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
MM: You also set up at a lot of the shows and swap meets, right?
TB:: I remember when Carlisle only had the Fall show. Then they added Spring and later on they had their specialty shows. Then you had Hershey in October. And we used to go to all the little car shows. I remember if I went to a show and did $500, I was jumping up and down.
MM: What were you selling mostly in those days?
TB:: A lot of it was detailing stuff, like decals and stripe kits. I never really got into suspension or internal engine parts. I like the things you look at—valve covers and hoods. Even today, people ask if we have ball joints and I have to tell them that we don't. That stuff's not fun to me.
MM: When did you leave your dad's business to do this full time?
TB:: That would have been 1978. I established the business in 1975 but I shipped stuff in the evenings. My first employee was Carl; I think he started part-time in 1979 and went full-time when he got out of school in 1980. He's still with me today.
MM: How did you decide to specialize in Shelbys?
TB:: Shelbys are my first love after my wife. If people have to put me in a slot, I'm generally in the Shelby area. But I've always been into Mustangs also. A lot of people will walk by—at Carlisle, for example—and say they didn't know we carried Mustang parts, they thought we were just Shelby. And I tell them, no, we have sheetmetal and stuff like that.
MM: By specializing in Shelby, does that give you a bit of an edge in that market?
TB:: Yeah, I think a lot of people call here for that. They look for us to have the information. A lot of times we do, a lot of times we have to look it up or send them somewhere else. A lot of times the other companies send people to us for Shelby info.
MM: In the early days, you also sold used parts, right?
TB:: When I first started, I'd buy rusty Shelbys. Back then, you couldn't buy floorpans or stuff like that. I remember buying Shelbys cheap and we'd part them out as donor cars. If someone needed a scoop or front nose, I had it. All of a sudden, I woke up one morning and thought, "What are you doing? Every time you part out one of these cars, that's one less you're going to sell parts for." Right then, I stopped. I just didn't realize what I was doing at the time. Who would have thought back then that someone was going to come out with reproduction floor pans?
MM: Did you ever consider getting more into Mustangs, maybe even late-models?