In 1962 Carroll Hall Shelby made the decision to retire early from a career as a top Formula One and sports racing car driver. His greatest success in terms of International fame came as a co-driver in winning at Le Mans in 1959 in an Aston Martin. Shortly after it was discovered that Shelby had a heart condition that made any future driving a hazard and so he hung up his famous striped racing overalls and retired as a race driver.
Wanting to stay in the sports car racing business Shelby approached AC Cars of Thames Ditton in Surrey England with a view to extending the life of the AC Ace which was first produced in 1954. At the same time he also approached Ford of America and got them to agree to supply a 4.2 litre V8 engine for his ‘Cobra’ project.
The British company agreed to his proposal to ship left hand drive cars without engines to his small factory in California and so the worlds most expensive and desirable sports car, the AC Shelby Cobra was born in the Autumn of 1962.
After the first 75 Cobras had been completed, the original 4.2 engine was replaced with a much more powerful 4.7 litre 289cid V8 Ford engine.
Known as the Mark II Cobra the performance for it’s day was outstanding, delivering 300 bhp at 5300 rpm and caapable of 0 to 60 in just 5.5 seconds and a top speed of 138 mph! In all Shelby produced 560 289 type Cobras between 1962 and 1969.
The car however suffered the limitations of the original 1954 AC chassis and suspension, so in 1965 Shelby designed with the help of Ford a new Mark III Cobra or 427 as it is also known. The Mark III has a wider chassis, all round wishbones and coil spring suspension. A 427cid 6.9 litre V8 Ford engine delivered 390 bhp at 5200 rpm and the result was an incredible 165 mph! Unfortunately the car only did 12 mpg, but capable of 0 to 60 in just 4.8 seconds, who cares!
Shelby produced 510 427s between 1965 and 1968. The price of the car on the road was a very respectable £2951.
Right hand drive Shelby Cobras were available in Britain from 1964 onwards, however because AC did not own the rights to the Cobra name they were marketed as the 289 and 427.
Make your own mind, but the market says that the Shelby AC Cobra is the World’s most desirable sports car, and Motoring Blog 100% agrees!