A Collector’s Dream – The Original Shelby Cobra

In any conversation about historic sports cars, the Shelby Cobra, also known as the AC Cobra, is always a highlight. Its creation was a joint effort involving race car driver Carroll Shelby and the company now known as AC Cars Group Ltd., with Ford supplying the engines. There are a number of different versions of the Cobra distributed among Mark I, Mark II and Mark III designations.

The first Mark I Shelby Cobra, designated as the CSX 2000, was first sold in 1962. The first 75 Cobras ever assembled were powered by 260 cu. in., 4.3 L V8 Ford Zephyr engines These engines were replaced by larger 289 cu. in.,4.7 L V8 Windsor Ford engines in the remaining 51 Mark I’s. The torque produced by the 289 engine was almost too powerful for the chassis of the Mark I, making it difficult to keep all of the car’s wheels on the ground.

Newly designed Mark II’s retained the 289 engines but featured a redesigned chassis to accommodate them. The redesign was successful, and a 289 leaf-spring Cobra excelled in the US domestic race series, losing only once in three years of competition.

The Mark III Cobras were given a whole new, and much more aggressive, look. They were designed to handle more power than any of the previous Cobras, and were fitted with an impressive 427 cu. in., 7.0L small block Ford engine. The 427 engine powering the lightweight Cobra was a success, and it went on to beat Corvettes, Jaguars, Porsches and other high end competitors in high-profile races. A drag racing version was also assembled, called the Dragonsnake, which took home numerous NHRA victories.

Unfortunately, the Shelby Cobra did not achieve the same success on the commercial market, and AC Cars Group Ltd. was forced to sell its name and close its business in 1984. Such a relatively small number of Shelby Cobras were produced that they have since become extremely valuable collector cars. In fact, an extremely limited edition Shelby Super Snake – one of only two in existence – recently sold for a price of $5.5 million at auction. That sale broke the world record selling price for an American car, and many would agree that this beautiful, powerful little sports car is worth every penny.

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