For many people the AC Cobra will always be the sports car which symbolises the 1960’s. The Cobra’s ancestry went back to 1954, with the advent of the AC Ace; first powered by AC’s 6 cylinder, 1991cc engine. AC soon introduced the more potent Bristol 2-litre engine, with a healthy 125bhp and a top speed of 115mph. The AC Ace Bristol made an excellent road sports car as well as a successful club racer. By 1961 the supply of Bristol engines had ceased and AC adopted the Ford 2.6-litre, 6 cylinder engine. Despite this engine’s Raymond Mays’ improved cylinder head and induction system, which claimed to produce 170bhp, the extra weight cancelled out any real improvement in performance.
It was at this time that Carroll Hall Shelby, notable Texan race driver, race car constructor and winner of the 1950 Le Mans 24 Hours, approached AC with his suggestion for a new engine and chassis combination. Shelby was familiar with the way European-built road cars could out handle anything built in the States at the time, whilst he was equally aware that when it came to sheer power there was nothing that moved a car like a big American V8. By good fortune, Ford had just developed a new 221ci V8 which was intended for its new range of sports coupés. Shelby made an agreement with Ford to supply this V8 bored out to 260ci, and AC agreed to modify a chassis to accept it. Thus was born the new AC, thereafter known as the AC Cobra.
By 1963 the leaf-spring Cobra was losing its supremacy in racing. Shelby tried fitting a larger Ford FE 390ci engine, naming it the Mark II, which was further developed into the newly designated Mark III. A new chassis was built using 4 inch main chassis tubes and coil spring suspension all around. The new car also had wider wings and larger radiator opening, and was powered by the ‘side oiler’ Ford 427ci engine rated at 425bhp, which gave 164mph in the standard model, uprated to 485bhp and 185mph in the competition model. Cobra Mark III production began on the 1st of January 1965 with cars being sent to the US as unpainted rolling chassis, which were then finished in Shelby’s workshop. The Mark III was raced successfully by many privateers and went on to win races all the way into the 1970’s.
During the late 1990’s AC Cars, buoyed by the success of its popular Mark IV model, revisited the legendary Mark III model with a very limited run of Mark III Continuation cars. All were built on the original 1960’s tooling, with hand formed aluminium bodies and 1966 specification Ford side oiler 427ci motors mated to a top loader gearbox and Salisbury rear differential. Aluminium bodies were constructed on the original 1965 body jigs to the correct specification, using the traditional English wheel, with all sections being gas-welded together. In all, eleven were built before AC cars closed its doors in Frimley in 2006.
The car presented here is Chassis ‘COB4007’, the seventh produced and delivered new as a Right Hand Drive street car to Steve Gray of AC specialist Brooklands Cars of Weybridge, fitted with the correct under exhaust system and rear lamps.
Brooklands Cars went on to own the car for 17 years, during which time it acquired FIA HTP papers and was entered into many club races, hillclimbs, and also the Brighton Speed Trials. The Cobra also became AC Cars’ official promotional car, and was invited to Buckingham Palace in celebration of the Queen’s 90th birthday celebrations. COB4007 also featured in print publications such as Top Gear Magazine (driven by Richard Hammond), Octane and Classic Cars.
Finished in period Guardsman Blue with Wimbledon stripes, this fabulous example has had just two owners from new, has covered a mere 3,000 miles, and is offered with a detailed history file including original build data, magazine features, older HTP papers and records of period race history. An unrepeatable opportunity for the true Cobra enthusiast.