John Knepp, who with Don Devendorf founded the Datsun/Nissan performance specialty company Electramotive Engineering, has died at the age of 75.
Knepp made his first splash on the American motorsports scene working with Pete Brock’s Brock Racing Enterprises as it built 2.5-Liter Trans-Am-winning Datsun 510s for John Morton and others, then hooked up with electronics engineer Devendorf in 1972 to create Electramotive.
Starting from a small base shop in El Segundo, California, they began tuning and racing Datsuns and Nissans, eventually achieving championship success in the production-based sedan and GT underclasses of IMSA — RS in 1977, GTU in 1979 and GTO in 1982 — before aiming a bit higher, at GTP.
After a couple of tries they got it as right as possible, fielding a series of Trevor Harris-designed Nissan GTP-ZX Turbos (above, Hal Crocker photo) that lead driver Geoff Brabham, John Morton and Tom Gloy drove to eight consecutive wins in the heart of the 1988 season to win Brabham and Nissan the first of what would be four consecutive IMSA GTP championships — against the likes of Porsche, Jaguar and Toyota.
In concert with Devendorf’s groundbreaking work in electronic engine management systems, Knepp created a series of Nissan power plants that simply overpowered everyone else. Knepp is survived by his wife Lori and their two children, to whom, along with John’s many friends in and out of the sport, Vintage Racecar extends its sincerest sympathies.