The AC Cobra was born in 1961 when Carroll Shelby , a car designer in LA, contacted AC in Britain inquiring could you build me a sports car.
Shelby would arrange for and add a V8 engine and gearbox in his own workshop, AC would supply the car otherwise complete and painted. This was the agreement.
Often called the Shelby Cobra see more on its history and racing in video #2 at the base of this page.
Shelby’s original idea was to use a Chevy engine but as Chev refused to supply Ford were approached, and agreed to supply 2 of their new 260 cub in hi-performance engines for testing.
Using a temporary Ford UK engine the first car was tested in Britain during January 1962, then shipped minus engine and gearbox to Shelby in February who quickly fitted the US Ford engine and gearbox and began road testing.
Thankyou to The FastLaneCars for this video, and Wikipedia for history details.
The AC Cobra had Independent suspension front and rear, the rear being a Salisbury diff unit similar to that fitted to Jaguars, except the disc brakes were moved from inboard to outboard.The front suspension was a transverse leaf spring set-up.
Shelby badly wanted the AC Cobra to be a racetrack winner against the Corvette, as did Ford which is probably the main reason why Ford agreed to supply engines as Ford didn’t have a true sportscar like the Corvette was at that time.
The AC Cobra was fast, very fast for its time. clocked doing 186mph on the M1 it helped cause a bit of an uproar in the British Parliament and resulted in a speed limit of 70mph being imposed on the motorway. No doubt this resulted in free publicity for Shelby and his Cobra.
With a sales run from 1962 to 1967, the Cobra Mk1 was sold in years 62 -63, 126 were built.
Mk11 63-65 with around 528 being built.
Last was the Mk111 65 – 67. Sales figures for the Mk111 are obscure – possibly 29 convertibles and 51 coupes.
There was also the Shelby Daytona Coupe made in conjunction with Peter Brock. Only 6 were made as Shelby began working on developing the Ford GT40 – Ford were out to beat Ferrari on the race track after the Ferrari deal to sell to Ford failed.
The Shelby name was later attached to several high performance Ford cars.
Carroll Shelby had an interesting life, born 1923, he died in May 2012 aged 89.
It is amazing he lived that long as he was born with a serious heart problem that kept him bed ridden up to the age of 14. He had a heart transplant in 1990 which gave him a whole new lease on life, and a kidney transplant in 1996.
Over the years he made a name for himself motor racing, and also named with mens deodorant, chili spices, speedboats, alloy wheels for Saab, Rucker Motorcycles, a performance driving school, and best of all the Carroll Shelby Childrens Foundation. He set this up to cover the medical bills of children with serious heart disease but unable to pay the cost.
Shelby was involved in several lawsuits most against companies making copies of the Cobra and selling as a kit car, plus other cases relating to the Cobra, both for and against Shelby and his companies.
Click on the 2 or NEXT to watch the interview with Shelby, plus see a lot of historical race clips as well as Carroll Shelby history.