Duffy Livingstone's Ford "Eliminator" Formerly Owned by Brock Yates Is Our Bring a Trailer Auction Pick of the Day
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Built by go-karting's founding father, Duffy Livingstone, this pieced-together hot rod has an impressive history.
Brock Yates's book, The Hot Rod: Resurrection of a Legend, follows his purchase and subsequent Pebble Beach win with the Eliminator.
It's currently up for auction on Bring a Trailer, with bidding open through May 1, 2023.
Let's connect Formula One, land speed racing, and the Pebble Beach Concours all in one car. If you expected that car to be a cobbled-together Ford Model A frame wearing bruised Model T bodywork and housing a patched-up small-block Chevy V-8 engine, well then, you've already read Brock Yates's book The Hot Rod: Resurrection of a Legend.
Before we get into the hardware of this special Bring a Trailer—which, like Car and Driver, is a part of the Hearst Autos group—auction, let's introduce the main characters. Despite being listed as the "Ex-Brock Yates Ford 'Eliminator'", this historic hot rod was the work of a Pasadena, California-based racer named Duffy Livingstone. Livingstone is most famous as the man who gave go-karting its name. He also launched it as a mainstream activity in the late '50s. Livingstone didn't invent the go-kart, that's credited to Art Ingles at the Kurtis Kraft race shop, but Livingstone locked in its moniker when he launched Go Kart Manufacturing.
Before that, Livingstone was racing a sort of full-scale go-kart in the form of a Ford T-bucket body mounted on a Model A frame. In 1950, Livingstone purchased the pile of Ford from another racer, Jay Chamberlin. (Chamberlin would go on to leave his own mark on automotive history by importing Lotus cars into California, among other things.) If you're getting the sense that the Eliminator has touched greatness all along its journey, you're correct. And we're just at the start.
Chamberlin lost interest in the car after a rule change occurred in the class he was building it to race in, so he passed the old Ford over to Livingstone, who cobbled it up as a jalopy sports car, initially powered by a flathead, which was later replaced by a bored-out Chevy small-block.
Livingstone wasn't alone in road racing a hot rod. Max Balchowsky's Buick-powered "Old Yeller" cars were formidable competitors against the snooty sports car set right around the same time Livingstone was building and campaigning the Eliminator.
Livingstone raced in SCCA and USAC competitions, often pitting the Eliminator against open-wheel single-seaters or fields of exotic Ferraris and Porsches. The fans and other racers often scoffed, but ol' Duff was in on the joke. He often entered the car as a "Tihsepa Mk II" or the "Tihsepa Eliminator." Take a second to say that to yourself backward, and you'll also be in on the giggle.
Tihsepa it may have been, but the hot rod held its own, sometimes surprising even Livingstone. In a much-publicized sports car race in 1959, Livingstone out-qualified Jim Hall and visiting F1 racer Wolfgang Von Tripps, nearly caught up to Dan Gurney, and ended up finishing 11th overall.
As his kart business grew, and race car development advanced beyond the cast-off Ford frame of a home-built hot rod, Livingstone moved on from the Eliminator, which was passed around in the scene and eventually ended up in a garage in Southern California in a state of stalled restoration. This is where Car and Driver enters the story.
Brock Yates—editor extraordinaire for C/D, and no stranger to shaking up the automotive elite—saw an ad for the Ford, remembering it from his early days at the track. He made the call, connected with hot rod historian Pat Ganahl, and took on the responsibility of making it road-worthy while protecting its unique history.
We could go on to tell you how Yates worked with custom car builders Pete Eastwood and Pete Chapouris at So-Cal Speed Shop (more famous fingers on the machine) and how the Eliminator eventually ended up on the lawn at Pebble Beach, but you might as well read it from the man himself. Yates wrote several articles about the Eliminator, and eventually the aforementioned book, The Hot Rod: Resurrection of a Legend.
Whoever places the winning bid on the Eliminator will get more than the triple Strombergs and Halibrand quick-change rear. They'll be the next name in a long list of influential and radical automotive trendsetters. We hope the winning bidder doesn't turn the Eliminator into a piece of garage art, either. Brock and Duffy would frown upon it.
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