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A History of the AC Shelby Cobra

Posted by on in Roadsters
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ac cobra replicaThere is no doubt that the Shelby Cobra is one of the most popular cars in the history of American sports cars.

The story begins in the early 1960s when U.S. automotive designer Carrol Shelby decided to take on the bold task of creating a unique American sports car that could become a “Corvette-Beater.” In other words, he wanted to design a car that could out-race the popular Chevrolet Corvette.

In 1961, Shelby traveled to England to meet with the Hurlock family, owners of AC Cars. He proposed his idea of building a car that would be modified to run on a V8 engine. The car manufacturer accepted.

Shelby then flew back to the U.S. to find an engine that would fit. He asked Chevrolet to supply the engine, but because they feared any competition, they politely refused. Fortunately, Ford had just produced a brand new lightweight V8 engine that would fit Shelby’s requirements, and they gave him two.

A year later, AC Cars started to build the prototype for the very first AC Shelby Cobra car. Road tests began shortly after. Between 1962 and 1968, Shelby built 654 small-block Cobras and 350 big-block models.

The first Cobra was featured on the cover of Sports Car Graphic in the May 1962 issue. The magazine described the Cobra as “one of the most impressive production sports cars we’ve ever driven. Its acceleration … can only be described as explosive and at least equal to that of the better running hot Corvettes and Berlinettas we’ve driven.”

At the Riverside International Raceway on February 2, 1963, driver Dave MacDonald raced the AC Shelby Cobra roadster past every single Corvette, Jaguar, Porsche, and Maserati. This marked the Cobra’s first victory in racing history.

An AC Cobra Coupe, driven by Jack Sears and Peter Bolton, famously reached 186 mph (299 km/h) on a British motorway in 1964.

Over the past 50 years, the AC Cobra has become one of the most sought-after sports cars on the market. AC Cobra replicas and Cobra car kits are wildly popular among car enthusiasts.

Have you ever used a kit to build an AC Cobra replica? What do you love most about the Shelby Cobra? Feel free to post in the comments section below.

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