15 Little-Known Details About The Shelby Cobra

There has been a renewed interest in Carroll Shelby and Shelby American ever since Matt Damon so ably played him in Ford v Ferrari, with Christian Bale playing Ken Miles to perfection. While the movie is all about the triumphs and tragedies that came into play when Ford decided to beat Ferrari at the racing game with its GT40, it mainly focuses on Carroll Shelby. Shelby is shown trying to sell his car, the Shelby Cobra, and being the consummate salesman as well as a car maker.



There weren’t too many Shelby Cobras built, and finding an original one today is not only a rarity but also a rather expensive endeavor. Of course, many replicas have also been built, which are pretty authentic to boot. Still, years have passed since the Shelby Cobra’s birth, so here are 15 things you may not have known about these cool, cool cars. Think of it as a Shelby refresher course!

15 The Ace Was A Dying Car, So Shelby Bought The Body

Carroll Shelby was a dreamer, and a romantic, and a wooer of women and cars. While he was a racer extraordinaire and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, he wanted to make cars as well. When his health (and heart) killed his racing career, Shelby took to realizing his dream. The British AC car company was stopping production of the Ace model, so he bought an engine-less body for tinkering, and the rest is history.


14 Bill Cosby Was So Scared Of The SuperSnake, He Returned It

Only two Shelby GT500 Super Snakes were ever built. One of them was Shelby’s daily driver and the second was sold to Shelby’s friend and Ferrari lover Bill Cosby. It is said that just turning the engine of the Super Snake scared Cosby and he returned it to Shelby, after a single drive. Shelby’s Super Snake sold at Barrett-Jackson’s Scottsdale sale for a cool $5.1 million, making it a record sale for any American car.

13 The Cobra Had Italian Inspiration, From Ferrari Itself

For all the Ford vs. Ferrari competition in real life and the film, as well as Shelby’s dislike for Enzo Ferrari, the AC Ace was itself inspired by a Ferrari when it came to the design. John Tojeiro created his version of the Ferrari 166 MM Barchetta and sold the design rights to Auto Carriers Ltd. This is how the AC Ace was born, as well as the Shelby Cobra.


12 The Shelby Cobra Almost Used A GM Engine

Wonder how history would have turned out if the Shelby Cobra carried a Chevy V8? Would a Camaro have beaten the Ferrari then, instead of a Ford GT40? Fanciful speculation, but Shelby did approach GM first, for a V8 to be put in the Shelby Cobra for racing. But since GM already had the Corvette, the company did not want any competition. GM said thanks, but no, and their loss turned out to be Ford’s gain!

RELATED: 15 Sick Facts About Carroll Shelby And The Cars He Turned Into Legends

11 Few Of Them Were Made, And Much Fewer Survive Today

348 of the Shelby Cobra 427s were made from 1965 to 1967, with some 260 of them being everyday drivers. A semi-competition package was also offered, which retained the street-legality of the cars but made them better and more adept for racing. Shelby clubs and historians have managed to trace most of the surviving examples, and all the originals have been auctioned for big amounts.


10 Shelby Might Have Fabricated A Crash Story To Save Face

Shelby also built a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe aimed to crush Ferrari at the 1964 Le Mans, but as the story went, the car was completely decimated while it was being transported to the race tracks in a semi. Later, many said that this was Shelby’s face-saving fabrication because the car was not finished in time for the race. With focus shifting on the Ford GT40, many believe this dream went unrealized.

9 The Shelby Cobra Spawned The Ford Cougar Concept

Long before Mercury introduced the Cougar, along with its other feline nameplates, Ford played around with its version of the Cougar II. And it did so using the CSX chassis that the Shelby Cobra had, using the same V8 engine, and the result resembled the Corvette Stingray more than anything else. While the Shelby Cobra did 160-mph top speed, on a 4.2-liter V8, the Ford Cougar II could do 170-mph.


8th The Cobra Was Far Better Than The Vette, Just Because

Remember when we mentioned that Shelby had initially wanted a Chevy V8 engine? Since the Corvette was already a number-one seller at Chevy, the godfather of the Corvette, Zora Arkus-Duntov, did not want any in-house competition. It’s just that, the Shelby Cobra was far superior to the Vette, with 12-inch disc brakes and a rack-and-pinion steering. The Vette was poorer with drum brakes and a recirculating ball.

RELATED: 15 Sickest Cars Made By Race Car Drivers (That Are Not A Shelby)

7 Shelby Making A Hardtop Was Not A Coincidence

While Shelby was a car maker and a car seller of talent, the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe’s unique hardtop-roadster combination wasn’t a first. The concept came from another car from Auto Carriers Ltd, the AC Aceca Coupe, sold from 1954 to 1963. No surprise that by 1964, the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe was a reality.


6 The Cobra 427 Remained America’s Fastest Car For Years

Forget about the ’60s, even by today’s standards the most powerful of all Shelby Cobras, the 427, can outrun many cars. It has a 0-60 mph sprint of a little over 4 seconds, and a 0-100 mph run of 10.3 seconds. The 0-100-0 mph took all of 14 seconds, and all of this raw power is something even the cars of today cannot match easily. There is a reason why this car and Carroll Shelby are legends, till date.

5 Shelby & Ford Stamped Out Most Of AC Cobra Reproduction

With only a limited number of Shelby Cobras built, it was not surprising that people soon began to make imitations. And while imitation may be the best form of flattery, Shelby did not quite see it like that.

So, in the early 2000s, Shelby American Inc, as well as Ford sued many who made reproduction models and stopped them. Later the case was settled out of court and today you can buy a replica, without getting served.

4 The Shelby Cobra Was As Bare-Boned As They Come

The Shelby Cobra, especially the 427, was a sports car, even if it was street legal. The instrumentation on the dash was more necessity than a luxury, and this is not a car you could drive in the rain. Not only can driving it on a wet surface make you meet your maker very quickly, but its canvas roof also offered no weather production. Plus, you would not believe the amount of cabin noise you get from that beastly V8!

RELATED: 15 Cars That Made Ford The Giant It Is Today

3 More Than 60,000 Replicas Have Been Made

The original Shelby Cobras are as rare as they are expensive, with the Shelby Cobra 427s fetching well above a million in most cases. So it’s good that the replicas are around for a fraction of the cost and almost the same amount of thrills. Of course, your Shelby Cobra replica may have a Chevy engine in it! Estimates say that over 60,000 replicas are up and running, with more coming up.

2 There Have Been Plenty Crashes Of The Shelby Cobra

Shelby Cobra is raw, untamed power. And many of the fans who bought it did not realize how powerful the car was, till the last moment when they crashed it. Perhaps Shelby could only build a few Cobras in his lifetime because most of the time Shelby American ended up repairing the crashed ones! Since many of the original Shelby Cobras crashed and were destroyed, the value of the surviving ones is sky-high.


1 Shelby American Cashed In On The Ford V Ferrari Popularity

With the Matt Damon and Christian Bale movie, Ford v Ferrari becoming a big hit, Shelby American Inc decided to cash in on the renewed interest in the cars. So it announced a limited 100-car run and called it the Cinema Series.

Each of the cars it will be making will be replicas of what the main characters drive in the movie: so you can choose a ride from Chris Amon, Ken Miles, Denny Hulme, Lloyd Ruby, Dave MacDonald, and Carroll Shelby himself!

NEXT: 15 American Muscle Cars Nobody Wants To Be Associated With

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