Back in the Day: Peter Brock drives a mystery machine

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Contessa Eric Seltzer

Turns out, Datsun was not Peter Brock’s first foray into the land of the rising sun. Several years before Brock teamed up with Datsun, he campaigned a different, more-obscure Japanese matchbox, the Contessa 1300, in the California Sports Car Club region of the Sports Car Club of America.

It began in 1961 when Japanese car manufacturer Hino ended its eight-year run manufacturing the Renault 4CV, and launched its own thimble-sized whip, the Contessa. A few years later, Hino used the scratch from the early Contessas to buy into the whole “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday” adage with hopes to enter the U.S. market with a bang. Hino hired automotive omniscient Brock to champion the efforts and nicknamed the works crew “Team Samurai.”

Brock proved that Hino was legit with a victory in the 1966 Trans-American Sedan Championship at Riverside International Raceway. Hino was so impressed that it forked over the cash for Brock to build a Le Mans racer called the Samurai. The prototype was gorgeous—designed by Brock, built by Troutman-Barnes. But the car never competed under Brock’s name, and it was eventually sold to Terry Hall of Ontario, California, where he ran it in select events at Riverside.

Hino LM front 3/4
Eric Seltzer

We owe Hagerty member Eric Seltzer a large debt of gratitude for sending us these exceptional photos that he took while in his 20s while attending races at Riverside. The avid photographer and historian has attended races since the ’50s. He also competed in SCCA road racing from 1972–77 in the Formula-B and Formula-Ford classes.

In our most recent issue of the Hagerty magazine (Don’t have it? Get it here), we asked members to submit any vintage automotive photos they may have lying around, with the small caveat that they must own distribution rights for the photos. Select photos will be featured in the magazine’s new “Back in the Day” section. So far, the response has been overwhelming, so we started this weekly online version to publish submissions at a faster clip.

Whether the moments are captured by a professional photographer or an amateur voyeur, we want to them. Send your submissions via email to tips@hagerty.com or add them to our forums on the Back in the Day board.

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