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Book Brings Blue Oval Memories Back To Life

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 6 2017

The Ford pits prior to the start of the 1967 24 Hours of Le Mans. Dan Gurney and A. J. Foyt drove the Mark IV J-6 in the foreground to the win. It was the first time an all- American car had won at Le Mans. (Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas – I’m a “Chevy guy,” have been since 1971. But I grew up in a Ford family.

First car I drove was my father, John Sr.’s, black-with-white-top 1953 Ford Crown Victoria; learned to drive a manual transmission on his black 1961 Falcon station wagon, complete with three-on-the-tree; got my license (after two failed attempts!!) in dad’s new silver-blue 1967 Mustang with 3-speed on-the-floor transmission. And while I begged him to pul-lease get the 289 V-8, he opted for the 200 CID 6-cylinder.

First car? 1964 Falcon Sprint, red-with-black interior featuring bucket seats, faux wood steering wheel, Hurst 4-speed shifter connected to a tranny harnessing the power of a stock 289. In my first official act of “customization,” I had two, foot-wide black stripes painted across the hood, roof and trunk lid…which certainly added to the bad-ass look of a car that cost $895. That was all the money I had earned during the summer of ‘69 working at one of two McDonald’s in my hometown of Rome, N.Y.

As I recall, the Sprint came equipped with Firestone retread wide oval tires and four matching wheel covers from a 1957 Thunderbird _ the latter which I promptly removed.

My loyalty to the Blue Oval was aided and abetted during my Wonder Bread years by a model-building binge of 1/25th scale kits offered by amt. Amt put out a 1964 Galaxie kit complete with NASCAR decals for Fred Lorenzen’s popular No. 28 Ford and Fireball Roberts’ famed No. 22. At $1.25 a kit (and sometimes on sale for as little as 79 cents) my

Dan Gurney in Lotus-Ford No. 93, testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Looking on are Jim Clark and Ford Special Vehicles executives. Gurney qualified to start in twelfth position at 149.019 miles per hour. He finished seventh. (Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Company)

cousin Greg and I turned out more versions of the Nos. 22, 28, 2, 8, 82 and 88 than Holman & Moody. We built ‘em, raced ‘em and wrecked ‘em…and anxiously waited for whatever taped NASCAR event was being televised on “ABC’s Wide World of Sports”.

These boyhood memories resurfaced as I read “Ford Total Performance: Ford’s Legendary High-Performance Street and Race Cars” by Martyn L. Schorr. In the early 1960s, Ford Motor Company underwent a dramatic change of philosophy courtesy of chairman Henry Ford II. Ford’s emphasis on safety was failing to resonate with car-crazed Baby Boomers, a demographic quickly emerging on social, political and economic fronts.

Enter Lee Iacocca, general manager of Ford Division. Iacocca convinced “The Deuce” the company should ignore the restrictive Automobile Manufacturers Association’s ban on factory racing dating to 1957 and compete head-to-head with the rest of the motorsports world.

That was the genesis of Ford’s “Total Performance” program, which between 1961 and 1971 gave birth to lightweight drag racing cars like the 427 Fairlane Thunderbolts and Mercury Comets, the Monte Carlo Rally Falcons, 427 A/FX drag cars, Shelby Cobras and Mustangs, 24 Hours of Le Mans-winning GT40s, rear-engine Indy 500-winning racers, 427 Overhead Cam engines, Boss 302 and 429 Mustangs and other historic production vehicles.

With that, FoMoCo’s trademark “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday!” marketing program was off-and-running WFO _ wide-flat (or insert your own adjective here)-open.

An automotive journalist in the late 1960s and 1970s, Schorr was fortunate to have lived this story. A man with the right corporate connections, Schorr also drove most of these vehicles for articles in Hi-Performance CARS magazine, including many of the purpose-built racers. Illustrated with archival period photos, the book gives an unprecedented look into a game-changing era in American motorsports history _ one that forever solidified Ford’s racing DNA.

No matter how deep your loyalty and/or knowledge of Ford performance vehicles runs, Schorr undoubtedly will surprise and educate you with chapters on gems like Bob Tasca’s 1964 “one-of-none” 427 Thunderbird, the 1965 De Tomaso Sport 5000, the Sunbeam

The second Shelby American drag Cobra, CSX2357, now officially a Dragonsnake, set NHRA and AHRA National Records running in A/SP. It was powered with the first Stage II 289 with dual Carter AFB quads. (Photo by Martyn L. Schorr)

Tiger, the GT40 Mark III street car, the De Tomaso Pantera line, evolution of the Mercury Cougar as well as an insider’s look at the company’s Special Vehicles Activity and Kar Kraft programs _ Ford’s “Skunk Works” _ including demise of the latter.

Legendary Ford figures featured in text/photos with their cars include (in random order) Carroll Shelby, Jim Clark, Dan Gurney, Colin Chapman, A.J. Foyt Jr., Mario Andretti, Cale Yarborough, Bruce McLaren, Ken Miles, John Wyer, Roy Lunn, Peter Brock, Semon “Bunkie” Knudsen, Larry Shinoda, Fran Hernandez, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Connie Kalitta, Bud Moore, Parnelli Jones, Bill Kolb, the Wood Brothers, Gas Ronda, Dick Brannan, Bill Stroppe, Bruce Larson, Don Nicholson and Mickey Thompson.

The book’s forward was written by Lee Holman, son of John Holman and current president of longtime/legendary Ford Racing partner Holman & Moody. (See their story on Pages 104 to 109).

One of my last, surviving Ford models is the green 1963 Lotus powered by Ford in which Clark made his Indianapolis 500 debut _ and set into motion the rear-engine revolution at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That model was purchased at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. As fate would have it, I found a boxed-and-unbuilt version of Gurney’s white No. 93 car from 1963 at the Dallas Autorama last year. (See photos on Pages 36-37). I see that Testors still makes a plastic model car cement…

But as noted, I’m a “Chevy guy.” That relationship began with the purchase of a burnt orange 1968 Camaro _ 327 V-8, Hurst 4-speed and dog dish hub caps _ found at a Pontiac dealership over Memorial Day weekend 1971. For the next 13 years it was my obsession…and the one car I never should have sold. But here on my late father’s 95th birthday, reviewing Schorr’s book on Fords gave me pause to remember, and to smile.  


“Ford Total Performance: Ford’s Legendary High-Performance Street and Race Cars”, by Martyn L. Schorr.

Format: Hardcover, 208 pages/ISBN: 978-0-7603-4858-1

First Published: October 2015 by Motorbooks, an imprint of Quarto Publishing Group USA, Inc., Minneapolis, Minn.

Size: 9.75-inches x 11.25-inches. Price: $45.00

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 6 2017
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