By Jim Campisano
Seen that meme on Facebook yet, the one that says a man’s most expensive hobby starts with a 79-cent toy? It’s on a picture of a kid grabbing a toy car off a rack in a store, and yes, that pretty much describes what happened to me. I was a small child, probably no more than a lad of four. I was out shopping with my grandmother and at the last store she rewarded my presumably good behavior with a metallic red Jaguar E-Type Matchbox car.
This was around 1965 or so. This was a tiny detailed replica of perhaps the most beautiful automobile of all-time, right down to the skinny spoke wheels and narrow tires.
You can say things have not been the same since. First it was Matchbox, then Hot Wheels and finally Aurora electrics—Thunderjet 500s in the beginning and then AFXs when they came out.
At some point in this time frame, I saw the movie “Hot Rods To Hell” on TV. I became completely obsessed with early Corvettes, Tri-Five Chevys and hot rods. It didn’t help that the world was filling up with muscle cars, Mustangs and Sting Rays. My neighborhood was home to such new vehicles as a ’69 GTO Judge, a ’69 Chevelle car magazines and my life’s course was set.
Car books played a large role in this obsession as well. A local bookstore carried a handful of soft- and hard-cover titles, such as The Complete Ford Book, The Great American Convertible, and others. Eventually, I’d write six books of my own, including The Encyclopedia of American Muscle Cars. While I owned some vintage muscle cars, there were used cars. One gentleman lived through and reported on the entire supercar era as a journalist. That would be Martyn L. Schorr. He drove them all, getting the inside scoop from the engineers and designers who created them.
Schorr may have retired from the daily grind some time ago, but he’s not stopped writing. His latest effort is call Ford Total Performance (Motorbooks) and as the name implies, it covers this glorious era in Blue Oval history, from its embryonic stage (flathead V-8s and Y-block performance in the ‘50s) on through the horsepower wars of the ’60s, victory at LeMans, and through the end of the first muscle car era in 1971. Schorr tells the story in a fashion only someone who lived through the era could.
None of the typical clichés are found here—just facts, recollections and insight from one of the foremost American automotive journalists of this or any day. Ford Total Performance covers prototypes, one-offs (like a ’66 Galaxie with a 427 DOHC V-8 that was a test bed for possible production as a street car), all the major Mustangs, from the concept cars to the ’71 Boss 351. Even the deTomaso Pantera gets a chapter. Rare and never-seen photos from inside Shelby American are inside, probably breaking cover for the first time in almost half a century. The original Ford GT, both race and street versions are covered, as are the Thunderbolts—even oddities like English Ford Cortinas have their stories told. Naturally, performance icons like Carroll Shelby and Bob Tasca are here, too.
The price is $36 at www.quartoknows.com.