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The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide – Book Review

Review by Wallace Wyss

The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide: 1965-1970, Book Cover PhotoNow that even the 1966 Shelby GT350 is worth over $150,000 it is more important than ever that there be a single source to carry around to “authenticate” Shelby Mustangs that come up for sale through private sales or public auctions. Greg Kolasa’s new book The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide: 1965-1970 by CarTech goes a long way toward being that one book you can carry around events. And best of all it has lots of color.

CarTech’s press release said, “It gives a detailed look at both the performance and styling characteristics of each year of the 1965-1970 Shelby Mustangs in text, photographs, and charts/graphs and clears up many myths and misconceptions surrounding these legendary pony cars. In addition to his firsthand knowledge, Kolasa relies heavily on factory documentation and interviews with Shelby American designers, engineers, stylists, fabricators, and race drivers to get the true, as-it-happened story of these phenomenal pony cars. Additionally, the cars included in the book were chosen specifically for their historical and technical ‘correctness.'”

We didn’t find much quoting from interviews, though, and hoped there would be more quotes from these interviews. Perhaps most were done to substantiate facts he had already unearthed. Certainly you do get the impression that there was a constant battle on the California-built Shelbys to get the parts, get parts that would work, get parts that would meet the law, and so forth. One of the most interesting chapters is on the Hertz Shelbys and how Hertz just didn’t understand what they were buying–basically they bought more car than they bargained for.

On the design of the 1969 model, Kolasa names Chuck McHose but omits the name of the other young designer that worked with him and is credited in other books. In the 1969 Shelby we were hoping one designer could be identified (by this time Ford was designing the cars) but he doesn’t offer any factory renderings or clay model shots. Therefore, the designer of the 1969 models is still a mystery and whether the Mustang Milano show car came before it or after it, using available Shelby body panels.

In the discussion of clones, Kolasa said the ones built by Beverly Hills Mustang (actually not in Beverly Hills) are accepted as continuation cars, but doesn’t say by whom. I am sure auction participants who don’t know what that phrase means would like to be told if a car for sale was not actually built in the original era. He doesn’t mention another effort that came later with a Marina Del Rey producer who built at least one in conjunction with Shelby.

Thankfully Kolasa doesn’t show too many clones because I think there is a big market for this book among those who want to build a Shelby-like vehicle (particularly of 1965 and ’66 fastbacks) and the last thing they need is a picture of a clone as inspiration because the clone may be wrong in one respect or another. I’d say 99.9% of the cars pictured are real, correctly restored Shelbys. Of particular value are the pictures of real R-models.

The author is mostly a by-the-numbers, super-detailed researcher and doesn’t go much into personality conflicts. Yet, as a historian myself, I found it illuminating on how he tells how Shelby, bent on going to Africa to hunt big game, left Ford Motor Company employ and the Shelby Mustang production at Michigan (firm A.O. Smith) in the lurch. There was a battle between Ford and A.O. Smith on who should pay for unfinished cars which were quickly becoming old cars. I would have liked to see some documentation on why Shelby left Ford (a letter, a memo, anything) to see how that happened.

One really interesting thing that comes through in the excellent picture captions is how detailed Shelby was in specifying what he wanted–for instance, the sculptured snake emblem. It is little known that Shelby often commissioned custom jewelry so that, when it came to the sculpture of the emblem on his cars, he knew exactly what he wanted, and Ford often had to be corrected in this regard so the trim looked expensive instead of tacky.

Overall this 192-page book is a keeper and one you need if you own a Shelby of that era or are planning on building a tribute car. With a suggested retail price of $39.95, the price is a little high but maybe a paper bound version will come out if they want mass volume.

The Definitive Shelby Mustang Guide: 1965-1970 – Information

Author: Greg Kolasa
Publisher: CarTech; First edition (September 2012)
Format: Hardcover, 8.5″ x 11″, 192 pages
ISBN-10: 1934709972 ; ISBN-13: 978-1934709979
Price: $39.95

The author of the book review Wallace Wyss has written three books on Shelby and Cobras, including SHELBY: The Man, The Cars, The Legend. He is currently creating fine art on his favorite marque.