AC Cobra

Articles about the AC Cobra.


The company who produced this classic car of the 1970s began almost 60 years earlier, financed by a butcher. They produced first a touring car and then, as the butcher held the purse strings, a 3 wheeler delivery vehicle. It was called the Auto-Carrier. They then produced a passenger version and called it the A.C. Sociable, a few years later, the company was renamed Auto Carriers Ltd and the AC brand was born. The brand still exists, over a century after the original company was founded, but only as a holding.

AC Cobra: The Complete Story (Crowood AutoClassic)


The AC Cobra is a distinctive two door roadster produced in England during the nineteen sixties. The initial cars were fitted with a straight 6 engine, a common feature for limited produced cars of the era; although by the time the Cobra was produced it was considerably mature in its life. Shortly afterwards the engine was changed to a Chrysler V8. The body of the car was composed of aluminium body panels and steel tubing.

You might think a Cobra is an unattainable dream, and you’d be right. However, a replica that looks just like one and works rather better is not only attainable – it costs about the same as a modern small family car. But there are still pitfalls so it would be a good idea for anyone serious about becoming an owner to get the Cobra Replicas Essential Buyer’s Guide by Iain Ayre.  Iain Ayre has been reviewing, building and designing Cobra replicas for decades: there’s nobody better to have in your pocket when you stop dreaming and start checking out buying or building one for real. This book condenses all you need to know into 64 packed pages covering Cobra types; low, medium and high budgets; buying pitfalls; engine and donor recommendations; and, good and bad points – pretty much everything you need to know to start scaring BMWs with budget V8 thunder.

In the mid 1960s, AC Cobra 427 captured the heart and imagination of the world. It happened because Cobra had been following the recipe for the performance car to be successful.

The recipe was simply squeezing the biggest and most powerful engine into a small frame that could carry out the power. The makers of Cobra also made it come with an elegant design and attractive body with a car roof that can be opened to make your cruise more fun.

The AC caught everybody’s attention in 1953 at London Motor Show. The fact that it was one of post war sport cars in Britain with supporting chassis and attractive body made it much admired by everyone.

Gifts for AC Cobra enthusiasts:

In 1962, Caroll Shelby was impressed by AC’s performance and saw a potential in it, so that he talked AC to fit the Ford V-8 engine into the AC body. Fitting the 260 Cu in 4.4 lt lightweight engine was no problem at all, but the makers found difficulty in doubling up power output.

In the early sixties Carroll Shelby contacted AC hoping they would build a car which was fitted with a V8 engine. After AC agreed, they stated it was conditional on a suitable engine being found to fit in the car, and therefore contacted Chevrolet. Chevrolet did not feel it a worthwhile endeavour as the new car would compete with the Chevrolet Corvette. AC then turned to Ford for the engine, who supplied AC with a new small block V8; suiting both parties as Ford wanted a car in direct competition with Chevrolet.  The car and new engine was sent to Carroll Shelby in L.A. Production of the car proved straight forward as the changes needed were already made due to the previous Zephyr engine used in the Cobra.

Later on, Shelby put a Ford 7-liter engine and revamped the chassis and suspension. The 4.7 version in 1964 is based on the this version. Cobra then won its first championship on the race track in 1965. The AC Cobra did not join international racing, but it was successful in American SCCA events. Shelby had found the very car that can beat Chevrolet Corvette.

The AC Cobra was produced for six years, between nineteen sixty one and nineteen sixty seven. Although the car remains iconic and distinctive, the car was not successful financially which lead to the cease of exporting to Ford and Shelby.

Classic Cars For Sale has Cobras for sale.

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It has been said as a rumor that Cobra was the reason of national speed limit regulation in UK. It was known that in 1964, Jack Sears and Peter Bolton reached 185 mph while testing Cobra on the M1 motorway in anticipation of 24th Le Mans race. However, the officials from UK denied this rumor, claiming that the main reason they created the regulation to limit the speed in highway is because of increasing death rate.Cobra was pretty much THE perfect sport car. It was fast with an immortal elegance despite its lacking in comfort features. In the minds of many people, these features made Cobra the best car ever.

Laquanda Martin is an avid fan of and routinely writes reviews on hot rods and classic cars.

You can see more of her articles here.

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The AC Cobra from a Canadian perspective …

English Roots

The United States has had a long history of importing things and ideas from other countries and making them uniquely our own. Thus the Magna Carta became the Bill of Rights, African and Irish rhythms merged to become Rock-n- Roll, and beer became something called Budweiser.

The Shelby Cobra is another example of Americanizing an item

The Old World origins of the Cobra came from Surrey, England, in the form of a sports car. The car was manufactured by AC Cars of Thames Ditton and it was called the Ace. The Ace was a lightweight, open topped sports car that was beautifully styled for speed. Its aggressive front opening merged down the chassis with classic, flowing lines that suggested speed even when the car was standing still. The Ace had a very effective 6-cylinder Bristol engine under its bonnet, which resulted in a respectable performance on the British racing circuit. The little car even took tenth overall at Le Mans in 1957.

In 1961, AC Cars found themselves in a spot. The Bristol engine company discontinued production of the 6 cylinder engine, and AC was getting ready to settle for a slightly inferior Ford Zephyr 6 cylinder engine. Then the cowboy appeared. Technically, he wasn’t a cowboy; he was a Texan and a chicken-farmer-turned-racecar-driver-turned-auto-engineer. To your average Briton, though, that large black Stetson signaled “cowboy”, and his unorthodox proposal reinforced that perception.

Carroll Shelby knew about the Ace, and he took a liking to the stylish little car. He also thought the Ace could use a V8 engine in it. When Shelby proposed the idea to Charles Hurlock, owner of AC, he had no idea where he would get a V8 that would fit inside the engine compartment. He was sure one would show up, though, so he made the proposal. There is no record of Hurlock’s reaction, but once his good breeding had reasserted itself, he wrote back to Shelby saying he was open to the idea, if a suitable engine could be found.

New World Branches

Another European import that Americans had received and then Americanized was the internal combustion engine. Ford Motor Company had been tinkering around with engines for about sixty years when Bristol Engines decided to discontinue their old 6-cylinder. One of the latest tinkering projects had been figuring out how to make a V8 engine smaller and lighter without melting or sacrificing power. They finally figured out how to do it about the time that Shelby figured out he needed one.

It didn’t take Shelby very long to find out about Ford’s new thin wall 8 cylinder engine, and it took even less time for him to convince Hurlock that this was The One. In February, 1962, Shelby received shipment of an Ace chassis, minus the engine and drive train. The small block engine was already patiently waiting at the Los Angeles production facility. Less than eight hours after receiving the Ace, Shelby and his team installed the new engine and connected a Borg-Warner four-speed transmission. A few nights earlier, a name had come to Shelby in the middle of the night. The name was “Cobra”, and it seemed a fitting label for the car he was about to create.

Once Americans have improved on an idea, the next step is to show it off. Carroll Shelby and Dean Moon took the new Cobra out for a drive, hoping to bait some Corvettes into a street race. No Corvettes were found, so the little Cobra crept quietly back into its den.

The next month, Shelby-American began tooling up for mass production of the Cobra, and Shelby invited Ray Geddes from Ford to help him manage the business. While Geddes was helping Shelby on the business end, he was also following instructions from Ford to stay in the background. Any business that had an obvious hand in producing a bullet with bumpers was asking for liability issues. The lawyers at Ford were busy enough at the moment, thank you.

The prototype Cobra was called the CSX 200, and showed up at the New York Auto Show painted pearlescent yellow. The response from car dealers was to order some models immediately and then put cash in the bank. Shelby invited sports car magazines to test drive the Cobra, and superlative-splashed articles began showing up nationwide.

There is such a thing as being too popular. Auto dealers wanted the Cobra, car magazines wanted the Cobra, and race car drivers really wanted the Cobra. The problem was, Shelby had only one Cobra. That’s right. One.

AC Cars had to do some serious refitting on the Ace chassis before it could accept the engine. This situation slowed down the shipment schedules of the chassis to Los Angeles, which created a delay in production start-up for Shelby. The cowboy was also a successful marketer, and he knew that it would be hard to sell cars if folks knew that he didn’t have cars to sell. His solution was simple: he repainted the prototype Cobra after each test drive. This gave the magazine readers, dealers, and potential customers the impression that there were already many Cobras on the road, just none in their town yet.

AC finally was able to step up the delivery of the chassis, but It took until June of 1963 for Shelby-American to produce 100 Cobras. This number was important because the Federation Internationale d’Automobile (FIA) required that 100 cars be produced in a twelve month period before that car could compete in international races.

International Crown

In October, 1962, Bill Krause drove the Cobra in its first race. Krause’s poor start, coupled with some problems with the rear hubs, prevented the Cobra from finishing the race. During its short time on the track, though, the little Cobra showed that being one ton lighter than, and just as powerful as, the big Corvettes was a good thing. Phil Remington spent the winter working on stronger rear hubs and by January of 1963 the Cobra was ready to race again.

The race in Riverside, California went a bit better than the previous one. Two Cobras ran in this race, and they placed first and second. Ken Miles drove the second-place cobra that day, and he exhibited some gracious sportsmanship by taking an extra pit stop for a drink of water. The water must have done the trick, because Miles came back into the race and lapped the Corvettes a second time.

That next month, the Cobra went to Daytona and placed ahead of the Corvettes, again. It was not recorded whether Miles brought any Riverside water with him. A Ferrari GTO actually won the race, though. Now that the Cobra had established itself against other American race cars, Shelby now decided that it needed to go international.

In June of that year, the Cobra had passed the 100-in-production threshold and Shelby needed funding to send the Cobra to Le Mans. Ford, oddly enough, didn’t want to get involved (the lawyers were still apparently busy). Shelby arranged a deal with Ed Hugus, builder of the CSX 2000, and AC Cars, who was still making the Cobra chassis. AC and Hugus built one Cobra each. The top Cobra finished 7th, and two Ferrari GTOs placed ahead of the top Cobra. The Cobras made a good showing, but clearly there was more work to be done.

Shelby’s team in Los Angeles got busy trying to re-improve the improved car. The already-produced Cobras stayed busy, however, and had a fairly good year. The first American to win an FIA race in an American car was Dan Gurney, driving a Cobra in the Bridgehampton 500KM. The Cobra also won the US Road Racing Championship in 1963. These little victories were useful for keeping morale up, and the press positive, while Shelby-American planned how they would dominate the international racing circuit properly.

In order to make a fast car even faster, an engineer has one of three options: more horsepower, less friction, or a combination of both. Shelby explored the first two options with two different cars.

1964 was a busy year for Shelby-American. Working under the assumption that a car with a roof is more aerodynamic than an open topped car with a driver sticking out of it, Shelby produced the first Daytona Coupé. The Coupé was completed in February of that year. Working under another theory that more speed is always a good thing, Shelby took a special leaf-spring Cobra chassis and stuffed it full of a 427 cubic inch big block Ford engine.

Shelby unleashed the big block Cobra at Sebring that year and finally beat the Ferrari GTO in that race. The Daytona Coupé was saved for the 1964 Le Mans, and it placed first.

Automotive Superpower

For the rest of that decade, the Cobra enjoyed a reputation as a winning race car. More significantly, the cobra became a cultural icon. The Shelby Cobra developed a fan base beyond race car fans, and even beyond the muscle car culture of its day.

Shelby-American stopped producing the Cobra in 1967. A good measure of the car’s popularity is the fact that it took no time at all for replica Cobras to begin showing up. The replicas continued racing, too, albeit in car club races instead of Le Mans. Among the replica owners, the beefed up 1964 version of the Cobra is by far more popular than the original spoke-wheeled Ace that caught Shelby’s eye.

Appropriately, since 2003, the finest Cobra “replica” available is made by Shelby Automobiles of Las Vegas, Nevada. While a car made by its original designer might not technically be a replica, certain features place a wide gulf between today’s Shelby Cobras and their ancestors.

The body of the new Cobra is available in fiberglass, carbon fiber, or aluminum. The frame is much stronger than the original and the cooling and heat shielding technology is mercifully top of the line 2008. There’s no possible way to improve perfection, however, so Shelby’s replica Cobras look exactly the same as the originals, even to an expert. Shelby offers both the earlier, 289 spoke wheeled Cobra and the ’64 big block version for fans of either elegance or overindulgence.

Most sports car lovers agree that cars should move quickly and shine brightly. Cobra drivers are slightly different because they think that velocity takes precedence over the paint job. After all, if your Cobra is being driven correctly, no one will be able to tell what that gust of wind looked like; only that it sucked the doors off of their Neon without even stopping to chat. The glorious thing about owning a Cobra, though, is knowing that even standing still, the Cobra is still the best looking car in town.

James Martell is a long-time admirer of Carroll Shelby and his designs. He owns a Shelby Cobra replica and has visited the Las Vegas Shelby American factory many times. James is the publisher of, a website devoted to Shelby Cobra kit cars.

James lives with his beautiful, patient and understanding wife Arlene, and their four children, Adam, Justin, Shelby and Victoria. Arlene graciously allowed James to name their third child Shelby, after the man, not the car. James is lucky enough to live in a beautiful suburb of Victoria, British Columbia, on Canada’s west coast. James spends his spare time driving his Cobra, attending car shows and going on cruises as well as developing his website.

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A Brand New AC Cobra …


One of the most frequently replicated cars is the AC Cobra. The original AC Cobras was powerful and stylish Anglo-American sports car

Kit Cars are cars that can be purchased in kit form and assembled at home. It is common for Kit Car enthusiasts to obtain their material from several “donor cars”. There are a lot of Kit Car enthusiasts out there and people enter the Kit Car hobby for different reasons. Working with your hands and assembling something from the beginning can be extremely relaxing and riding in a car that you have built yourself is an indescribable experience. Kit Cars are however not for everyone, and if you know that you become frustrated by having to change your wind shield wipers a Kit Car might not be a wise idea.

Assembling a Kit Car can be a way of getting a cheaper car, but you should keep in mind that you will need a place to work in as well as the necessary tools. A lot of Kit Cars are assembled not primarily because they are cheaper than ordinary cars, but because a Kit Car can be made to suit your own particular needs and fill niches where it is hard to find ordinary cars. One of the most well known Kit Cars is for instance the Dune Buggy. The Dune Buggy is also known as Beach Buggy and Sand Rail. This Kit Car is not intended for high ways; it is a recreational vehicle that can be used on beaches and sand dunes where ordinary cars experience problems. The Dune Buggy is small and low-weight and has much larger wheels and tires than a normal car. The engine is mounted on an open chassis that is perfect for hot summer days at the beach. The Dune Buggy is usually constructed from older Volkswagen Beetles.

Kit Cars are also popular due to the possibility to create a car that resembles historic or contemporary cars. One of the most frequently replicated cars is the AC Cobra. The original AC Cobras was powerful and stylish Anglo-American sports car that was creating during the 1960s. In 1968, the last Roadster platform was produced which put an end to the AC Cobra since the AC Cobra was built on this platform. The public had however taken a liking to the potent and beautiful AC Cobra and Kit Car enthusiast started to build their own AC Cobras. Today, there exist more Kit Car AC Cobra cars than original AC Cobra cars. Some of these Kit Cars are exact replicas while others are only inspired by the original AC Cobra. Some replicas can even be said to be improved versions of the original AC Cobra, since the Kit Car builders can utilise the inventions and automobile engineering advances.

The Kit car enables you to have the car of your dreams.

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