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Brock Yates, screenwriter, auto enthusiast and Lockport native, dies

Brock Yates, author, former executive editor of Car and Driver magazine, and writer of the screenplay for "Canonball Run" and "Smokey and the Bandit II," has died.  (Derek Gee/News file photo)

Brock Yates, a Lockport native who authored the scripts for two popular Burt Reynolds movies, “Cannonball Run” and “Smokey and the Bandit II,” died Wednesday of complications from Alzheimer’s Disease, according to Car and Driver magazine, for which he worked for many years. He was 82.

Yates was an all-around auto enthusiast and an automotive journalist who worked for many years as a senior editor at Car and Driver, starting in 1964. He founded a series of coast-to-coast auto races in the 1970s called the Cannonball Runs, which gave their name to the 1981 hit movie. He also co-authored the script for the second “Smokey and the Bandit” movie, which came out in 1979 and also was a hit for Reynolds, then at the height of his popularity.

In a 1996 interview with The Buffalo News, Yates called the “Cannonball Run” movie “a big disappointment,” saying he wrote the script with Steve McQueen in mind as the star. Yates said, “Reynolds just butchered the plot, he didn’t care about it. It was not a happy time for me; made a lot of money but artistically … I’m not proud of it at all. It made a lot of people laugh, but I didn’t like the picture.”

Yates settled in Wyoming County after his Hollywood days, living in the Village of Wyoming since the early 1980s and, along with his wife and children, operating such local businesses as the Cannonball Pub, the Gaslight Cafe and the Gaslight Christmas and Holiday Shoppe.

In 2006, he held a major auction of his memorabilia in the pub after closing the businesses the previous year.

Yates was a strong supporter of the American auto industry and wrote an op-ed piece for The News in 2003 condemning international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as “nonsense.”

Yates wrote numerous books about cars and motorcycles, including “The Decline and Fall of the American Auto Industry.”


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