Mustang MonthlyNews & Views
History of the Shelby Mustangs - Shelby: The Untold Stories
From The Men Who Built The Cars
"Al Dowd and I made several visits to the San Jose assembly plant. I don't think Ford in the USA had done anything like that. They'd delivered a handful of cars to people, but we had an order for 550 high-performance Mustangs, 50 in one configuration and 500 in another.
"Everything that came to us on the car from Ford was standard stuff. Even the Detroit Locker, as I remember, was a Ford special-order thing. I think the rear end was out of a station wagon, and if I'm not mistaken, it was narrowed slightly for our application. All of these things had to be easily bolted in. They had to be able to use the same tools on the production line that they did for the standard cars. That was a big deal and caused modest amounts of grief from time to time.
"They finally got a few Mustangs to us while we were still in the Princeton Street building. We built them on jackstands and went through quite an ordeal to put it all together while we continued to get the plans for the airport going.
"At the airport, we decided to dig a pit in the hangar. There was a lot of design that we put into it. We needed the pit because we didn't want to crawl around on the floor on creepers. The cars came in one end, where they got disassembled and mounted on rollered racks that straddled the pit so they could be pushed manually from station to station. It worked out pretty well. We had a series of steps where we dissembled the cars and put them back together again as GT350s.
"The big deal was the welding in the back; we welded the traction arms into the car. They decided they had to be done over the top of the axle and into the car. That was a spooky proposition which you probably couldn't do today.
"Maybe the most aggravating problem was the little bezel that sat on top of the dash, which had a tachometer and oil pressure gauge. We tried to do that in a way that didn't damage the cars, and to this day I still don't remember how we solved the problem. Running the oil pressure line into the car was a real nuisance. The bezel itself wasn't very robust. It caused us a lot of grief and really screwed up the production process.
"I left as we were planning the '66s, which were met with a variety of mixed reviews. The departure of the Detroit Locker was universally acclaimed as a great idea because nobody liked it. A lot of people complained about it because it clunked."
Bruce related a story that he can tell now but couldn't tell then: "One time there was a Ford gathering at Riverside Raceway. We were still on Princeton Street We built 20 or so Mustangs so Ford execs could drive them and the dealers could see what was going on. Suddenly, the phone starts ringing because the cars stopped running and there were some fairly nasty accusations. What happened was, in the haste to get the 289 High Performance engines built, there was a run of engines with camshafts that had not been heat-treated to harden the lobes. So that meant it didn't take long for the cams to wear out. The engines would go sour then stop running. There was a lot of angst over that. But it became pretty obvious that it had something to do with the manufacturing of the engine at Ford."
Bruce has great memories from his time at Shelby American. "If you liked working 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you loved the place. My wife has never quite forgotten about it. I ended up getting fired. Shelby hired a guy to come in to run the place. He had a reputation as a hatchet man. He found some guys he wanted to hatchet and I was one of them. I went into the electronics business, on the cutting edge of integrated circuits, which was a pretty exotic art form in the '60s. Then I ended up going to work for Dan Gurney for about seven years."