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Lot 129: AC Cobra 289 MK III - Ex Tara Browne


The forerunner to the Cobra, the Ace, was an immensely successful car in every way; it sold strongly throughout most of the 1950s, won races and was perhaps the loveliest sports car of its era, bar none. AC, however, had no replacement in the pipeline by the early 1960s. The Ace was then hit by the fact that Bristol ceased production of the 2 litre engine which had become the backbone of AC's range. It turned to a tuned version of the 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr engine, which gave better performance, but it moved the car into the 3 litre class. It began to appear that the Ace and AC itself would fade away. Then Carroll Shelby, Texan chicken farmer and racing driver, had the bright idea of fitting a Ford V8 engine into an Ace chassis. Others had fitted American V8s into British chassis before Shelby, but none had been particularly successful... there was something about Shelby's concept which was completely right. The engine was light and compact, the car's lines had not aged and the chassis was race-bred. Thousands of imitations have been made of the AC Cobra (or Shelby Cobra, if you prefer) but only 560 examples were made to the original Tojeiro chassis design and only 46 of those were made with right-hand drive. The 1960's was a remarkable period in terms of social change and current events which re-focussed the thoughts and dreams of a generation, and created after the post war austerity of the second world war what became modern history's most flamboyant era. Motorcar manufacturing, especially that of expensive low volume sports cars was also at its peak with a majority of the world's best- loved and most- recognised motorcars ever produced in the motorcar's 110 year history being built in that 10 year period alone. As such, to have a pop-art icon of the 1960's embodied in one of the most iconic 1960's sport racing cars is a unique event. And the sale of COB6107 is this event. The car was delivered new to world famous sixties socialite Tara Browne, or the Honourable Tara Browne as he was more formally known, an heir to the vast Guinness brewery fortune. Tara was connected to some of the greatest names of the psychedelic movement both in art and music during that great period. There is much documentation on Tara Browne as a result of his untimely death in a car accident in South Kensington driving his Lotus when he was only 21 years old. He has ascended to the status of a 1960's legend. He was close friends with the Beatles, and the Rolling Stones and the fly on the wall documentary made on him in the period features one scene with him in his mews house playing records with Paul McCartney. His girlfriend Suki Potier, the 1960's sex kitten who survived the tragic car accident later went on to be the long term girlfriend of Brian Jones, from the Rolling Stones. His close friend Robert Frazer, the sixties arts dealing genius was later charged alongside Mick Jagger with the ultimate sixties' transgression, the possession of cannabis.There can be no-more an example of a high society figure embedded in the fantastic world of late sixties London. It therefore comes as no surprise that when Tara Browne took delivery of his Cobra on the 11th November 1965. via Len Street Engineering Company ltd in Bayswater, London, he presented the new car to none other than Dudley Edwards, who by now had become one of the most important artists internationally of the 1960's pop-art scene, and is credited by some art historians as being the creator of the entire look and movement. Dudley Edwards' graphics and style of art created the look of a generation&and it was in order to tap into this culture of it's actually all happening now man!, that Tara Browne commissioned his car to be turned into a work of art by Edwards. Edwards' 1960's portfolio is immense, from designing huge shop-front friezes, for shops on the Kings Road and Carnaby Street. The bespoke commissions of furniture and musical instruments for some of the greatest of the period including the famous Paul McCartney piano; Edwards was also a consultant for the animation on the famous psychedelic classic, the Beatles, 'A Yellow Submarine'. The look, style, feeling and vibe of the late 1960's in London was very much a Dudley Edwards creation.Tragedy struck the hedonistic world of Tara Browne when on the 18th December 1966 Browne when driving with Suki Potier, missed a red traffic light at the junction of Redcliffe Square and Redcliffe Gardens in Earl's Court in London whilst driving his Lotus, hit a lorry, and unfortunately died of his injuries the following day. The relevance and detail of this tragedy are relevant to the history of the car prompted his friends Paul McCartney and John Lennon to incorporate the following lyrics relating to the death of the first owner of this cobra, into the anthem 'A Day in the Life' from Sergeant Peppers lonely heart club album. He blew his mind out in a car He didn't notice that the lights had changed A crowd of people stood and stared They'd seen his face before Nobody was really sure If he was from the House of Lords The reader should remember that Browne was a titled aristocrat. In a book known as The Sgt Pepper Code there is a theory that Tara Browne actually replaced Paul McCartney and indeed the 1971 recorded solo album Thrillington ( a nom de plume of McCartney) was said in the sleeve notes to be the work of Percy Thrillington  an Irish socialite who left his wife and two sons. An identical story to Tara Browne... Prior to the accident in the Lotus the AC Cobra had been placed on display as Art on Robert Frazers Gallery on Duke Street in St James', whereupon the car was removed and on the instructions of Lord Sligo was painted black and sold. So ended the sparkling 1960's adventure of the Honourable Tara Browne and 1965 AC Cobra COB6107. The car has been property of the vendor for the last 4 decades where it has been part of a private collection in Southern England. During this course of significant long-term ownership the car has benefited from substantial and comprehensive and servicing and maintenance work and is offered with an extensive history file showing all of the work that has been completed. The car has a current M.O.T and road tax and is well-known in cobra circles as a car with no stories attached, a fascinating but also clean history, and is without question one of the most well preserved and renowned Cobras in the world. The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn't the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility. John Lennon  friend of Tara Browne

Lot Details
Coys, Blenheim Palace, Woodstock, Oxfordshire, OX20 1PX
Lot Number129
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration numberKPK 392C
Chassis numberCOB6107
Engine number
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors