Peter Brock takes us on a trip to Italy, via The Road to Modena, to tell the story of the stillborn Shelby-De Tomaso P70 Can-Am racecar he designed and the De Tomaso Sport 5000 variant he didn’t! Along the way, he relives his life and and adventures working at Shelby American.
Of all of Carroll Shelby’s projects during the 1960s-1970s, the P70 Shelby-De Tomaso Can-Am racecar (at one point referenced a Ghia-De Tomaso Sport 5 Liter) is the one that little has been written about. Peter Brock representing Shelby American penned the design and De Tomaso was supposed to supply a large displacement 7-Liter engine based on the 289 and get the car built. As with so many De Tomaso projects, reality got in the way of his fantasy!
Thanks to Brock, left, who stayed with the project after Shelby bowed out, The Road to Modena tells that story and includes the De Tomaso Sport 5000 spin-off. It also reflects on Brock’s participation in a number of higher-profile racecar projects leading up to the P70.
I count among those who knew very little about the P70 Shelby-De Tomaso project. When I wrote FORD TOTAL PERFORMANCE for Motorbooks in 2015, I included coverage of the Sport 5000 that was on the market in California at the time. I thought it was originally a Can-Am car that had been altered to run in FIA competition in Europe. And, I thought that Peter Brock had designed it. That was not exactly the case. A call to Brock sorted out the confusion.
“I actually didn’t design the Sport 5000. I did design the Can-Am version for Carroll, to be built by De Tomaso. He promised a 7-liter small-block engine and, when he couldn’t deliver it, Shelby backed out. It made no sense running it against Chevy aluminum big-block-powered McLarens in the upcoming Can-Am Series. So the Shelby-De Tomaso deal was obsolete before it was finished.”
“De Tomaso changed the name of the P70 to Ghia-De Tomaso Sport 5-Liter, showed it at the Turin Auto Show, and it ended up on the cover of Road & Track. Since the car didn’t comply with European FIA Sports Car rules, De Tomaso took the body off and had Fantuzzi, below, build a similar looking car that became the P70 (Prototipi 7-Liter). It was later put back together on possibly a new chassis and sold,” added Brock.
Both the Shelby-De Tomaso P70 and the De Tomaso Sport 5000 are alive and well today. The Road to Modena sorts out all the details on the design concepts and building of these two cars, both powered by 289 Ford engines. Beautifully illustrated with contemporary and vintage photography, Brock ties it all together with vintage photos of the USRRC sports-racing cars he worked on leading up to the design of the P70, including Jack Nethercutt’s Mirage and Craig Lang’s King Cobra.
“Working in Modena on a car planned for Dave MacDonald to drive in the emerging Can-Am Series was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Brock.
At a time in his life when he should be kicking back and resting on his laurels, Brock is probably as busy today as he was in his prime when he penned designs for Shelby Mustangs, the iconic Daytona Cobra Coupe, a plethora of high-profile racecars, and went on to put unstoppable Datsun 510s on the grid and podium under BRE (Brock Racing Enterprises) livery. His first major design project was the legendary Corvette Stingray racer for Bill Mitchell in 1957 when he worked at GM after studying at Art Center College of Design.
That was then, this is now. Peter (and wife Gayle) still run BRE and, in addition to writing books under the BRE imprint, also designs, builds and markets Aerovault aerodynamic lightweight car haulers and markets Mustang and Datsum performance parts. Peter’s latest project involves the creation of six laser-perfect, FIA-approved copies of the Le Mans winning CSX2299 Daytona Cobra Coupe, above, in Germany.
For more information and availability of The Road to Modena and other books, artwork and BRE accessories by Peter Brock, please visit http://www.bre2.net/mm5/merchant.mvc?Screen=CTGY&Category_Code=books
Check out the incredible Daytona Cobra Coupe Tributes being built in Germany at http://americanmuscleservice.com/