December 4th, 2013, 03:50 PM
Book title: Inside Shelby American
Length: 247 pages
GOOD BOOK, AS FAR AS IT GOES
I was eagerly awaiting John Morton's book Inside Shelby American because I am not aware of any other books by drivers who drove for Shelby, other than Bondurant's book which are more on his whole driving career.
This appears to be written by him, and not "with" another writer who may have ghostwritten it.
I am happy that he has such a good memory for there are a lot of racing anecdotes in here, some funny and some tragic.
Actually the book, despite the title, is more about Morton's entire life as a race car driver and mechanic and not just about Shelby-American though there are plenty of insights into what it was like to be at Shelby-American in the Sixties.
It also shows the life of a race car mechanic which was incredibly poor financially back then--it seems like most of the time he was making $1.60 per hour! But he would hang in there with mechanic jobs at Shelby, always hoping to be a driver.
There is a lot of insights into the development of various cars, like the Sunbeam Tiger, though Morton seems confused, was Miles already working for Shelby when he built his own quickly done low budget Tiger proposal or still an outside shop?
Morton goes into the Cobra Daytona coupe quite extensively, saying as past histories have done, that Pete Brock's idea was ridiculed within the company until suddenly it proved to be faster than the roadster. It is a bit mystifying that he shows a picture of four recently arrived Daytona coupes from Europe and one is the stretched one to accomodate a 427. Morton says he and another mechanic volunteered to put a 427 in it and complete it but doesn't say who put the kabosh on that. But the photographic evidence shows the car came back from Italy stretched, so all previous authors who said that it was re-shortened to stock length when it was decided to cancel the 427 coupe are wrong (including yours truly).
Interesting too is the story of how the Shelby Mustang was first developed using a Ford Falcon. American Shelby fans hate to admit that the Shelby was descended from Falcon underpinnings. The fliptop Cobra is also discussed, though he doesn't come out and say if it was reduced to a bare pile of frame tubes after a sevree crash. Ironcially that car in its earlier pre-flip top days was the car that Morton got to race at Sebring after Ken Miles had crashed it and rebuilt it, all in 24 hours.
There is a brief discussion of Ken Miles' fatal crash in the J car, that story and his earlier one on Skip Hudson being injured when a clutch exploded on a Cobra, and the story of Davie MacDonald being killed at Indy all serve to underline that this was an occupation you could get hurt or killed doing.
A lot of the book tells of Morton's constantly trying to get selected as a Shelby American driver, but he always seemed to be chosen only when another driver had a mis-hap and he was a fill-in. Still, to have raced for Shelby back in the Sixties and still be vintage driving today, that's an accomplishment. Most of the original Shelby drivers are deceased or pushing past 75 years old.
There's a couple picture choices that I wouldn't have put in if I were him, such as Morton devoting half a page to a picture of him with a high school buddy. Since the buddy was neither a race driver, influential in the book, or a Shelby employee, me as a book buyer would have preferred that space be devoted to something related to Shelby or racing in the Sixties.
A little of the quirkiness of Shelby himself comes through in the anecdotes, particularly the one where Morton waited for two days outside a meeting at Shelby HQ on who the next year's drivers would be and Shelby walks by after the meeting, after Morton was not chosen and simply says: "Sorry."
You'd think he would never forgive him but Morton flashes forward several decades to show how Shelby asked him to go to England to drive a Daytona at Goodwood, so Morton seems to realize he wasn't ever going to be Shelby's first choice, but was back in Shelby's mind as a candidate nonethless.
This book is $28 USD and I think for the amount of Shelby-American history and pictures it delivers, a tough choice--I'd rather he weed out all his stories of Lotus driving and put in more Shelby but then I'm a Shelby super-fan, not so much Lotus. Still, he has many vintage pictures in the book and those are of interest to model car builders and replica car builders so I'd have to say if you are intent on adding to your Shelby library, get the book....