AC Cobra (1963)

When it was born in 1953, AC Cobra was named as "ACe". This British sports car had attractive styling, all-independent suspensions and excellent handling. However, powered by an in-house built 85hp 2-litre six, although not really appropriate to be described as "underpowered", at least we can say it would never have been a classic car.

An American ex-racing driver, Carroll Shelby, changed its fate. In 1963, ten years after its launch, Shelby helped AC modifying the car. He put a 4.7-litre Detroit Ford V8 under the bonnet and modified the chassis slightly to cope with the heavyweight engine. The result was more than anyone would have expected. Power was dramatically increased to 271 hp, zero to sixty could be done in a mere 5.5 sec and had a top speed of 138 mph to match. Moreover, the already outstanding chassis was given the necessary power to demonstrate its ability.

Since the Ford V8 came from the fast-selling Mustang range, cost could be minimized. Furthermore, when Ford introduced a larger V8 in Mustang and GT40, AC Cobra also benefited from it. Therefore, in 1965, the mighty Cobra 427 was added, which had 427 cubic inches capacity, or 7 litres. With 425 horses underneath the bonnet and a relatively lightweight body, it became the fastest accelerating car in the world for the next 20 years: 0-60 mph and 100 mph could be done in 4.2 and 10.3 seconds respectively, and 0-100-0 mph in 12.4 seconds ! the latter record held until levelled by Caterham Seven JPE in 1991 ! However, due to the shortage of supply of this motor, many of these 427 were actually fitted with 428 engines, which was derived from the Ford Galaxy police and was capable of "only" 390hp. Shelby said the differences between 427 and 428 in real world were hardly noticeable.

The Cobra enjoyed huge success in the USA. Both 427 and 289 (i.e. the original 4.7 litres or 289 cubic inches version) sold good there. Today they remain as one of the most favourite classic cars. The 427 had a mightier image purely due to its fire-breathing power, while the 289 was lighter, better balanced and crisper to handle, provided the best overall combination.


Cobra 289
Cobra 427
Cobra 428
Year of production
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
Front-engined, Rwd
No. produced
580 units
120 units
  228 units
V8, ohv, 2v/cyl
V8, ohv, 2v/cyl
V8, ohv, 2v/cyl
4727 cc
6997 cc
7014 cc
271 hp (gloss)
425 hp (gloss)
390 hp (gloss)
314 lbft (gloss)
480 lbft (gloss)
475 lbft (gloss)
1050 kg
1160 kg
est 1180 kg
Top speed
138 mph* / 135 mph**
165 mph
0-60 mph
5.5 sec* / 5.6 sec**
4.2 sec**
0-100 mph
14.1 sec* / 13.7 sec**
10.3 sec**
* Tested by Autocar
** Tested by Motor

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