If you’re going to write a book about the Ford Mustang, you might as well write one about the best Ford Mustang. Obviously, I’m talking about the Shelby Mustang, the pony car to end all pony cars. Whatever the normal Mustangs could do, Shelby’s did better, both on and off the track. Shelby Mustang: The Total Performance Pony Car is yet another fine entry from Motorbooks that looks acutely into all things Mustang.
Earlier this year, I read another one from Motorbooks by author Donald Farr about the Boss Mustang. It doesn’t look like they’re going to break the chain of their successes any time soon on the topic of the Ford Mustang.
Six Ways From Sunday
Shelby Mustang: The Total Performance Pony Car is written by Colin Comer and features a rather nice forward by Lee Iacocca, Mr. Mustang himself. The subtitle alludes to Ford’s racing slogan from the 1960s. Henry Ford II got a real bee in his bonnet about racing for some reason. He didn’t want to just win here and there, he wanted complete domination. Total Performance was the slogan FoMoCo came up with, and Total Performance is what they got. They won at Indy, they won in NASCAR. Ford won at Le Mans and their corporate backing of the Cosworth engine assured them of Grand Prix immortality.
The Shelby Mustang fit right in the middle of this spectrum of world-beating success. It wasn’t the Boss Mustang slugging it out with Mark Donohue and Dan Gurney in the Trans Am series; it was found running against a wide variety of sports cars in SCCA B-Production racing. Back then, that meant everything from big Jags and Healeys to other all-American hot rods.
New Version of a Classic
This is an updating of Comer’s 2014 version of the book and features lots of new photos and details on individual and historically significant cars. Comer is recognized as one of the world’s foremost authorities on Shelby cars and he definitely gets that impression across in this volume.
Comer starts at the beginning, with Shelby being tasked to “make it better” and make the Mustang go as good as it looked. Carroll did that the old fashioned way. He got a 1965 289 K-code fastback, got the engine producing more power, cut the weight, and “improved” the handling. They sure handle better than stock Mustangs, but no one ever mistook them for a light and agile Alfa or something like that. Then again, raw power overcomes a lot of handling deficiencies. Just ask all the guys Shelby Mustangs were beating with regularity.
Of course Shelby didn’t stop there, and neither does Comer. After the deep dive into the 350, he goes just as deep into the GT500 (big block Mustangs that are going for obscene amounts on the auction circuit these days), and even takes a crack at the modern Shelbys Ford started cranking out in 2006. Some might quibble with that, but I am not one of them. They are just as deserving of the moniker as the vintage cars, doing everything Shelby Mustangs have always done. Go fast, turn hard, stop harder, and don’t break the bank.
Oh yeah, photos. Shelby Mustang is swimming in lots of photos and it seems like I have only seen about a third of them before. Motorbooks has a knack for doing this, finding lots of cool old shots from Lord-knows-where. By this point, I’ve stopped asking and am just grateful to whomever their photo researchers are. There’s all these fantastic old shots of the Shelby facility down in SoCal; various famous people in the background; now-priceless parts stacked here and there; and assorted gearheads getting down to the task of making it fast, making it last, and making a lot of them.
A Definitive Shelby Mustang Book
The photos alone make it worth the price, but it also works as a must-have book it you are, A) a Mustang fan (duh); B) a Shelby Fan (also duh); C) a racing fan; or D) a fan of mid-century cars in general. In other words, you should probably just buy this book on general principles alone if you are a car enthusiast.
Tony Borroz has spent his entire life racing antique and sports cars. He is the author of Bricks & Bones: The Endearing Legacy and Nitty-Gritty Phenomenon of The Indy 500, available in paperback or Kindle format. Follow his work on Twitter: @TonyBorroz.
Shelby Mustang: The Total Performance Pony Car by Colin Comer
Colin Comer is a respected authority on collector cars and a noted champion for the cars, people, and history of Shelby American. He is known from his many years as editor-at-large for Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines, an editor for Hagerty magazine, and a contributing editor for Road & Track magazine. When not writing about cars, Comer enjoys maintaining his own eclectic collection of vintage cars and is an accomplished racer and pilot. He and his family live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, or, in Comer’s words, “fifty-two miles from Road America.”