by Gary Smith

Ford-TP-advance-copy-1Ford Total Performance: Ford’s Legendary High-Performance Street and Race Cars by Martyn L. Schorr; foreword by Lee Holman; Motorbooks. Available at Amazon. ISBN: 978-0-7603-4858-1

For a Chevy enthusiast that came of age in the ’60s, Martyn Schor’s book is most enlightening. I now understand why Ford, more often than not, tromped Chevrolet in so many competitive venues. Simply put, Ford was committed to racing big time through direct and indirect sponsorship. By contrast, Duntov was only able to build five Corvette Grand Sports before the General turned off the tap, typical of GM’s indecisive corporate commitment to racing.

Ford Total Performance was Ford’s mission statement that defined their vision—unconditional surrender through overwhelming firepower. Ford was serious. The dethroning of Ferrari at LeMans is offered as proof.

Martyn chronicles Ford’s success from Henry’s day. Mr. Ford realized early on that the fastest way to gain publicity for his motorcar was to win races. Decades later, that idea was not lost on Henry Ford II. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday. And win they did.

I grew up in Riverside, California. Dan Gurney, a local talent, won the Motor Trend 500 five times in six years (’63, ’64, ’65, ’66, and ’68) in Holman and Moody prepared Fords. Locally the race was called the Dan Gurney 500. Dan Gurney for President stickers were seen on car bumpers. Ford’s presence was pervasive.

Previously posted on Dean’s Garage: Ford Racing Photo Archive.

Ford’s racing success in the ’60s is legendary. Martyn’s book is the Who’s Who of the key players that made Ford Total Performance a reality. This includes Carroll Shelby, a visionary who walked into an unprecedented opportunity, and was instrumental in condensing Ford’s broad mission into reality.

Ford was into nearly everything—NASCAR, Trans Am, CANAM, Indy cars, drag racing, endurance racing, Formula 1, and rallying. The author writes from first hand experience as the Editorial Director of New York-based Hi-Performance Cars magazine, and was there at the outset of Ford’s Total Performance campaign. He thoroughly documents the cars, the people that made it happen, and the process that Ford used to get its performance hardware in front of the public. Martyn also reveals insights and interesting side stories about the era, and facts that weren’t included in the press releases.

  1. Steve

    Thanks for the review. As a Ford guy I’m well versed in their racing efforts of the ’60s. Cudos to you for learning more about the history of the era. I would be hard pressed to read a book on GM history I just don’t have a passion for them. Maybe I should look into it. Another excellent book on the Le Mans effort is Go Like Hell. It’s so well written you’ll feel the cars racing by and get an idea for what the bean counters at Ford wanted and what Carrol Shelby told them they needed. The book also shows the dichotomy of the late 50s ban on racing due in part to the tragic accident at Le Mans in 1955. The accident influenced racing culture as Mercedese quit racing afterwards and only recently returned to motor sports.

  2. Fords success in various professional categories is indeed legend, but emphasis here is on ‘professional’. The mantra of ‘win on Sunday sell on Monday’ applied only to sales – very little of the ‘racing technology’ made its way into the passenger cars. On the street, and on the track in non-professional series and venues, Fords just simply did not cut it.
    Ford was pretty good at building race cars, and maybe assembling a few for private consumption, but their production cars never shared any real similarities to the ones touted in the magazines. Case in point… 66 Fairlane GT. LOVELY shape, and that shape won Daytona and maybe the WinterNats as I remember in class. But the production car? Any decent 327 Impala would walk it like it was standing still. And if a Mopar pulled up in the next lane, the Ford pilot better make a turn quickly into a parking lot to avoid total humiliation… Same thing with Pony cars – Mustangs better stay out of the way of GM or Chrysler equivalents. I remember reading an interview with Bud Ekins where he talked about all the work they had to do the the hot rod Mustang just to get it to almost keep up with the big ol stock Charger… Other than the VERY few 427 cars, the Galaxies couldnt begin to keep up with Impalas and Catalinas. Etc etc etc.
    I know…Ford guys are screaming Cobra! about now. Well…the Cobra was about as ‘production’ as A990s or Lotus 62s…how Ford got them classified as production cars with the SCCA I’ll never know. Though I have some idea – probably the same way they got nascar to allow Australian Ford engines in T Birds and Boss 429s in midsize cars where they were never installed…Remember too that Mr Shelby went to Chevrolet first for engines ; ol Carroll werent no dummy. [I applaud the Cobras and their world championship – have a ‘world Champion 1965’ sticker on my toolbox; just saying that these were not ‘really’ production cars actually meant as drivers. Chevrolet made more Corvettes in a week than Shelby made Cobras in 5 years. Cobras are wonderful, but lets compare apples to apples…]

    Please, dont misunderstand – I dont ‘hate’ Fords and am, at this moment, actively pursuing an early Mustang. Plus, I plan on purchasing this book. Just hope that it makes the distinction between very special Ford race cars and the worlds of difference between them and their similar looking production cousins.

    Having said all that, nothing but kudos to Ford for going racing, just wish that some of that would have rubbed off on their consumer product.

  3. OK…my comments above may seem a trifle harsh. BUT! heres the deal ; I WANT to be a Ford guy, I really do. Love Henry, amazed at his understanding and innovation. Love the Total Performance program. Love that they went overseas. Etc etc etc. Shoot, my surname has ‘ford’ in it even. But at least in the US, Fords regular production cars just didnt ‘have it’. They won on Sunday and sold on Monday – which, I understand was the intent – but the consumer product [save for some special examples] just wasnt up to GM or Chrysler performance standards in the late 50s thru early 80s even. This was most glaring in the 60s. I just wish Ford would have transferred some of that engineering into their bread and butter cars.
    ANYWAY…wanted to report back on the book. This is a really nice general overview of the subject. It even covers the Monte Carlo Falcons, which Ford performance books seldom do and really should. It touches on European sedan [saloon] racing also, which was greatly appreciated. The author makes it fairly clear that the competition cars were highly modified from what was on sale in the dealers showrooms and gives some good and interesting backstories on a few of the cars and events. In spite of what the advertising said, most of the photos have been seen before, but the ones included from the authors or other contributors collection that were ‘new’ are of good quality and relevant.
    Overall an enjoyable tome and recommended to anyone – Ford Fan or not – that is interested in racing in the period.

  4. Larry H

    John, I read both your comments and didn’t see any real bias. Just saying it as you see it. I actually thought it to be a very well written, articulate statement. I have never been blindly manufacturer loyal. I currently own, a 331 Chrysler Hemi w/dual 4 bbls (just the engine), 64 Galaxie, 390 Ford w/dual 4 bbls, 4-speed, 1971 Mustang Sportsroof, 351 Cleveland 2V, and 2 McLaren M6GT kit based cars, 1 SBC powered with stack EFI, and the other with a 2004 LS4, with stack EFI. So, I am just a motorhead. But, if the racing technology doesn’t flow to the production car, than win on Sunday and sell on Monday, becomes a bit of a fraud….

  5. Norman

    I come from a GM family, but I always respected the fact that when Ford wanted to get up on the step, they did the right thing: they went to a lot of the same people who were former GM and Chrysler racers and recruited them. Saved a lot of effort getting Mickey Thompson, for instance, or Richard Petty, or Don Nicholson rather than making their own cadre. Having Shelby on your team shaved 5 years off any effort they might have attempted otherwise. I mean, the Ford guys who pushed Eric Broadley aside wasted the better part of two years…Shelby had the car winning in his first full year with the Ford GT. But as was said above, the effort didn’t result in much on the street, at least not where I lived. GM and MoPar were the fear factor; you had to show up with a Cobra to get any props, and that still didn’t stop guys from running you, until the first 427 Cobra showed up…but there were only two in Central Pennsylvania that I knew of.

    Looking forward, how many cars do you see getting Ford engine transplants compared to Chevy LS? Yeah. Not many. Too bad, because Ford had some nice stuff (like the 289 ci V8). They just didn’t settle on refining (kaizen, anyone?) a familiar motor. Like the 265 ci Chevrolet, a distant but identifiable version of which is in my C7 Corvette, 60+ years after its introduction..

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