Just mention the racer’s name “Carroll Shelby” and the word “Cobra” to any car enthusiast and you’ll get a smile. Anyone who knows anything about cars and automobiles knows that “Shelby equals Cobra.” However, Carroll Shelby has two other claims of automotive fame: the “Tiger” and the Shelby GT350, as well as the classic Shelby GT500 sports car models. The Shelbys are arguably the “Muscle Cars” of the 1960s.
The story really began with AC Car Company’s AC Ace and Aceca models. They were small sports cars of beautiful proportions, the Ace being an open model and the Aceca the closed coupe version. Initially they were powered by the six-cylinder engine designed by the company in 1926 with overhead camshafts. It wasn’t long before the demands of racing saw the AC motor replaced as an optional extra by the 105 horsepower inline six-cylinder unit. Air conditioning was produced in small quantities at the famous Thames Ditton factory, and at no point did anyone have a clue that this nice little car would become a fire-breathing Muscle Car for the American market, and that it would also form the basis. for a world championship GT automatic machine.
At the time, the AC was quietly building the Ace and Aceca models, a Texan racing driver named Carroll Shelby was knocking on the doors of the then “Big Three” of Detroit, trying to get their ideas on how to make a super fast American to be heard. . car that could serve its owner as a streetcar from Monday to Friday, then with very little work it would allow him to go out for a run on the weekend. Carroll’s ideas turned to a European or Japanese-made chassis equipped with an American small-block V-8 engine and transmission.
It seemed that the mighty General Motors were only interested in their own Corvette, which was consuming all their development time and money, so they weren’t interested in listening to Shelby. Chrysler was not interested in “sports” cars at the time. In fact, at the time they were having enough trouble selling their own cars and other products to bother with any new automotive product or any new car model or specifications from automotive lines. Ford seemed vaguely encouraged, but needed to “sell” the idea. Shelby had heard of the new Ford V-8 engine, the 221C! Small-block engine, and he saw in it a way to really get the attention of Ford Motor Company. Shelby struck the deal with what might be called “one of the oldest tricks in the book.” He told AC that Ford might be interested in using his chassis and he told Ford that he might interest his AC in using his V-8 engine. Most importantly, he told these two stories at the same time. Both Ford and AC liked the sound of this idea.
AC then delivered a non-motorized AC Ace to Shelby’s shop. In just eight hours, Shelby and his excellent team had the Ford V-8 installed in it. It worked, but it was more than obvious to sports car enthusiasts that there was a lot of work to be done before it was a finished product ready to be shown both in early and at automotive shows and on racetracks. . Using the experience and input of a seasoned British race / test driver based in California, effort and experience were put into the project to the point where a polished product was achieved.
Finally the question is asked: where does the name “Cobra” come from? Legend has it that Shelby Carroll had a notebook ready by her bed. Legend has it that one morning Mr. Carroll woke up after a deeper and more productive sleep with this mythical name on his lips ready to be written on that same notepad. It is not clear whether the origin of the classic American muscle car dream name is true or whether the automotive product name emerged as a result of years of experience in the automotive and auto racing community and marketing “brainstorming”. However, what is more than certain is that the Muscle Car trade name “Cobra” fits the image, speed and power of the car, which implies graceful acceleration, deadly acceleration, speed and a more elegant appearance. that outstanding.