How The Shelby Cobra Roared Into History
When America Took Traditional British Sports Cars To The Next Level
The Shelby Cobra is perhaps one of the most iconic racing cars in automotive history. Motoring enthusiasts around the world love it for being one of the quickest, most powerful and nimble cars to drive, and for its stunning styling. The Shelby Cobra is also considered to be a pioneer in the industry — without it, the automotive landscape and sports cars as we know them would be quite different. There’s also that spine-tingling, goosebump-inducing Shelby Cobra sound which has given petrol heads thrills and chills since the 1960s. Let’s take a look at how it all started.
From Motor-Racing And Chicken Farming, To Creating a Legend
Even before he became a professional racing car driver and won the Le Mans, Carroll Shelby had a dream of building sports cars. It seemed like an impossible dream, especially after a health condition he suffered from got worse and he was forced to stop racing. Shelby’s other business ventures, including the respectable business of owning a chicken farm, simply did not suit him. They did not inspire much joy or passion in a man whose heart was ultimately in sports cars.
In 1961, Shelby heard that British car maker AC ran into some trouble with the company that supplied the engines for their nifty little AC Ace sports car. Bristol, the company that had been supplying Ace with six-cylinder engines, decided to discontinue production of the motor and instead focus on Chrysler V8s. Shelby had always admired the intelligent design and handling of the Ace, but like most other British sports cars, it did not have a rip-roaring American V8 engine, which was what he considered a ‘real’ engine. Shelby approached AC with an innovative solution to their problem of finding suitable engines for the Ace, so that they could continue its production. His idea was to combine the sharp British design of the Ace with the brute strength only an American engine can provide.
Although this was a radical idea, AC agreed to the proposal which involved building modified Aces that would accommodate American engines, and two countries working together to manufacture an innovative new sports car.
What Happens When You Add American Muscle To British Brains
The plan was that the cars would be manufactured in England and shipped to America where the engines would be installed. Although the logistics of building a new kind of car in two different countries would be tricky, it wasn’t exactly rocket science. Shelby started shopping around for the perfect engine. He first approached Chevrolet but was turned down because they were afraid that his ground-breaking concept would throw too much competition at the favorite of the time: the Corvette. Ford, however, welcomed Shelby’s proposal with open arms — they were keen to turn the heat up on the Corvette which was doing better than what Ford was comfortable with at the time. It was decided that the new engine in the AC Ace would be a 3.6 liter small-block V8. Combining the cleverly designed lightweight body of the Ace with this brute of an engine turned out to be revolutionary.
The newly created and named Shelby Cobra in America and AC Cobra in England, made its debut in 1962 and soon began outperforming its rivals on race tracks around the world. The media loved the car and its unprecedented acceleration and soon elevated it to the status of racing royalty. Over 50 years later, the Shelby Cobra is still a firm favorite.
Fantastic History Aside, What’s All The Commotion About?
What is so special about the Shelby Cobra? Is it how valuable it is, how well it was designed or how nippy it is? Some believe that the first AC Cobra ever built is the most expensive car on earth. For several years it resided in Las Vegas at the Shelby Museum where petrolheads across the globe speculated its worth at around US$25 million. This price was overestimated, as was proven in 2016 when it sold for US$12.5 million. But despite this, it was still the most expensive American car ever sold at an auction. Considering that this is the price of a brand spanking new Bugatti La Voiture Noire, the Shelby Cobra is certainly a highly prized vehicle!
Besides the mind-boggling value of even an old Shelby, this compact cruising machine has consistently held up its reputation as one of the most a weight-to-power efficient cars the world has seen. With a curb weight of just over 1,000 kg’s and a ridiculously powerful engine firing it to 100 km/h in five seconds flat, the Shelby Cobra was solid, sleek and explosive from the very beginning. It remains one of the most desirable sports cars for every enthusiast and an absolute dream to drive. It is also simply gorgeous. What more could you want?