How Peter Brock helped bring speed to the silver screen

Photography Credit: Courtesy Peter Brock Collection

Back in the ’60s, things were pretty fluid in the racing world. A person could be involved in several different projects, unlike today, where you mostly have to be dedicated solely to the team you’re with. Even while working at Shelby’s, for example, I raced my own cars, including a small 1000cc Hino sedan and a 1300cc Hino Contessa, both right-hand-drive. 

Back then, fast cars attracted a lot of stars who would just stop by local shops, whether it was Shelby’s or Max Balchowsky’s Hollywood Motors, where I first worked when I returned to California from GM in Detroit in 1959.

Whenever Hollywood needed race consultants and drivers, it was pretty easy for them to tap local talent. I was a consultant and stunt driver in the 1964 movie “The Killers,” of which I remember mainly Angie Dickinson (she’s pretty easy to remember) and Ronald Reagan (his last film role). 

A Cobra roadster played a pivotal role in the movie. Years ago, someone told my wife, Gayle, that if you slow down the movie to frame by frame, in one frame you can see a moment’s glimpse of my derriere as I jump over a fence. (They offered to show her, at which time she said she was already familiar with that view, but thanks anyway.) I was also a driver in “The Love Bug” (1968), but most of my scenes were cut. 

To do these films, I needed to join the Screen Actors Guild. SAG decided my name was too close to another member’s, Peter Brooks, so they made me come up with something different. I chose Hall Brock, Hall being my mother’s maiden name. Hall Brock still receives royalty checks (small as they may be) whenever these movies play.

I was also involved in a little-known short film (which did not require my SAG card) called “1:42.08.” I was introduced to its director, a USC film student, in 1966. His first love was cars, and he had planned to become a professional race car driver. That dream ended when he had a serious accident shortly after his high school graduation in 1962, so he enrolled at USC

In film school in 1966, he was given his first director’s assignment to direct a short film. Still interested in cars, he wrote a script for this film, called “1:42.08 to Qualify.” The title was later changed to, simply, “1:42.08.”

The storyline is that a driver is practicing on a track with his race car to try to make a lap time of 1:42.08. No words are spoken, it’s just a guy pushing his car (and his driving ability) to the limit in an effort to make the time. You can find the film on the internet. 

This kid knew Allen Grant from Shelby American and asked him to recommend a driver who could also provide a car for his film project. Grant recommended me due to my experience in the movie industry, and I had access to a Lotus 23 that could be used.

I borrowed the Lotus, and a few days were spent filming at the Willow Springs race track in California. James Garner was there at the same time, taking laps in a formula car for an upcoming film he would be starring in called “Grand Prix.” 

Before Luke Skywalker, before Indiana Jones, there was Peter Brock, star of “1:42.08,” a student film by George Lucas–shown surveying the shot and then between the two cars. Photography Credits: Courtesy Peter Brock Collection

The most memorable part of this experience were the evenings we hung out at dinner, when this kid would share his vision for a series of sci-fi movies he wanted to make. It sounded kind of like Buck Rogers with strange creatures and better weapons. Very strange. We just kind of nodded and patronized this enthusiastic kid. 

In 1963, the guys at Shelby American called the Daytona Coupe I was designing and building (before it went on track and proved itself) Brock’s Folly. It would be fair to say that, as we heard this kid sharing his vision, we thought of it as George’s Folly.

The Daytona Coupe went on to win the FIA GT World Championship in 1965. The kid, George Lucas, brought his Buck Rogers vision to life with the release in ’77 of his first “Star Wars” movie. I love it when people realize their dreams and vision, even–or maybe especially–if others consider it a folly at first.

Join Free Join our community to easily find more Peter Brock, George Lucas and Hollywood articles.
More like this
7aull New Reader
11/4/22 1:02 p.m.

Wow! Worlds Collide!!! Great story, Pete. Thanks for sharing a bit of back-water Hollywood....

Stu A (Star Wars Fan)

Sedona AZ

MGWrench New Reader
11/5/22 8:47 a.m.

Mr. Brock:  Thank you for sharing this story.  My concern would have been to be the guy filming at speed laying on a platform bolted to the side of a Corvair!

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
11/11/22 11:33 a.m.

In reply to MGWrench :

Safety third!

You'll need to log in to post.

Our Preferred Partners