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Lot 153: AC Cobra 427 S/C Roadster

Goodwood Revival Sale, Bonhams (15 September 2012)

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. Wider bodywork, extended wheelarch flares and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the definitive - and much copied - Cobra 427 look. Keeping ahead of the competition on the racetrack had been the spur behind Shelby's adoption of the 427 engine, though some cars to 'street' specification came with Ford's less powerful 428ci hydraulic-lifter V8. Competition and semi (or 'street') competition (S/C) versions used the 427. Only 1,000-or-so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967, 356 of them the ultimate 427 version. Production recommenced in 1980 under the auspices of Brooklands-based Autokraft, which had acquired the AC name, trading as AC Cars (Brooklands) Ltd. The MkIV Cobra employed the same chassis as the preceding MkIII and continued to use Ford V8 engines. Autokraft was granted exclusive use of the Cobra name in 1985, and production of the car continued into the 1990s. This Cobra was constructed by AC Cars in 1989/90 to 427 S/C specification, using a genuine 427ci high-compression, top oiler (as opposed to side oiler) engine and the enlarged, endurance racing fuel tank. It is believed to be the first of some ten built by AC Cars to this specification. In 1998 'H8 COB' was filmed for BBC Television's Top Gear programme, which later broadcast a 10-minute feature on Cobras. The car was converted from left- to right-hand drive by the factory prior to its sale to the vendor via marque specialist Rod Leach, since when it has formed part of his private collection of powerful classic cars. Little used over the last five years, the Cobra has covered only 3,296 miles from new and is presented in excellent order overall, benefiting from a recent service by Thunder Road (May 2012) when the engine received new valve stem seals. The Cobra is finished in silver with black Connolly hide upholstery and matching Wilton carpeting, and Bonhams can confirm that it really does go like stink! 'H8 'COB' is offered complete with its cherished registration, chassis instruction book, sundry bills, current road fund licence, MoT to October 2012 and Swansea V5 document.

Lot Details
Auction Goodwood Revival Sale
Bonhams, Chichester, Goodwood
Lot Number153
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£110000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£124700
Condition rating1
Registration numberH8 COB
Chassis numberCSX3056
Engine numberCSX3056
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors2