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AC Cobra: Buying guide and review (1962-1967)

AC Cobra 427 side AC Cobra 427 rear AC Cobra 427 interior AC Cobra 427 front AC Cobra 427 engine
When the AC Cobra was launched in 1962, few people could have predicted the effect it would soon have on the motoring world. A new partnership between small-time British sports car manufacturer AC, American ex racing driver Carroll Shelby, and the mighty Ford Motor Company, saw the creation of a legend. 
Initially, a 4.2-litre Ford V8 engine was slotted into the AC Ace’s curvaceous body to create the Cobra 260. The chassis needed considerable upgrades to handle the power, but even then it was far from tame. But this was built to win races, not to take shopping, and on track the Cobra was king. 
As the race wins stacked up, and the competition started to catch up, the Cobra’s power plant was uprated to a larger 4.7-litre unit in the 289 model. But by 1965 the 289 racers were up against serious competition: the Cobra needed more power. This prompted the ultimate incarnation of the Cobra in 1965, with the introduction of the 427 - the world’s most powerful car in its day. 
So the Shelby Cobra 427 became the ultimate road rocket, even if it wasn’t as successful on the track as its forebear 289. Ever-wider wings clad a tubular chassis with coil springs instead of leafs and a race-developed 420bhp Ford 427ci (6997cc) V8. There were three derivations: Competition, Street/Competition and road cars. 
Which one to buy?
Perhaps more than most classics, the Cobra you choose generally depends on how much money you have got to spend, although we’ll get to that later (See prices section). The vast majority of the 1003 Cobras built were sold in the USA, and none were officially brought into the UK until 1964. 
In total, just 75 early Cobra 260s were produced, making these among the most difficult to track down. Finding a 289 is less of a difficult task with 580 built in total. It’s worth knowing that the first 51 289s to roll off the production line kept the original’s slightly wayward steering set-up, which was changed for a much better rack and pinion system later. 
Then came the 427, which like many radical designs was not a sales success. It was never homologated by the FIA, as fewer than the required 100 cars were built, and the road cars were fitted with cheaper, more fragile 428 Police Interceptor engines. In total, 320 MkIII Cobra chassis/bodies were sent to Shelby and 27 were constructed and sold in Britain and Europe with the 289cu in engines, sold as AC 289s. 
Of the 320 officially constructed 427 Cobras (the chassis numbers go up to 350 but 30 were unused), many were developed and raced with success by privateers and, as such, they remain some of the most mystical and therefore collectable of all Cobras. 
Prices go up when the overall market is good and then stay there. Because these cars are so rare and enjoyable to drive they will never go down in value. Supply is still outstripped by demand. Originality is important, but some cars have had their 428 engine replaced with an authentic 427. That’s acceptable, but the car must retain its four-speed gearbox if you don’t want to affect the value. 
We’re focusing on the genuine Shelby cars here, but there has always been a thriving scene for replica and kit-based Cobras, as well as continuation cars that offer much the same thrill for a fraction of the cost. These are seriously worth considering if you are working to a sensible budget.
Performance and specs

AC Cobra 427
Engine 6997cc, V8
Power 410bhp @ 6000rpm
Torque 480lb ft @ 6000rpm
Top speed 165mph
0-62mph 4.2 seconds
Fuel consumption 9mpg
Gearbox Four-speed manual
Dimensions and weight
Wheelbase 2286mm
Length 3962mm
Width 1727mm
Height 1245mm
Kerb weight 1147kg
Common problems

Because what you’re really buying is provenance, and because Cobras are highly valued, this isn’t the kind of buying guide that warns of frilly wheelarches and blue smoke on start-up, although there are a few things to be aware of:
• All Cobras feature aluminium bodywork, so watch for stress cracks and dents. A complete body rebuild costs at least £100,000. 

• The good news is that these powerful cars are easy to run and maintain. All components are available, with mechanical parts well priced in American catalogues. 

• Things get expensive with performance components such as heads, high-rise manifolds and Weber carburettors, but figure on a price around £10,000 for a full engine rebuild by a specialist such as Mathwall Engineering.

• You really need to know exactly what you are buying, because of all the replicas and fake cars out there. The absolutely crucial point is to double-check the chassis number. There’s a worldwide registry for all the cars in the Shelby American Automobile Club tome that lists all the chassis numbers but it is not entirely gospel. 

• Just to confuse the issue, a few cars share the same chassis number. This is inevitable because many of them were raced and crashed, resulting in rebuilds over the years. Also, there is a registry for Cobras within the British AC Owners Club.

• As with many sports and racing cars there are plenty of urban myths and stories about the provenance of some 427s, including Cobras being hidden by members of the mafia, etc. So you must consult a real expert before signing a (very) large cheque. 

• In the good old days, crashed cars were junked and chassis numbers were transferred to new cars so you really need to know your onions. Provenance is all with a Cobra so it is essential that your research is done with forensic thoroughness. 
Model history
1962: The original MkI was manufactured from 1962 to 1963. The cars were constructed in Thames Ditton and the initial prototype chassis, CSX 0001, was fitted with a 221ci engine and tested in Britain. The engine and gearbox were then removed and the chassis shipped to Carroll Shelby in Los Angeles where a 260ci (4.2-litre) V8 was fitted, reputedly in just eight hours. In total 75 MkI 260s were produced. 
1963: The MkII followed with the 289ci (4.7-litre) engine and the first 51 continued with worm-and-sector steering. A further 538 MkIIs were then produced with rack-and-pinion steering taken from the MGB. 
1965: The 427 (MkIII) was launched and ran until 1967, with a total of 320 manufactured. Carroll Shelby stopped importing chassis/bodies in 1967 but thereafter AC cars continued producing cars in Britain with the 289ci engine (and the 427’s tubular chassis and independent suspension) until 1969. 
Autokraft: Brian Angliss of CP Autokraft started building cars using Cobra parts and AC shells from the mid-1970s and began manufacturing the MkIV in the early 1980s. 500 were built. 
Continuation cars: The first AC Cobra 427 S/C Continuation was specially commissioned and built in 1990, and over the next 13 years just ten Continuation Cobras were constructed. Nine were left-hand drive, of which five remain in the UK; one right-hand-drive example went to New Zealand. Now worth between £250,000 and £300,000+. 
Other ‘Cobras’: Autokraft went into receivership in 1996. Alan Lubinsky then developed the MkV and carbon-bodied CRS. Carroll Shelby built ‘continuation’ versions of the 289 FIA and 427 S/C.
Owners clubs, websites and forums

• www.billshepherdmustang.com
• www.rodleach.com
• www.acownersclub.co.uk
Summary and prices
Of the genuine Shelby-built cars, it’s the early Cobra 260 that offers the cheapest entry point. Although a sketchy car in need of restoration might still available for £160,000, the starting point is £270,000, rising to £380,000 for a much better example. Concours examples have been known to sell for close to £490,000. Later 289 models are worth roughly 10 per cent more. 
By far the most valuable is the original 1965 427s, which is today selling for up to a million pounds. The AC Cobra 427 MkIII S/C Continuation cars seem like good value at about half the cost. With cast-iron AC Cars Ltd certification (and FIA eligibility), this 427 appears and drives exactly like the 1960s original. Only ten were built in total during the early 1990s. 
Speak to the AC Owners Club and Bill Shepherd who, although he now specialises in Mustangs, has a great wealth of experience racing and preparing Cobras. 
But most definitely talk with Rod Leach, who is a fund of information on the complicated history of this great marque. The story of AC itself, the Cobra, Shelby, lawsuits, the various owners of the company and the rights to the name, Continuation Cobras, Autokraft, replicas, kit cars, etc, etc – it’s a snake pit that can catch out even the most agile researcher. Make sure you don’t get bitten. 
AC Cobra 427 side AC Cobra 427 rear AC Cobra 427 interior AC Cobra 427 front AC Cobra 427 engine
Last updated: 13th Jan 2016
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AC Cobra cars for sale

9 Search results
AC Cobra
24995 45175 GBP
  • AC Cobra DAX 427


    DAX Factory Build AC Cobra 427 5.7 V8 Chevrolet Small Block registered May 2008 finished in Metallic Daytona Blue with Blue Diamond Quilted Italian Leather interior with Silver Grey Leather Edging and Stitching, 17 Inch Halibrand Alloy Wheels, Willans Four Point Harnesses, Power Steering, Huge History File with Original Parts and Build Invoices, Wooden Steering Wheel, Stainless Race Fire Extinguisher, Water Tank, Fluid Containers and Engine Head, Engine Bay Parts and Components Re-sprayed in Matching Body Colour, Black Removable Cloth Hood, Blue Floor Mats with Cream Leather Piping, Edelbrock Intake and Throttle Bodies, All Tyres and Brakes Recently Replaced, Two Owners From New. Finance available on request including lease purchase with balloon - subject to status. Part Exchange welcome.

    • Year: 2008
    For sale
    Targa Florio
    01243 641117
  • AC Cobra AK 6.2L V8


    AK AC Cobra Roadster 5 Speed Manual 6.2L V8 finished in Pearlescent Blue with Full "Mushroom" Cream Leather with Blue Piping and Contrast Stitching, Registered in October 2013, One Owner from New, Cheverolt LS3 Aluminium Engine, Omex Technology ECU Kit, 18 Inch Silver and White Halibrand Replica Split Rim Alloys, TKO 5 Speed Gearbox, Limited Slip Differential, Two 5 Inch Stainless Steel Exhaust Pipes, Lucas P700 Halogen Headlamps, Power Steering, Stainless Steel Washer and Header Tanks, Blue Silicon Hoses, Front and Rear Stainless Steel Nudge Bars, Twin Roll Over Bars, Wind Wings, Sun Visors, Tinted Windscreen, Hydraulic Boot and Bonnet, Full Soft Top Roof and Half Tonneau Factory Fitted Cover, Aluminium Aston Filler Cap, Aluminium Stalk Ends, Stainless Steel Stone Guards, Handbrake Handle, Gear Knob, Triple Splitter Wing, Side Vents and Console Buttons, Willians 4 Point Racing Harnesses, Mountney M Range Steering Wheel, Luxury Wilton Blue Carpeting Throughout, Black Faced Smiths Flight Range Instrument Set and Stainless Steel Switchgear, Red Illuminated Dials with Brushed Stainless Steel Console Buttons with Blue Black Lights, Huge History File with Original Parts and Build Invoic

    • Year: 2013
    For sale
    Targa Florio
    01243 641117
  • AC Cobra GD 427 Mk4

    £44,000 £44,000

    Gardener Douglas GD 427 Mk4 AC Cobra Roadster 5 Speed Manual 6.3L V8 finished in Black with Black Roof registered September 2007, 18 Inch Split Rim Period Alloys, Roadcraft 383ci Chevy Engine with 400BHP and 400lbf.ft, Full Black Leather Interior, Tremec TKO600 Gearbox, Forged Crank, Edelbrock Performer-RPM Aluminium Heads; Air-gap Inlet Manifold and Carburettor and Roller Cam, MSD Distributor and MSD-6AL Ignition, Aluminium Water Pump, Billet Flywheel, HD Clutch, Mohair Soft Top, 4 Point Willans Harness, Huge History File with Original Parts and Build Invoices. Fully Valeted; 12 Months MOT; UK Wide Delivery Available; Part Exchange Welcome.

    • Year: 2007
    For sale
    Targa Florio
    01243 641117
  • AC 289 Cobra


    Year of construction 1963 color vinnyard green leather black first owner from 1963 to 1986 since 30 years in the hand of the second owner well documented histrory since first bill of sale known Cobra at Shelby register price Auf Anfrage/ POR EUR

    • Year: 1963
    For sale
    0049 211 7888 016
  • Lot 416

    AC Cobra

    £20,000 - £24,000 est. £20,000 - £24,000 est.
    Auction Date: 27 Feb 2016
    • Engine size: 5700
    Auction Date: 27 Feb 2016
    Silverstone Auctions
    +44 (0) 1926 691 141
  • 1996 AC Cobra Replica

    £24,995 £24,995

    The Cobra was built using a Ford 351ci (5700cc) Cleveland V8 with 4v ported heads, Edelbrock inlet manifold, Roller rockers and 4 barrel Holley 750 double pumper carburettor. The engine was fully balanced and blue printed and offers 360BHP at 5000rpm. The gearbox is a four speed Borg Warner and the differential is a Jaguar (Salisbury) 3.07: 1 ratio. The car has Jaguar brake calipers and rigid brake lines; the suspension has Gabriel Gas Ryder shock absorbers and four coil springs at the rear and two at the front. The wheels are Halibrand style by Compomotive and are fitted with Bridgestone tyres. The chassis is a strong ladder frame construction and the body is a single piece outer shell replication of the 427 Cobra, complete with jig fitted inner mouldings to form the cockpit interior, boot interior and wheel arches. An extra stiff bodyshell was built and the bonnet, doors and boot lid are of a double skin design for a superior finish. Fitment of the doors and bonnet were designed in such a way to avoid stressing the bodyshell, whilst simultaneously adding to the stiffness of the chassis. The Cobra is truly outstanding to drive and performance wise the car is reported to cover 0-62

    • Year: 1996
    • Mileage: 7000 mi
    For sale

    £45,175 £45,175

    --Red with Black leather interior, Black carpeting and Black convertible top, 4,000 miles from new, 5-speed manual transmission, Rare street version with underside exhaust. The Superformance MK III Roadster looks like it should and it is correct in all dimensions. It is a wonderful testament to one of the true 1960’s sports car icons-roadsters, the Cobra 427 street car. Standard equipment includes: Street dash layout with Smiths gauges, Glovebox, Original type wood steering wheel, Aluminum pedals, Side wind deflectors, Sun visors, Heater, Defroster, Side curtains, Convertible top, Tonneau cover, Windshield wiper-washers, Front and Rear bumpers, Front grille-splitter, Halibrand type Pin-Drive wheels with B.F. Goodrich Comp T/A Tires, Clear-round front signal light assemblies, Rectangular rear brake-light assemblies, Underside exhaust and Cobra air cleaner assembly. The power output is from a Roush 402 specification engine with mild-streetable cam with single Holley carburetor. It produces 515 horsepower and 500 ft. lbs. of torque, all on premium unleaded pump fuel! The result is an incredible fast, fun and incredibly streetable Cobra. The power is transmitted to the chassis through

    • Year: 2007
    • Mileage: 4000 mi
    For sale
  • AC Cobra Mk IV


    The AC Cobra is without any doubt the most sought after classic super Sportscar. The combination of a beautifully designed tubular chassis by Tojeiro, an ultra-light aluminium Italian Barchetta style body and Carroll Shelby’s genius idea to shoe-horn into the chassis the very strong and reliable Ford V8 small block engine was the initial recipe. From the original versions (MKI MKII and MKIII), built between 1962 and 1967, only approximately 1,000 were produced, but fetch today on the collectors car market astronomical prices !Petrol crises and world events sadly led to the bankruptcy of AC in the late seventies. The company’s tooling and eventually the right to use the name, were acquired by Autokraft, a Cobra specialist and car manufacturer owned by Brian A. Angliss. In agreement with Carroll Shelby and the Ford Motor Company, the last version MKIII car, of which only 327 were produced in the sixties, would appear again in 1982 with some modifications as the Autokraft MKIV, in essence an AC MKIII car with a 5.0L V8 and a Borg Warner T5 Transmission.These MKIV AC Cobra's must not be confused with any of the replica Cobra's out there. They are built to the very highest standards and are totally authentic, hand made, aluminium bodied cars built on the original bucks etc from AC Cars in the seventies. The engines were sourced from Ford USA and indeed the Ford Motor Company went into business with Brian Anglis, Autokraft, to collaborate in the production. This stunning example is finished in Raven Black with Black alloy wheels, chrome bumpers and a Tobacco leather interior. Purists will be quick to note that the interior is noticeably more luxurious than that of an early Shelby Cobra, benefitting from a stereo system with a CD player, leather trim, and seats with headrests. The car is fitted with Ford’s tried-and-true 225-brake horsepower, 5.0-litre engine with EFI, which is mated to a five-speed manual transmission.As the Mk IV offers a handful of welcome updates over the original Shelby Cobras, it makes for a wonderful driver’s car, providing ample amounts of both power and additional comfort. These cars are seldom seen in Europe, and this example would be the perfect stablemate to an original 289 or 427, or it can also be driven and enjoyed with ease and reliability. As it bears the AC name and was produced using many of the same tools and techniques as the originals, the Mk IV represents an interesting period in Shelby and AC history, and this extremely fine example would make for an excellent wind in the hair, long distance sports tourer.Available for viewing in our Kew showrooms.

    • Engine size: 5
    For sale
    DD Classics
    0208 8783355
  • 1997 AC Cobra by AK Sportscars

    £37,995 £37,995

    This outstanding AC Cobra by AK Sportscars is finished in Candy Apple Red Metallic with stunning Cream leather seats with Red piping. The Cobra is powered by fantastic 6.7 litre Chevrolet V8 engine that is producing around 400 BHP and has covered 20,000 miles since being built over a two year period in the late 1990’s costing in excess of £30,000. The Cobra was built by two highly skilled motor engineers to a first class standard and today is offered in outstanding condition. This stunning looking car is high quality in every respect. It has been beautifully styled and the paintwork and chrome is excellent throughout. The exterior is enhanced with extra wide wheels with spinners, P700 headlights, front spoiler with side diffusers, front and rear chrome nudge bars, tinted windscreen, colour coded hard top with heated rear window and Cobra stainless steel exhaust shields. The engine bay is pristine and looks impressive with Edelbrok Chrome air filters, Edelbrok chrome vale covers, stainless steel header tank and uprated coolant hoses. The upholstery is beautifully finished and boasts heavy duty thick pile fitted carpets with red piping, Cobra logo embroidered carpet mats, leather das

    • Year: 1997
    • Mileage: 20000 mi
    For sale
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