International Chairman for Motoring
"The Cobra was Carroll Shelby's dream car. And Carroll Shelby – and maybe only Carroll Shelby – was the person who made it happen. Granted, he came along at the right time, but he followed through. When opportunity knocks, you don't want to be outback in the outhouse." – Richard J Kopec, Shelby American Guide, 1978.
Rightly regarded as one of the all-time great classic sports cars, the muscular, fire-breathing Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Convinced that a market existed for an inexpensive sports car combining European chassis engineering and American V8 power, Le Mans-winning Texan racing driver Carroll Shelby concocted an unlikely alliance between AC Cars and the Ford Motor Company. The former's Ace provided the simple twin-tube chassis frame - designed by John Tojeiro - into which was persuaded one of Ford's lightweight, small-block V8s. It was discovered that the latter was lighter than the six-cylinder Ford Zephyr unit that AC was using yet with vastly greater potential. To cope with the projected power increase, the Ace chassis was strengthened with heavier gauge tubing and supplied fitted with four-wheel disc brakes. Weighing a mere 1½cwt more than a Bristol-engined Ace yet endowed with double the power and torque, the Cobra turned in a breathtaking performance, racing to 60mph in 4.4 seconds and reaching the 'ton' in under 12, exceptional figures by early 1960s standards and none too shabby even today.
The 260ci (4.2-litre) prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. Exclusively for the USA initially, Cobras - minus engines - were sent from England to be finished off by Shelby in California, and it was not until late in 1963 that AC Cars in Thames Ditton got around to building the first fully finished cars to European specification. After 75 cars had been built, the 289ci (4.7-litre) unit was standardised in 1963. Rack-and-pinion steering was the next major up-date; then in 1965 a new, stronger, coil-suspended chassis was introduced to accommodate Ford's 427ci (7.0-litre) V8, an engine that in race trim was capable of producing well in excess of 400bhp. Known as the 'MkIII', this new chassis had been designed by Shelby American's Bob Negstadt and AC's Allen Turner, and kept the basic layout of the Tojeiro original while featuring larger main tubes set farther apart. Wider bodywork, extended wheelarch flares, and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the definitive - and much copied - Cobra 427 look. Only 1,000-or-so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967.
Its entry in the Shelby American Registry records that this car, chassis number 'CSX2245', was
billed to Shelby American on 20th November 1964 and shipped to Los Angeles on 3rd December of that year aboard the SS Loch Gowan. 'CSX2245' was invoiced on 20th February 1964 to R.R.R. Motors of Homewood, Illinois as "1 Cobra-Ford, chassis # CSX2245, Bright Blue" with Class 'A' accessories. Its first owner is not known. By 1970, this Cobra was in the hands of Edward L Reagan of the Sports Car Store in La Grange, Illinois, who advertised it for sale in May 1970 as an "AC Cobra 289, Mint, new tires, top, paint, exhaust, etc. 30,000 miles". Michael Hagerty of Green Bay, Wisconsin purchased the car on 15th May 1970. Michelin XWX tyres and Sanderson headers were added in 1972; new Guardsman Blue paint, new red leather and chrome wire wheels in 1978; and a rebuilt 289 engine with 780 Holley carburettor at 35,000 miles in 1981.
Between 1988 and 1989 a complete restoration was carried out by Motion Products of Neenah, Wisconsin. 'CSX2245' was offered for sale in 1991 advertised as "AC 1964 Cobra CSX2245, restored to concours condition, blue with red Connolly leather, Wilton carpets, chrome wires, purchased May 1970, all receipts, asking $250,000". Eventually, Mr Hagerty decided to keep the car. As of 1995 the Cobra showed just over 43,000 miles; still finished in Guardsman Blue with red interior, it won a concours award at the 1997 Chicago Historic Races. Purchased by the private vendor in 1998, the Cobra is currently registered in Holland. Its history is fully documented in the World Registry of Cobras & GT40s (4th Edition, copy extract available).
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