We have very sad news to report. The BRE family has unexpectedly lost one of our original team members, John Knepp (1942-2017). While traveling to the SOVREN vintage races in Seattle last week, Lori, John's wife, contacted us to tell us that John had been diagnosed with Pancreatic cancer. He had no previous signs of illness. It was discovered when he went in to have a minor gardening injury checked. Healthy all of his life, unbelievably John passed away within days of diagnoses, last Thursday June 29th.
You will see in the pictures below that John was in every BRE Datsun team photo (and reunion) because he was with the BRE Datsun team from the beginning to the end. I first met John when he was living in Salt Lake City in 1968. I saw his talent when we went there to race and offered him a job at BRE. Our team was best known for winning four National SCCA Championships with our Datsuns due to excellent preparation. John was key in that endeavor. As John explained in a 2010 BRE Reunion interview, "My job was to make everything on the cars bullet proof." John knew engines, transmission, chassis, pumps, electronics and how they worked together. John started at the front bumper of a car and went to the very back inspecting every component and connection to make sure the cars would have no failures on the track. It worked and John was an integral part of BRE's success.
As with most BRE team members, John never stopped exploring and inventing. When BRE closed in 1973, John carried on his quality work, co-founding Electramotive with Don Devendorf. They won the IMSA GTU Championship in 1979 with a Datsun 280ZX, followed by winning the GTO Championship in 1982. For over twenty-four years, Electramotive cars dominated national and international racing series.
John and Lori celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary May 18th of this year. He and Lori's savings were used recently on a gray water recycling endeavor. The project will not be completed now that John is gone and Lori will never get their investment back. Donations to show your appreciation for what John contributed to your pleasure with BRE can be made at this gofundme page here.
Sometimes it's not about the money it's about a show of respect. You will see many large donations on the page but more than anything, Lori will be looking at the gofundme page as a way to gauge how many people John touched with his decades of contributions to the automotive industry. Even a $10 or $25 donation is greatly appreciated as it represents a show of appreciation for John, the person who always had a smile while people around him were stressing out. He was the rock people could depend on.
John is survived by Lori, their children Jenifer and Robert, two grandsons, Elliott and Evan and two sisters, Karen and Janet.
John, you left us before we could say goodbye. We are heartbroken and wish we could have been there for you like you have been there for so many of us.
BRE Team Member 1968-1973
Standing 2nd from the right, between Mac Tilton and Peter Brock,
this photo best captures John's spirit and positive outlook
Standing 3rd from the right, John was instrumental in the reliability of the BRE Datsuns
Standing 5th from the right, John was with BRE from the beginning of their small crew to
four Championships with a large crew and transporters