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Lot 115: AC Cobra 289 Mark III Roadster

Goodwood Revival Sale, Bonhams (15 September 2012)

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. Only 1,000-or-so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967, but such was the model's enduring popularity that production was resumed in 1982 under the auspices of Brooklands-based Autokraft. 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 1.5cwt 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 Cobras had been built with the 260ci engine, the more powerful 289ci (4.7-litre) unit was standardised in 1963. Rack-and-pinion steering was the major 'MkII' up-date; then in 1965 a new, stronger, coil-suspended 'MkIII' 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. Wider bodywork, extended wheelarch flares and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the definitive - and much copied - Cobra MkIII look. Keeping ahead of the competition on the racetrack had been the spur behind Shelby's adoption of the 427 engine, but some MkIIIs to 'street' specification came with Ford's less powerful 428ci hydraulic-lifter V8. In 1966 the Thames Ditton factory commenced a small run of 4.7-litre cars, which were marketed as the 'AC 289', the Ford Motor Company having acquired the rights to the 'Cobra' name. Only 27 of these were made, with 20 being delivered to the UK market in right-hand drive configuration. The car offered here - chassis number 'COB 6105' - is one of this final batch of AC-built Cobras and was sold new via Guy Salmon Ltd of Thames Ditton to one V S E Norman. Its first registration was 'KUU 1'. Towards the end of the 1960s, Balfour Marine and a Michael Fisher owned the Cobra, which in 1970 was purchased by rally driver James Ingelby and reregistered 'NAN 599D'. Driven by Ingleby, the car frequently held the class record at the Fintray hill climb in northern Scotland. Wolfrace wheels replaced the originals and by the end of the '70s the car had also been re-sprayed white. In July 1988, by which time a total of 52,000 miles was showing on the odometer, the Cobra was offered for sale at auction in the UK and was purchased by the current vendor. 'NAN 599D' had suffered some front-end damage immediately prior to the sale and in 1989 was despatched to Autokraft, which by this time was building the Cobra MkIV. There is correspondence on file with Brian Angliss at Autokraft regarding the restoration/rebuild, which appears to have taken 6/8 months and was billed at 36,000 in August 1990. The car was reregistered with the vendor's cherished number 'COB 27'. As a separate job, Autokraft totally rebuilt the engine, which again took many months. While in the vendor's ownership the Cobra has covered fewer than 1,000 miles, as evidenced by expired MoTs on file, and been kept in a humidity-controlled environment for the entire period. Understandably, little has been required in the way of maintenance, though there are two bills from Terry Hoyle for 2,000 in 2002 for general servicing plus further work by Hoyle in 2004. In June 2012, the car was removed from long term storage by Fullbridge Restoration Co of Maldon, Essex and re-commissioned, which involved a carburettor overhaul and new parts at a cost of 1,000. Currently displaying a genuine total of only 52,852 miles on the odometer, this well documented and highly collectible AC Cobra 289 is offered with old-style logbook, Cobra 427 Chassis Instruction Book, sundry restoration invoices, MoT to 2013 and Swansea V5 registration document.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival Sale
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood
Lot Number115
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£221000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£249020
Condition rating
Registration numberNAN 599D
Chassis numberCOB 6105
Engine number5A563B
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2