Their reliance on the BMW 2.0L engine, a powertrain facing obsolescence, threatened their existence. However, Shelby saw their glimmering triumph at the 1957 Le Mans and subsequent victories until 1959, courtesy of the AC Ace that harnessed the potent BMW motor. Recognizing their potential, he orchestrated a collaboration with Ford Motor Company, marking the birth of the legendary AC Shelby Cobra.
AC Cars would fabricate the chassis in England, shipping it across the Atlantic to Ford, who skillfully installed a V8 powerhouse within. Beginning in 1963, approximately 1000 Cobra examples embarked on a transoceanic journey to grace the roads of the United States. However, this fruitful partnership with Shelby met its conclusion by 1968. Nevertheless, AC Cars persisted, continuing to manufacture the Cobra to this day. And now, in an exciting turn of events, they have announced the impending release of the modernized 2023 AC Cobra GT Roadster, a stunning testament to their enduring legacy.
Delighted to be part of this audacious venture, Ford sought a vehicle capable of challenging the Corvette's indomitable reign. In partnership with Ford Motor Company, Carroll Shelby had their aspirations granted, resulting in increased sales and triumphant victories on the racetrack. Notably, they triumphed over Ferrari at the World Manufacturers' GT Championship on the iconic date of July 4, 1965 – a glorious feat that solidified their place in automotive history.
Yearning to seize victory's embrace and challenge the mighty Corvette Grand Sport, boasting a thunderous 377 cubic-inch behemoth, Carroll Shelby and Ken Miles embarked on a mission of metamorphosis. They honed their craft, enhancing the Cobra's fortitude to withstand the unleashed might of Ford's big-block 427 cubic-inch V8, roaring with an astonishing 510 horsepower. And thus, the MK3 Shelby 427 Cobra was born, an epitome of untamed power.
An evolved form emerged, with a 5-inch wider frame and a 4-inch tube chassis laying the bedrock of its metamorphosis. Embracing the winds of change, coil springs replaced the original transverse leaf spring design, bestowing the upgraded Shelby Cobra with enhanced handling prowess. Yet, the transformation transcended the mechanical realm, extending its grasp to the Cobra's very skin. Exquisite body modifications took shape, not merely a consequence of the redesigned chassis but a testament to its newfound dominance. The front grille expanded, becoming a gateway for heightened airflow, bestowing this colossal engine with cool, dense sustenance. Only the hood, trunk, and windshield remained intertwined with their predecessors, the sole remnants of a shared heritage.
A tapestry of checkered history interwoven with limited production numbers gives birth to an exquisite rarity, an automobile of unparalleled allure. A mere 75 units of the AC Cobra materialized between the years 1962 and 1963, a testament to their exclusivity. The MK2 Shelby 289 Cobra followed suit, gracing the world with 580 resplendent specimens from 1963 to 1965. And then, in a grand finale, Shelby American crafted 348 masterpieces of the resounding Shelby 427 Cobra. Around 100 received a more modest 428 cubic-inch V8, a nod to affordability with 355 horsepower.
The Shelby Cobra, now an icon steeped in automotive lore, commands astronomical figures at auction, defying the bounds of monetary reason. When an original AC Cobra emerges in the realm of sales, brace yourself for a fervent bidding war that may drain the depths of your financial reservoirs. The highest reported sale price of a Cobra stands at a staggering $13.8 million, a record attributed to none other than the first Cobra ever made. Until this day, it is the most expensive American car ever sold.
Collectors find themselves captivated by the allure of these original 1960s Cobras. However, if your heart yearns to traverse the open roads in iconic style without surrendering your fortune, fear not, for many kit cars stand ready to fulfill your desires. The Shelby Cobra's astounding popularity birthed a wave of replicas in the 1970s, an enduring trend that persists to this day. Yet, exercise caution, lest you squander your life savings on an imitation that masquerades as the real gem.
Though previous imitations failed to capture the essence of the championship-winning, top-less sports car, today, at least one worthy contender emerges from the shadows. Kit car manufacturer Factory Five Racing offers a resplendent replica Cobra, boasting an impeccable visage that rivals the original. Embarking on the journey of building this car from scratch grants you the privilege of tailoring it to your unique tastes, indulging in a myriad of custom options, from the captivating hues that adorn its exterior to the personalized touches that grace its interior.