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Book Review




So…where were you in ’62? If in Liverpool, you were watching – and hearing – the last vestige of the still-regional Beatles before the band would jump onto Britain’s national stage; that was all-too-soon followed by their (final) concert at Shea Stadium. Closer to home, Washington, DC was observing the first steps of the Kennedy administration, along with the first takeoffs and landings at the area’s Dulles Airport. And if, on the other side of the country, you were in or near Venice, California, you might have stopped by Carroll Shelby’s Venice shop to see – and hear – the very first mating of an AC chassis with a Ford V8; in short, the birth of Shelby American and its Cobra. 

As anyone – including your correspondent – on that side of 60 will begrudgingly admit, the subsequent sixty years have gone by all too fast. And not unlike the Beatles and their catalog of music, Carroll Shelby and his team put together quite the automotive history within that same abbreviated decade. Although Cobras built between 1962 and 1967 number no more than a 1,000, their impact on the motoring public can’t (or shouldn’t) be overstated. Sixty years later Carroll Shelby – even in death – leaves an imprint that can be seen on any visit to a Ford showroom or, for that matter, any drive in or around Southern California.

If, at this point, you’re thinking another Shelby volume is one Shelby volume too many, think again. To bottom line it for those of you standing in a return line, you should grab what Christmas cash is left and put $60 down on SHELBY AMERICAN 60 YEARS OF HIGH PERFORMANCE by authors Colin Comer and Rick Kopec. The bio provided by the book’s publisher, The Quarto Group, notes Mr. Comer’s many years as editor-at-large for Sports Car Market, editor for Hagerty magazine and a contributing editor to Road & Track. Notably, Colin has also written Shelby Cobra Fifty Years, which would bode well for his revisiting the Shelby subject in another ten or fifteen. I enjoyed meeting Colin a few years ago at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin, and can vouch for both Colin’s expertise and accessibility; unlike some ‘experts’ he’ll actually talk to us common folk.

Rick Kopec’s connection with Shelby automobiles began even earlier, serving as crew chief for a 289 Cobra competition car in 1966. After three years in the Army, Mr. Kopec became a founder – in 1975 – of the Shelby American Automobile Club, and has subsequently authored several books – and hundreds of articles – on Cobras and Shelby cars. 

In short (they don’t pay me by the word here), you’ll be hard-pressed to find a book better steeped in both knowledge and a personal connection to its subject matter – think Nancy Reagan writing about her Ronnie.

In a coffee table format, Shelby American 60 Years of High Performance provides, in its 224 pages and 250 color photos, an extensive documentation of both the hardware and, perhaps more important, the various individuals associated with that hardware. While widely recognized as both a talented driver and one helluva salesman, Carroll Shelby’s transcendent talent was his ability to put together a team of remarkable individuals (which included Peter Brock, Phil Remington and Ken Miles), identify a goal and get there together. Initially, the goal was to build a sport car that would beat Corvettes. And before you could say ‘yee haw’ Shelby and his team were beating Ferrari. 

Shelby American is an incredible history, one told by its two authors with well-earned perspective. Mr. Comer and Mr. Kopec bring their ‘A’ game to the task, offering photos and text both informative and conversational. If there’s a nit to pick, it’s with the foreword provided by Ford Motor Company CEO James D. Farley Jr. Although well written, and providing a viewpoint unique to Mr. Farley’s enthusiasm, it looks too much like an advertorial, something automotive journalism needs as much as another thousand (million?) influencers. I won’t take issue with Mr. Farley’s insight or perspective, but wish it had been signed simply Jim Farley, Enthusiast.

This highly recommended work of Colin Comer and Rick Kopec is – as noted – published by The Quarto Group. And you can put the $60 ($80 Canadian) on any still-available credit card!

Boldt, a contributor to outlets such as, Kelley Blue Book and Autoblog, brings to his laptop some forty years of experience in automotive retail, journalism and public relations. He is a member of the Texas Auto Writers Association, The Washington Automotive Press Association and L.A.'s Motor Press Guild. David is the Managing Editor of txGarage, a regular panelist on the AutoNetwork Reports webcast/podcast, and the automotive contributor to Dallas' Katy Trail Weekly.

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