This is going to be a very long story, I’ll add to it as I find the time and energy. Peyote is a very well documented car for one that started out from such humble beginnings and I’m going to put everything I have collected into this article as much as a way to organize and share the information as to write a history. I have photographs from it’s original construction; pictures, newspaper and magazine articles, and race programs from early races; photos from when it was “found” in rough shape by Pat Starr who had actually seen the car at races and in Dewey Brohaugh’s shop when he was a kid. I have photos from Pat’s restoration and racing. There’s photos and race results from Baxter Culver’s ownership, and magazine articles, pictures and race results from my stint as caretaker. The article below is from Vintage Motorsports Magazine provides a little background on Peyote and Bill Ames, the man who built Peyote in 1959.
Click the thumbnail picture to see the full sized image. All of these thumbnail groups work the same. If you move your mouse to the right of the page you can jump to the next in the series, to the left you can go to the previous picture, at the bottom you can click to close the picture
A lot of people have really cared about this little car, and done a lot to make it perform better–I dedicate this site to all of them. I believe that the reason Peyote works so well is all those years of mojo. That and the fact that Pat Starr really knew what he was doing when he restored it.
Bill Ames started with a TR3 that he had rebuilt from a wreck. He raced the car briefly, but decided he needed something quicker to be competitive so he decided to do a special. the original donor car is pictured below
Peyote MkI used the drivetrain and frame from the TR3, with the engine moved down and back ten inches. The frame was also trimmed at the rear spring mount and a barrel-shaped body was fromed from aluminum sheet over a conduit frame. Apparently it was quite ugly–there are no pictures that I know of except perhaps this partial one below. I thought at first this was a picture of Peyote MKII, but the body shape is wrong, I suspect this may be the only picture of MKI. Bill Ames is in the middle of the group, the other guys are Kent Montgomery and either Brooke or Tony Kinnaird, but I don’t which is which.
So Bill teamed up with Booke and Tony Kinnaird to build another version using the same TR3 drivetrain and frame. They pulled the body and built a new one that looked somewhat like a Lister in the front and smething like a Maserati Tipo 61 in the middle, and like pretty much nothing else in the back. Still not pretty, but purposeful. Below are a set of pictures from the original construction of Peyote.
Bill started racing Peyote MkII along with Tony Kinnaird. In fact this program from 1961 lists both drivers, even though there was only one Peyote.
By 1962 Bill Ames and Dewey Brohaugh had become partners in building a new body based on lessons Bill had learned from Peyote, only this time it would be fibreglass and have compound curves. The resulting car was called the AMBRO. Many of them were built (more than 40 bodies were sold) and several survive. I have a reproduction AMBRO body sitting in storage waiting for the time to build a “little brother” for Peyote. This program from 1962 shows both cars entered with Peyote being driven by Donald Evans. Don bought the car in the spring of 1962. He didn’t have his competition license when he first bought it, so Ronald Drude drove it for him a few times.
Peyote was mentioned in several issues of sports Car Magazine. Generally Peyote is seen sliding backwards or in the middle of a spin. This is August of 1962. The car is listed as the Ambro Special, but it’s clearly Peyote. I assume Bill Ames considered calling it the Ambro Special would be good exposure for his new business.
The October 1962 issue also included mention and some shots of Peyote. the race listing shows the Ambro but the photo is really of Peyote. It may have been Don Evans driving it.
In this photo it’s just very crossed up. I know the feeling–Peyote likes to slide, it demands that you drive it agressively or it simply feels clumsy. When I first bought it I thought it wasn’t anything special, until I started pushing it.
In the 1963 program shown below there’s an interesting coincidence. Pat Starr is driving one of his first races in his Morgan, previously owned by Tom Kennedy–this is one of Pat’s first times seeing the car he would rescue twenty years later.
Both Brooke Kinnaird and Don Skogmo are mentioned in this program. Brooke figured large in the construction of Peyote since he financed the new body in return for seat time for his son Tony. Both Brooke Kinnaird and Don Skogmo were killed at Road America, racing on the new track. Brainerd racetrack was called “Donnybrook” for years in tribute to these two racers.
The prgram below is for the Don Skogmo Memeorial Race. Both Pat Starr driving his Morgan and Bill Brown driving Peyote were racing. Bill Brown was the new owner of Peyote, and kept it (apparently) until some time in the seventies. It was apparently still raced throughought the 70’s, at one time appearing with home made 9″ rear wheels, and a big plexiglass wing.
Pat Starr bought Peyote in 1982 from Steve Conroy, a member of his vintage racing club, who had bought it ealier from John Davis, another club member, who had found it in a a yard west of Minneapolis in 1981. It was in rough shape, as these pictures show.
Pat did an intelligent and sensitive restoration, improving the handling, replacing the wood floor with aluminum, and replacing body sections that were too damaged or weak for racing use. The pictures below depict some of the work he did.
Pat raced peyote for a number of years, making extensive improvements to the engine, transmission and suspension. In 1991 he sold the car to Baxter Culver. The letter below from Pat to Baxter details the changes he made to the car and how specific modifications were done:
After Pat Starr sold the Peyote to Baxter Culver Pat got in touch with Bill Ames and carried out a correspondance for some time about Peyote, tuning Triumphs, and the Ambro that Bill Ames was building. The letter bleow appears to be the first in the series of letters from Starr to Ames
Bill Ames sent these letters back to Pat in reply
Followed by these two letters