This is the second edition of the well-known and much loved book by Michael L Shoen. The Cobra-Ferrari Wars: 1963-1965, is the account of the battles, both on track and off, that raged between two great names, that of the established marque of Ferrari and the newcomer Cobra. Enzo Ferrari had made his name and his reputation the hard way, during the tough years just prior to World War II, and in the years immediately after. Within a few short years, his cars became very successful worldwide, and aspiring racing drivers clamoured to get behind the wheel of one of his cars.
Carroll Shelby on the other hand, didn’t start out in the motor business, let alone the racing business. But the lanky Texan’s interest in motorsport could not be suppressed and before long he was making a name for himself. Shelby won the Le Mans 24-Hour race in ’59, but he was soon to find out that a serious heart disease would bring his motorsport ambitions to a premature end. And so he turned his energies to the next best thing, fielding his own race team. The trouble was that the European cars had higher performing engines, stronger gearboxes and better suspensions. Shelby sought to change this balance by combining the best of the more affordable American muscle power with an ‘overseas’ chassis and suspension. And so was born the AC/Shelby Cobra.
The challenge facing Shelby was that he needed to get his car tested, and to get it handling like a race car very quickly. In Shelby’s own words, he was neither an engineer nor a businessman, but he knew how to pull together a team of people who were good in these different fields. Although the racing history books will give a comprehensive account of the success of the Cobra, that is by no means the whole story.
Michael Shoen has, over many years, compiled this excellent account of the battles that ensued between the Cobra and its main adversary, the Ferrari. Many readers will know about the tricks that Enzo Ferrari got up to in order to win, and his 1964 ploy to win the World Championship paid dividends for him, although this left a bitter taste in the mouth of the Cobra team. For the 1965 season, though, Pete Brock had an idea as to how the Cobra could beat the Ferrari, and so was born the Daytona Cobra.
The Cobra-Ferrari wars delves into the story of how this epic struggle was born, how it was played out, and how it ended. The players in this battle were all the top names in the sport in 1965, and included the likes of Phil Hill, Allen Grant, Bob Bondurant, Dan Gurney, Jack Sears, John Whitmore, Jo Bonnier, Ken Miles, Jochen Neerpasch, Edgar Barth, Ludovico Scarfiotti, Innes Ireland, and so many more. And there to capture the history on camera, and in writing, were some of the best photographers and journalists in the world at the time.
In essence, the struggle between the Cobra and Ferrari cars, was a battle between Ford and Ferrari. The Italian cars were fast, sophisticated, and the envy of the paddock. Ford on the other hand wanted things to be done fast, and being such a huge organisation had its limitations in realising this goal. Shelby therefore was the answer to a question that came at just the right time, as he delivered in a short space of time for Ford what the second largest motor manufacturer in the world could not. 1965 was a time when it was possible for a small manufacturer to achieve great results, and Porsche is a good example of this. But the Shelby organisation was a lot smaller than even Porsche, and therein lay the opportunity for Shelby to take advantage of this situation.
The story is told by Shoen in a style that captures the character, the climate and the stresses of the day, and makes for fascinating reading. This book is a classic, written at a time when legendary race cars competed for glory, and victory was sometimes gained at great cost. The scars of battle were obvious to see at the end of a race, but the contest was carried out by drivers who were almost gladiatorial in their execution. The author, though, has successfully captured the pain of these contests as well as the glory in a way that one cannot do so today, as access to teams and cars was very different then. Those behind the wheel, behind the camera lens, or behind the typewriter, all had the same determination to be better than the guy next to you, and it showed in their work. We have people like Michael Shoen to thank today for capturing those times so accurately, so frankly, so completely, and in such a down to earth manner that was evidence of their discipline and commitment to the job at hand. It was also an era in which top drivers and team personnel were not protected by layers of PR types and bodyguards which meant that, as a journalist, you could get your stories.
Any self-respecting motorsport enthusiast would not want to be without this book on his/her bookshelf. The problem is that first edition copies are hard to find, and those who are lucky enough to have one are not likely to want to part with it. The second edition is therefore the best way of acquiring this book on the Cobra-Ferrari Wars which has become a classic in itself. Grab one while you can, before the second edition is no longer available!
Title: The Cobra-Ferrari Wars, 1963-1965 (Second Edition)
Author: Michael L. Shoen
Dimensions: 280 x 215 x 28mm
Price US: US$ 49.95 (Includes USPS Domestic Media Mail Shipping)
Price International: USPS International Air Mail – $41.50 (14+ days delivery approx.)
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: (as credited)