Relive the iconic roadster’s racing heyday with a 50th anniversary limited edition Shelby 289 FIA replica.
Until Toyota started tinkering with electric motors, when a car was described as being a ‘hybrid’ it usually meant that it had a European body and chassis but that it was powered by a big block American engine.
And nowhere was this cross-border relationship more astounding, explosive or revolutionary as when a young US ex-racing driver called Carroll Shelby happened upon the AC Ace — a lightweight, good-looking yet horrendously underpowered English roadster — and decided to crowbar a huge Ford V8 into it.
The resulting car, the AC Cobra (or Shelby Cobra in the US) is one of the most iconic cars of the 1960s and to this day is still one of the fastest production cars ever built.
Developed to compete head to head with the crÃ¨me of European supercars, the Cobra took no prisoners on the track and in 1964 — its maiden year of competition in the World Manufacturing Championship series — embarrassed a host of stalwarts including Aston Martin, Jaguar and even the Corvette.
The car also provided the foundations on which Ford was to later build its Le Mans 24 hours racing success, first with the Cobra Daytona coupé and eventually the equally iconic Ford GT40.
To celebrate what became its defining year, Shelby American is building 50 new Shelby 289 FIA Cobras. Each one will be finished in Viking Blue with FIA stripes and roundels, have a full FIA racing interior and feature a special badge denoting the car’s rarity and that it is a ‘continuation Cobra’ and therefore will be added to the official registry of racing cars built by the company.
“The 289 FIA Shelby Cobras were among the most important cars in American racing history,” said John Luft, president of Shelby American. “The FIA Cobras built during that period were piloted by racing legends including Ken Miles, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill and Bob Bondurant. Thus, some of the most revered drivers in the sport put the 289 FIA Cobra into the winner’s circle. Combining a robust, powerful American engine with a lightweight chassis was sheer brilliance. Shelby’s formula still resonates today and is followed by automakers worldwide.”
Aimed at hardened racers rather than simply classic and rare car collectors, each example will be available with either a fiberglass ($94,995) or an aluminum ($159,995) shell but won’t be coming with a drivetrain as standard. It’s down to each owner to specify the car’s setup to best suit their needs.