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Brock Yates' Full mph Column

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There is one Jalopnik staffer that admits to having never seen the movie The Cannonball Run. We all look at him in shame and wonder "How could this happen?" But maybe, just maybe, he can enjoy the first, and unfortunately the last, column Cannonball legend Brock Yates penned for the now deceased mph. To be generous, we're pasting Brock's entire column below for all to enjoy.

From the May/Final Issue of mph

Welcome Brock [note irony here]
In his first [and last] column for mph, the soul of automotive journalism, Brock "The Assassin" Yates, Tells Us How He Got Here


WARNING: Quit reading this immediately.What follows is a brief r sum of a wasted life spent hanging around automobiles. In the event you are tempted to travel a similar road—while resisting a thrilling career riding a desk as an accountant,computer geek,or tax analyst—I'm telling you, messing with cars is a dead end.

Look at me. Since about the time the printing press and the internal-combustion engine were invented, I got hooked on these machines. In high school I built a 1932 B Ford five-window coupe hot rod.Then my dad,who loved cars,bought an MG TF and a Jaguar XK120 roadster, in both of which I nearly killed myself.


Somehow,after a stint in the Navy, I began racing and writing,the former with Formula Juniors and the latter for a little California paper called Competition Press (now known as AutoWeek).From there it was a move to Manhattan where Car and Driver was based, to become managing editor (although I knew absolutely nothing about either managing or editing).

With it came racing, including a couple of seasons with the then-booming professional Trans-Am series. My best ride was a factory-supported Camaro that put me into the same fender-bashing fields as Parnelli Jones,Mark Donohue,Peter Revson,George Follmer, and a mob of other serious shoes. In that wild bunch I managed a few decent top-ten finishes and then went on to write a book,"Sunday Driver,"that somehow made the New York Times bestseller list.

Of course, the single black mark on my career was the creation of the Cannonball Baker Sea-to-Shining-Sea Memorial Trophy Dash in 1971—the infamous cross-country race,New York to L.A.—that led to five major motion pictures (including Cannonball Run,which I wrote) and several idiotic copies, both here and in Europe.

The big blast came when superstar driver Dan Gurney and I drove a Ferrari Daytona coast-to-coast in just under 36 hours.When asked how fast we went,Gurney told the L.A.Times,"We never exceeded 185 mph."That was true, in that the Daytona ran out of steam at 176 mph on I-10.


Other great rides in the Cannonball for me came twice in a Dodge Challenger,built by NASCAR pro Cotton Owens, that I still own and that will soon appear in these pages as we build a series of Cannonball Challenger replicas using old E-bodies but with 300C chassis and the new 6.1-liter Hemis.

Then there was the Dodge ambulance.The same ambulance used by Burt Reynolds,Farrah Fawcett, Dom DeLuise,and Jack Elam in Cannonball Run. My beautiful wife,Pamela; movie director and stuntman Hal Needham; and an named Lyell Royer used the actual vehicle (packed with a monster motor built by drag racer Dick Landy) in the Cannonball in March 1979.As luck would have it, the transmission blew up 50 miles short of the Redondo Beach finish.


But the Dodge was not only in the movie, it was also used as a chase vehicle when Needham attempted to break the land-speed record at Bonneville. While the Cannonball lives on (and you'll read more about the latest madness in these pages in the near future) the old ambulance remains a mystery.

Needham donated the legendary machine to a NASCAR wives' charity and now it has disappeared. Was it scrapped? Is it lying under a haystack in some North Carolina barn? Was it repainted and being used by somebody who has no idea of its value?


Trust me, based on the giant bucks being unloaded at the major classic-car auctions like Barrett-Jackson and Christie's, I would guess that the Cannonball ambulance is worth six—maybe seven—figures to a collector or museum if found.

That's your assignment: Go find the Cannonball Runambulance and roll in dough. It's gotta be out there someplace.


You were warned. Like I told you, reading this will mess up your brain. You're gonna need to find the ambulance.