. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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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