The Legend of the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427
The story of the Cobra began in 1959 when American ex-racing driver Carroll Shelby raced in an Aston Martin, and won the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance raced in France. It was at this event that he took notice of the AC Ace, which was performing well in the race. He later made the Ace the foundation for his future venture. Shelby quit racing and returned to America with a desire of building a sports car.
Carroll Shelby approached Charles Hurlock of AC Cars to obtain the chassis and body that would suit a V8 engine. Shelby first approached Chevrolet to source the engine. However, they turned down the offer as they did not want any competition to the Chevrolet Corvette. Ford, who envied the Corvette agreed to support Shelby and supplied their 221 cubic inch V8 engine.
As the competition increased, Shelby tuned the engine to its maximum and upon reaching the limit, started searching for a new engine. Initially, they designed a chassis for the 390 cubic inch V8 engine made of aluminum that would provide it the much needed racing lightness. However, under pressure from the NASCAR fraction inside Ford, Shelby was forced to use a much heavier and larger 427 cubic inch iron block engine, which was reliable to produce up to 500 horsepower. The extra weight necessitated a complete redesign of the chassis as well. The design of the new chassis was assisted by Ford, and was five inches wider and used coil springs all around for better handling. Thus, the 427 Cobra was born.
The 427 Cobra made a name for itself when its chief engineer Ken Miles decided to challenge the Aston Martin, which claimed its car could accelerate from zero to hundred miles per hour in less than 30 seconds. It is for this purpose along with the desire to dominate the racing arena that the 427 Cobra Semi/Competition or S/C was designed. The car was radical and featured a number of technologies that were ahead of its time. These included side mounted exhausts, oil coolers, large external fuel filler, a 42 gallon gas tank, anti-roll bar and front jacking points.
The 427 Cobras were soon put into production and produced 100 cars with the aim of racing it in the domestic and international circuit. However, A quick inspection by FIA at Shelby’s plant found out that Shelby had not produced 100 homologate version as suggested by the rules. The 427 Cobra S/C got banned from competing, and this slashed Shelby’s market. Shelby cancelled its order with AC, but still had 53 completed cars remaining. Shelby managed to sell a few cars to various American racing teams, but still had 34 chassis left.
Shelby then decided to sell the car as the fastest street legal car. The cars were fitted with windshields, painted, converted for road use and offered to customers. On a test done by a magazine, the 427 S/C managed to reach 0 to 100 mph on just 13.2 seconds, significantly faster than the Aston Martin of that era, which could manage the same only in over 20 seconds. Because only 34 cars were ever sold, the Shelby Cobra 427 S/C is an extremely rare car. It can now fetch close to one million dollars in auctions.