Rightly regarded as one of the all-time great sports cars, the AC Cobra captures the hearts and imagination of any petrolhead. A true icon, recognisable to anyone.
There have always been differing American and British views as to who should claim ownership of the Cobra; American’s tend to believe that AC Cars, Ltd. was just a subcontractor to Shelby American, providing partially completed cars to Shelby’s specifications. However, the British tend to think that AC Cars were the true manufacturer, supplying almost complete, engineless cars to its primary customer, Shelby American—who merely installed their own engines and transmissions and sold the cars through their own network. As is usually the case, truth can be found in both camps, but there is no doubt that the majority of the physical construction occurred on British soil.
Almost as soon as Cobra production began, AC Cars saw a market for them in the United Kingdom and Europe. Shelby was busy with the demand in the U.S. and the European market seemed like a modest one. He was happy to let AC Cars assume the responsibility of supplying cars in Europe and consequently a contract was signed allowing AC Cars to produce and market the Cobra in Europe.
These cars were standard specification leaf spring Cobras powered by 289 Hi-Po Shelby engines with Borg Warner four-speed transmissions which AC received from Shelby. They carried the recognisable Cobra badge on the nose but the circular “AC” badge was affixed to the trunk lid, no doubt because AC was proud of their heritage and unwilling to allow it to be totally overshadowed by Shelby American.
The serial numbers were COB (‘CObra Britain’) for the right-hand drive cars sold in the United Kingdom, of which just 45 out of the entire Cobra production were produced. Many do not survive having succumbed to racing incidents and terminal episodes that were the result of too much power for damp British roads.