By: José Manuel Serrano Esparza

The mastermind of this incomparable machine was the North American Carroll Shelby, an expert competition pilot until then specialized on driving two-seated Ferraris.
Shelby conceived the idea of adjusting the recently introduced Ford V8 engine into the light and energetic AC Ace in 1961.
The first car was completed in February 1962, and at the end of that year the first deliveries to USA customers began.
This and the subsequent Cobra models would be only built for a period of five years, but they were undoubtedly superluxurious cars boasting impressive presence and beauty of lines, very pined for by the enthusiasts of the best classical roadsters.
British enthusiasts liked to call them AC Cobras, while the Americans preferred to call them Shelby-AC Cobras or simply Shelbys Cobra.
Presently, they are remembered with nostalgia as ´ The Cobras ´.
The basic chassis of this first Cobra, the suspension and the framework design weren´t very different to the ones in Ace Roadsters and Ace Bristols that the British firm had built for some years.
The style of the Cobras was almost the same as that in Aces of the last period, with final smaller lattice but with roomy wheel arcs to be able to hold wider tires.
All Cobras had disc brakes on four wheels.
Firstly, tests were made with inner back brakes, but the production cars wore external units.
In order to make room for the Ford engine, the carter was bent, though the geometric changes regarding drive and suspension were minimal.
The building of the vehicle was carried out in United Kingdom, except the engines and the gearboxes which were installed once the cars arrived at the little assembling centre of Shelby in Venice (California).
They wore the light and compact V8 engine featuring thin walls from the advanced intermediate Ford 1962 Fairline, initially with a size of 160 cubic inches and assembled in the first 35 Cobras built, being coupled to it a Borg-Warner manual transmission with utterly synchronized gear and four speeds.
The following 51 vehicles were equipped with the 289 cubic inches enhanced little block engine.
Then, the AC chassis turned out to be not enough rigid to handle the engine torque, so not all the wheels of the Cobra kept the adherence to the floor under some circumstances, but curiously this wasn´t a hindrance, but something that something that contributed even more to its aura of very expensive car with exciting driving.
The following Cobras, called ´Mark II´ by the AC designers, were built from 1963. They preserved the Ace chassis boasting the original transversal leaf spring and the engine of 289 model, but used rack and pinion steering, which constituted a substantial improvement.
528 cars were built before the construction of the old Ace chassis was interrupted.

Although the original plan was that Cobras were only sold in USA, it wasn´t that way for a long time: the first cars featuring steering wheel on the right for the English market were completed in the summer of 1963, albeit it wasn´t until the end of 1964 when AC officially introduced the model 289 in Great Britain, selling some more units in the rest of Europe.
The original Cobra with Ace framework stopped being manufactured in the beginning of 1965, when the production was changed for the much more powerful Cobra 427, built on a new chassis called ´Mark III´, albeit the Cobra with little block engine went on existing in Europe as a 289 version of new platform called AC289, with only 27 units being manufactured until the whole Cobra production was stopped in 1968.
The emblematic Cobras constitute at present cult vehicles, and specially in the European market, they usually experience very artistic and original personalizations, where the intensive chroming on spikes of the wheels, fenders, etc, along with the most skilful paint works, are commonplace, and also taking part in a lot of classic cars races and reaching astronomical prices as collection masterpieces.

Engine: American V8 Ford featuring 426 cc, 260 H.P and 5800 rpm.
Transmission: Manual with four speeds.
Front suspension: Independent, with transversal leaf spring.
Brakes: Disc, front and back.
Wheelbase: 2 metres and 28,6 cm.
Weight: 1012 kg.
Top Speed: 220,800 km/h
Acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h: 5,5 seconds.

© Copyright José Manuel Serrano Esparza