The AC Cobra is a British sports car that has gained iconic status for its combination of muscular American V8 power and British engineering. The car was born in the early 1960s, when AC Cars, a small British manufacturer, wanted to put a powerful American V8 engine into their lightweight Ace sports car.
In 1961, AC Cars approached Carroll Shelby, a former race car driver and owner of Shelby American, to help them with the project. Shelby agreed to provide the engines and oversee the project, and the result was the AC Cobra.
The first AC Cobras, known as the 260s, were powered by a 260 cubic inch (4.3-liter) Ford V8 engine, producing 260 horsepower. The car’s lightweight aluminum body and tube frame chassis allowed it to achieve impressive performance for the time, with a top speed of around 140 mph and a 0-60 mph time of around 5.5 seconds.
In 1963, the engine was upgraded to a 289 cubic inch (4.7-liter) unit, producing up to 306 horsepower in the high-performance Cobra 289 models. These cars were even faster than the 260s, with a top speed of around 150 mph and a 0-60 mph time of around 4.5 seconds.
The most famous AC Cobra variant is undoubtedly the 427, which was introduced in 1965. This version featured a larger 427 cubic inch (7.0-liter) Ford V8 engine, producing up to 425 horsepower in the street versions and up to 485 horsepower in the racing versions. The 427 was a true supercar, with a top speed of around 165 mph and a 0-60 mph time of around 4.0 seconds.
Other variants of the AC Cobra include the Cobra 289 FIA (built to comply with international racing regulations), the Cobra 289 Dragonsnake (a drag racing version), and the Cobra 427 S/C (a stripped-down, racing-focused version).
Today, original AC Cobras are highly sought after by collectors and enthusiasts, with some of the most desirable models selling for millions of dollars. The car’s legacy has also inspired numerous replicas and continuation models, built by a variety of manufacturers.
In terms of trims, the AC Cobra was not produced with the same level of trim packages as modern cars. Instead, the car’s performance and features were largely determined by the engine and racing modifications. However, there were some notable changes made to the car’s design over the years, including the addition of a removable hardtop and changes to the interior layout.