Insider’s Guide to Vintage Ford Literature You Probably Didn’t Know About
Meet some behind-the-scenes stuff that’s off most enthusiasts’ radar
Don’t feel bad if a lot of this is new to you. Many Mustang enthusiasts, even experienced ones, haven’t heard about most of this because much of it was never intended for customers’ eyes.
Ford Motor Company had a lot of communications with its dealers to school them on the latest models, sub-models, prices, promotions, packages, additions, deletions, and sales efforts. If you’re into vintage Mustangs, this makes for extremely interesting reading.
Despite the fact that this vintage literature was printed 50 years ago, today it is still fresh material to us because it existed behind the scenes. Everybody knows about the good ol’ showroom brochures, but that’s not what we’re dealing with here. This story focuses on a library of printed literature sent regularly to dealerships to inform them about the products they were selling and servicing.
More good news is that most of it is not pricey. Because it was printed in quantity and has stayed largely in the shadows, relatively few enthusiasts are aware of it, and therefore, demand and prices are pretty reasonable. But be warned, it probably won’t stay that way. We’re highlighting 10 lines of communications produced by Ford likely to be of particular interest to the classic Mustang buff. There are others, but these are the biggies.
Not surprisingly, the giant online auction site eBay is the best place to find most of these items. A few vintage literature dealers are worth checking with, too. Experienced eBayers know prices can swing wildly. An item that usually goes for $10 can spark a bidding war that drives the price way up. Yet soon after, the same item can be for sale for weeks without a single bid. To get a realistic idea of market value, check eBay’s record of sold items. Be informed, pick your deal, and don’t panic. And have fun. We love looking at cool vintage literature and sharing it with our readers.
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1. Shop Tips
Ford began producing Shop Tips publication with the October 1963 issue for the benefit of the dealerships’ parts and service departments. Shop Tips is typically loaded with the kind of content enthusiasts like. Cover themes revolved around specific service jobs, such as charging systems, how to read ID tags, diagnosing noises, vibration, and harshness, brake systems, and troubleshooting power steering. Okay, maybe not exactly Gone With The Wind, but those are subjects vintage Ford enthusiasts can sink their teeth into. There were also cover stories to celebrate a racing victory (Indy and Le Mans victories in the July-August 1967 issue), introduce major new parts, like a new engine (427, November 1963), carburetor (Autolite 4300, January 1967), or an important new model (Boss 302 and Boss 429, January 1969). Shop Tips also had big issues every September to introduce the new model year.
On top of all that, there are also plenty of stories for the parts department, highlighting promotions on tune-up kits, shocks, hop-up stuff, and discussing oil changes.
Bottom line: Lots of on-target tech at a budget-friendly price.
Of Particular Interest:
April-May 1964: Mustang Special issue
March 1968: 428 Cobra Jet intro, Winternationals win
January 1970: Boss 302 specs and Strip Tips
2. Car Facts
Car Facts, a descendant of Ford’s All The Facts, began in 1960 and were extensive dealer albums that contained virtually the whole story of one model year, with tabbed sections for each car line, full size, Falcon, Fairlane, Mustang, and more. They came in Ford three-ring binders with artwork that changed year-to-year and were sent to dealers during the fall, prior to the start of the model year, as a master resource. Among the most valuable of the vintage Ford literature, Car Facts have all the details, including models, engines and drivelines, colors, options, new features, and construction. When mid-year revisions were made, new sections of the book with updated info were sent, too. In later years, revisions were printed in red. Car Facts is probably the best authority on what’s right on a given car.
Prices were around $350 a few years ago, but have cooled off, and can be found now for as little as $100 or less with some careful shopping. A reasonable price for a good, complete one is around $150.
1969 and 1970 have the most demand. Beware of missing pages or even missing sections. Pages are numbered by section like D-1, D-2, D-3, and it’s not uncommon to find, say, the Mach 1 page missing from the Mustang section. A non-original binder, even with complete content drops the value by as much as 50 percent.
3. Ford Buyer’s Digest
Buyer’s Digest began in 1959 as a 10-by-7-inch publication with almost 100 pages of meaty content aimed at prospective new Ford buyers. Sprinkled into the mix were a few quaint stories, like “A Woman’s Guide To What’s Under The Hood” (1959), “When A Woman Drives Alone” and “Sitting Pretty Behind the Wheel” (both 1962), and B-roll stories like “Hot Rodding—Good or Bad?” For a good laugh, the 1963 issue has “Our Highways—What They’ll Be Like In 1980” (going 200mph in computer-automated bubble cars).
The best part about Buyer’s Digest is it is also loaded with lots of full-color new car pictures and information—exterior colors, powerteam info and specs, photographic upholstery samples, and lots of discussion about vintage Fords. The highlight of the whole thing is a feature called the “Armchair Estimator,” a listing of all the models and options with prices. Think of the Buyer’s Digest as a very low-buck Car Facts album.
Mustang didn’t produce the 1964 issue, but it got big play in 1965. Also in 1965, Ford cut the number of pages almost in half, scaling it down further as the decade went on. By 1968, editorial was all but gone as the Buyer’s Digest become a larger 8 1/2 by 11, but only 16 pages.
Of Particular Interest:
1964 issue: a very good New York World’s Fair feature
Tons of great info in each issue
Here’s a newsflash for you, and that’s not a wisecrack. NewsFlash is a regular bulletin that went to dealership executives and sales staff, typically outlining new features, promotions, or sales incentives—to keep the sales staff revved up.
Printed on full-sized 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper and in color, NewsFlash would alert Ford’s sales force to seasonal specials, mid-year packages, new options and option groups, discounts, and sales advantages over the competition. While Car Facts and other publications contained more basic and foundational information about the cars, NewsFlash was what Ford used to communicate more fluid sales matters that changed on the fly.
In the 1970s, Ford added tabbed sections to its Car Facts binders to hold NewsFlash bulletins, but in prior years, there had apparently been no designated place to save them, so 1970s NewsFlash bulletins with subjects like Pinto, Granada, and Gran Torino are much more common than the 1960s cars of interest to Mustangers, and prices reflect this situation.
You can set up alerts on eBay to email you when something you’re looking for is posted. For example, you could have eBay notify you when anything new is posted matching the description like “Ford Newsflash Mustang.”
5. Training Handbook
Ford developed course studies to train mechanics on how to work on their cars. Parts of those courses were printed handbooks that explained in detail how a car’s systems worked. These books had in-depth explanations with lots of illustrations and were written in easy-to-understand, low-jargon style. Not everybody is mechanically minded, but those who are should enjoy titles like:
• How Air Conditioning Works
• C6 Transmission Diagnosis, Adjustment, and Light Repair
• Steering and Suspension Principles
• Emission Control Systems
• New Vehicle Pre-Delivery
Today, they’re easy to find on eBay and provide a wealth of information to the do-it-yourselfer and crew chief for a vintage Mustang. There’s heavy competition for the Boss Mustang stuff, but these training manuals are much overlooked, and you can score them cheap on that giant online auction. Want to know how an IMCO (Improved Combustion) pollution control system works? A modular distributor? Power brakes? Air conditioner? Linkage-type power steering? For a few bucks, you can get the gospel truth straight from the company that built it. Sounds like a deal to us.
Training manuals are punched so they can be stored in a standard three-ring binder. Build your collection and keep it safely stored in a binder for future reference. Even better, store them in clear page protectors (for thicker booklets use the extra capacity) for better safekeeping. Share them with your fellow enthusiasts, and you’ll all enjoy cars that function at a higher level.
6. Filmstrips and Records
You’ve seen the same PR shots and brochure images for decades. Ready to see something new? Ford issued quite a few filmstrips with records that were used to train dealer personnel. Not all of them are worth picking up, but some are very good. They were produced by outside agencies and used images they produced, so you’re not getting a rerun of the same familiar images. This is period art, and you’ll see not only fresh photos of your favorite cars, but actors in period wardrobe, with period hair styles, and all that. The accompanying soundtrack can be a hoot, too, as the voice-over guy gets really excited about the new door lock knobs and the extra inch-and-a-half of bench seat width.
These were mailed out in cardboard packages. A complete kit contained the filmstrips in its own canister (early canisters were metal, later ones were colored plastic), the soundtrack records in a paper sleeve, and a bunch of paper handouts for the salesmen.
A complete kit is fairly hard to come by these days. The great majority of records and filmstrips seem to have been separated. On eBay you’ll see lots records without the matching filmstrips and vice-versa. If you find a complete kit, you’ll need a record player and filmstrip projector to view it. That’s a substantial investment, but the fun factor for this multimedia rarity is high. A possible alternative: a few ambitious souls have converted the original filmstrips and soundtracks to DVD and offer them for sale on eBay.
A lot of records and filmstrips deal with sales prospects and techniques. While there is some nostalgic value to them, those that deal primarily with the cars and their content are of greater value.
7. Key Selling Features
OK, it doesn’t have the world’s most dynamic title, but it does make its point. Key Selling Features is a thorough walk-through of a new car, in this case the new 1965 Mustang. In its 14 two-color pages, it plays up all of the standard Mustang equipment and touts the sport coupe’s excellent performance potential, even with the 200ci six-cylinder, listing quicker 0 to 60 times than its rivals the Corvair and Tempest.
A bullet list of standard features points out that all Mustangs feature things like dual sun visors, ashtrays, and armrests—woo-hoo! Also getting big play are the 2+2, and options like disc brakes, Rally Pac, console, wire wheel covers, and vinyl roof. Every few pages there’s a quiz to make sure the sales guys are paying attention.
There are lots of pictures to keep it from being too word-heavy, including a flagman waving a flag as a fastback peels out (why is he waving a checkered flag?) and the obligatory guy in a helmet writing something on a clipboard. Maybe that’s a little campy now, but it’s all part of the period charm.
Don’t overlook the full-line brochures. They have additional content you may or may not want, but they also have dedicated Mustang sections.
Here’s one with a very high fun-to-cost ratio. Accessories catalogs appear to have been issued annually and show page after page of goodies you can’t live without, such as floormats, spotlights, waxes and car care stuff, under-dash air conditioners, trailer hitches, litter bags, head rests, engine block heaters, luggage, deluxe mirrors, bumper guards, portable TVs, air shocks, station wagon mats, extra-loud horns, rear-seat radio speakers, tissue dispensers, and that kind of thing. Products are shown in the old packaging with old logos. You gotta love it.
Almost all of these goodies do not show up on lists of regular production options because they’re not option; they’re accessories. And if they do, they’re different from RPO (regular production options) because they were intended to be installed after the car was already built.
Catalogs are usually $10 to 15 on eBay. Items change depending on the years. Later 1960s catalogs will have more advanced audio stuff than mid and early ’60s. Like Shop Tips, accessory catalogs are also lots of enjoyable reading on the cheap.
9. Muscle Parts Catalogs
Perhaps the most well known publications on this list. These were intended to help performance enthusiasts understand the performance potential in their engines and show them what the dealers offered in over-the-counter parts. They weren’t free for the taking like the showroom brochures. There was generally a cost involved, means means they were not produced in the same volume as the common showroom brochure. Availability roughly mirrors the life and times of the muscle car. There were more of them in the late ’60s. Some were centered around a particular engine, while others were more general and covered several engines.
You don’t have to spend big to get this info. While originals can run into the hundreds of dollars, many of these catalogs have been reproduced and are available at very reasonable prices.
10. Off Highway Only Newsletter
The OHO Parts Newsletter was a short run of highly focused news about Ford performance. It showed up late in the game—January 1972—and was published bi-monthly for the first six months, becoming monthly beginning in July, 1972. That didn’t last long. The marketplace was changing and performance was giving way to safety and emissions. The second issue of Volume 2, billed as the spring 1973 issue, announced that it was the last one, leaving only 11 issues of Off High Only Parts Newsletters.
Those 11 issues were full of good performance info in their day, and it remains good info today, covering 351C, Boss 351 and 351 H.O., 427, 429, Boss 302, the Autolite inline four-barrel carb, and even some Pinto 2.3L hop-ups.
Originals are printed with black text and red art, and are fairly scarce these days. But the whole collection has been compiled and reprinted in black and white and is available inexpensively ($10 to 15 on eBay).