Speed Channel’s Behind the Headlights: Host Bob Varsha takes you inside the fascinating and compelling tales of twelve individual automobiles and their remarkable histories, courtesy of the SPEED cable TV network.
This episode (Season 1, Episode 6) highlights what is rightly regarded as one of the all-time great classic sports cars, the muscular, fire-breathing Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Texan Carroll Shelby had gone racing in Europe in the late 1950s and realized that a combination of a lightweight American V8 engine and a proven European chassis was a winning combination. He had a Ford V8 installed in the chassis of an AC Ace, named the result the ‘Cobra’ and proved his point.
Formalizing the arrangement, Shelby had AC Cars send Cobras – minus engines – from England to be finished off at his facilities in California. The 260ci (4.2-liter) prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. In 1963, the more powerful 289ci (4.7-liter) unit was standardized. Rack-and-pinion steering was the major MkII up-date; then in 1965 a new, stronger, coil-suspended MkIII chassis was introduced to accommodate Ford’s 427ci (7-liter) V8 engine, which in race trim could produce well in excess of 500bhp. Wider bodywork, extended wheel arch flares and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the definitive – and much copied – Cobra MkIII look.
Shelby’s “dream team” of drivers included Ken Miles, Phil Remington, and Pete Brock, who were supported by other racing legends behind the scenes. The Ford-powered, AC Ace-derived Cobra was faster and more reliable then almost anything else produced, dominating the competition in almost every instance. The Cobra won the U.S. Manufacturer’s Championship consecutively in 1963, 1964, and 1965. Shelby would go on to win the hotly contested 1965 FIA World Manufacturer’s Championship in 1965 with the Pete Brock-designed Daytona Coupe.
Filmed at the Nethercutt Collection Museum at 15200 Bledsoe Street in the Los Angeles, California suburb of Sylmar. The Nethercutt Collection is a multi-storied museum with an automobile collection, which has led Autoweek to call the Nethercutt Collection one of America’s five greatest automobile museums. The Nethercutt Collection was founded in 1972 by J.B. Nethercutt (1913–2004), who was the cofounder of Merle Norman Cosmetics.
Includes Interviews from:
- Carroll Shelby
- Bob Bondurant
- Don Cummings
- J. L. Henderson
- Jerry Grant
- Dick Guldstrand
- Dan Gurney
- Phil Hill
- Tom Jones
- Bill Krause
- Elizabeth Martin
- John Morton
- Lynn Park
- Gary Patterson
- Phil Remington
- Paul Russell
- Jenni Shrives
- Don Weaver
- Kathy Weida
Images Provided by:
- Carroll Shelby Licensing
- Dave Friedman
- Ford Motor Company
- Road & Track
- Streamline Films, Inc.
- Produced by: Bob Petrella
- Executive In Charge of Production: Rick Miner
- Executive Producer: Lenny Shabes
- Supervising Producer: John Aronson
- Coordinating Producer: Jill Penwarden
- Associate Producer: Alan Bolte
- Written by: Ken Gross
- Production Coordinator: Scott Greenberg
- Director of Photography: Jacob Kelso
- Edited by: Ruth Wald, Dan Nelson
- Audio Designer: Tom Orsi
- Cars featured courtesy of Peterson Automotive Museum
Produced by WATV in Association with SPEED CHANNEL
Copyright 2004, Speed Channel, Inc.