Page 1 of 2 Next >> Having conquered the national USRRC Championship in 1963 with the Cobra, Carroll Shelby set his sights on the FIA World Championship in 1964. Run for GT cars, the prestigious championship had been dominated by the Ferrari 250 GTO. Shelby pulled out all stops to ensure the Cobra was up to the task and developed two distinct versions for his works team. For the high speed circuits, a coupe version was created while a more subtly modified 'standard' bodied was readied for the tighter tracks. Known as the 'FIA Roadster', the latter is the ultimate development of the original, small-block engined Cobra.
The five FIA Roadsters were easily distinguishable from the earlier Cobras by a variety of detail changes to the aluminium body. These were made to both comply with the strict FIA homologation regulations and further improve the performance. Compared to the Cobras raced in the United States, the most obvious visual change was the full-width windscreen that was required for the car to be homologated as a GT. It was, however, tilted back as far as the rules allowed to reduce drag. More subtle were the two bumps on the rear deck, which were needed to clear the mandatory luggage with the enlarged, 140 litre (37 gallon) fuel tank in place.
Among the performance upgrades to the familiar body were enlarged front and rear fenders to clear the wider wheels and tyres fitted. These wheels were very recognisable six-spoke cast alloy wheels. To accommodate for the large rear fenders cut-back doors had to be fitted, which were also unique to this car. The FIA Roadsters also featured side-exhausts that ran under the sill. A hood-scoop was fitted on all five cars as were additional intakes under the nose to feed the oil-cooler. To help mechanics distinguish the cars during the race, each example was originally equipped with a different colour stripe across the nose.
Underneath the slightly revised aluminium skin, the FIA Roadster was more closely related to the earlier competition Cobras. The basic steel tubular chassis with independent suspension and transverse leaf springs was carried over. As before, the new works cars were powered by a Ford small-block V8. Fitted with four, twin-choke Weber carburettors, the compact engine now produced close to 400 bhp. This power was fed to the rear wheels through a sturdy Borg Warner four-speed gearbox. In order to save weight, none of the interior panels were trimmed but instead simply painted black. Page 1 of 2 Next >>