Tag Archives: Mustang

Mustang Classics

Mustang Classics by Randy Leffingwell, with photography by David Newhardt
Published 2014 by Crestline
384 pp., hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0-7858-3139-6

Purchased new from a retail bookstore.

I have always been a Mustang fan. Growing up, a neighbour I hardly knew had a 1972 coupe, and a 1968 coupe briefly occupied our garage while dad did some repairs for a friend. My cousin had a 1969 coupe but traded it on a new 1972 Charger when I was a toddler. Yet, somehow I became enamoured of Ford’s ponycar. Years later, Dad saw an ad from a now defunct Ford dealer, saying they had about 100 new 1988 Mustang LX notchbacks equipped with the 5.0L and 5 speed, all at the same low price. He bought one, and after a few months he told me it was killing him on gas, and I should drive the Mustang while he took back his Honda Civic. I was one very lucky teen.

Given my admiration for Mustangs it’s no surprise Randy Leffingwell’s Mustang Classics is a favourite in my library. It hits many of the sweet spots I tend to look for in books on cars. It’s well-written, and packed with great photos. And there’s a wealth of info not just about the cars, but about management decisions and product development surrounding the generations of Mustang. I’ve reviewed another of Leffingwell’s books, Legendary Corvettes, and I found it enjoyable and very informative. This is also true of Mustang Classics.

The story begins in the immediate post-WWII years. GIs returned from the service, jobs were plentiful, and families became more prosperous. As explained in Fifties Flashback: The American Car, people began driving for pleasure, taking long road trips as their vacation. Some returning soldiers had brought British and European sports cars back home, and American manufacturers took notice there was a market for cars that weren’t simply ‘transportation’.

At the same time, Henry Ford II took over at Ford Motor Company, an organization in dire straits. Hiring Ernie Breech, an experienced auto man from GM, as well as a group of former military men who came to be known as the Whiz Kids, Henry Ford II managed to transform company. Ford was now better managed and started producing better products.

Leffingwell then documents the pre-Mustang years. Included is information about the Ford Total Performance program, designed to put Ford at the forefront of auto racing worldwide. There’s coverage of the Mustang I concept, the corporate decision to create a smaller Thunderbird-like vehicle, and the company’s partnership with Carroll Shelby, both in support of the Cobra cars and his role in Ford’s GT40 program. There’s so much background on what led to the Mustang, it’s 68 pages into the book before we see the debut of the car that would set sales records beginning April 17, 1964.

The chapters break out the Mustang into groupings by years: 1964.5-1966, 1967-1968.5, 1969-70 and so on through to 2003-present (being 2005, when first published). The early years are interspersed with the Shelby cars getting their own chapters (1965-66, 1967-68, 1969-70). The mid-1980s SVO Mustang also has its own chapter. Most of the focus is, as the title suggests, on ‘classics’. The featured vehicles tend to be of the high-performance variety. There are California Specials, Mach 1s, and Boss Mustangs. There are some rarely seen models, such as the 1969 Shelby de Mexico (306 produced), the 1970 Twister Special (a regional variant, 96 made) and the Monroe Handler, a Mustang built as a promotional vehicle for Monroe shock absorbers (1 originally built, 6 others built afterwards). I appreciate the inclusion of these uncommon Mustangs, especially as they’re photographed beautifully.

Throughout this book, Leffingwell drops info of all kinds. The SVO chapter is an example. After describing how Special Vehicle Operations developed the SVO Mustang differently from the 5.0L GT to create more of a driver’s car, the author moves to how SVO’s success as a small group influenced decision-making throughout Ford at the corporate level. Similarly there’s paragraphs about Lee Iacocca‘s Fairlane Committee, the reign of Bunkie Knudsen at Ford, the re-entry to racing in the late 1970s. There’s mention of John Coletti’s Skunk Works that designed the 1994 Mustang. In fact, many people are named including designers such as Gene Bordinat, Larry Shinoda and Jack Telnack, engineers like Bob Negstad who spent over 20 years working on the Mustang. All of these speak to the culture of the company, and ties in to the Mustang’s development.

Now, as good as this book is, I still found a couple minor things to mention.

Firstly, it’s important to note that this book is a reprint from another publisher. The first edition was published around 2005, and though this edition is from 2014, it’s not been updated. That is disappointing, as the chapter ‘2003 and Beyond’ only deals with the Mustang GT design proposal. That’s the show car that hinted strongly at the retro-themed Mustang that hit the market for 2005. It’s a shame that the 2014 edition was not updated, as by 2014 the Mustang had seen a redesign in 2010, was about to debut another redesign in 2014, had reunited with Shelby to offer special models, had seen the introduction of the 5.0 Coyote engine, as well as the rebirth of the Cobra Jet drag car.

Secondly, there are minor quibbles. I have mentioned (in a previous review) the use of the term ‘big block’ referring to the FE engines. These engines are not truly big blocks but rather medium blocks, as they are lighter than Ford’s MEL and 385-series families. I suppose, as it’s cropped up again, perhaps the matter is not agreed upon by all. The other quibble is that the author referred to ‘Ford Galaxy’ more than once. As the Galaxy is a van sold by Ford internationally, there is no doubt he meant ‘Galaxie’, the correct spelling for the full-size car sold from 1959-74. And sadly there’s a few other typos here and there.

Thirdly, I found the period of 1994-2003 was somewhat abbreviated. There are few pictures or references to the 1994-98 cars which include the last of the pushrod 5.0L GTs. There’s more emphasis on the 1999-2004 cars, and while the Mach 1 appears, there’s no pictures of the Bullitt edition. The SVT Cobra does show up. Actually it’s somewhat strange that the SVT Cobras aren’t broken out to their own chapter. These cars, built from 1993 through 2004, were the ultimate Mustangs available. That they are not treated similarly to the Shelby cars seems the wrong choice.

These things aside, Mustang Classics is a great automotive coffee table book. David Newhardt’s photos are fantastic, showing off the classic Mustang lines that have captured the hearts of so many. And Randy Leffingwell has packed the pages with stories of the Mustang that will interest history buffs as well as car nuts. There isn’t a lot in the way of pedestrian Mustangs, but what is presented is quite stunning visually and really details much of the Mustang’s high performance story. This is one book Ford fans should own.

Pros: fabulous photos; great information on the cars and company; high quality book
Cons: somewhat dated, having not been updated since 2005
Where to get it: Amazon, bookstores

The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars

The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars (no writer credit)
Published 2013 by Chartwell Books Inc.
432 pp., hardcover.

ISBN-13: 978-0-7858-3030-6

Purchased new from a retail bookstore.

File this one under ‘Disappointing’.

I had high hopes for The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars. I mean, 400 pages of the best American factory-built hot rods, over 120 cars profiled. That’s a book I could really get into.

I’ll admit, it is a difficult task to compile such a directory. Even just a few pages on every muscle car would fill volumes. Just defining ‘muscle car’ is not an easy task. Many would agree it’s an intermediate-size car with a powerful engine in, for the purpose of increased performance. Yet, people call the Impala SS a muscle car despite it being a full-size car. Mustangs and Camaros are too small to be intermediates, and Novas and Darts are compact cars (such as they were in the 1960s). Still they get called muscle cars. No 4-door could have been called muscle car back in the heyday, yet today, the Charger sedan is a modern muscle car.

People don’t even agree what the first muscle car was. Was it born in 1964 when Pontiac dropped a 389 engine in its Tempest Lemans coupe and named it GTO? Maybe it was Chrysler, who took their 1955 New Yorker, added some Imperial touches and placed its Firepower Hemi between the fenders to create the C300. How about the famed Rocket 88, Oldsmobile’s 1949 80-series coupe with the screaming new overhead valve V8 underhood. Or was it the first V8 Ford coupe with its flathead engine?

The Illustrated Directory of Muscle Cars does indeed include all the cars mentioned above, and many more. I can’t argue with any of the cars included in this volume. As such it gets points for going beyond the typical roster. Of course there are GTOs and Chevelles, Mustangs and Fairlanes, Challengers and Road Runners. There’s a number of full-size coupes, like the aforementioned Impala SS and the 7-Liter Ford Galaxie. But it’s nice to see cars like the Dodge Polara D500, M-code Thunderbird, Mercury Comet, and AMC’s SC/Rambler, Rebel Machine and AMX. These cars get a lot less ink than the Camaros, Firebirds and Cudas, and their inclusion does help to fill out the book.

But… the errors. So many errors. Typos. Improper formatting of tabs. Misplaced paragraph breaks. Widows and orphans. Incorrectly captioned photos. It’s a very sloppy book. When a 1969 Camaro photo shows up in the profile of the 1970 AMX, that’s an issue that’s hard to overlook.

That red Camaro shouldn’t be here.

There’s also the inconsistencies. Each car profile gets a chart, kind of an overview that mentions things like engine displacement, horsepower etc. Some of them list a dozen stats, some list 5 or 6. Some list the car’s base price, or quarter-mile performance, many don’t have the kind of information. Only 1 engine is listed per car, though some are the base V8 while others list an optional engine. If the object is to create a directory, then it shouldn’t be hard to determine criteria you intend to include and then make sure you include it for each car.

And some profiles are just confusing – such as the 1969 Cuda 383, which is titled such and features pictures of a 383 Cuda, but doesn’t really mention the 383 anywhere in the text. Instead the 273 base V8 of previous years is referenced. Actually a great number of profiles are filled with information about the manufacturer or the history of the model featured but little about the actual year and model of the feature.

Finally, there are still many omissions from this collection. The Golden Age of Muscle Cars did fade out by the mid-1970s, but there were a few highlights. There’s no mention of cars like the Monte Carlo 454, or 1973 Stage 1 Buick GS. And, the muscle car rebirth began in the mid-1980s. Yet, there are no 1980s cars found at all – no Grand Nationals, 442s, Monte Carlo SSs, or Fox-body Mustangs. Further, there are profiles on the 1994 Impala SS, 2005 Chrysler 300C and 2012 Dodge Charger SRT-8, but no mention of the early 2000s Mercury Marauder (except a sentence in a 1969 Cougar profile). And you really can’t call a directory complete when you include the Dodge Viper but cars like the SVT Cobra Mustang or ZR-1 Corvette are missing.

It’s a shame. There was real potential for a great book, a directory that would be a great introduction to the wide range of muscle car offerings. In spots, there is some good information here. And honestly, there’s a lot of good photography. The coffee-table size and quality paper have the feel of a book you want to read. There’s pieces of a great book here. It just isn’t executed well.

If you can find this book cheap, and really need to get some muscle car info on your shelf, then sure, pick it up. But if you’re looking for a serious overview of muscle cars, give this one a miss.

Pros: a good number of models profiled; some little-known cars get some ink; great pictures in a coffee-table book format.
Cons: far too many errors; some significant models and eras are lacking coverage.
Where to find it: retail bookstores, Amazon

You might also enjoy…
The Complete Book of Dodge and Plymouth Muscle: Every Model from 1960 to 1974
Ford Muscle: Street, Stock and Strip
Illustrated Camaro Buyer’s Guide

Barracuda Muscle Portfolio 1964-1974

Barracuda Muscle Portfolio 1964-1974 compiled by R.M. Clarke
Published 1995, by Brooklands Books Ltd.
140 pp., paperback

ISBN: 1 85520 259X

Acquired from private seller on kijiji.ca

I grew to love musclecars reading Car Craft and Musclecar Classics magazines, and I enjoyed reading about new cars in Car and Driver, Road & Track and Motor Trend. I wasn’t around to read about musclecars when they were new, so I missed those reviews in C/D, R&T and MT. Nowadays, it’s possible to find old magazines on the internet. But in the 1990s, Brooklands Books set about collecting and preserving articles on a huge variety of makes and models. They compiled them into over 700 titles across a number of series. Recently I was able to acquire one such title, Barracuda Muscle Portfolio 1964-74, which includes 34 articles about Plymouth’s pony car, lifted from over a dozen contemporary sources.

Most are aware of the story of Ford’s Mustang. Introduced April 17, 1964, it was an instant hit. What some may not know is that Plymouth launched the Barracuda about 2 weeks before the Mustang debuted. Word got out Ford was about to bring a new car to market based on its Falcon. Plymouth grafted a fastback onto their compact Valiant to create a what they hoped would be a sporty car to compete. The Barracuda wasn’t a bad car, but it got left in the dust as Mustang set sales records.

The fact Barracuda faced stiff competition from Mustang is hinted at in the first reprinted article, a loose recounting of a 1964 phone conversation between a C/D writer and a Chrysler employee. The company man wants to know why the magazine didn’t completely love the Barracuda. When the writer explains they expected a little more, the man responds that Chrysler feels the Barracuda has ‘broad appeal’, despite Mustang’s extensive options list and popular styling. That broad appeal didn’t quite materialize (Mustang outsold Barracuda by 5 to 1 in model year 1964). But make no mistake, while the Plymouth didn’t sell like hot cakes, the reviews bear out that for the most part Barracuda was a very credible car that improved as Chrysler played catch up.

The articles follow chronologically, the first 10 or so covering the 1964-66 series, the next dozen covering 1967-69, another dozen covering the E-body 1970-74. The final 3 reprints are from the 1980s – reviews by Special Interest Autos on the 1965 and 1970 (a car owned by Richard Carpenter), and a one page feature from Car Craft on the 1970 Hemi Cuda.

I found the reviews seemed to fit a pattern. The 1964-66 cars are generally praised for their roominess, utility of the rear storage/fold down seat and the great handling of the Formula S package (introduced 1965), but the lack of power from the 273 engine is notable. The resemblance to the Valiant line is also noted, which was in contrast to the Mustang’s all-new bodywork. The 1967-69 cars get good marks for a restyled body, the addition of coupe and convertible models, and high praise for the 340 engine, introduced in 1968. The availability of the 383 engine was also good, though reviewers noted that this Cuda did not handle very well with the 383 or 440, largely due to the heavier engines’ distributing so much weight to the front and precluding the offer of power steering, power brakes or air conditioning. The 1970-74 reviews begin positively, as styling caught up to the popular long hood/short deck aesthetic of the competitors, and there was a well-rounded range of options available. The lament however was that while the car was good, the muscle car craze had begun a steep decline. By 1974, the high performance 340, 383, 426 and 440 engines were gone, as was the convertible. The Barracuda would not survive in to 1975.

Reviews from these magazines are often quite detailed. There’s a significant amount of information explaining the design and equipment revisions, as well as how that translates to the handling and performance numbers. As I read, I realized having these articles would come in handy if I were contemplating buying a Cuda. To be able to read about not only options such as the Formula S package, but also having multi-year reviews, would likely be a great help in deciding what car would be right for me. It’s great to be able to compare the full range of model years, giving a great overview of Barracuda.

Among the articles is a 1967 R&T comparison test included, pitting a 273 Barracuda against a 289 Mustang and a 327 Camaro which was interesting to read as a direct comparison. There’s a neat article from Car Life featuring Swede Savage and his SCCA Trans Am Cuda. But I think my favourite reprint was a two-page MT Guide laying out all the engine and performance options for the 1971 Barracuda, including a list of racing parts available from Chrysler. I love that kind of information which now could be used to identify how a car may have originally been configured.

In 11 model years, Plymouth sold almost 400,000 Barracudas. Having read the reviews, it’s clear the Barracuda wasn’t a bad car. In fact, many reviews picked out traits such as handling (in the Formula S and later models) and the 340 motor as among the best in the pony car arena. Yet, by comparison, Chevy sold 1.25 million Camaros (in only 8 model years), while Ford managed to find homes for almost 3.5 million Mustangs between 1964 and 1974. On the other hand, this makes the Cuda rare by comparison, surely a factor as the Plymouth commands higher prices as a collector car today.

For owners and fans of Plymouth‘s musclecar, this portfolio is a great read. the articles give an honest contemporary assessment of the pros and cons of the Barracuda. And, it took me back to those days as a kid, reading about the hot cars I longed to drive.

Pros: great collection of hard-to-find comteporary articles about the Barracuda; good, fairly detailed info documenting year-to-year changes to the car
Cons: completely back-and-white (likely the articles were originally printed this way)
Where to find it: maybe eBay and Amazon, private collections

50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered

50 Shades of Rust: Barn Finds You Wish You’d Discovered by Tom Cotter
Published 2014 by Motorbooks
192 pp., hardcover

ISBN-13: 978-0-7603-4575-7

Acquired new from a retail bookstore

The great thing about the automotive hobby is there’s so many ways to be a part of it. Whether you race cars or restore them, whether you’re into old classics or the latest supercars, whether you love American iron or you’re into the import scene, there’s room for everyone under the classic and collector car tent.

One part of the hobby that seems to have gained in popularity is the search for the ‘barn find’. Seeking out and finding that hidden gem, the one with a story behind it. My most recent review touched on the barn find – cars stored away, maybe long forgotten and hidden from plain view. Tom Cotter has made a name as The Barn Find Hunter, travelling across North America in search of salvageable classics. I had watched many of his videos posted on Hagerty Insurance’s website. A few years ago I picked up one of his many books, 50 Shades of Rust: Barn finds You Wished You’d Discovered.

Collected are short stories about 94 cars, trucks and bikes that have been found and rescued from what seemed to be their final resting places. And it’s quite an eclectic collection…
… a 5000-mile Porsche 914/6 that sat inhabited by mice for 36 years.
Ed ‘Big Daddy’ Roth’s Orbitron, rescued from use as a dumpster in Mexico.
… a McCormack sports car resembling the one on the cover of Motor Life.
… an SCCA Mustang reunited with its driver after 40 years.
… a 1930s aluminum Peugeot traded for a 1964 Ferrari Lusso which was then traded for a 1965 Lola T-70 racer.
… the oldest production Mustang known to exist.
… a deteriorating AMC dealership, closed since 1980 and still stocked with cars, parts and brochures.
… Dyno Don Nicholson’s 1970 Mustang NHRA drag racer.
… a Yenko Deuce Nova hidden in a trailer for 25 years.
… a 1929 Packard stored in a shed tucked up in a mountain retreat.

And that’s just a few of the stories that also include hot rods reunited with the people who drove them as teenagers, former NHRA and NASCAR performers, and 2 cars now owned by Jay Leno after the owners wrote letters to him offering them for sale. Some of these cars were literally rotting into the ground, others buried under all sorts of things in a garage, and others just hidden away. They aren’t even all just cars as a few trucks and motorcycles get their due.

Some may find this book just doesn’t give enough of the story. Truthfully, there’s not a whole lot of information that can be packed into just a page or two. There are few pictures with each story, but many are somewhat small. I think each story offers just enough to grab your interest but leaves you wanting to know more. In some cases, there isn’t much more to know — the car has been rescued, and nothing much more has happened. For others, they were restored or were in process. And some quickly passed out of the hands of the owner to someone else. And some of them actually do make it back out on the road.

One thing you do come away with is the knowledge that every car does have its unique story. If you’re the type of person who loves the idea that somewhere out there, in the corner of a shed or quonset hut, the object of your automotive lust sits, just waiting to be discovered, then 50 Shades of Rust is the kind of book that will stir your passions. It may be light on details, but there’s more than enough to whet your appetite to get out there and start hunting.

Pros: lots of interesting stories, and a huge variety of cars, trucks and bikes, some you may never have heard of.
Cons: the stories are short, and the pictures are small. It would be great to see how some of these cars got the restoration they deserved.
Where to get it: Amazon, bookstores.

Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects

Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects by Huw Evans
Published 2004 by Motorbooks International
112 pp. paperback

ISBN: 0-7603-1545-0

Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects

Acquired new from a book retailer.

I’ve mentioned before that I was very lucky as a young man to have a 1988 Ford Mustang LX 5.0, 5 speed notchback as my daily driver. It was a lot of fun, and I put over 408,000 kms (250,000 miles) on it before I finally retired it with the intention of restoring it.

Among the resources I’d gathered for the job was Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects, by Huw Evans from the Motorbooks Workshop. It turned out to be a valuable resource, providing a great deal of information on various upgrades for 1979 through 1995 Mustangs equipped with the 5.0L Windsor V8.

The Fox-body Mustang (so called as it was built on Ford’s Fox platform) has come to be seen by some as a new Deuce coupe or 55 Chevy, due to its high production numbers, relative low cost, and willingness to accept easy modification to build power. Evans observed in his ‘Introduction’…

“So popular did this humble pony become for modification… that it led to the creation of
one of the largest performance aftermarket industries tailored to a single car.”

Evans goes on to say that, while he couldn’t possibly showcase every project that could be, he’d collected those he felt were useful, especially for cars that would probably see mostly street duty with the occasional trip down the drag strip.

There are 37 projects in 9 sections, each section represents a major component group (ie engine, brakes, interior etc). Some of the projects are very simple — the first is jacking the car up, the second is performing an oil change. Those with limited skill can tackle these and begin to get comfortable working on the car. Some may seem a bigger deal but are fairly easy, such as swapping out the front seats. Other projects, such as pulling the engine to replace the cylinder heads, are much more involved. And others, like strengthening the AOD transmission, do not actually discuss doing the mechanical work, but provide education on what should be done and why, and steer the reader to choosing a transmission shop to actually do the job.

The layout is great, making each project easy to understand. An introductory box breaks it down, listing Time, Tools, Talent (a relative rating of the skill and experience needed), Applicable years (based on a stock car, from 1979-95), Parts, Tab (a rough figure in 2004 $USD), Tip (information to make the job easier), Performance Improvement (expected) and finally Complementary Project. Projects stall out when things happen and frustration sets in – budget concerns, lack of the correct tool, or the job is beyond the ability of the owner. Setting it out in realistic terms helps one know what to expect before tearing into the car.

Evans provides info that even seasoned pros may overlook. The underdrive pulleys project instructs to inspect related wear items such as the plastic clutch fan and serpentine belt, and highlights that the project can affect the cooling and charging systems. The nitrous oxide project cautions to pay attention to older engines which could easily grenade themselves due to the added stresses of a large nitrous shot. That’s insight that may not be available when excitedly ordering parts from the internet.

If there’s a criticism, this book is light on pictures. When I had my Mustang I read magazines like Muscle Mustangs and Fast Fords and Mustang 5.0 and Super Fords. The tech articles in magazines tended to be filled with photos, illustrating many steps. This book relies much more on descriptive text. Someone who finds following text, or would feel more comfortable with visual cues, may have more difficulty following this book.

The newest of the 5.0 litre pushrod Mustangs is now 25 years old. But today, retailers still stock many parts for the projects found in this book. And there are still many of these cars floating around, some even remain relatively stock. That’s not to mention the many Mustangs that began life with 4- or 6-cylinder engines that have had or are available for V8 transplants. This book therefore remains a relevant source for enthusiasts new and old.

Pros: well organized; good range of projects from easy to more involved; lots of great tips to ensure projects are done well.
Cons: could have more illustration/pictures.
Where to find it: Amazon, eBay, private sellers.

Opentop Style – An A to Z of Convertible Autos

Opentop Style: An A to Z of Convertible Autos by Graham Robson
published 1988 by New Burlington Books
128 pages, hardcover

ISBN: 1-85348-036-3

purchased from a used book store

I picked Opentop Style: An A to Z of Convertible Autos off the shelf of a now-closed used bookstore I liked. The Porsche on the cover and the ‘A to Z’ subtitle caught my attention. And I find it’s a book I don’t really love, but I don’t really hate. Let me explain.

The first thing to notice about this book is how it’s formatted. The author generally profiles a car over 2 pages – one page of text, a facing page of colour photos (in a few cases, there’s an additional 2 pages of photos). As the book is 128 pages including introduction and index, it’s easy to see that there’s going to be just about 50 cars featured.

The features themselves are interesting, though brief and not as detailed as many other books I’ve read. The text pages show a data area which takes up 1/4 of the page. The data portion covers the years of production discussed, the engine availability and horsepower, the body and suspension type, and the performance in terms of top speed and 0-60 mph times.

The text takes up about half the page, somewhat limited in my estimation. In many cases, the model featured is restricted to only a few model years. With only a single page for pictures, there tends to be just one vehicle. I mean literally, 2 or 3 pictures of one particular car to represent the model. To make matters worse, the features alternate between black text on white background and reversed white text on black. In my copy, some of the pages are hard to read as the reverse print has a lot of filling, that is, the black background chokes the white text.

I note this book was written and produced in the UK. Beyond the typically British terms such as ‘saloon’ for sedan and ‘drop-head coupe’ for convertible, I am struck by the choice of cars to feature. Firstly, I’ll say that the introduction tells you this is not so much an A to Z of convertibles, but many ‘open’ cars – T-tops, targas and landaulettes included. Secondly, of the 50 or so vehicles, only 11 are American-made (or let’s say American brands). I do tend to favour the American makes, but I am always interested in cars from all over the world. It’s just an interesting thing to me which on reflection makes sense. British and European automobile fans are certainly aware of American cars, but they’re much more aware of British, French, German and Italian marques, and they certainly produced a great number of drop tops.

Honestly, I couldn’t really discern a specific criteria for which cars were chosen, other than some or all of the roof is open. As of the publishing date (1988), 17 cars were listed as still being in production, including the Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce, BMW 3-series, Cadillac Allante, Chrysler TC by Maserati, Toyota MR2, Jaguar XJ-SC and Volkswagen GTI. We also find some supercars such as the Porsche 911 and Ferrari 328GTS. But then there are classics such as the Corvette (but only to 1959), Thunderbird (1955-57), Deusenberg J and SJ, Mercedes 540K and 300S, Citroën DS19, Ferrari 365GTS Daytona, MG Midget and Triumph TR250. Then additionally there are some fairly rare and diverse vehicles, such as the Mercedes-Benz Landaulette, Lancia Aurelia, Fiat 1200 and Dino, Renault Caravelle and Maserati Mistral. All in all it makes for an interesting but somewhat haphazard collection of cars.

So, why don’t I love this book? Well, for my purposes, it was lacking. Granted, I should not have expected 128 pages to really be a true A to Z of convertibles. Cars, photos and information I was looking for just wasn’t there. It was not an in-depth, a-to-z coverage.

That said, I’d class this as a good entry-level book. It would be suited to the person who has expressed an interest in automobiles, but doesn’t yet have much knowledge or exposure. The vehicle profiles do contain good information, touching on aesthetics, technical specifications and historic context, but they are brief and generic enough that it wouldn’t be overwhelm the novice. The varied selection of cars would also whet the appetite, providing a somewhat non-biased array of eras and marques for the beginner to discover the automotive world.

All in all, if you are taken with the idea of the wind in your hair and sun on your face while motoring along, then this is a fun little book to leaf through.

Pros: a good introduction to a wide range of open-top vehicles; some surprising and rare cars are featured
Cons: perhaps too much focus on cars of the late 1980s; not enough information or images for the knowledgable car buff; reverse-text pages can be difficult to read
Where to find it: Amazon, ebay, private collections

Ford Muscle: Street, Stock and Strip

Ford Muscle: Street, Stock and Strip by Bill Holder and Phil Kunz
published 2004 by Krause Publishing, Inc.
160 pages, softcover

ISBN-10: 0-87349-835-6

Received as a Christmas gift

As someone who grew up as a Ford fan, I had high hopes for this book. It’s a nice size, there’s numerous photos. Flipping through it, the chapters seemed logical. Many of the great Ford models were there. And yet, I was left pretty disappointed overall.

For starters, the book is riddled with design and typographical errors. I am a graphic designer and typesetter by profession, so I am probably more sensitive to these types of errors. Missing spaces, incorrectly aligned paragraphs, stray lines… it tends to look sloppy. It really does affect my enjoyment of a printed book. It also makes me wonder – since it seems no one proofread this book, how much of the information in the book is accurate? Seems there are also a number of factual errors. Let’s look at ‘The Thunderbird’ chapter.

  • uneven word spacing through the chapter, often extra spaces between words
  • the last 10 words on page 23 are repeated as the first 10 words on page 24
  • a picture of an engine appears twice – once as an inset and labelled a 430, and on the next page by itself labelled as a 390
  • the caption under what is clearly a 1974-76 Thunderbird refers to it as a 1972
  • the caption under a 1967-69 Thunderbird refers to it as a 1966
  • the text states the Thunderbird was available with a supercharged 3.8L V6 in 1983, but no supercharger was available until the 1989 Super Coupe (the 1980s V6 had no power adder)
  • an image of a 1980-82 Thunderbird has a caption that says “The Thunderbird was downsized in the 1990s”, which had actually been happening since the late 1970s (the 1977-79 Tbird dropped 10 inches and 900 pounds from the 1972-76, and the 1980-82 dropped another 17 inches and 1400 pounds still)
  • arguably an error in content, while the text discusses the heavy cruiser Thunderbirds of the 1970s to some extent, it virtually ignores the Turbo Coupe and Super Coupe of the 1980s and 1990s, which were much more performance oriented.

Stylistically, I found the book somewhat awkwardly written. Thunderbird and Galaxie follow chronographic style, summarizing a year or 2 of the car. The next chapter, Mustang, does not follow this format. Generally chronological at the start, the focus turns to specialty models, the Boss 302 and 429 of 1969-70, and the Boss 351 of 1971 (though they are arranged as Boss 302, Boss 351, Boss 429). Then follows the Shelby Mustangs of 1965-1970, and then paragraphs about Pace Car Editions. Funny enough, very little is shown of the Fox-body Mustangs, widely seen as a rebirth of Mustang performance. Mustangs of 1994-2003 appear in a much later chapter about ‘Modern Muscle’. The writing style is also somewhat juvenile, sprinkled with exclamation points and mild ‘fan boy’ feeling.

Now, there are some good qualities about this book. It is really fairly well organized into chapters about specific models – Thunderbird, Galaxie, Mustang, Cyclone, Cougar etc. And generally, there’s a lot of decent information that is correct, from technical information to notes about styling to product development and racing history, even if it’s somewhat mixed all together. The racing coverage even includes some powerboat racing and notable Fords such as the Bigfoot monster truck. There are many good quality photos throughout. And, despite earlier criticism, there are chapters on Ford advertising and Ford-centered car clubs which are a little incongruous with the rest of the book, but I found were nice to read.

For the knowledgeable fan, someone who has owned and driven Fords especially, this book will probably disappoint. But, for someone who might have a budding interest in cars, especially old Fords, this can be a good stepping-stone book to begin educating and expanding their base.

Pros: covers a number of models; good pictures; interesting ads and club information
Cons: numerous factual, stylistic and typographic errors; inconsistent flow
Where to find it: Available on Amazon, eBay, used bookstores.

You might also enjoy…
Mustang 5.0 Performance Projects
1931 Ford Rat Rod
The Complete Book of Classic Ford F-Series Pickups: Every Model from 1948-1976