. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Saturday, December 17, 2011



      When he wrote SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend author Wallace Wyss says he was inspired by the book by Brock Yates called
"Against Death and Time: One fatal season in Racing's Glory Years."
    "The cover fascinated me--it was an old picture in sepia tones of approximately eight or so Indy racers and I wondered as soon as I looked at it 'who are those guys and what happened to them?' "
    By chance, at a swap meet a few week later in Long Beach, Wyss bought a similar picture, of five race drivers in driving suits, but in the center of the picture was Carroll Shelby. "The sad thing is that of the four racers pictured beside team manager Carroll Shelby, three met their demise behind the wheel of  a race car," says Wyss. The picture was an old publicity picture from the 1965 Sebring 12 hour, a race in which the GT40s being run by the Shelby team were vanquished by a Chaparral driven by an old student of Shelby, Jim Hall, also a native of Texas.
   The Yates' book cover also had a colorful race car in the picture, and Wyss was able to sneak a color picture of a Cobra onto the cover though it's jammed into the upper right, not down where the racers are as in the Yates' book.
    "I also got the idea of a subtitle from a name of an exhibition at the Petersen Museum," says Wyss. "They called their
Shelby exhibit "A Life in the Fast Lane."
   So his lengthy original title as submitted back in 2007 was:

   A Life in the Fast Lane
   The Creator of the Cobra and his lifelong search for the soul of the American Musclecar."

   The last part of the subtitle Wyss says was inspired by another Brock Yates' book Outlaw Machine: Harley-Davidson and the Search for the American Soul."  I managed to work in the word 'soul' , says Wyss, but in the end my publisher shortened the whole thing
to "The Man, The Cars, the Legend."
    Wyss says that the writing style of SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend was greatly influenced by the Harley book of Yates "because he didn't waste time talking about head design and so forth but explored more the International appeal of the Harley and why Harleys continue to fascintae people even though technically, they are in the dark ages compared to some foreign bikes, much as Cobras are primitive compared to Ferraris but that didn't stop them from beating Ferraris in racing."
    Yates, says Wyss, "is a rare combination of historian and literary writer. He has written about racing in a way that transcends the nuts and bolts and in my book I tried to do the same thing, as now that there is the internet anyone can find out how big the
'65 Shelby GT350 carburetor was. I thought 'it's more important to find out why Ford underwrote Shelby' and the like....

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