The AC Cobra, sold as the Shelby Cobra in the United States, is an Anglo-American sports car with a Ford V8 engine, produced intermittently in both the UK and the US since 1962.
Like many British manufacturers, AC Cars had been using the Bristol straight-6 engine in its small-volume production, including its AC Ace two-seater roadster. This had a hand-built body with a steel tube frame, and aluminium body panels that were made using English wheeling machines. The engine was a pre-World War II design by BMW which by the 1960s was considered dated. Bristol decided in 1961 to cease production of its engine and instead to use Chrysler 313 cu in (5.1 L) V8 engines. AC started using the 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr engine in its cars.
In September 1961, American automotive designer Carroll Shelby wrote to AC asking if they would build him a car modified to accept a V8 engine. AC agreed, provided a suitable engine could be found. Shelby went to Chevrolet to see if they would provide him with engines, but not wanting to add competition to the Corvette they said no. However, Ford wanted a car that could compete with the Corvette and they happened to have a brand new engine which could be used in this endeavor: the Windsor 221 in³ (3.6 L) engine – a new lightweight, thin-wall cast small-block V8. Ford provided Shelby with two engines.
Since the late 1980s onwards, various companies have built what are known in the hobby as “Continuation Cars”. To date most continuations are produced in fiberglass, with some ordering cars with aluminium or carbon-fibre bodywork.
Coming soon – a directory of resources regarding Cobra Cars in South Africa