The average enthusiast may never have heard of him, but Bob Cook was well known in the automotive aftermarket industry. He was such an influence, in fact, that he was elected to the SEMA Hall of Fame in 2008. Cook’s résumé also included three terms serving on the SEMA Board of Directors, as well as chairmanships of the WD of the Year, the Dues Review and Rep Committees.
Cook grew up in the Atlanta area, one of four sons of a single mother. Cook’s older brother acted as a father figure as he was growing up, so it was only natural that the love of fast cars rubbed off on him when his brother came home from the Navy with a ’51 Mercury.
Cook and his brother raced that primered ’51 Mercury with the Flathead Ford motor and two barrel carb at the local drag strips around Atlanta. Cook said, “Of course, a Flathead Ford engine with a two barrel carburetor was not very fast, but it got us started. My job at the time was to take the street tires off and put the slicks on. I was the pit crew.”
After high school, Cook initially studied law at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta with the intent to get into politics. The automotive aftermarket world is thankful that desire was never realized. Instead, he parlayed his love of fast cars and racing into a career in the automotive specialty equipment industry that was, according to SEMA representatives, “one of the most honored in the industry.”
Cook’s career kicked off with a delivery boy job for the local NAPA auto parts store, Redman Auto Parts. He soon moved up to stock boy and counterman. Two of his fellow employees lured him away when they left Redman NAPA to open their own store. From there he went to work at a small-engine ignition and carburetion warehouse and then to Holley Carburetors.
Cook joined a number of Holley/Edelbrock employees when they left the company to form the company Performance Marketers Inc. About five years later, in June of 1979, Cook went out on his own to form Bob Cook Sales. Two of his first clients in this foray were Vic Edelbrock and Bob Vandergriff.
Over time, his company grew from a struggling two-man operation to one that employed 14 sales reps. He then began to foster the industry, giving his time and company sponsorship to both SEMA and PWA events and functions. In time, he was promoted to several planning and new products judging committees, as well as membership on the Person of the Year Committees. Cook’s leadership helped Bob Cook Sales be honored six times by SEMA with SEMA rep of the Year Awards, as well as being a finalist nine times for the PWA Person of the Year Award.
Bob retired from active participation in the company he founded in 2008 and until recently spent most of his time working on his Georgia farm and spending as much time as he could with his two sons Robby and Jeffrey.
Cook recently passed away. RacingJunk sends deepest sympathy to his family, friends, and colleagues.