The Amazing History of the AC Cobra Racing Car
One of the most famous cars in the racing world is the Shelby AC Cobra. While some racing cars of the era could weigh as much as 3,400 pounds, the Cobras weighed far less.
In fact, a lightweight version of the Cobra was specifically built for the 1990 Geneva Salon, with the weight cut by about 250 pounds.
Only 654 of these original iconic racers in their small-block form were built between 1961 and 1968, and about 350 in the big-block versions. This is part of what makes them so valuable today, and why a Cobra replica is one of the most popular car kits to build. To understand why AC Cobra replica kits are so popular, you need to know a bit about the history of the car.
Of Racing and Chickens
Carroll Shelby had gone from chicken farming in Texan obscurity to becoming a big name in European racing; but health had driven him out of racing–as a driver–for good. He was trying to figure out how to stay in racing when he had an idea to combine the compact yet powerful American V-8 engine with a light European sports car chassis.
A Near Miss for Chevy
That Cobra replica car kit that you see for sale is built on a Ford style, but Shelby’s original idea was to use a Chevrolet engine. The year was 1955 and Chevrolet’s new small-block engine was the talk of the nation: an engine so fine it would be in heavy production for the next four decades. Chevy’s corporate decision makers didn’t want the deal. They didn’t want Shelby’s car to compete in any way with their new Corvette, and they were not interested in competing with themselves. Sadly, what they ended up doing was driving Shelby into the welcoming arms of Ford, and the Shelby AC Cobra became known as the “Corvette-Beater,” despite being 500 pounds lighter.
Ford Power in a Nimble British Body
Ford had no sports car of its own at the time and was happy to oblige Shelby. Their new thin wall block cast V-8 was compact and powerful, and fit beautifully into the A.C. Ace racing chassis. It was one of the lightest sportscars going, and equating it with disc brakes and superior light-weight steering gave the Cobra another edge over the Corvette.
Despite advantages in weight and engineering, it took a few races before the Cobra came into its own. Each race resulted in further tweaking until finally Shelby and Ford felt ready. They assigned their designers the task of beating none other than Ferrari in a long distance race, and a new body was drawn up: one that could go 20pmh faster. Though it didn’t win the first race, it did give Ferrari a legitimate scare. The world had woken up fully to what the Cobra could do, and it wasn’t long before Ford had its win at Le Mans.
One of the most famous moments in AC Cobra history came when it reached the speed of 186mph in 1964 on a British motorway. The car went through various iterations, and for many years Ford’s Cobra 427 was the fastest car America made, both in acceleration and top speed. This has also made the car one of the most expensive classic cars in the world.
The Cobra Experience For Fractional Price
Cobra replica kit cars have made it possible for the average person to have the Cobra experience without spending the kind of money that would be required to own an original. The Cobra replica can be an exact and nearly-perfect copy that runs for close to $1,000 all the way to a simple kit car with a Cobra body that can be gotten for closer to $30,000. Its possible to either buy a Cobra replica and put it together yourself or pay someone to do it for you.
Shelby’s legacy isn’t about to end. The Cobra is still one of the most sought-after racing cars among professional collectors worldwide, and the Cobra replica a possibility even for the rest of us.