In today’s world of computer-designed engineering schematics and 3D printing, it’s easy to forget that David Kimble’s incredible cutaway illustrations are all done by hand. This 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C was crafted with pencils, paint, paper, a steady hand, and an eye for combining automotive beauty with the mechanical beast that lies beneath.
That’s not to say his portfolio of automotive artwork is exclusively a product of the creative right brain. Sharing space with the pencils and paint in Kimble’s toolbox are rulers, scales, triangles, irregular curves, compass sets, and other tools commonly found in the world of engineering. In addition to art school he attended the Pasadena Academy of Technical Arts, and held various engineering-related positions before taking the full-time plunge into his own illustration business in 1976.
I mention all of this for a simple reason: the Cobra cutaway gracing your screen could not exist without significant contributions from both hemispheres of David Kimble’s brain.
To help bring this to life, I’ll point out some noteworthy areas where artist-meets-engineer in the most fabulous of ways. But I also challenge you to give this particular cutaway more than a passing glance. Most people would marvel simply at the rivets in the hood scoop, or the lifelike reflections in the round headlight lenses, and they would be right to do so. But trust me – taking a deeper look at this Cobra will reveal a whole new level of awesome.
More on that in a moment.
First, I need to spend a bit of time talking about the Cobra, because it’s one of those iconic cars that everybody knows, yet few people bother to explore beyond the surface. It’s understandable given the Cobra’s well-known origin story – a small British sports car from AC, festooned with a thumping big-block American V8 courtesy of one Carroll Shelby. But in 1962 the original MkI Cobra still had the skeleton of the AC Ace, the Cobra’s less-rigid forerunner with a smaller inline six-cylinder engine and transverse leaf spring suspension. Simply adding power with a big American V8 wasn’t enough; the Cobra also needed a stronger chassis with independent coil springs at all four corners to become the icon it is today.
So while the Cobra’s claim to fame is that big V8 engine, it was virtually undrivable without the revised MkIII chassis that debuted for 1965. Dare I say, the right-brained engine swap couldn’t work without the left-brained technical engineering?
That brings me back to this particular Cobra, one of 51 competition cars from 1965 that became S/C (semi-competition) with mufflers and windscreens added so they could be sold through dealers for street use. Earlier I alluded to Kimble’s attention-to-detail in this cutaway, it wasn’t until I closely followed his lines on the MkIII frame and suspension that I truly appreciated what I was looking at. Draw your attention to these four areas to see what I’m talking about.
Weld marks at most joints
I first noticed the weld marks on the shock mount for the driver’s-side front suspension. Then I saw marks on the upper arm. Traveling up and left to the radiator, there are weld marks where the braces intersect. In fact, there are weld marks on every visible joint where you would expect to see welded components.
Wiring harness behind the dash
Tracing around the various beams and supports, I came upon what at first I thought was a mechanical linkage. Following this from roughly the center firewall to the left, it splits into colorful wires just above the backside of the speedometer. I’d been tracking a wrapped wiring harness, which obviously appeared quite clearly in the engine bay. But behind the dash? Yup, behind the dash.
Fusible link in electric fan power wire
I’m by no means an electrical expert so I suppose I can’t be certain this is a fusible link. These in-line fuses are often found on aftermarket stereo setups, and considering the aftermarket nature of the Cobra, it certainly makes sense to install a fuse to keep the electric cooling fans from pulling too much power. You’ll see it midway across the red wire between the fans, but even if it’s not a fuse, Kimble could’ve stuck with a solid red wire and nobody would’ve been the wiser.
Four visible cogs in the transmission
You’ll find exposed gearboxes in many Kimble cutaways, but this one strikes me differently because he clearly wanted to highlight the Cobra’s Toploader four-speed transmission, which entered service in 1964. Not only are all the gears visible, but the linkages and levers used to swap ratios are neatly positioned around the trademark 427 badge.
Gears are fabulous devices, simple in concept but extraordinarily complex when it comes to efficiently transferring power. The big 427 cubic-inch V8 is obviously the focal point of the cutaway, but still, sitting quietly in there beneath the yellow distributor is the gear that times the spark for each piston. It’s easy to miss, but oddly enough once you find it, your eyes will be drawn to it every time you scan the engine bay.
How many can you find?
Of all Kimble’s creations, the Cobra ranks among my top five. I’ve looked at this cutaway at least a dozen times, but I didn’t identify these five items until I made a conscious effort to look beyond the art. It’s also a highly accurate, technical representation of an actual automobile – accurate to a very precise measurement as it turns out.
This is where I pass the baton to you. Kimble’s cutaway creations are extraordinary pieces of automotive art, but they also represent an extraordinary level of detail, recreated through a labor-intensive process that frankly can be difficult for many to comprehend, never mind perform. Here’s my challenge: step back and don’t look at this as a 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C. Take a few extra minutes and look at the individual components. Look at the frame, the brakes, the engine, and the interior. I found five interesting items; how many can you find?
Share your cutaway treasures with everyone in the comments. We can’t wait to see what other surprises David Kimble has in store for us.