An unlikely alliance between AC Cars, a traditional British car-maker, and Carroll Shelby, a charismatic Texas racer, produced the legendary AC Cobra. AC’s sports car, the Ace was turned into the Cobra by shoehorning in a series of American Ford V8s, starting with 4.2 and 4.7 Mustang engines.
In 1965 Shelby, always a man to take things to the limit, squeezed in a thunderous 7-liter Ford engine, in an attempt to realize his dream of winning Le Mans. Although the 427 was not fast enough to win and failed to sell in any quantity, it was soon known as one of the most aggressive and romantic cars ever built. GTM 777F at one time held the record as the world’s fastest accelerating production car and in 1967 was driven by the British journalist John Bolster to record such Olympian figures as an all-out maximum of 165 mph (265 km/h) and a 0–60 (96 km/h) time of an unbelievable 4.2 seconds.
The Cobra’s body was constructed from hand-rolled aluminum wrapped around a tubular steel frame, which proved very light yet extremely strong.
Bumpers were token chromed tubes, with the emphasis on saving weight.
Racing Cobras usually had side exhausts, which increased power and noise.
The 427 looked fast standing still. Gone was the lithe beauty of the original Ace, replaced by bulbous front and rear arches, fat 7½-in (19-cm) wheels, and rubber wide enough to climb walls.
Initially pin-drive Halibrand magnesium alloy, but changed for Starburst wheels (designed by Shelby employee Pete Brock) when supplies dried up.
Small Plexiglas sidescreens helped cut down wind noise.
Side vents helped reduce brake and engine temperatures.
Competition and semicompetition versions with fine-tuned engines could exceed 500 bhp.
The mighty 7-liter 427 block had years of NASCAR (National Association of Stock Car Automobile Racing) racing success and easily punched out power for hours. The street version output ranged from 300 to 425 bhp.
Radiator header tank kept things cool, helped by twin electric fans.
Under the massive air filter are two large fourbarrel carburetors.
The chassis was virtually all new and three times stronger than the earlier Cobra 289’s, with computer designed anti-dive and anti-squat characteristics. Amazingly, the 289’s original Salisbury differential proved more than capable of handling the 427’s massive wall of torque.
The windshield frame was handmade and polished.
Cobra tires were always Goodyear since Shelby was a long-time dealer.
Early Cobras had 260cid engines. Later cars were fitted with Mustang 289 V8s.
The interior was basic, with traditional 1960s British sports car features of black-on-white gauges, small bucket seats, and wood rim steering wheel.
Even the “baby” 4.7 Cobras were good for 138 mph (222 km/h) and could squeal up to 60 mph (96 km/h) in under six seconds.
S P E C I F I C A T I O N S
MODEL AC Cobra 427 (1965–68)
BODY STYLE Light alloy, two-door, twoseater, open sports.
CONSTRUCTION Separate tubular steel chassis with aluminum panels.
ENGINE V8, 6989cc.
POWER OUTPUT 425 bhp at 6000 rpm.
TRANSMISSION Four-speed allsynchromesh.
SUSPENSION All-around independent with coil springs.
BRAKES Four-wheel disc.
MAXIMUM SPEED 165 mph (265 km/h)
0–60 MPH (0–96 KM/H) 4.2 sec
0–100 MPH (0–161 KM/H) 10.3 sec
A.F.C. 15 mpg (5.3 km/l)