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Peter Brock and Bob Dunham with Peter's 1300 Contessa


Below, Peter Brock gives a fascinating insight into his first seasons running BRE.
My thanks go to Peter for his involvement and enthusiasm in this project - Rob.

PB: "The first BRE project after I left Shelby's was the 998cc four door Hino Contessa sedan I built for an American named Bob Dunham who was living in Japan and who wanted to do a season of racing in the US. At that time the SCCA did not have any sedan racing , but a bunch of locals in the Southern California area wanted to race their Minis, Cortinas, VWs, Volvos, etc and formed an organization called the "Good Guy Sedan Racers". We prevailed upon the rival California Sports Car Club to sanction some races. They agreed provided that we could put together a decent field of cars, and that's how sedan racing began in the US. It was a motley assortment of tin tops but it was cheap and fun.

Pete Brock's Contessa 900GT
Pete Brock and the Hino 900GT - click for larger image

"Bob Dunham was an actor in Japanese movies and also did a bit of auto journalism as a correspondent to the foreign press. Dunham had been consulting with several Japanese auto companies about entering the US market, and he convinced the Hino people that Americans were into racing and that they should establish a sporting image for their car in America by racing it there. He contacted me at Shelby's through a mutual friend and asked If I could build the car for him. We worked out a deal where I agreed to build the car if he'd give it to me after one season of racing , when he returned to Japan. I built the car with a fabricator friend of mine from Shelby's named Jeff Schoolfield.

"The basic Hino was a Japanese Renault Dauphine built under license from the French. It had it's own body but the rest was pretty close to the Dauphine - swing axle rear end and all. Pretty awful! Despite this we made a trick little racer and Bob did well enough to interest the factory to continue with the program . I raced the car the next season in So. Cal. and finished consistently, but was never able to beat the Mini Coopers. Remember this was well before Nissan or Toyota ever thought about entering US racing , so we were really pioneering the Japanese import market in the US.

"Some time later the Hino people invited me to Japan to test their new 1300cc "Contessa" coupe, which I did. We worked out a deal where I would race the car in the US and if it proved successful."

Pete Brock at Riverside
Pete Brock at Riverside - click for larger image

Pete Brock's first success at the wheel of the 1300cc Japanese Hino Coupe was at the Mission Bell 100 held before the 1966 Times-Mirror event in front of a 100,000 strong crowd at Riverside Raceway. Pete and Bob Dunham placed the BRE Hinos 1st and 2nd and created quite a stir, and got the attention of the major Japanese manufacturers.

Hino Contessa


The attractive Michelotti-styled Hino Contessa 1300 Coupe was very well received in Belgium, where it won several awards for build quality, and in Australia, where it had been displayed at the Brisbane and Sidney motor shows. 



BRE Samurai prototype


Shortly before the President of Hino died, Pete Brock set about designing a Hino Prototype, with the aim of entering it in the 1967 Japanese Grand Prix and even at Le Mans. The design, all Brock's own work, was built by the Troutman-Barnes stable, a highly respected US body builders of the 1950s/1960s. The aluminium body sat over a tubular steel frame, which housed the 1293cc Contessa engine. Brock built the engine to Group 2 specification, Engel supplied the camshaft, and Mallory the ignition. Carbs were twin Mikuni-Solex downdraught items. Engine cooling was aided by Brock's use of aerodynamics through two vents behind the cockpit (similar to the vents on his AC Cobra Daytona which cooled the back brakes). Downforce could be adjusted by a ratchet mechanism on the rear aerofoil.

The prototype, which Brock named the Samurai, was hailed a styling triumph, and was featured in several magazines, including the front cover of Road & Track. As far as the Japanese Grand Prix was concerned, Brock was not able to see his latest creation perform, because the stewards deemed the Samurai to have insufficient ground clearance and the car was disqualified. Brock was not too downhearted by this turn of events because the disqualification brought more publicity and drew more attention to his talents from the Japanese motor industry.




"We started our Datsun racing program without Nissan USA support" - Pete Brock

Soon after the Japanese Grand Prix, Hino's President died. Brock's Samurai never made LeMans, and the Hino deal was over.

PB:- "Toyota tried and eventually took over Hino (and scrapped their automotive aspirations). It looked like I'd continue with Toyota, but Shelby had just bought a franchise to sell Toyotas and he found out about their racing aspirations. He'd just won Le Mans for Ford and, when that project came to an end, the Japanese were anxious to have him run their racing program for the hot new Toyota 2000GT. At the eleventh hour they secretly gave the project to Shelby. I went to Nissan USA with blood in my eye saying "I don't care what it takes, I want to race your cars because I want to beat Shelby", but they turned me down because they were afraid to race their rather outdated 2000 roadster against Toyota's supposedly superior 2000GT. I told them "you can make a race car out of anything!". They responded saying they still weren't interested because they already had a factory team with Duane Feuerhelm out in the Valley. I replied "Yeah, but they're running dead last and it's an embarrassment to Datsun, to which they replied "It's really not a good car."

"I told Nissan that the 2000 roadster could be a winning car, but I just couldn't convince them. I refused to give up. I knew the controller at Hino Motors in Tokyo, Mr Miyako, so I called him and described what had happened. Mr Miyako told me, "I have a friend - we went to Tokyo University together - and now he is chairman of Nissan. I will talk to him."

"A week later Mr Miyako called me back and said, "Nissan (Japan, not USA) will send you the cars and the money."

"So we started our Datsun racing program without Nissan USA support. I received a couple of 2000 roadsters and the contract to race them from Nissan, Japan! We proceeded to blow everyone's doors off to win the Pacific Coast division in our first year. Later I met Mr. Katayama and, much to the annoyance of Dick Roberts, Nissan USA's Competition Manager, BRE became his pet project. We went on to win big for several seasons and it was not long before Datsun went to #1 in the US."

The successful partnership between BRE and Datsun may never have occured without Brock's foresight in pursuing and continuing with the Hino contract, and Hino's involvement in securing the two Datsun Roadsters and the support of Nissan, Tokyo.

Rob Beddington


BRE SAMURAI - From the Archives

Motor Fan


Road & Track


R & T 11/67

Other images from these pages are from Hino News



These pages, unless otherwise stated, are copyright ©1999 & 2000, Rob Beddington & The Classic Fairlady Roadster Register. Do not redistribute in any form without the prior permission of the owner.