1990 AC Cobra


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1990 AC Cobra 427 S/C Roadster
Registration no. 5847 AC
Chassis no. CSX4009

'The Cobra was Carroll Shelby's dream car. And Carroll Shelby ? and maybe only Carroll Shelby ? was the person who made it happen. Granted, he came along at the right time, but he followed through. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be outback in the outhouse.' ? Richard J Kopec, 'Shelby American Guide' 1978.

Rightly regarded as one of the all-time great classic sports cars, the muscular, fire-breathing Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Convinced that a market existed for an inexpensive sports car combining European chassis engineering and American V8 power, Le Mans-winning Texan racing driver Carroll Shelby concocted an unlikely alliance between AC Cars and the Ford Motor Company. The former's Ace provided the simple twin-tube chassis frame - designed by John Tojeiro - into which was persuaded one of Ford's lightweight, small-block V8s. It was discovered that the latter was lighter than the six-cylinder Ford Zephyr unit that AC was using yet with vastly greater potential. To cope with the projected power increase, the Ace chassis was strengthened with heavier gauge tubing and supplied fitted with four-wheel disc brakes. Weighing a mere 1½cwt more than a Bristol-engined Ace yet endowed with double the power and torque, the Cobra turned in a breathtaking performance, racing to 60mph in 4.4 seconds and reaching the 'ton' in under 12, exceptional figures by early 1960s standards and none too shabby even today.

The 260ci (4.2-litre) prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. Exclusively for the USA initially, Cobras - minus engines - were sent from England to be finished off by Shelby in California, and it was not until late in 1963 that AC Cars in Thames Ditton got around to building the first fully finished cars to European specification. After 75 cars had been built, the 289ci (4.7-litre) unit was standardised in 1963. Rack-and-pinion steering was the next major up-date; then in 1965 a new, stronger, coil-suspended chassis was introduced to accommodate Ford's 427ci (7.0-litre) V8, an engine that in race trim was capable of producing well in excess of 400bhp. Wider bodywork, extended wheelarch flares and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the definitive - and much copied - Cobra 427 look. Keeping ahead of the competition on the racetrack had been the spur behind Shelby's adoption of the 427 engine, though some cars to 'street' specification came with Ford's less powerful 428ci hydraulic-lifter V8. Competition and semi (or 'street') competition (S/C) versions used the 427. Only 1,000-or-so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967, 356 of them the ultimate 427 version.

Production recommenced in 1980 under the auspices of Brooklands-based Autokraft, which had acquired the AC name, trading as AC Cars (Brooklands) Ltd. The MkIV Cobra employed the same chassis as the preceding MkIII and continued to use Ford V8 engines. Autokraft was granted exclusive use of the Cobra name in 1985, and production of the car continued into the 1990s.

Prior to the closure of AC Cars (Brooklands) Ltd in 1996, Brian Angliss's Autokraft had constructed a number of Cobras to original specification, the car offered here being one of only four 427 S/C models. Nearly all were supplied as rolling chassis with aluminium bodies, as was this car. When AC Cars went into receivership, this car was seized by the bailiffs and sold at auction to help pay off the company's debts. It was purchased at that auction by the current vendor, together with various Cobra parts.

The engine now in the car is an original 427 FE unit sent over from the USA in 1965 for a powerboat project but never used. Still in its 'Ford of America' crate, it had been purchased by the vendor in 1986 and had been in his possession, looking for a home, for many years before the Cobra came along. Stripped and blueprinted by renowned V8 engine builders SD Racing Services, the engine incorporates big-valve cylinder heads; solid valve lifters; a Lakeland steel bell housing; and a McLeod racing clutch assembly. Once it had been reassembled, the engine was dynamometer tested by Peter Knight Racing Services.

The Cobra was then assembled by Gerry Hawkridge of Hawk Cars using original 1966 parts and new components to original specification. The body was then prepared and painted by Prestige Paint Perfection, the bill for this work alone totalling over £13,500. Specification highlights include 48IDA Weber carburettors; alloy racing brake callipers; aluminium competition radiator; 42-gallon long-range fuel tank; original top-loader gearbox; Aluminium limited-slip differential; and Halibrand alloy wheels - 7½ front/9½" rear ? shod with Goodyear racing tyres. Only some 1,800 miles have been covered since the build was completed in 2003, and this mighty Cobra remains in generally excellent condition, MoT'd and ready to enjoy.