Shelby Cobra 289
The history of Anglo-American hybrid sports cars can be traced back to the original Ford V-8 of 1932, which provided bulletproof engines to power elegant two-seaters.
But Carroll Shelby’s 1962 Cobra roadster represents the pinnacle of the concept. It was a matter of perfect timing. Shelby, at 37, was winding up a very successful racing career, which had peaked in 1959, when he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans race for Aston Martin. Shelby became the Goodyear Racing tire distributor for the Western US in 1961 and started his own racing school at Riverside Raceway in California. All he needed was a car bearing his name.
Shelby considered putting a V-8 engine into the Austin-Healey 3000, but Donald Healey was doing fine with his BMC factory deal and was not interested. However, AC Cars of Thames Ditton in Surrey was more amenable. The company’s John Tojeiro-designed Ace roadster had been a force to reckon with in British sports car racing for six years, but the hottest motor, a prewar BMW two-liter, six-cylinder, was ceasing production.
Bristol Cars had been making the engine under license, but their “Gentleman’s Express” coupes had been getting bigger and bigger, and the engine had been stretched to its limit. Bristol decided to do away with the old six-cylinder and use a 331-cubic inch Chrysler V-8, which meant that AC needed a new motor. The Hurlock brothers, who owned AC, had been working with tuner Ken Rudd, who was generating as much as 170 horsepower from the 2.6-liter English Ford Zephyr OHV six-cylinder. But the higher horsepower showed up the weakness of the engine’s bottom end, leading to “light bulb” motors, which burned brightly but not for long.
This car was auctioned off by RM Auctions in August of 2011 at the Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center, Monterey, California.
289 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine, four-barrel carburetor, four-speed transmission, ladder-type steel tubing chassis with independent front and rear suspension with A-arms, transverse leaf springs and tube shock absorbers, rack and pinion steering and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90"
Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Glenn Zanotti