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  AC Shelby Cobra Mk I 260      

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Built in:Los Angeles, United States
Produced in:1962
Numbers built:126 Mk Is (75 260s and 51 289s)
Introduced at:1962 New York Auto Show
Successor:AC Shelby Cobra Mk II 289
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:July 04, 2016
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Click here to download printer friendly versionWhile racing in Europe and North and South America throughout the 1950s, Carroll Shelby cherished one dream; building the world's fastest sportscar. By 1956 he had already come up with a name for his car, it would be named Cobra. Soon after his 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans victory for Aston Martin, Shelby was struck by heart problems. Reluctant to do so, he was forced to give up motor racing as a driver. This did give him time to make his dream come true.

Early in the 1950s John Tojeiro had designed small a sportscar, which was sold under the AC Ace name. Installed in the simple but effective tubular chassis was an AC six cylinder engine and later also Bristol and Ford straight sixes. Its lightweight chassis and body, and effective engine made the Ace a moderately successful racer. When Bristol announced that the 2 litre engine would be phased out, AC was left without an engine to power the Ace. Previous attempts to install other engines, like American V8s had failed miserably and the end of the Ace production was announced.

When Shelby read about the end of the AC Ace, he immediately contacted AC and his long time associates Ford. He convinced AC to continue constructing the Ace and Ford to supply special versions of their Fairlane engine for installation in the AC chassis. Shelby flew over to the UK to supervise the construction of the prototype chassis, which featured modifications designed by Shelby to ensure the hybrid would be driveable

Although the displacement of the Ford '260' V8 was more than twice as large and the initial 260 bhp output almost twice as large as the Bristol's, the Ford unit weighed less. Main difficulty in incorporating American V8 engines was their rather high torque figures. The rear-end needed considerable modifications to handle the torque produced by the Ford. With the beefed up rear suspension, the AC chassis took to the Ford V8 engine surprisingly well and after extensive tests 100 chassis/bodies and Ford V8s were ordered. Shelby's Cobra was born!

The V8 Ford engines were derived from the ones used in the Fairlane and Fairlane 500, but they were delivered to Shelby in a somewhat 'tweaked' form. Breathing through a single Holley Carburettor and fitted with 'hotter' cams, solid tappets and larger ports, the V8 was good for around 260bhp. For competition use Shelby modified the engine even further. With an increased compression ratio and breathing through four twin-choke Webers figures of 335 bhp could be achieved, with the engine revving up to 9000 rpm. Stunning performance was the result of this very powerful engine, which is reflected by the acceleration and top speed figures. Had Shelby succeeded in building the world's fastest sportscar?

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