My Car Quest

May 27, 2024

Book Review: Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

Title: Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance
Authors: Colin Comer and Rick Kopec
Price: $60
Length: 222 pages
Binding: hardbound
Publisher: Motorbooks

Review by Wallace Wyss –

This is a fun car book (the man and the cars he created) though not organized in the usual chronological manner. It is by two world class Shelby and Cobra historians, Colin Comer a used car salesman who buys and sells Cobras and Rick Kopec, a schoolteacher who was involved with Shelby racing in the early days.

Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

There’s some “holes” in the narrative, such as not a single picture of an AC Bristol roadster, the car, was sold in England before Shelby ever drove one. Ironically Shelby was racing in the ’50s in Europe so you wonder if that’s where he got the idea that there’s a right purty car, wonder what it’d be like if I stuffed in an American- made V8?

Some aspects of Shelby’s personal life are absent–maybe if the book is for real car guys they don’t care about personal details but I thought it was interesting no mention is made of how many times that he’d been married (I’ll guess six). I think it’s relevant to what a slickster he was. Like they mention Ford gave him $25,000 to get the Cobras started, but don’t repeat the old story that his presentation was so vivid that Lee Iacocca pleaded with his aides to give him $25K to get him outa there!

Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

The format of relentlessly let’s-go-to-the-next-car also means a lot of interesting stories couldn’t be fit in, like the time he lost his nose when he flipped a race car and had it sewn back on! And there’s a picture of the ill-fated Series I he had engineered from scratch, though that’s interesting because of the way he snaked his way past losing all his money when it failed. No, this book is not the complete story but more of a gushy fan book for readers who relish in the inclusion of Cobra serial numbers in old pictures.

Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

Shelby’s gallant devotion to keep making appearances before Shelby clubs and at vintage races when his cars were almost forgotten and he was plagued by illnesses is apparent and is why, even a half century later, his cars are cherished. The last part of the book abandons any chronology and shows pictures from museums and vintage races.

Probably the best part of the book, for those who only now are discovering they had missed a legend, is the tributes to the original racers and mechanics and designers, a mini-bio in each caption. Guys like Ken Miles, Pete Brock, Jerry Titus, etc. (say, where’s Bob Bondurant’s picture?). I was impressed with the background of each person mentioned, many of whom I had the pleasure of interviewing decades ago when writing my first Shelby book.

Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

Photography wise, there’s many great pictures, shot at races, of early Cobra race cars and ’65 & ’66 Shelby race cars (though oddly no shot of the only Shelby GT350 to run Le Mans).

I realized when I looked at the pictures of how much I miss those guys, guys like “Rem” Phil Remington, who told me about flying in bombers in WWII and Charlie Agaipiou who went from being a mechanic on London buses to tuning the fastest cars in the world.

Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

So if you can only have one book on Cobras and Shelbys prior to 1971 to see the cars and the men who built them this is The Book. The very latest Shelby cars are shown but, if it was up to me, all that would be in Vol. 2. I’d do this first one as Vol. 1 ending in 1971 so I could include all the other adventures. To do both in one book, it needs 500 pages to do it justice.

But then the book would weigh 10 lbs. and now that I’m almost an octogenarian, that’s much too heavy for me to carry around…

A bargain at $60…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss art

THE REVIEWER: Wallace Wyss’ book Shelby’s Wildlife the Cobras and the Mustangs, sold 50,000 copies.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance

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Book Review: Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance
Article Name
Book Review: Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance
Description
If you can only have one book on Cobras and Shelby cars prior to 1971 to see the cars and the men who built them this is The Book.
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Comments

  1. Phil Remington deserves a book for all his accomplishments.

  2. WALLACE WYSS says

    Phil impressed me as a quiet man who was innovative. Before Shelby he worked for a least two other start-up automakers (Edwards, Scarab), so when he got to Shelby there was a least money coming from Ford. He left Shelby for Gurney’s shop ad long after the usual retirement age, continued to work. I also enjoyed hearing how he was willing to entertain Pete Brock’s idea of a coupe when most of the shop thought it a loser.

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