Tony Branda - Love of Shelbys
After 39 years in the parts business, Tony Branda is still focusing on his favorites–’65-’70 Shelbys and Mustangs
TB:: Some people told me that I was putting all my eggs in one basket and should get into other things. Maybe I should have gotten more into newer Mustangs. I can only dream of the numbers that other companies do. But I don't want that. I like the idea of still being able to talk to people about their cars. That's one thing we do here, we talk to people. I want to know what they're doing, what they're working on.
MM: What are some of the big changes you've seen in the parts business?
TB:: When the Mustang GT came out in 1982, I think that hurt us a little. Instead buying an older Mustang and restoring it, people started buying a new Mustang GT because it had performance, looks, and features like power windows and seats. When that happened, I saw a little bit of a decline. I also notice that a lot of older people who had Shelbys in the 1960s have sold them so they can buy a new car because they want the comforts. I've got a newer Shelby myself. But I still like the old stuff, even though the new car has air-conditioning, power windows, and stereo. And it's lot faster. But I still like the old cars.
MM: How many older cars do you own?
TB:: I have my own little collection of around 24, six of them Shelbys, including the first Cobra with rack and pinion steering. Over the years, I've probably owned over 100 Shelbys. Some of them didn't last more than a couple of days because we would sell them. If you made a couple of hundred dollars, you were happy. But it wasn't my main business. If anything, it helped my business because I'd tell people that if they bought a car from me I'd give them a deal on parts.
MM: Did you see much affect from the recession?
TB:: Used to be if people could afford it, they bought it. But now with gas and everything else going on in their lives—no jobs, stuff like that—they have to watch what they buy. It seems to be coming back in drips and drabs. I don't know that it will ever get back to where it was. My best year was 2006. Thank God I was able to keep it going. I've kept everybody here in my shop busy.
MM: How many employees to you currently have?
TB:: There are 10 of us. We're like a little family. Most everybody has been here a number of years. We've all learned over the years. In fact, we're still learning. I don't know everything. And even if I did, I've probably forgotten some stuff. I see things and say, "Gee, I don't remember that."
MM: You're approaching a 40th anniversary for Tony D. Branda Performance.
TB:: Yeah, October will be 39 years, so pretty soon. I hope I'm around for the company's 50th anniversary.
MM: Is that your plan?
TB:: This business has given me everything I've ever wanted. I've got to be one of the few people in the world who can come to work every day and get to live in the 1960s again. It's been my life and I ain't ready to walk away. God willing and if the flea markets stay alive, I'm going to keep it going. MM
Like others, Tony caught the rising tide of Mustang/Shelby enthusiasm in the mid 1970s and rode it to a successful business venture, Tony D. Branda Performance.