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Carroll Shelby's AC Cobras

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Shelby AC Cobra

Carroll Shelby . . . the name instantly conjures up images of high performance cars and pure bred racing machines. One of the many undertakings that brought fame to the "East Texas chicken farmer," was the Cobra. The Cobra was a quick, nimble, rocket on wheels, which was exactly what Shelby had in mind when he decided to build the world’s fastest production car. In the early sixties, Carroll Shelby was told by his doctor to stop racing because of a bad heart. It was at that time that he decided to take on one his long time dreams of building his own breed of car, one with European styling and American power.

As it turns out, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. Ford Motor Company had been playing with ideas of getting into the performance arena. When Shelby contacted them and told them of his idea of building a Ford powered sports car, they had no idea that they were about to embark upon a journey that would bring them into international prominence in every area of the racing world.

In 1961, Shelby heard from a journalist friend that AC Cars, a British auto manufacturer, was about to lose their supply of Bristol six cylinder engines. The Bristol engine in the lightweight AC Ace made for an almost unbeatable combination in SCCA competition. Shelby borrowed an Ace to get a closer look. He liked what he saw! The car definitely had the potential that Shelby was looking for. At about the same time, Shelby started hearing about a new lightweight V-8 engine that Ford was starting to produce. Shelby wrote to Dave Evans with Ford Motor Co. to verify that the new engine was a reality and to tell them about his idea of a Ford powered AC Ace. Evans must have liked what he read, because as soon as he finished reading the letter, he phoned Shelby to say that he was sending him two of the new engines.

During this same period, Shelby had been talking with people at AC Cars, Ltd. about a new engine for their Ace. They agreed to send Shelby an Ace to build his first prototype with. Shelby’s dream was on its way to becoming a reality. A few weeks later, the first AC "Cobra" was delivered, engineless, to the Los Angeles airport. A mere eight hours after being unloaded, the first Cobra roared to life. Everyone, including Shelby, knew that this was only the first step and that the Cobra had a long way to go. Shelby knew instantly that this was the car he had been dreaming about.

Evolution of the AC Cobra

Evolution and Life of the AC Cobra
October 1953 AC Ace was unveiled at Earls Court Motor Show in London
1956 Ace became available with the Bristol six cylinder engine
1958 Ford lightweight small block V-8 engine program started in the USA
December 1960 Carroll Shelby raced for the last time at Riverside
March 1961 British Ford six cylinder engine was used in the Ace when Bristol switched to the Chrysler V8
September 1961 Carroll Shelby contacted AC about his ideas for a V8 engine sports car based on the AC Ace
November 1961 The first lightweight Ford V8's were delivered to AC
1961-1962 AC and Shelby worked on the first Cobra prototype
January 1962 Prototype Cobra runs for the first time at Silverstone
February 1962 CSX2000 - The 221 cid engine was removed and the car was shipped to Shelby in Santa Fe Springs where it was fitted with a 260 cid engine and tested at Riverside
April 1962 The Cobra was introduced to the press and first shown in public at the New York Auto Show
May 1962 First magazine road test of the prototype Cobra appeared
July 1962 The first three "production" Cobras were completed and shipped to the USA complete with 260 cid engines
October 1962 The first Cobra was raced for the first time, by Billy Krause at Riverside
January 1963 CSX2075 - First 289 cid powered Cobra was completed
January 1963 Cobra's first race win was at Riverside
March 1963 CSX2127 - First production rack and pinion Cobra was completed
June 1963 Two Cobras entered at Le Mans; one retired and the other finished seventh overall
Late 1963 AC Ace production stopped
October 1963 The first 427 cid powered prototype was built using a leaf spring chassis
November 1963 The first right hand drive Cobra was delivered in the UK
November 1963 Work began on a Cobra racing coupe which was to become the Daytona Coupe
February 1964 CSX2287 - The first Daytona Coupe was tested at Riverside. During 1964 it took three GT class wins and placed fourth overall at Le Mans
March 1964 CSX2166 - Ken Miles raced a prototype 427, leaf spring chassis, at Sebring
April 1964 AC tested its own 289 cid coupe at Le Mans
November 1964 Leaf spring chassis production for export was stopped
December 1964 CSX2196 - second 427 cid prototype was debuted by Ken Miles at Nassau Speed Weeks
January 1965 CSX3001 - Production of completely redesigned, coil spring 427 Cobra was announced
Early 1965 CSX3054 - 427 Super Coupe project was started but eventually abandoned
March 1965 Leaf spring chassis production stopped completely after 655 cars were built
1965 Daytona Coupe won the World Manufacturer's Championship for GT cars with six GT class wins
May 1966 AC started producing 289 powered versions of the coil spring chassis for the European market
February 1968 Five special "long wheelbase" chassis were built for Paramount Pictures film
February 1969 Final coil spring car completed in the European series after a total of 348 were built

Shelby AC Cobra
AC Cobra - 289 Specs
1962-1965 Production
Body Type Two seat roadster - all aluminium
Chassis Twin tube ladder frame w/ box section suspension mountings and tubular structure
Engine Type Ford V8
Displacement 289 cid (4,736 cc) (260 cid up to chassis CSX2074)
Bore 4.0 in (101.6 mm); 3.80 in (96.5 mm)
Stroke 2.87 in (72.9 mm)
Compression Ratio 11.6:1
Cylinder Type Thinwall cast iron block, five main bearings, single camshaft
Cylinder Heads Cast iron, two valves per cylinder
Fuel System Single four-barrel Holley carburetor or four two barrel downdraft Weber carburetors
Horsepower 271 bhp @ 6,000 rpm (260 bhp @ 5,800 rpm w/ 260 cid)
Torque 314 lb ft @ 3,400 rpm (269 lb ft @ 4,800 rpm w/ 260 cid)
Gearbox Type Borg-Warner four speed manual, all synchromesh
Gear Ratios First: 2.36:1, Second: 1.78:1, Third: 1.41:1, Fourth: 1.0:1, Reverse: 2.36:1
Final Drive Ratio 3.77:1 (numerous options available)
Clutch Single dry plate, hydraulic operation
Front Suspension Independent, w/ lower wishbone and transverse leafspring upper link, telescopic dampers
Rear Suspension Independent, w/ lower wishbone and transverse leafspring upper link, telescopic dampers
Brakes Solid discs, front and rear
Steering Rack and pinion (worm and sector up to chassis CSX2125)
Overall length 151.5 in (3,848 mm)
Overall width 61.0 in (1,549 mm)
Overall height 49.0 in (1,244 mm)
Wheelbase 90.0 in (2,286 mm)
Track Front: 51.5 in (1,308 mm) Rear: 52.5 in (1,333 mm)
Ground Clearance 5.0 in (127 mm)
Fuel Tank Capacity 18.0 US gallons (68 litres)
Unladen Weight 2,170 lb (984 kg)
Performance (typical figures for 289)
Top Speed 138 mph (222 kph)
0-60 mph (0-96.5 kph) 5.5 seconds
0-100 mph (0-161 kph) 13.0 seconds
Standing 1/4-mile 13.9 seconds
Fuel Consumption 15.1 mpg

Shelby AC Cobra

AC Cobra - 427 Specs
1965-1968 Production
Body Type Two seat roadster - all aluminium
Chassis Large diameter twin tube ladder frame w/ tubular suspension mountings and tubular structure
Engine Type Ford V8
Displacement 427 cid (6,984 cc); 428 (6,991 cc) (both engines were used in the 427 Cobra)
Bore 4.24 in (107.7 mm); 4.13 in (104.9 mm)
Stroke 3.87 in (96.0 mm); 3.98 in (101.1 mm)
Compression Ratio 10.4:1; 10.5:1
Cylinder Type Cast iron block, five main bearings, single camshaft
Cylinder Heads Cast iron, two valves per cylinder
Fuel System Single four-barrel Holley carburetor or four two barrel downdraft Weber carburetors
Horsepower 425 bhp @ 6,500 rpm; 390 bhp @ 5,200 rpm
Torque 480 lb ft @ 3,500 rpm; 475 lb ft @ 3,700 rpm w/ 260 cid)
Gearbox Type Ford "top loader" four speed manual, all synchromesh
Gear Ratios First: 2.32:1, Second: 1.69:1, Third: 1.29:1, Fourth: 1.0:1, Reverse: 2.32:1
Final Drive Ratio 3.31:1 (numerous options available)
Clutch Single dry plate, hydraulic operation
Front Suspension Independent, unequal length upper and lower wishbones, coil springs, telescopic dampers
Rear Suspension Independent, unequal length upper and lower wishbones with additional lower trailing links, coil springs, telescopic dampers
Brakes Solid discs, front and rear
Steering Rack and pinion
Overall length 156.0 in (3,962 mm)
Overall width 68.0 in (1,727 mm)
Overall height 49.0 in (1,244 mm)
Wheelbase 90.0 in (2,286 mm)
Track Front: 56.0 in (1,422 mm) Rear: 56.0 in (1,422 mm)
Ground Clearance 4.5 in (114 mm)
Fuel Tank Capacity 18.0 US gallons (68 litres)
Unladen Weight 2,350 lb (1,066 kg)
Performance (typical figures for 427)
Top Speed 165 mph (265 kph)
0-60 mph (0-96.5 kph) 4.2 seconds
0-100 mph (0-161 kph) 10.3 seconds
Standing 1/4-mile 12.4 seconds
Fuel Consumption 10.0 mpg

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