It has dominated the racing world from road courses to drag strips. The Shelby Cobra is the epitome of the American sports car. While the Americans are known for straight line acceleration but with a much compromised handling abilities on corners, the Shelby Cobras could excel in both aspects. However, as stripes and stars are almost visible on these cars today, the Shelby started as a European sports car – the AC.
Originally powered by a 2.0 L inline 6 when it first came out in 1953, the AC Ace numbers were not very impressive. With its engine rated at 100bhp, tops at 166kph (103mph) and a 0-60mph in 11.4 seconds, you could barely call the AC as a high performance car.
In 1957, AC entered the famed 24hour of Le Mans with a massaged 2.0L Bristol motor and won its class and seventh overall. Then in 1961, a limited number of AC were equipped with a 2.6L inline 6 Ford Zephyr motor, however, these cars were still underpowered – but at least could grab the corners.
Enter Carroll Shelby, American entrepreneur, automotive designer and racing driver who in 1961 approached AC and asked them to build him a car that could accommodate a V-8 motor. AC agreed with the deal, and Shelby initially went to Chevrolet so they could supply the engine. Chevrolet however does not think it would be a healthy marketing idea, as this deal could potentially create a competition for its own Corvette. Thus Shelby ended up with a Ford deal – who themselves want to give the Chevrolet’s Corvette a run for their money. It was a marriage between the superb handling European sports car chassis, and the brutal power plant from America. The first Shelby Cobra Mark I, code named the CSX2000 was born. AC then started importing complete bodies less the engine and gearbox to Los Angeles, California, where Shelby transplanted the pushrod American motor. Ford supplied Shelby with its new 260ci V8 motor, which were installed in his first 75 units.
A new larger 289ci motors were equipped in the later Cobras, and as dominant as it was in the US racing series, they were not as successful in the FIA GT class. A seesaw of success and failures led to the development of the Cobra with the biggest motor – the 427ci producing 425bhp and topping at 165mph making it the fastest production car in history in 1965. As great as the car was, it was a failure in terms of sales thus its production was discontinued in 1965. The last one that rolled out the “showroom” was serial numbered the CSX3560.
Today, Shelby American have re-continued producing Shelby Cobras retaining its original 60s body with same formula of stuffing in the largest motor in a small sports car, restarting its serial number to CSX4000. Authentic 60s Cobras however cost a fortune, in fact the first prototype (CSX2000) which was owned by the Shelby family, was sold for the first time in Monterey California for $15,000,000. Many Cobras you see on the road however are replicas – but as a rule of thumb, when you talk to its owner, unless it’s obvious, always consider one as authentic, that assuming it’s a replica, when it is in fact it is an actual six-figure (at least) dollar genuine car.
Check out the photos of these Shelby Cobras that I’ve been taking over the years from all over. If you have a Shelby Cobra (authentic or replica) that you want to be featured at Lumang Oto, click the link. Enjoy and happy Lumang Oto motoring