Throwback Thursday: 1966 Shelby Cobra 427


So…what’s a good plan for a small, lightweight British sports car with a steel tube frame and aluminum body panels? Shoehorn a Ford 427 V8 into it, of course!

The 427 Cobra started life as the AC Ace, a cute little roadster powered by a British straight-six (and later a Ford four-banger). In the early Sixties, American hot rodder Carroll Shelby and Ford were looking for a car that could compete with the Corvette on the race tracks. Shelby approached AC Cars, an agreement was reached and the first versions of the Cobra featured the Ford 260 V8, which had also been used for the Sunbeam Tiger , another Shelby brainchild.

An intermediate model used Ford’s 390 V8, but its nose-heavy weight distribution and lack of suspension tweaks made it almost undriveable in competition. The subsequent model brought in some Ford minds from Dearborn, the 425-horsepower 427 was wedged in, and Cobra Mark III production began in January of ’65.

Think about it for a second: at 2355 lbs, the Cobra was 500 lbs lighter than the contemporary Corvette of the time, with a top speed of 164 mph in stock trim and 185 mph in the competition model. Not surprisingly, they burned up the tracks at LeMans and other European circuits, leaving Corvettes, Jaguars, Porsches and Maseratis in the dust. The limited-production Cobra was only around for a few years, although variants and knockoffs were produced in later years. The project was a money loser for Shelby and Ford, and they stopped importing cars from Britain by ’67.

One of those knockoffs, however, was the Competition 427, a race car that was made nominally street legal with mufflers, windshield, bumpers, etc. As if the original package wasn’t a strong enough runner, Shelby added two Paxton superchargers to the Competition 427, then gave one of the cars to his friend Bill Cosby. Cosby soon found the car too much to handle and gave it back to Shelby. From there, the car went to a San Francisco Ford dealership; it then got away from the customer who bought it, going off a cliff and landing in the Pacific ocean with its driver