Cobra History

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The AC Cobra, sold as the Ford/Shelby AC Cobra in the United States and often known colloquially as the Shelby Cobra in that country, is an American-engined British sports car produced intermittently since 1962.

Like many British specialist manufacturers, AC Cars had been using the Bristol straight-6 engine in its small-volume production, including its AC Ace two-seater roadster. This had a hand-built body with a steel tube frame, and aluminium body panels that were made using English wheeling machines. The engine was a pre-World War II design of BMW which by the 1960s was considered dated. Bristol decided in 1961 to cease production of its engine and instead to use Chrysler 331 cu in (5.4 L) V8 engines. AC started using the 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr engine in its cars. In September 1961, American automotive designer Carroll Shelby wrote to AC asking if they would build him a car modified to accept a V8 engine. AC agreed, provided a suitable engine could be found. Shelby went to Chevrolet to see if they would provide him with engines, but not wanting to add competition to the Corvette they said no. However, Ford wanted a car that could compete with the Corvette and they happened to have a brand new engine which could be used in this endeavor: Ford’s 260 in³ HiPo (4.2 L) engine – a new lightweight, thin-wall cast small-block V8 tuned for high performance. Ford provided Shelby with two engines. In January 1962 mechanics at AC Cars in Thames Ditton, Surrey fitted the prototype chassis CSX2000 with a 260 ci Ford V8 borrowed from Ford in the UK; the 221 ci was never sent. However, early engineering drawings were titled “AC Ace 3.6”. After testing and modification, the engine and transmission were removed and the chassis was air-freighted to Shelby in Los Angeles on 2 February 1962. His team fitted it with an engine and transmission in less than eight hours at Dean Moon’s shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, and began road-testing.

 

 

AC Cobra History


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