AC Cobra were originally built by AC Cars in Surrey, England, in the 1960’s. A team of US modified Daytona Cobras, sheathed in aerodynamic coupe bodies, defeated the Ferrari team for the 1965 World Sportscar Championship, a 20-race series held at various venues in the United States and Europe.
At Pebble Beach, Where Rare is Common a Shelby Cobra stands out
By ROBERT C. YEAGER JULY 28, 2016. International New York Times.
Extracts courtesy and with thanks
Lynn Park, a Los Angeles area Cobra specialist, in his garage with the car owned by Evan Metropoulos. Mr. Park prepared the car for the Pebble Beach concours. Photo Credit Jake Michaels for The New York Times
HE had hired five vintage auto inspectors to pore over every inch of the gleaming red roadster. But Evan Metropoulos, a collector, had never actually laid eyes on the car until this moment. Now, as the garage door swung open in Beverly Hills, Calif., he held his breath.
“I couldn’t believe it was real,” Mr. Metropoulos recalls of that day in 2009 when he first saw the Shelby Cobra he had bought from its third owner for $1.3 million.
“There was a slight patina to the paint, but over all the car was just so much nicer than I expected,’’ he said. “It was like a time machine.”
Indeed, except for long-ago viewings at some Ford dealers, and brief glimpses on the road when it was new, the car has remained mostly unseen since it was first bought in Laurinburg, N.C., in 1968. The Cobra, a 427 model, will make a rare appearance when it joins a “postwar preservation” class next month at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, in Carmel, Calif.
“With less than 3,000 miles on the clock, and in this condition, I’m not aware of any Cobra that’s more original than CSX3346,” said Ned Scudder, official Shelby American Automobile Club registrar, referring to the car’s chassis number. “It’s really quite extraordinary.”
Conceived by Carroll Hall Shelby, a former Texas chicken farmer who became a prominent international race driver of the 1950s, Cobras were based on the British-built AC Ace Roadster. While retaining that car’s widely admired overall design, Mr. Shelby modified the vehicle to accept Ford Motor’s new V8 engines, which offered greater reliability and a significant step-up in power from AC’s straight sixes.
With an aluminum body and Ford’s thin-walled engine, the car had higher horsepower-to-weight ratios than rivals from Ferrari, Aston Martin and the Chevrolet Corvette. Contemporary automotive journals reported Cobra’s 0-to-60 test times at just over four seconds — “figures still at the sharp end of very quick 50 years later,” Brian Laban wrote in “Shelby and AC Cobra.” “In 1962, for a road car, they must have been almost unbelievable.”
The Cobras were built by AC Cars in Surrey, England, then shipped to Mr. Shelby’s shop in Southern California for final assembly.
Besides victorious campaigns on racing circuits in the United States, a team of Daytona Cobras, sheathed in aerodynamic coupe bodies, defeated the Ferrari team for the 1965 World Sportscar Championship, a 20-race series held at various venues in the United States and Europe.
Mr. Metropoulos says his car, assembled in 1967, was among the last 50 of the fewer than 1,000 Cobras produced in the 1960s. Production stopped in 1968, but the Cobra went on to become one of the most replicated cars, with copies of varying quality made by numerous manufacturers. Until his death in 2012, Mr. Shelby periodically issued “continuation” and commemorative Cobras.
But it was Mr. Shelby’s Cobra that may well have had a greater influence on mass-market automaking and design. “It really became a prototype for the muscle cars of that period,” Mr. Scudder said. “Think of it: small car, big engine — what an American idea!”