airline terminals, or travel only where the railway tracks go. Governments detest our cars: they give us too much freedom. How do you control people who can climb into a car at any hour of the day or night and drive to who knows where?
Davis died in 2011. One of Davis’ most colorful Car and Driver writers, Brock Yates, died Wednesday.
“Brock has been a hero of mine since I first got to know him,” Dan Gurney said at a Yates tribute several years ago at the Petersen Museum in Los Angeles. Gurney and Yates drove a Ferrari 365 GTB/4 across the country in 1971 in 35 hours, 54 minutes in the original Cannonball. “He is a pioneer, historian, instigator and defender of freedom.”
Yates’ columns in Car and Driver attacked everything from the 55-mph speed limit to the arrogance of safety advocate Ralph Nader. They spoke to the frustrations of people who loved cars but who were prevented from enjoying them by meddling government bureaucrats. Yates said in the pages of the magazine and in other outlets in which his work appeared what so many car enthusiasts felt.
“He was always a guy who was just a little farther than the rest,” said Yates fan Jay Leno, who also spoke at the Petersen tribute.
“Brock and I were in a bar,” said director Hal Needham, recounting the founding of “The Cannonball Run” movie, “and he told me about this race he created.”
Other tributes that night came in video form from Bob Lutz, Bob Varsha and David Hobbs. By the time Yates got up to speak, he was, uncharacteristically, at a loss for words.
“I don’t know what to say other than to say, thank you,” he said that night.
No, thank you Brock, for everything you did and everything you inspired us to do. Godspeed.