1962-1968 AC Cobra Buying Guide
Nearly six decades after it was launched, Carroll Shelby’s performance icon remains instantly recognisable. Here’s how to buy perhaps the most replicated car of all time…
How much to pay
• Project £400,000 • Good £500,000-700,000 • Concours £750,000-1,500,000 •
Running costs ★★
DIY friendly ★★★
It’s become a byword for performance – and a particular type of performance at that. There is nothing subtle about a Cobra. Not in the way it looks, the way it sounds, or the way it goes. To drive one even at moderate road speeds is to find a fresh appreciation for the skill and stamina of those who raced them in period.
The recipe for its success was neither new nor sophisticated, but rarely has it been done quite so effectively: take one powerful American engine (Ford, in this case) and drop it into a traditional British sports car (the AC Ace). It is the ultimate hybrid, a no-nonsense dose of rock ’n’ roll among the otherwise symphonic grids of contemporary GT racers.
The brainchild of former racer Carroll Shelby, it bloodied the nose of Ferrari, Aston Martin and Jaguar, and its staggering acceleration figures lodged in the minds of enthusiasts everywhere – Ken Miles once achieved 0-100mph-0 in 13.2 seconds at the wheel of a 427.
It may not have been produced by one of the aforementioned ‘grandee’ marques, but there’s nothing blue-collar about current Cobra values. Buying one is now an immense investment, so you need to have your wits about you…
Your AutoClassics AC Cobra inspection checklist
The Cobra featured three variants of Ford V8 over the course of its life. Although the prototype – CSX2000 – used the then-new 221ci Windsor engine when it was first tested in the UK, by the time production got under way that had been replaced by an upgraded 260 unit from the same family.
After about 75 cars, the 260 was replaced with the 289 – it’s believed that chassis CSX2073, which was completed in January 1963, was the first to be fitted with the enlarged Windsor. Many 260 Cobras were retro fitted in period with the 289. Later, of course, came the monstrous 427ci FE ‘side oiler’, a big-block lump that was developed for competition use.
These engines are bulletproof, and thanks to their use in all sorts of other classic Fords – Mustangs, Falcons and Galaxies – there is a strong support network of specialists for them, particularly in the US.
The 260 and 289 Cobras used Borg-Warner’s enduring T10 four-speed manual. The 427 switched to a Ford ‘Top Loader’, and some 289s have subsequently been fitted with the later ’box. Believe it or not, a smattering of cars were fitted with an automatic gearbox, but most have long since been converted to manual.
All drove through a Salisbury 4HU final drive, as also seen in the Jaguar MkX and E-type. This replaced the AC Ace’s ENV differential because it was better able to cope with the increased power. A tiny propshaft – only about 10in long – was used.
Gearboxes tend not to give many problems, but parts such as layshafts, bearings and different ratios are available from America.
1965 AC Cobra
NOW at our Gateway Classic Cars Houston showroom is this 1965 AC Cobra replica from Superformance. This is #19 of 50 produced from the company in this special tenth anniversary Diamond Edition. This version of the MKIII Cobra was produced to celebrate Superformances 10th anniversary. It was made in two individual colors of which this one is the Dark Silver with silver stripes and red bordering piFor Sale | 20 Apr 2018 | 1910 CYPRESS STATION DRIVE, Suite 200 Houston, TX 77090$ 64,000
AC Aceca - LHD 1958
What a pleasure to welcome this wonderfully preserved AC Aceca back in our showroom! In a world where continuous history becomes ever more important, this Aceca with chassis number AEX658 offers a well-documented and crystal clear history, with just four owners from new and less than 50.000 miles on the counter. Luckily, it spent the first 44 years of its life in the warm and dry climates of CalifFor Sale | 18 Apr 2018 | Victor Bocquéstraat 15, 9300 Aalst, Belgium£ POA
AC COBRA SHORTNOSE - ROLLS ROYCE EBONY BLACK
Information. AC Cobra MKIV Shortnose - RHD. 11,000 miles from new. Hi spec 302 engine to GT40 tune. One of the last 5 built. Autokraft acquired the rights to use the AC name from Hurlock family and using original tools and jigs constructed the AC MKIV which is more a less tool room copy of the early period AC Cobra. This stunning example of an Autokraft AC Cobra MKIV represents one of the last MKIFor Sale | 16 Apr 2018 | Hendon Way Motors, 393-395 Hendon Way, London NW4 3LP, England£ POA
1965 AC Cobra Replica
See this 1965 AC Cobra Replica on display in our Atlanta, Georgia showroom. in our Atlanta Showroom is this Factory Five 1965 Shelby Cobra Replica. If you want one that brings the hardware to match its looks, this Factory Five Cobra roadster will get your heart racing. With a dyno tested 430hp 440tq T&L 347 stroker combined with an eye striking color the bad boy is a combat ready Cobra that bringFor Sale | 16 Apr 2018 | 1870 McFarland Parkway, Suite 300 Alpharetta, GA 30005$ 42,595
1955 AC ACECA 2 DOOR FIXED HEAD COUPE
AC Cars Group Ltd. formerly known as Auto Carriers Ltd. is a British specialist automobile manufacturer and one of the oldest independent car marquees founded in Britain. For 1954, a new aluminum-bodied closed coupe was unveiled at Earls Court, the AC Aceca. It was only slightly heavier than the convertible Ace, and because of better aerodynamics was actually slightly faster (128 mph (206 km/h) toFor Sale | 16 Apr 2018 | CONTACT US Vintage Motors of Sarasota Inc. 5500 N.Tamiami Trail, Suite B Sarasota FL 34243 941.355.6500 Email£ POA
AC Two Litre
Lowered price from €38.500 -> €28.950 The AC 2-Litre was produced between 1947 and 1956. Two and, from 1952, four-door saloons were sold. In addition, as from 1949, a small number of drophead coupés and Buckland tourers were produced. The car`s wetliner, aluminium cylinder block, six-cylinder 1991 cc engine was the unit first offered by the company in the AC 16, back in 1922. However, by 1947For Sale | 16 Apr 2018 | Oldtimerfarm Bvba - Steenweg op Deinze 51 C - 9880 Aalter - Belgium€ 28,950
AC Buckland 1949
https://themarket.co.uk/listings/ac/buckland/7e177a4d-ee91-4217-bc00-86a7e3222bd4?status=live Auction finishes on 4 April at www.themarket.co.uk Built in 1949 but not appearing to be registered until the 25th March 1951, this AC Buckland was Buckland’s prototype demonstrator and the very car that Motorsport magazine tested in its September 1952 edition. (A copy of the article will be incluAuction | 26 Mar 2018 | Carterton, UK£ 13,000 - 15,000
1954 AC Ace Ken Rudd
Mayfair 020 7125 1400 | Maldon 01621 879579 1954 AC Ace This is a highly desirable AC Ace with period competition history, driven by probably the most famous exponent of the marque Ken Rudd. The AC Ace is one of the most attractive and popular British Sports Cars built in the mid-1950s. Based on a strong tubular chassis, clothed with a beautiful lightweight alloy body and powered by a range of excFor Sale | 27 Jan 2018 | JD Classics Mayfair 26-28 Mount Row Mayfair London, W1K 3SQ£ POA
1965 AC Shelby Cobra Superformance MK III Replica
Gateway Classic Cars of Indianapolis is excited to offer this gorgeous 1965 AC Shelby Cobra, titled as a 2007 Superformance MKIII. The Superformance MKIII is the only Cobra replica built under license from Carroll Shelby Licensing Inc. What makes the MKIII so much better than its competitors? It looks like an exact replica should. It is sure-footed, reliable and is as exciting as the great sport rFor Sale | 16 Apr 2018 | 4400 West 96th Street, Indianapolis, IN 46268$ 79,000
Suspension and brakes
The early Cobras employed a pretty basic suspension set-up. Transverse leaf springs were used front and rear, with lower wishbones and telescopic dampers. There was worm-and-sector steering, too.
From spring 1963 – chassis CSX2126 onwards – rack-and-pinion steering was fitted and the front suspension geometry was tweaked. From CSX2160, the wheels were increased in width from 5.5 x 15in wires to 6in. The wheelarches were flared slightly more to accommodate the change.
When the 427 was introduced with its new chassis, double wishbones and coil springs were fitted all round, plus trailing arms at the rear. Anti-roll bars were used on competition cars and are now a popular upgrade on road cars, as is adjustable suspension. The big-block Cobra also wore Halibrand magnesium wheels or the Peter Brock-designed 10-spoke Sunburst alloys.
Braking is by discs all round. The prototype initially retained E-type-esque inboard rear brakes, but these were soon moved outboard – something that carried over to the production cars. The size remained constant throughout (296mm front, 273mm rear), even when the 427 was introduced.
The Cobra’s aluminium bodywork was hand-built by AC and then riveted to the main structure, which comprised a system of round and square-section tubes. The 289 shared much of the Ace’s graceful outline – among the few changes were the flared arches to accommodate the Cobra’s wider track. From CSX2160 onwards, a vent was added to each front wing.
The 289 and 427 share only their doors, bonnet and bootlid – the later car is five inches wider and features a very different Jim Benavides-designed chassis with thicker tubes set further apart. It also uses a thicker gauge of aluminium for the panels.
The thinner 289 chassis can bow; the sill tubes, outriggers and frontal tubes can get damaged and corrode. Check the bodywork just in front of the rear wheels on the sills, which is where it tends to flex and crack.
The handbuilt, labour-intensive nature of Cobra bodywork means that the costs of a restoration will be huge – particularly if you want to retain the original body rather than create a new one.
There were few changes to the Cobra’s interior during production, although the dials changed from Smiths to Stewart Warner from CSX2201 onwards. At the same time, electrics switched from being Lucas to Ford.
Weather equipment is sparse, consisting of a hood and clip-on sidescreens. Carpet is used on the floors and door cards, while the seats are trimmed in leather.
Dated period components, such as gauges, are becoming increasingly difficult to find, although there are plenty of replica parts available. Standard equipment includes speedo, rev counter, clock, water, oil temperature, fuel and oil pressure gauges and an ammeter.
- 1962: Cobra introduced at the New York Auto Show in April with Ford’s 260ci V8.
- 1963: Mk2 gains 289ci engine and, from CSX2126 onwards, rack-and-pinion steering.
- 1965: 427 launched with new chassis and coil-spring suspension.
- 1967: Shelby ends US production.
- 1968: AC ends production.
It’s vital to know exactly what you’re looking at when buying a Cobra – provenance is all, so take the time to thoroughly establish a car’s history. Do your homework and speak to more than one expert, including the likes of Steve Gray at Brooklands Motor Company, Rod Leach and the AC Owners Club.
A CSX chassis number is for left-hand-drive American-market cars, a COB prefix denotes a right-hand-drive British-market car, and COX was used on left-hand-drive Cobras that were for export to countries other than the US. All Shelby leaf-sprung cars followed the prefix with a four-digit number that began with a 2.
Right-hand-drive cars are firmly in the minority – only 47 leaf-sprung examples were built. Then there are the 27 right-hookers that AC produced at Thames Ditton using the later coil-sprung chassis but the 289 engine.
The 427 is a completely different beast to the 289, and even a rack-and-pinion 289 will drive very differently to a worm-and-sector Cobra. Some of the production changes were retro fitted by owners in period, so be sure to establish exact the spec. Particularly significant cars, including those with notable race history, will command far more than the prices quoted.
It’s inevitable that people will assume your Cobra is a replica. That’s part and parcel of ownership. But frankly, who cares? If ever you feel that life has become a little staid, a little boring, this is the classic for you. It is a genuine legend among performance cars.
|AC Cobra 260|
|AC Cobra 289|
|AC Cobra 427|
Picture courtesy of MagicCarPics
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NOW at our Gateway Classic Cars Houston showroom is this 1965 AC Cobra replica from Superformance. This is #19 of 50 produced from the company in this special tenth anniversary Diamond Edition. This version of the MKIII Cobra was produced to celebrate Superformances 10th anniversary. It was made in two individual colors of which this one is the Dark Silver with silver stripes and red bordering pi
What a pleasure to welcome this wonderfully preserved AC Aceca back in our showroom! In a world where continuous history becomes ever more important, this Aceca with chassis number AEX658 offers a well-documented and crystal clear history, with just four owners from new and less than 50.000 miles on the counter. Luckily, it spent the first 44 years of its life in the warm and dry climates of Calif
Information. AC Cobra MKIV Shortnose - RHD. 11,000 miles from new. Hi spec 302 engine to GT40 tune. One of the last 5 built. Autokraft acquired the rights to use the AC name from Hurlock family and using original tools and jigs constructed the AC MKIV which is more a less tool room copy of the early period AC Cobra. This stunning example of an Autokraft AC Cobra MKIV represents one of the last MKI