. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT


     I've finally got my hands on a few copies of an outstanding book (contact me if you're interested in one :). With so many amazing pictures and diagrams, it's the kind of book you'd like to own even if you couldn't read. It's hardbound, thick, heavy, and could take out a burglar should the need arise. Ford GT40 & The New Ford GT is written by Al Axelrod, Brian Winer and Wallace Wyss.  It is an in-depth read following the progrssion of Ford from the birth of the Ford GT40 to it's reincarnation as the New Ford GT.  

     When it comes to Ford GTs, there are enthusiasts and then there are super-enthusiasts.  Co-writer Brian Winer qualifies as a super-enthusiast.  The following is a candid interview regarding his experience with the car and how his 2007 book came about.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Book Review: The Shelby American Story

Published by Photo Data Research, Redondo Beach,CA
128 pages, hardbound, $39.95

     Art Evans is the “grand old man” of sports car historians in the U.S. at least in the postwar era. He was there way back then, more than 60 years ago, as an amateur driver, and despite various careers in the military and academic circles , has never lost track of the early sports car drivers.
 Hence he was well qualified to do this hardbound book.
 It is his second on Shelby, the first covering Shelby as a race driver. He also previously did one on Ken Miles, one of the most famous Shelby drivers.  This one goes into Shelby as a carmaker but also is a paean to the many drivers who drove for Shelby, some obscure, some internationally known.
    The book is somewhat choppy in its organization, jumping from profiles of race drivers like Ken Miles and Bill Krause and then back to the cars they drove.  For instance, the section called “Bill Krause” is followed by sections called “The First Race” and “The 1962 Bahamas” This writer would have preferred there be an ongoing narrative throughout and the drivers and or cars described in “break out” boxes so you can stop and read about them or just continue with the narrative.
    Where some Shelby histories play down the Sunbeam Tiger, this author gives adequate credit to Shelby’s role in developing the car and also to Ken Miles’ lesser known role developing the same car.  Oddly Mario Andretti gets a chapter when his role for Shelby was, as far as we know, only a couple of races.  Lew Spencer is given credit as a mainstay of Shelby-American, and his dealership with Shelby is explained. Briefly, Shelby started it for him and Spencer to sell Cobras and Shelbys but they didn’t look at the fine print—they were forbidden to sell them new because they weren’t Ford dealers!  But they could sell used cars…
     Phil Remington is given proper credit as Shelby’s most skilled mechanic. I don’t think there’s mention of Phil’s pre-WWII role as a hot rodder but that was one of the reasons Shelby chose Los Angeles to build the Cobra—because it was the birthplace of hot-rodding.  The brief Toyota episode in Shelby’s life is explored, showing the 2000GT cars that his team refined and raced but there’s no mention of Pete Brock’s oft-heard complaint that he had set up the deal to develop a race car out of the 2000GT and was about to sign a contract when Shelby swooped into Japan and made off with that plum assignment. Evans doesn’t want to get into politics, whereas sometimes that makes for entertaining reading.
     Art did some good digging in the case of the vanished Shelby Indy 500 turbine car. He came up with pictures of the car in its Botany 500 (clothing manufacturer) livery and does allude to hanky panky with the air intake, which most historians feel is the reason it was pulled before the race, never to turn a wheel in combat.
     The book has many fine photographic portraits of people. Even if Evans were not a writer, his portraits are remarkable into seeing into the subjects’ minds, “capturing their soul.”
 The epilogue, like Evans earlier book on Shelby the driver, is all too brief. There isn’t any explanation, for instance,  of why Shelby went to work for Iacocca at Chrysler. The picture of the  Shelby Series I, the Olds-powered car, gives the details of the car in a caption but gives no clue that at the car was a failure in the marketplace.
      Overall, I found this 128-page book less rewarding in terms of value-for-the-money than the Shelby-as-driver book by the same author and it’s a bit steep at $39.95. Still, nobody else could have done it--Evans must be respected in the auto racing community for the way so many people were forthcoming with information and pictures.  We wish some of the more deluxe coffee table books could have his level of expertise displayed instead of thinking we will be satisfied with pretty color “glamour” pictures of restored cars.
   One has to give credit to these independent historians, working on their own nickel (no cash advances for them) for coming up with pictures and info that take a lot of digging and a lot of contacts.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Book Review: SHELBY, the Race Driver

By Art Evans.

Review by Wallace Wyss

Art Evans is an old-time race reporter who started writing about sports car racing while the sport was still in its infancy in the U.S., i.e. the early ‘50s.

His softbound book , in a horizontal format that allows you to make the car pictures bigger than in a vertical book, is a real visual treat. Obviously Evans worked long and hard to find hard to find pictures, but also includes a good many of his own as well as photos from Riddell Gregory, Ozzie Lyons, Bill Neale, Lester Nehamkin and Jim Sitz. Especially appreciated are the WWII-era pictures, for instance showing the type of Beechcraft plane that Shelby flew in as a training instructor. He also has pictures of Shelby in the first cars he ever raced, an MG- TC and soon after that an Allard.
      This is at the time Shelby was still a chicken farmer trying to figure out how to make a living at racing because at that time amateur racing in America was amateur—no factory teams.  Many of the words are from Shelby’s own book THE COBRA STORY, which goes in and out of print. Evans italicizes whenever he quotes the Shelby book so you can tell what he wrote from what Shelby wrote forty plus years ago when he wrote his own book (with a co-author).  Some of the rare pictures shown are Shelby with the Austin Healey land speed record car at Bonneville. Then there’s before-and-after pictures of the Austin Healey that Shelby wrecked during the Carrera Panamericana race in Mexico.
     Ironically for a guy who is famous most for his Ford powered Cobra, there’s many pictures of Shelby in this book driving Ferraris and Maseratis but that’s understandable as they were the fastest sports cars around back then, and Shelby had a talent for charming rich folks into sponsoring him.  Some people don’t know Shelby was a sports car dealer back then, partnered  with the brother of Jim Hall, another racer. The brands they carried were MG, Austin Healey, Jaguar, Maserati and Rolls Royce and Bentley. Shelby had already raced examples of the first four, among the more than 50 marques he has raced over the years.
     Evans dug deep to get the stories of some of Shelby’s forays into GM territory but the story on how he came to drive the Corvette SR2 isn’t satisfying—methinks the readers want to know why his Corvette driving period was very short indeed. It must have been GM’s anti-racing policy affecting even those they sold their race cars to when the Corporation abandoned their sports car racing effort in ’58.
     The book is roughly divided into year by year sections, with all Evans could find in each year put in each section. The Cuban Grand Prix story is very interesting because that was the race where Fangio, the world’s most celebrated race driver at the time, was kidnapped by anti-Castrol rebels. 

192 pg. softbound $29.95
Photo Data Research Inc. Redondo Beach,CA

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The Shelby Mk. V

Shelby Mk  V aka The Mangusta

The Shelby Mk. V
Never heard of it? It reached the U.S. market as the Mangusta.

by Wallace A. Wyss

Carroll Shelby was a quick learner. He learned early on that the Cobra, particularly the leaf sprung Cobra descended from the 1953 A.C. Ace, had peculiar handling. The Cobra chassis was redesigned by Ford for the big block model, but it was never a sophisticated handler; more of a “point and squirt” device.

Once he became involved with the Ford GT40 in 1964, Shelby realized that mid-engined was the way to go. Having the engine between the axis made for a better polar moment of inertia, reducing the time a car takes to respond to turning input.

When the Group 7 cars began to emerge, Shelby wanted to get into it. He had earlier imported some Cooper Monacos, mid-engined cars, from England and had Cobra-ized 289 cast iron V8s installed. These were nicknamed by the press “King Cobras” but were dropped from his racing roster once he became involved with the Ford GT.


Then came Alejandro de Tomaso (from here on, we spell it the American with a capitalized “D”). An Argentine living in Italy, he was infamous for developing one race car after another, often with ingenious ideas but he had a penchant for always going on to the next idea; leaving the last project stillborn with no development.

Around 1962 he did get a mid-engined coupe into production, called the Vallelunga after a racetrack where the prototype in roadster form had some small success. This Ford Cortina-powered car was svelte looking, but handled only marginally, and the power output from a nearly stock engine was far below what it needed to beat Porsches in the same class.

Then in 1965 Shelby had his chief in-house designer, Peter Hall Brock, design a mid-engined car that would be good for the emerging Group 7 class in the U.S. The car had a svelte roadster body, with a mid-mounted V8 and a rear spoiler that finally saw the airfoil that Brock had envisioned for the Cobra Daytona coupe reach fruition. The driver could control the angle of a movable panel in the center of the airfoil so that the amount of download on the rear could be varied.

The car was innovative. Unfortunately the first coachbuilder, Frua, totally screwed up the design, so much so that Brock took the car over to Fantuzzi, who built many a race car, and had a new body designed that was closer to his clay model.

The racing world was awaiting the car and had their appetite whetted when DeTomaso rolled out a mockup of the chassis--a spine frame chassis with the engine connected to central spine, an idea that DeTomaso had reportedly cribbed from a German design of the 1920’s called the Rumpler.

Alas two such mercurial temperaments as DeTomaso and Shelby couldn’t get along for long—each had a penchant to take the limelight and there was room under that limelight for only one at a time. Plus Shelby had promised Ford he would make more Daytona coupes. The first Daytona had a body hand-hammered out in Los Angeles by Bill Honda, but the bodywork for the next batch was farmed out to Italy, to Carrozzeria Gran Sport in Modena. Once Shelby took the money out of the kitty provided by Ford to make more Daytonas he had none left to pay DeTomaso so DeTomaso glommed onto the race car project and finished it out as a Ghia show car called the 70P.

Whether one ever reached a racetrack is debatable. This writer has seen pictures of one being tested and even pictures of it being raced, but was it a real race, or just a gathering of individuals to watch a car being tested? And how many were made is even debated some 40 years later…maybe two…maybe three. Documenting early DeTomaso prototypes is like trying to catch cats, the history is elusive, and there are no fulltime DeTomaso serial number mavens equal to Marcel Massini is in the Ferrari world.

But DeTomaso never quite threw anything away. Here he had the world's attention with the spine frame and the 70P. Then luck came his way. Ghia had done a design for a rival firm, Iso of Bresso, who made Chevy V8-powered cars. Giugiaro had penned a dramatic mid-engine car that could have been the "little brother" of the big Iso Fidia four seater. But Renzo Rivolta, head of Iso, soundly rejected the idea so there was DeTomaso with a beautiful mid-engined car body design and no chassis to put it on. Wait a minute--what about the 70P chassis? Thus came the Mangusta.

The DeTomaso Mangusta is one of the most beautiful cars ever to come out of Italy. But it does have its problems.
It had a similar frame to the 70P race car but not quite. Around the perimeter of the floor-pan is tubing of quite a modest size. The body was heavy steel (except for the deck lids, which in some cars were aluminum). The car flexed like crazy.
The engine was a 302 in its American form, not the robust 302 that was in the Boss 302 of 1969 but a weak 302 that was reportedly available as a stationary industrial engine. It was a low revver but at least durable if you kept it below 6000 rpm.
The gearbox was a ZF 5-speed trans-axle similar to that in the GT40, ordered up after the disaster in the ’64 season when the Colotti gearboxes packed up whenever they were pushed hard.
One of the main problems of the Mangusta was that the gearbox was put in the same place vis-a-vis the engine as that in the GT40, with the result that it was quite low to the ground. Hit a pothole and you stood a chance of cracking the bell housing which was quite expensive. In the later Pantera. DeTomaso wisely flipped the gearbox around, so that it was a few inches higher off the road which the result less cracked gearbox casings.
The designer of the Mangusta was none other than Giorgetto Giugiaro, then just a very young man with only one other carrozzeria (Bertone) in his resume, but now arguably the most famous car designer in Italy. The car made it from the prototype to production with very few changes, the biggest being the adding of two vents to the rear deck “butterfly” wings in order to vent hot air out of the engine compartment.
Sitting in the Mangusta , one discovers how close the windscreen is to the driver’s head. This writer is 6’1” and grew uncomfortable having the windscreen only 3” from his head. So much for a design that looks good from all angles but forces you to accommodate to something arguably dangerous in order to get those good looks.
Today’s owners of the 400-odd cars (the general consensus was that 400 coupes were made and one roadster prototype ) sometimes defend it by saying the tires of the time were to blame. Others spend the development money DeTomaso should have spent, re-arranging the rear suspension a bit to correct flaws in the original design. Back in the car's original era, Sports Car Graphic did a whole number of trying to correct the car, such as fitting more modern Polyglas 60-series tires, finally concluding that it was tail heavy . Their staff was able to improve it, but it was all for naught, the car was only popular as The Car To Own in Tinseltown for a few months, soon eclipsed by the Lamborghini Miura, also mid-engined but with a high winding V12 engine with a real yowl.

Carroll Shelby is nothing if not an entrepreneur. Despite the fact that DeTomaso had been so miffed when Shelby pulled funding on the 70P that he had named the subsequent road car the “mongoose” because in nature that is the natural enemy of the Cobra, Shelby was amenable to helping market it in the U.S.
At an auto show, probably the 1969 New York Show, a yellow Mangusta coupe was displayed along with the production Ford cars and the flier handed out to show-goers referred those interested in the car to Carroll Shelby, as if he were the distributor.
At the time, at least two Ford executive were in love with the car including the then VP in charge of design, Eugene Bordinet. Money was even spent in devising a rubber front bumper similar to that later used on the Ferrari 365GTC/4. That nose would have allowed it to meet the upcoming bumper regulations. The Mangustas that did make it into the U.S. were allowed in under a special law that exempted manufacturers who made less than 500 cars from many regulations, but even those regulations wouldn’t let it in past 1969.
During their brief love affair with the 'Goose, Ford dispatched two designers to Modena to inspect the Mangustas being built at Ghia Carrozzeria but they came back with a negative report. Their conclusion was that the term “production line” in this case was a misnomer--the cars were really hand-built with variations from car to car. Ford, back in Dearborn, had already tired of that way of doing things in the A.C. Cobras. They pulled away from wanting to import the Mangusta. Fortunately for DeTomaso, Kjell Qvale of British Motor Car Distributors in San Francisco took up the cause and imported at least 180 of the total, selling them for around $11,000 each.
This left Shelby out in the cold. He had been temporarily buoyed by Ford showing a Mangusta in an internal design review that had SHELBY Mk.V badges on it. The badges made sense,for, in 1967 Ford had won the 24 Hours of LeMans for the second time with a Ford GT called the Mk. IV.

But in that same design show there was another Ford prototype, the Mach 2C, a car designed by Ford designer Larry Shinoda that would have been all American-made. It was a svelte design, using a V8 larger than a 302, possibly a 400, and possibly fuel injected. It would have used a Borg-Warner gearbox. But that design became a political casualty when Shinoda’s boss, Semon Knudsen, was fired by Henry Ford II.
Ford had hired Bunkie") Knudsen away from GM, where he had spent 29 years , in the hopes he would bring some fresh ideas. But Knudsen had rather too many ideas, even going down to the Styling studio and insisting on changes in the upcoming cars. Henry Ford II summarily fired him after 19 months so all ideas connected to Knudsen were round-filed. When Knudsen left so did his fair-haired boy Shinoda, who Knudsen had brought over from Ford, and who had angered the other designers by reporting only to Knudsen, going around the entire design chain of command. Plus Knudsen had a mortal enemy at Ford—Lee Iacocca—of whom Time magazine quoted some Ford executive as saying: "Lee had chewed his way through ten layers of management to get where he was, and he was determined to chew his way through anyone who was placed above him."
Shelby did eventually come up with his own mid-engined design, the Lone Star, about which we’ll do a story on eventually. But it was ignored by Ford and now, some 40 years later, that single car is slowly being restored up in the Northwest where it is in the hands of a well-known Cobra historian.

The Mangusta occupies rather a strange perch. It is one of the great Sixties designs like the Ferrari Daytona and Lamborghini Miura, but where those cars have equally great engines, the mangusta does not. But that just goes to show you that “putting all the money on the outside,” an old Detroit slogan, sometimes works. The Mangusta put DeTomaso on the map and led to Ford buying his firm, and Carrozzeria Ghia, at a fat profit to DeTomaso.
He laughed all the way to the bank....

Television Show: "The Drivers" based off Wallace Wyss Book.

Seems the Ridley Scott production has been posted on the Internet Movie DataBase. I was excited enough when I found out Ridley was doing another Alien movie, now this! I normally do not watch television, but for this I'll be getting my rabbit ears out.

My Lust and Desire

The Tesla S.  If only I had $70k USD to set aside for a premium model.  Sure it's not a Shelby, But I find something so alluring about a vehicle that doesn't have to be fueled.  Sure the electricity bill will go up, but it doesn't have to be MY electricity.  let's just say I have an extension cord and a few people I have in mind that I wouldn't mind "visiting" for a few hours at a time.  Now if you're thinking, "bah, it's just some EV that looks like the bastard child of a Prius and an Aston Martin."  Perhaps.  Rather than offer a rebuttal I'll simply leave you with this:

I was hoping for a flying car back in 2000, but I'd say driving one of these babies and coming home to a parking space or garage with a built-in induction charging station would be a warm welcome to the twenty first century.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Author Interview for SHELBY. The Man. The Cars. The Legend.

      Here I present the Wallace Wyss interview regarding one of his newer books: SHELBY. The Man. The Cars. The Legend.  If interested in the book please let me know, I have a few autographed copies I wouldn't mind parting with (if the price is right :) and I may even be able to get a personal autograph for you. 

Format: Softbound, vertical, 208 pages, published by Iconografix Inc. in 2007
  Q: Tell us about your biography of Carroll Shelby entitled SHELBY: The Man. The Cars. The Legend. Is it a race-by-race history?
A: No, the Cobras' racing history, both roadsters and coupes, is covered in brief, and the GT40 program as well but it's all kept general, because there are plenty of coffee table-like books that go into each car's serial number-wise and recount what happened to each car at each race. In this book I focused on the big picture--why Ford sponsored Shelby, why Ford caved in and gave a failed chicken farmer $25,000 to get the ball rolling on the Cobra, or why Ford thought winning at LeMans was so crucial, etc.

Q: So by "big picture" you mean no nuts-and-bolts?
WW: Oh, there's nuts and bolts but I figure that with the advent of the
internet, you don't need to go into what the cfm was of the '65 Shelby GT-350 carburetor because anyone who wants to know a technical fact like that can now  go to a search engine and find that in five seconds. I spent my time trying to find out why Ford did this or Olds did that in respect to Shelby, which gives the reader a broader view than just discussing the hardware.

Q: What made you think of this approach?
WW: Well, there’s this author I know from Detroit, where I grew up, Eric Davison,. I worked with Eric in Detroit on the Oldsmobile ad account more than forty years ago. Much later
on, he moved to Los Angeles and I worked as a copywriter for the agency he was with out here. After his retirement, when he told me he was working on his book "Snake Bit," discussing the Shelby Series 1 project which he had been involved with. I kept asking him "Why don't you broaden it out to cover all of Shelby's business history?" but he replied "I worked on the Series 1 and that's what I know" so he stuck to that and came out with a damn fine book that really nails it--the whole saga of how a car with so much promise ended up being so compromised. But that episode is only a fraction of Shelby’s entire business history so one day I figured "If Eric didn't do the general business history, I'll go ahead and do it myself."

Q: Did you have any other inspiration?
WW: Well, it's hard to believe but a picture of Ralph Lauren in his 1957
Ferrari Testa Rossa was another inspiration. That's because ol' Ralph, who everyone knows as the founder of Polo brand clothes, was pictured toodling along in his $5 million Ferrari wearing a leather jacket, like an old flying jacket, and a billed baseball cap and I thought "That's cool--tooling around in a car so fast and powerful and valuable but dressed like he's going out to walk his dog. I know Cobra people who look like that--driving powerful Cobras but dressed casually, unlike Ferrari owners who are always trying to impress you with their clothes and expensive watches and so forth. So I partly did the Cobra book to try to capture that spirit in print of the Cobra owners and took pains to spend a few paragraphs trying to describe the feeling that comes from driving around in a Cobra. It's a world-conquering feeling, especially when you put the pedal to the metal.
Q. What about the style of the writing?
WW: Well, some would say it's not laudatory like some car books where the authors just worship the cars they are writing about. In fact you could say it's a bit gossipy--telling tales that couldn't be told at the time, for instance, why Ford wanted to get rid of Shelby in 1969, mainly because they had the Boss Mustang and didn't need the Shelby Mustangs anymore. Or why Shelby pulled out of Indy with his gas turbine cars at the last minute. The  tone and style were inspired by Brock Yates who wrote a book on Harley Davidson called Outlaw Machine: Harley Davidson and the Search for the American Soul  in which he told more of why men lust after Harleys rather than compare the engine designs of the shovelhead vs. the panhead, etc. For instance, there's that incident in the early 50s when some bikers tore up the town of Hollister, CA. That gave bikers an image which still says "bad boy" today--60 years later! And Yates also wrote a book entitled Ferrari The Man the Cars The Races which Ferrari people have tough time digesting because it really shows the vain side of the man, and his ruthlessness. I didn't go that far but let's just say that I expect my book will be a good counter to the upcoming book by Rinsey Mills called SHELBY: The Authorized Biography (MBI 2012) which I presume will be all glorification of what Shelby hath wrought.

Q. What about other books already on the market?
WW: There are many new books on Cobra and Shelby but back in 2007
none of them discussed Shelby's driving career. One was eventually written by Art Evans and I'll do a review of that. But when I got it in 2010 I saw that I was right to assume back in 2007 that if Evans did a book it wouldn't segue from Shelby's driving career into his business life like my book does. I like to feel that Shelby's hard charging style as a race driver is reflected in his hard charging style as a businessman,  so it was a natural approach to me to take a couple of chapters to educate the newcomers to the fact that Shelby was one of America's most promising sports car drivers in his early career--at a time when sports car driving was still damn dangerous. You could get killed in an instant. In fact when Shelby was first racing they didn't even use seat belts!  What makes Shelby interesting as a subject is the fact that he came out of nowhere--a country bumpkin compared to the more sophisticated guys like Phil Hill and Masten Gregory who could plunk down the cash to buy their own Ferrari. When Shelby first began racing, Phil Hill was already a professional driver while Shelby was still a chicken farmer. The fact Shelby came out of nowhere and won LeMans only five years after he first began making money as a driver is really worth talking about.

Q: Did you talk to many Shelby employees?
WW: Off and on. In fact, you could say this is a story I've been working
continuously for forty years, ever since a pert young lady named Pat Merone pulled up next to me by chance in a 427 Cobra back in '66 or so and asked directions to Cobo Hall in Detroit. I told her "I'll show you the way if  you give me a ride." She said "Yes" and I jumped in , belted myself in and she took off screeching rubber at 140 mph!  So, in the intervening 40 years I've talked to many former employees, starting with Shelby at Cobo Hall back in the Sixties but, while researching this one, I went back to visit a selected few, including Phil Remington who still works at Dan Gurney’s shop though he's in his 80s. Also forty years ago when I researched the first book, Al Gore hadn't yet invented the internet so I couldn't reach people I was trying to find. Now in a few minutes, I can contact former race car designers and racers throughout the world to clarify different small points like why the suspension was unsatisfactory on the Len Terry-designed King Cobra.

Q. With so much to cover, how much content is there on the
A. Quite a bit, I have a chapter on the Shelbys. In that chapter I go into how Shelby was asked by Iacocca to build the Shelby Mustang and it is interesting to me how reluctant he was at first.and then later on I have another whole chapter on Trans-Am racing. Then of course, the last chapter talks about Shelby's re-hiring as a spear carrier by Ford to sell the '07 Shelby Mustang and there's still Shelby Mustangs being made now, in 2011.

Carroll Shelby with two of his 1968 cars, a promo photo..


Q. Did you learn anything in your research you didn't know before?
A. I always learn! I didn't realize until I read Dave Friedman's book on
Remembering the Shelby Years how much Holman & Moody, the stock car race car builders, were always trying to rip off a piece of Shelby's business, and I think if Shelby hadn't accepted the assignment to do the Shelby Mustang  the hot Mustang would have been a Holman & Moody Mustang instead. They had the experience over Shelby in building short runs of cars (having built the Ford Thunderbolt drag racing cars in '64).  Also I think few Americans are aware that the first Mustangs ever built were sent to Alan Mann for preparation as rally cars so the Mustangs were already racing when Americans were being sold the car as a "secretary's special." And the Mustangs were already racing in Europe before Shelby ever saw one!

Q: And do you go into Shelby's later business ventures?
A: Yes, this book goes well beyond Shelby-American. It recounts Shelby's
Tiger involvement, his working with Iacocca on the front wheel drive Dodges and the Viper, then the Olds-powered Series 1, and ends with the new deal with Ford.

From the 1966 Ford GT40 ..... (pictured here one of Fords road cars. Ford made 50 identidcal  ones for FIA homologation)

..to the 2005 Ford GT. Both were built to fire up the disspirited troops at Ford. It did create a classic that will not be beat by another American production car for decades to come.

Q: But weren’t you really taking a chance on losing the 100% Ford fans by covering non-Ford related Shelbys?
WW: Not really, it’s pretty clear by the subtitle that this particular book is about Shelby the entrepreneur , and not confined to just his association with Ford-powered products. I follow him in his journey from one automaker to another, for better or for worse. The subtitle is "The Man, the Cars, the Legend."

Q.: How do you come down on the Cobra replicas?
WW: I have a whole chapter on that non-stop knock-down drag-out battle that
has continued for something like 30 years between Shelby and the clonesters copying his cars. I tell how initially Shelby was opposed to all replicas of his cars but then recount how it was that he gradually came around to entering the replica field himself. In fact, his Cobra replicas are among the highest priced ones on the market.

Q: What about artwork?
WW: There is artwork in the form of black and white photos This is primarily
a words book, as opposed to what I call a “coffee table” tome like Randy Leffingwell's beautiful (and heavy) book , also entitled “Shelby”(published by MBI) or Colin Comer's book The Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles both of which I would characterize as primarily a “pictures-with-words” books.Both are great in terms of lusterous pictures of the cars in their best condition (many restored ones). I could have done that but I wanted a low cost book that anyone--even a beginning enthusiast--can afford. So I downplayed the pictures, even having them put all in one section like the low cost car books used to be back when I was growing up. My  book has 76,000 words and a mere 16 pages of pictures.
Q. Are there many historical pictures?
WW: A few. Many from the press kit. I had a PR photographer question my right to use the press pictures but I went to Ford PR and while I was in the PR office volunteered to call the editor who was with me in 1965 when I went to the Shelby factory on assignment from Motor Trend magazine and they handed me the press kit. I told the PR man in 2007: "When Shelby's PR man Don Rabbitt handed this to me over 30 years ago , he never put any restrictions on when and how I could use them." We never had to make that call though my editor at the time was waiting for it. I have been in auto writing for 40 years and have run across any other photographer who was paid by an automaker to take publicity pictures  come back decades later and want payment for the prictures that the automaker handed out willy-nilly back in the day.
    Most of the pictures I took myself at various events over the last 40 years even as late as 2007.

Q: Who do you see as your market?
WW: Well, my thought back in 2007 was that, with over 10,000 people scheduled to buy the
new GT500 Shelby Mustang and who knows how many buying the '07 Shelby GT Mustang and even those buying the GT/CS Mustang, there's going to be a whole lot of newbies entering the Shelby world in 2007 and not all of them have been involved in the marque for 40 years like myself, so many will be clueless about such terms as "FIA cars" or "USRRC cars" or "cut-back fenders." At the beginning stages of a newcomer’s interest in the man and his cars, I figured they want to know basics, like "Why did Shelby become involved with Dodge?” and so forth.
With the newcomer to the marque in view, we kept the cost down by going
softbound and pricing it at $19.95, so it’s the ideal bargain book for Shelby fans to give to their buddies to get them up to speed on Shelby so they can later dive into the subject deeper and buy the single marquee books that list all those nitty gritty details of each Shelby model. In other words, while it's interesting to note the differences between the FIA and USRRC small block Cobras, I wanted to tell them first why Ford thought it important Shelby race in FIA and USRRC competition with the cars.

Q: Did you have any help from Shelby or Ford?
WW: Of course many authors doing a book on this marque or that one go straight to the subject’s PR firm and say
“What can you give me?” and I did that at first but stopped asking when it looked like they expected me to submit the work for approval. But I didn’t want to have a PR man looking over my shoulder and saying ‘Oh,for God's sake,  don’t put that in,’ because it’s my feeling is that no real historian would go for that. If he does, he might as well be a PR man. I enjoy an ongoing relationship with Ford PR  but they never saw more than a handful of pages and those only on the ’07 Shelby models. They did loan me a Ford GT to drive and that was useful in understanding that car. I had to sneak in the Ford GT preview, but that's an amusing story in itself I'll tell in a separate story.
  Q. We heard Hollywood has an interest in your book?
WW: Hollywood or London. the two producers that announced 1-26-11 that they are going to base a miniseries on the book
are based in both places. They are a coupla brothers who have been making action movies for several decades, and I was pleased when I saw the list of the films they have made that I have seen almost every one of them from Gladiator to Top Gun.
Q. Will it be about Shelby per se?
WW: I don't know. When producers glom onto a literary work, they sometimes just use it for inspiration and go off on their own direction. In the advance publicity they seem to be angling in on more of a Americans-taking-on-the-Europeans-at-Lemans angle. I don't even know if the result will be more on the '50s or the '60s but I like both eras. The Fifties are when the Americans like Shelby, Phil Hill, Masten Gregory, and the like first went to Europe to try to wrest some rides away from the European drivers. But the Sixties are when Ford threw down the gauntlett in front of Enzo Ferrari and said they would beat him, and they did , four years running. In fact, Ferrari has never won a LeMans since, Ford beat them so bad.
Q.Will there be another edition?
WW: I don't know. I am not the publisher. Every book has its time in the sun. My original, Shelby's Wildlife: the Cobras and the Mustangs, was in print for 17 years.  But that's the good thing about SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend being a low cost book--if I have to assume the mantle of publisher, it will be a relatively low cost book to reprint. I think that with all the newer books on Shelby being so expensive, there will always be a place for a low cost book.

Acclaimed Author Wallace Wyss Interviewed About His Fine Art.

     One of my favorite Authors is Wallace Wyss.  Immortalized by being bound to ink and paper through several publications across the decades, he also gets to drive some of the most amazing rides that even James Bond would be envious of.  Not only is he an author, but a artist too.  Pictured above is perhaps my favorite work by Wyss.  I can't wait to see his latest book, and I hope that it is bound by its own artwork.
     Author Wallace Wyss is mostly known for his automotive histories. He has authored or co-authored no less than three books on the subject of Shelby, In 1977, he wrote the now iconic Shelby's Wildlife: the Cobras and the Mustangs. In 2007,  he premiered his books SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend and his 1962-2007 Cobra and Shelby Mustang 1962-2007 Photo Archive plus the book he co-authored with Brian Winer and Al Axelrod entitled Ford GT40 and the New Ford GT. But this interview is about his fine art. 
Q. How do you mean you became an artist “by accident?
Wyss: I  was going to the Beverly Hills car show, and I brought along a painting of Shelby that I made to promote the book. I also brought my new Ford GT book. I met a publisher at a booth for a magazine called Makes and Models and sold him the GT book and then showed him a small picture of the Shelby painting. He said “Where is it?” and I said “In my car 6 blocks away.” He said “Go get it, I’ll take that too.” On the walk back I thought “Hey, why stop at being a writer?” I bought some watercolors and was off and running.
Q.What art training did you have?

Wyss: None. I earned my degree in journalism. Of course being  a photographer for 40-plus years helps a lot in composition.

Q.What media are you using?

Wyss: I started with watercolors but they were too transparent so now I’ve moved to acrylic oils which I like a lot better because they are more opaque. I’d go to regular oils but don’t want a house smelling of turpentine which you need to clean the brushes.

Q.What did you paint pictures of first?

Wyss: To promote my Shelby and Cobra books and the GT40 book the first few were all of Shjelby-related cars, but gradually I began to paint other cars I like, such as the various Ferraris.

Q. Do you use photographs?

Wyss: Yes, for reference. I first go through my 10,000 photo collection, most of which I shot since 1965, and select those with potential. Then I make a color print or even black and white print and then start a painting, using that for reference to get the proportions right.

Q. What artists influenced you the most?

Wyss: Well, long before I became an artist, I was a fan of such artists as Jay Koka, Ken Dallison, Nicola Wood, Dennis Brown and Art Fitzpatrick. Every year the high point of my visit to the Pebble Beach concours is to go into the Automotive Fine Arts Society cocktail party the night before and see what’s new from each artist.

Q. What about other fine artists?

Wyss: In my painting “Yellow Cobra” I think there’s a little bit of Edward Hopper influence, at least in the way I painted the people. So it all depends on which art book I was looking at last, as to how I am influenced. I wish I could have more people in them like Jack Vettriano, he’s a Welsh-born fine artist who really is becoming popular.

Q.What Mustangs have you painted?

Wyss: I did a ’65 Shelby GT350, a ’69 Shelby, and a Boss 302 plus an ’07 Shelby GT500.

Q. Is your favorite Shelby car a Shelby Mustang, a Cobra or a Ford GT?

Wyss: I like all of them, and particular models within each of those model ranges. For instance, in the Shelby Mustangs I like the '65 GT350 R model, in the GT40s I like the '69-69 Ford GT Gulf car with the 302 and in the Cobras, the 427 Cobra comp car.

Q.What is the trickiest painting you have made?

Wyss: I wanted to show a Cobra in raw aluminum. I found a little known magazine with color of a 427 Cobra being tested over in England at Silverstone racetrack and used that as a reference. It was really hard to get the "raw aluminum" look. Now I'd like to do an aluminum bodied Cobra that's been polished out.

Q. What form is your work sold in?

Wyss: The latest idea is - each time I finish a new oil - to make inexpensive posters of it, which I call “mini-posters” and market those on eBay just to get the existence of each new painting known. In small print on each poster, it tells how to order the large print on either French-made watercolor paper or on canvas.

Q.What car will you paint next?

Wyss: I recently bought a wide angle lens—a 38 mm—for my Nikon F3 so it just depends on what I catch on film and how the resulting picture strikes me. I find that sports cars look a little bolder when shot with a slightly wide angle lens. I might also try some more moving shots of cars but since I don’t use a motor drive, I can just catch one or two shots each time the pack goes by on the racetrack.

Q. What about going beyond cars?

Wyss: Well, my life is built around cars, but I still hope to do some scenics, like Big Sur, which I just went to, or around  
Mendocino, where the family ranch, Cobra Ranch,  is. Or do some of the scenes I've recorded on film from Sedona.  But it all depends on the lighting and whether  or not I can capture the scene in paint the way I saw it with my eyes.

Q. What about people?

Wyss: I tried to paint portraits of Shelby—that was the first painting I ever made—and more recently Gurney but I can tell you from personal experience--people are much more difficult to paint than cars.

Q. Where can art fans find out about your art?

has most of my Ford car paintings and this other site
has a lot of the exotic cars. 

Q. Thank you.

Well there you have it; artist by accident after three decades of work as an author.  No more excuses for myself, it's time to breakout the watercolors!