If you have ever been in the market for a “Cobra” or had the idea of owning one of the most iconic sports car of all time, this is the site for you. The members of the Cobra Authority community have spent years studying and researching these amazing automobiles and this site is the culmination of their efforts. From originals to inexpensive replicas and every variation in between, our mission is to educate others with “Cobra Fever” on the best possible way to make their dream come true. Enjoy the information and feel free to send us any questions or comments you may have along the way.
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.
Competition and semi, or ‘street’ competition (S/C) versions used the mighty 427. The ‘S/C’ had been created by the simple expedient of mildly ‘de-tuning’ 31 unsold competition cars. De-tuned? How does 0-100mph in 8.8 seconds and 165mph sound?
The Cobra set new standards of performance for road cars and was highly effective in competition. Just 1,000-or so Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967, and only 160 of those were of the genuine ‘427’ version.
What options do you have if the “Cobra” you want to buy is not an original?
U.S. Department of Transportation and Environmental Protection Agency regulations for new cars require things like crash-testing and smogging the engine for emissions—far too expensive for low-production vehicles like Shelby American Cobras and Cobra replicas. That’s why it’s impossible to buy a new turnkey Cobra for street use. However, Cobra parts are unregulated. When those parts just happen to be put together but fall short of a complete car, they are called an “assemblage of motor vehicle parts,” and they are still unregulated. That’s why most manufacturers, Shelby American included, produce a partially assembled car. Many are what is called a “rolling chassis”—the body attached to a frame with the wheels on. Most are missing an engine and transmission, and they come unpainted. The partially assembled Cobra is then completed to a customer’s specifications by an independent shop or dealer.
Recreations: As close to a “new” Shelby Cobra as you can get
Shelby American started building Cobras again in 1997 with the 4000-series 427 Cobras. The component cars were sold by Shelby American to dealers without engines and transmissions, in order to skirt all of the regulations that new car manufacturers have to contend with. Shelby American dealers would then install the running gear for the customer who would drive off in a car that was very, very much like an original Cobra, complete with its own CSX serial number.
Today, Shelby American offer a number of new versions:
The idea for Kirkham Motorsports started in 1994 with the mission to build the finest replicas in the world. It all began when David Kirkham was restoring the 427 Shelby Cobra CSX3104. At the same time, a relative bought, sold and imported to the US a Polish fighter jet (in that order). The already sold jet had bounced inside the shipping container and the nose was severely dented. David was called to fix the plane, and during inspection of the damage, realized the construction was strikingly similar to CSX3104.
Inspired, David found the manufacturer in Poland and sent a fax off to Poland. The simple note read, “Can you guys build an aluminum bodied car?” Within 12 hours the reply: “No problem.”
A week later, David was on a plane to Warsaw with an English-Polish dictionary, a toy model of a Cobra, and a dream. He spent a week scouting the factory and exploring their manufacturing abilities. He saw a silent factory with idle machines. The enormous factory had produced aircraft for over 60 years. During the tour, David knew this was the place he wanted to build cars. After meeting with three generations of skilled craftsmen eager to make these cars, he forged some agreements and left filled with high expectations and enthusiasm. Since then, Kirkham Motorsports has become one of the leading manufacturers in the component car industry. At the inception of the company, Kirkham Motorsports focused on building the most accurate replicas in the business. Kirkham Motorsports still offers incredibly accurate replicas, but technology and manufacturing techniques have evolved since the 1960’s. Kirkham Motorsports is a quality-focused company, pushing the performance envelope without forgetting originality.
Kirkham offers the following models:
Backdraft Racing Inc was founded in January of 2001 by 2 world champion auto racers, Tony Marten and Reg Dodd. The company has evolved considerably over the past few years to established itself as one of the industry leaders in producing turn key minus cars. Backdraft Roadsters are built in the Backdraft Racing 53,000 sq.ft. state-of-the-art facility. The new US head office and showroom, Backdraft Park, was opened in Boynton Beach in 2012. Backdraft are the leaders in high quality, authentic replicas and custom built roadsters.
Current models offered include:
Superformance was founded as “Superformance International Inc.” by Hi-Tech Automotive Ltd. in 1996 and is currently the only firm licensed by Carroll Shelby Licensing, Inc. to build reproductions of the Cobra and the Shelby Cobra continuation models. They have a number of different versions available:
Era Replica Automobiles began creating high quality Cobra replicas in 1981 and have gained respect throughout the industry.