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click to enlarge The antique lights and wood paneling are original, but the concrete floor was covered with rubber tiles.

Historic Parking Ahead

Brock Yates' carriage house is a place where history roars to life.

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by Phil Berg

Anyone with a mild interest in cars has heard of Brock Yates. He’s written for Car and Driver magazine, been a racing reporter on CBS, and penned several books including a biography of legendary exotic car commendatore Enzo Ferrari. Even non-car people know of him from the 1981 movie “The Cannonball Run”, which was loosely based on the outlaw highway race Yates created.

Yates acquired the nickname “Assassin” for scathing reviews he wrote about new cars he didn’t like. But no label accurately captures the passion for cars that comes out when he talks about his carriage house, which was built in upstate New York in 1907 as a stable for horses. When he found the property, “I knew it would make a wonderful spot for a small collection. I’m not the kind of guy inclined to have 30 cars.”

The history of the place rolls off Yates’ tongue: In 1814 the property was occupied, and in 1852 a house was built, but was completely remodeled in 1909-1910. It was built for C. B. Matthews, a John D. Rockefeller business rival, who moved to Buffalo when dealings in Pennsylvania oil fields went sour. Matthews retreated to Buffalo, where he made a lot of money. This was his summer house. Yates believes the house was designed by Claude Bragdon, who later made a name by designing some theaters on Broadway.

click to enlarge Pillars define the entrance to the small doors that lead to the stairway to the second floor office and apartment.

The carriage house stored horses and early autos. An original naptha-powered DC generator is still in place in the stable. The chestnut tongue and groove paneling was already there when Yates bought the place. He hasn’t done much to the garage, other than coat the original floor with rubber tiles, add three modern doors and a heater.

The carriage house now holds a 1924 Model T-bodied hot rod with a glorious racing history, two midget racers, and a Dodge Challenger that placed second and third in original Cannonball races in 1972 and 1975 with an engine built by NASCAR hero Cotton Owens.

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