Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Specialty Vehicle Activity Program
Kar-Kraft: Its name describes what it did, crafted automobiles. However, unlike Creative Industries which conceived and built a myriad of vehicles for a myriad of clients, Kar-Kraft was dedicated to conceiving and creating very specific types of cars for one single client. The subtitle of this book specifies those types of vehicles and the client: Race Cars, Prototypes and Muscle Cars of Ford’s Specialty Vehicle Activity Program.
Author Charlie Henry was employed at Kar-Kraft during his college years. While his active time with Kar-Kraft measured months rather than years, as he wrote, “it left a serious imprint on a car-crazy kid,” not to mention many contacts with whom he kept in touch over the years. Four of those were engineers at Kar-Kraft and each—Mitch Marchi, Jim Mason, Lee Dykstra, and Don Eichstaedt—had retained boxes of files, pictures and memorabilia. Plus there were all those memories and stories stored in their respective craniums. Gifts for certain, as any researcher/writer will confirm with alacrity.
In his two-volume Ford: The Dust and the Glory author Leo Levine provides only a few words regarding the origins of the Kar-Kraft/Ford relationship: “Kar-Kraft, the small shop in Dearborn that had been taken over by the (Ford) special vehicles department. . .”. Henry helps us understand that events in the mid-1960s behind those simple words were more convoluted and international in scope.
Later in the book, Henry provides an entire chapter, with supporting documentary evidence, on the dissolution of the Kar-Kraft/Ford relationship which occurred half a decade later and which Levine alluded to with these words in The Dust and the Glory: “Also contributing to the decision was the discovery of certain abuses of company policy, perhaps inevitable any time a large corporation gets involved in something as fast-moving as racing, with field decisions needed practically every day and oversight something that came much later, if at all.”
The story of that half decade fills the generously illustrated pages of the chapters in between. During that half decade when the words Kar-Kraft and Ford were synonyms, oh! the cars that were created. Henry relates the story of each from the germination of the idea, to the development with its subsequent ups and downs, along with the who’s who of the drivers of each. That list includes the Mk II and IV, X-1 and J—all of which took the checkered at Le Mans: the G7A Can-Am cars, the Mach II, the Boss 302 and 429 Mustangs, as well as the Trans-Am Mustangs, the King Cobra, Mickey Thompson’s LSR car, and more. Perhaps best of all, in the concluding chapters he has traced and found those vehicles that are extant today.
The AACA has awarded the book its 2018 Thomas McKean Memorial Cup. The cup honors a worthwhile effort in automotive historical research on the basis of accuracy, interest to club members, and the use to which the research is put. Additionally the book’s popularity (read sales) has resulted in its publisher Car Tech stepping up to a second print run.
Copyright 2018, Helen V Hutchings (speedreaders.info).
This review appears courtesy of the SAH in whose March/April 2018 Journal #291 it was first printed.