Book review
Colin Comers Shelby Cobras 50 years 

© Wallace Wyss - Nov. 2011




Book review by Wallace Wyss
Shelby Cobra Fifty Years

                               Author: Colin Comer                               Hardcover: 256 pages

                               Publisher: Motorbooks; First edition (October 22, 2011)

                               Language: English             
ISBN-10: 0760340293                             ISBN-13: 978-0760340295  
Product Dimensions: 12.2 x 10.1 x 1.1 inches  
Shipping Weight: 3.4 pounds

Some car builders go ahead and build cars and let the historians sort the history out years later. Carroll Shelby made sure that wouldn’t happen with him. When he was only into the 4th year of Cobra production, he combined forces with John Bentley as ghostwriter, to write his book The Cobra Story in 1965, this at a point when the Cobra story wasn’t done yet—not by a long shot.

  Shelby wanted to make sure his meteoric rise to success was told his way. He has had a strong influence on biographers since, with his forward usually gracing the ones that tell it “his” way. Colin Comer didn’t get Shelby ’s forward on his Shelby book but did on this book so you can bet it’s going to be history told the Shelby American way.  

   And it’s a damn good read. I see the market for this book as model car builders who want to make their models accurate, and for those who  yearn for a Cobra but may be as lucky to get as far as a replica.  This book has plenty of period pictures and good captions so anyone that reads it will be able to toss around such infra-dig phrases as “slabside”,  “side oiler” and “ Monza quik-fill.”  To me, that’s the fun of being a car enthusiast for a particular marque, becoming an expert on your favorite car.

   It is near impossible to put a new book on Cobras together without using some of the same old photos used elsewhere Comer and his diligent researcher of a wife  found a few new ones not seen by this historian—who has written three books on Shelby’s cars—that shows they went farther and dug deeper. And the more valuable the original Cobras get the more we enthusiasts want to see every variation of Cobras as they were run at Sebring, Daytona, LeMans, etc. Why for instance, do most books on Cobras leave out the rally shots—as Cobras were used in rallies! I would like to see one fitted out with a full set of road lamps. Yet it’s the same old racetrack shots when in fact the Cobra was used in various ways. He does have the drag racing shots, and it’s good to remember that many fans never saw a sports car race, only drag races.

    The author has purposeful useful captions, only falling down occasionally, such as on pg. 22 where he implies that Shelby is responsible for redesigning the AC nose to make the first Cobra but in fact A.C. made 27 Ford Zephyr-

   He also has a lot of modern day pictures taken at various events. Now to the purists, these can be disconcerting compared to original era pictures because they are the cars that have been modified through the years. There’s also several pictures of Comer’s own silver Cobra. Maybe it’s jealousy on the part of the reviewer, but we got the point, Colin,  you own a silver Cobra and look good in it but you keep repeating that again every few pages.  

As the original Cobras pass the $500,000 price,  more and more books will sell on any collector car if the authors  dig for pictures that are original era, because how else are we supposed to restore cars correctly or even build a period correct replicas.

 I know one former replica owner, Bob Shaw, who painstakingly researched the original FIA cars so his replica would be as exact a copy as possible (except for the fiberglass body). I think more and more owners of replicas will go for a original look when they’ve got shot-in-period pictures to guide them such as you find in this book.

Even though the book is published by a company that does many of what I call the “gift book”
“ (the kind your aunt  buys you because she thinks you like that particular brand of car) it goes the extra mile to provide real facts, so that you have a pretty book that is also an accurate reference book.

  And though the cover price is $40, it’s amazing that can sell it for $26.40 so let me say this: if you love Cobras and the Shelby American legend, you owe it to yourself to skip five trips to Starbucks and buy this book.

Wallace A. Wyss is the author of SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend

Pictures courtesy Nichole Schiele/Motorbooks provided for this distributed review

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