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Summary of Content
Fierce Greatures AC Cobra 4275C vs Ohlsen FIA 289 Cobra Replica vs Almac Cobra Replica WOROS TIM NEVINSON PHOTOS SEAN CRAIG a \ \/\\ \ \ \ ,I N ..,y'""'' "ta -"o 4, 4 .t I' :r.,:. :,,:... rt .; fl NZ CIASS|C CAR I 5 :: Fierce Creatures For whatever reason - muscular styling, sheer brute force or, perhaps, the image of 'those Yanks'taking on the urbane Europeans and kicking ass - the AC Cobra is one of the most desirable cars on the planet. lt is also one of the most replicated shapes in automotive history rivalled only by Chapman's Lotus 7. Their immense value has precluded our featuring any of the three original '60s Cobras currently in New Zealand, but we collected together three cars which either have strong Kiwi connections and/or extremely good lineage to the original Cobra I! : :,i::; I'tr J1"H:#::j,""T; ZAS reptica would have a more traditionally trnrsneo appearance. Howevet run your uru, over the car's polished alloy body and every seam and every weld is immediately evident. Look closer and you can see a genuine expression of the craftsman's art - observe how each separate panel has been formed, and how ! I because it gifts the car with a singular immediacy that perfectly fits most enthusiasts' perception of a Cobra. This is one bad-ass of a car! And, if you thought the car's exterior was tough and dangerous, you really know you're in trou- - appropriate ble the moment you climb into the Cobra's cramped cockpit and kick the 289 into snarling life. With the V8 growling up front and your With the V8 growling up front and your hands grasping the skinny, wood-rimmed steering wheel, you are quickly put in touch with the awakened beast hands grasping the skinny, wood-rimmed wood- rattling the bars of its cage. Even before you the clutch and feed the stubby gear lever into first the palms of your hands begin, unaccountably, to sweat - and the Cobra was bled. ln a lesser caq these seams and joins would rim steering wheel, you are quickly put in touch still only idling! have been carefully filled, sanded smooth and covered in paint. However, quite appropriately, Rogan has decid- with the awakened beast. The thin alloy body panels twitch and vibrate, while the messages sent to your fingers via the steering wheel Original Cobras now command absolutely mind- depress each separate part of the body has been assem- ed to leave his Cobra's bodywork in its raw state remind you of nothing less than an angry animal Mind Bogglingly Expensive boggling sums, despite being difficult to sell when new, with most having once been available at some point in their career at near junk value. Most original Cobras were bought to serve as competition cars and, like all cars of that ilk, after a year or two they became uncompetitive and were discarded. Road-going Cobras were being sold at a time when all the other sports car manufacturers were meeting demand by turning their sports \ t g cars into much more sophisticated Grand Tourers. lndeed, AC tried just that with the gorgeous AC 428. lt is hard to imagine that at one time a Cobra was simply undesirable. To make things complicated, the original cars which we would all recognise as Cobras were known under a number of different titles, and one could look very different to another, yet still be a 'real' Cobra. The reason for the different names is mainly down to a fundamental disagreement through- out the car's life as to who owned the rights to the design, concept, finance and even the Cobra name. This makes things either very easy or very difficult for the replicaters, depending 6I MCLASSICCAB on I ,:f1 7F F. .^I a \ )r ,/ whether they are just going for a 'look' or whether they want to replicate a particular vehicle - bearing in mind that being virtually hand-built, each Cobra could have subtle differences. Contentious Lineage The reason the Cobra's lineage is so contentious that, as a car, it was never really 'designed', but evolved to fit the needs of a number of companies and individuals with quite different is agendas. One could not have been achieved without the other, but who should take the credit, who owns the rights to build so-called 'original reproductions', and who owns the right to name their cars Cobra has always been a bone of contention. The main claimants are John Tojiero (who designed the original chassis, and many subse- (persuaded by Shelby to finance the exercise in anxious that their elderly model range needed to promote its sporting image). There is one further individual, a completely unsung The rest, order updating, he introduced them to John Tojeiro. as they say, is history. hero who, as far as I know has never made a The Ace ln 1 953, Tojeiro and the Hurlocks agreed that AC !t is hard to imagine that at one time a Cobra was simply undesirable quent modifications), AC Cars of Thames-Ditton in England (which manufactured all but one or two of the original chassis), Carroll Shelby, (a Texan resident of California whose idea it was to put a large American engine into a lightweight chassis for racing), and the Ford Motor Company claim for paternity of the car, but without have happened. His name was Ernie Bailey. Bailey was already involved with the Hurlock family - which owned AC (Automotive - six-cylinder; 2.0-litre engine, and should get whom the Cobra almost certainly would never Carriages) should manufacture and sellthe car with its own and, knowing AC were becoming that Tojeiro a f5 royalty. AC employee Alan Turner refined the shape and the car became known as the AC Ace. Aside from later specials or the Daytona racing coupe, the basic shape of the Ace would never change. The AC engine was good enough at first, but as it turned 40 Ken Rudd, who had enthusiastically raced the AC Ace, suggested AC adopt the Bristol powerplant - as used successfully in many NZ CLASS|C CAR I 7 7f- >';Fierce cyies d I ,t -/ a, U- .- SPECIFICATIONS AC Cobra 289 FIA (302) AC 289 Replica AC 427 (Shelby S/C) o Lenqth 2286mm 2286mm o Track 1320mm 1371mm 137lmm . Chassis Tubular space frame Ladder frame Tubular space frame " Bodv " Enqine " Power 2286mm fibre Hand beaten allov Glass 4.7 litre V8 5.0 litre V8 Hand beaten allov " Torque " Brakes 364Nm 392Nm 758Nm " Transverse leaf Coil-over shock Coil-over shock 7.0 litre V8 205kW Suspension cars of the era, including the Cooper-Bristol. The Ace-Bristol soon became the staple product for the AC factory, leading to the Aceca coup6 and considerable competition success - notably in head honchos -?-J at Ford, knew of Shelby's ambitions to build a sports car, and suggested Shelby make a pro- (Ruddspeed). AC designer Alan Turner lowered top brass. to Europe for a car that would provide the basis for his ambitions. He was spurned by Healey which, no doubt, was quite happy with its arrangement with Austin, and instead Shelby hit upon the AC Ace. Evans and Shelby subsequently tied up a deal in 1951 which would see Ford Credit the bonnet line, courtesy of the lower Zephyr pay AC North America. posal to the Ford Shelby looked Although successful, the Ace-Bristol later faced extinction when Bristol ceased production in favour of an American V8. Ken Rudd decided that Ford Zephyr power would do the job for him in racing, and persuaded the factory to fol- low suit. This initiative led to the RS2.6 for shipping a complete car to Dean started the Windsor V8 had already grown to 4251cc (250ci), and Shelby's finishing facility was six, arriving at the frontal styling we all associate Moon's Venice, California workshop, where moved to Lance Reventlow's ex-Scarab works. with the Cobra. Only 37 were produced before Carroll Shelby made an appear- Shelby would use Ford's new 3522cc (221ci) small Shelby lost no time in supplying the car block V8 to power his new creation. With signif- & Irack and sports Car Graphic, and used ance at Thames Ditton. icant reinforcements, but still using single trans- exceptional road-test figures for his publicity blurb: 0-50mph in 4.0 seconds, standing quarter in .l3.8 seconds. All this with one car completed! RS2.5 cars Shelby looked to Europe for a car and hit upon the AC Ace to Road its Changing the Script all but left AC out of the script at the Shelby Cobra's US launch, concentrating on his own The American Connection verse leaf springs fore and aft, the AC Cobra efforts with the car Worse, he took ACt badges Shelby had made a name for himself by partner- for his dream car) was born. only a wider track and squared-off wheel-arch extensions gave away the fact that a V8 now off the car, and replaced them with his own Cobra ing Roy Savadori in the winning Aston Martin at Le Mans in 1959, but a heart condition stopped (Shelby's name speed shop in Venice, California. nestled under the AC's bonnet. The Salisbury 4HU differential was kept, but the AC's Moss At the time Ford was attempting to improve its 'box was replaced by a Ford competition image and Dave Evans, one of the brakes were his racing career soon after and he set up I I NZ C|-ASSTC CAR a US gearbox, and disc fitted all round. Before production motif - overshadowing AC's involvement. This was a portent of things to come and, whilst AC knew it was on to a good thing, the company was irked by Shelby's self-promotion at its expense. As a result, AC ensured all British-produced vehicles lost both the Shelby and Cobra names. continues on page 10 3s Fierce Creatures Over in the UK, an AC-finished car was introto the British public in late 1962, whilst rack and pinion steering and a bigger radiator soon followed, along with another capacity hike to 4700cc (289ci). Early Cobras have flat-sided wheel-arch lips, but after an abortive attempt at using Dunlop aluminium racing wheels, the trademark Halibrands became standard race ware, and the rear tyres soon started to outgrow the wheel duced arches. As Shelby's Cobras were built primarily with rac- ing in mind, homologation within FIA rules was imperative, and this lead to the 'FlA Cobra'- our featured John Ohlsen-built car is a replica of this model Cobra. Notable changes from the standard cars of the rr time were doors with wheel-arch cut-outs, bigger wheel arches front and reaq an extra inlet in the front lower valance, and a swage-line in the boot lid to accommodate an F|A-approved suitcase! Much of this work was done for Shelby by New Zealander John Ohlsen in 1964. A little latei Shelby realised the Cobra's per- formance was limited on European tracks by lack of top speed due to poor aerodynamics. Pete Brock, John Ohlsen and driver Ken Miles developed a coup6 version, later known as the Daytona. Several coup6s were built (two in the UK and three in ltaly), to slightly different designs, under Ohlsen's instruction. The Daytona eventually won the FIA GT Championship and class at Le Mans, and Shelby's dream to beat Ferrari was complete. However, by this time the GT the Cobras were being run by Alan Mann's Check out the Kiwi Cobra at www.almac.co.nz British racing team. long-legged, with fourth gear being rarely nec- On the road: Ohlsen the engine revs freely and is gloriously loud. The cockpit is tiny, dominated by a huge steering wheel, with the gear shifter essary on FIA 289 Cobra replica Rogan Hampson's car was started by John Ohlsen in 1985, and was intended for his own use. Alas, he never finished the car and its com- pletion was later handled by lvan Cranch, who undertook the car's hand-beaten aluminium body. This car is known as an FIA 289 after the four race cars built to run in the FIA World GT Championships. Rogan's car even features the the road, as virtually behind you on the tunnel. This Cobra feels as if it would be a real handful when extended, with immediate turn-in, and the possibility of the rear swinging round on you at any second. Whether at that point the car could be controlled on the throttle I wasn't prepared to find out, but driving Rogan's 289 sure gave me respect for anyone who pedals one of F|A-suitcase indents in the boot and the cutdown doors made to clear the larger wheel these cars competitively round a race circuit arches. Rogan does. - as As Shelby's Cobras were built primarily with racing in mind, homologation within FIA rules was imperative, and this led to the'FlA Cobra' The 4.7 litres of torquey V8 is a real handful in a car no bigger than an MGB, and it really gives you a taste of what it must have been like back fit an even in the '50s when these transverse leaf-sprung engine. Shelby was unenthusiastic, having tried Cobras were raced in anger. Tremendously fast it before with disastrous results. However, with the lucrative GT40 programme being used as a and completely open to the elements, there are few experiences that can match driving a comparatively crude but powerful race-bred sports car on the open road. Rogan's Cobra is very 10 I Cobra Mark ll The Mark ll Cobra was inspired by Ford's wish to NZC|-ASS|CCAR larger, 7.0-litre (427ci) big-block carrot, Shelby did Ford's bidding. Extra power and weight meant the original not up to the big-block, so it was re- chassis was engineered by AC's Alan Turner increased torsional stiffness, to give with independent coil-over-shocks, wishbone suspension all round and an increased track. The O/E big-block engine was a top oiler, and some were fitted with the Thunderbird's 428. The real performance V8 was the 427 side-oileC which had cross-bolted main bearings - some even came with alloy heads. Chris Amon did much of the development driving for the 427, as and fearsome performance. Once the SC bodies were used up, road cars had narrower rear arches, no bonnet scoop and Kelsey Hayes wheels. Mark lls also lost the Rover-type rear lights in favour of round ones. The Cobra body bucks and jigs, however, have been used by in the UK to produce the splendid reproduction 5C which was next on our list. On the Road: AC Cobra 4275C To many, the 427SC is the best of all the Cobras. lnterestingly, AC never completed the 427 SC at the time, as all the big-block cars were finished by Shelby in California. One of the few cars in New Zealand that can lay claim to being a genuine AC Cobra, the car we drive here, was built by The AC Company in around the wheel arch, lowering the compression ratio and fitting two 400CFM Holleys in place of one 750CFM. Our featured car, however, has reverted to the 750 CFM carburettor. A real monster, this Cobra would have to be the ultimate sports car - a pure athlete. No frills, .iust oodles of grunt, skimpy bodywork and huge exhaust drain pipes running along the sills. By showing the burn mark on my ankle I can now claim membership of the 5C driver's club! The noise and fury is simply unbelievable - and totally addictive. lt also handles well and, whilst it would undoubtedly bite the foolhardy, the steering is extremely progressive and the car rides bumps well enough to keep firm control over direction. A true thoroughbred. A real monster, this Cobra would have to be the ultimate sports car - a pure athlete it needed to be quickly developed to allow the homologated 100 copies to be built. Mark ll Cobras are what most replicas are intended to look like - with huge rear arches, an oval air intake and bulging front wheel arches. These racing cars stood around without customers for a long time until dealer Charles Beidler suggested turning them into road cars. The 4275C (semi Competition) became a legend, with lake-pipes, GT40 or Halibrand wheels 2000, using many 1965 parts and formed in 15swg aluminium around a tubular space-f rame using the original jigs and formers. Finished in Shelby's racing colours, this Cobra came with a certificate of authenticity. Less than 40 cars a The AC 289 and replicas Finally, AC in the UK made its own Mkll coil- year are built, and the chassis numbers follow on directly from the original AC cars. The 427SC was basically a homologation special narrower rear wings. This was probably the which could not be sold to racing owners, and was therefore modified by Shelby for road use. Back This 'detuning' included adding a small lip sprung road car with a 4.7-litre engine, and T10 gearbox. AC slighted Shelby by calling it the AC 289. The AC 289 featured wire wheels and most civilised of all the Cobras, and possibly the best road car. in the U5, the Shelby Cobra legend petered out in the shadow of GT40 and, whilst AC followed up with the beautiful Frua-bodied 428, times the UK company subsequently hit - hard although it would later be resurrected on several occasions. that time, many replicas have been made sensuous but brutal Cobra. So many, indeed, that Shelby, Ford and AC have failed in their attempts at damping down the procreSince of the ation of illicit replicas. Now, in 2004, Shelby America has ordered another 50 cars from AC in the uK. On the Road: Almac Cobra 289 repli(a Keith Lane of East Tamaki's Gearbox Shop has a superb, locally produced Almac Cobra. Alex McDonald, the brains behind Almac Cars, designed the car's glass-fibre body and it is generally recognised as being of superb quality. Underneath the car is a Graham Berry-designed ladder frame, made specifically for the Almac. Fixtures and fittings have .l- all been sourced to represent, as closely as possible, the original AC design. lt's a very fitting tribute to the original NZ CLASSTC CAR I 11 3s Fierce Creatures \ Cobra, Keith having aimed at making a very quick but useable road car with clean lines reminiscent of the final AC 289. Keith started the build in 1989, but it took until 1994 for the Triumph BRG-painted masterpiece to roll out under its own steam, provided by a 205kW (275bhp) 302 Windsor V8. Using a Supra fivespeed gearbox and Jaguar differential, Keith However, the prize symphonic piece was provided by the 289 FlA. Somehow there is no to Keith's building skills, not only looking and sounding great, but being fully sorted in the driving department as well. The car is a real credit substitute Surrround sound Each of the Cobras we tested has a distinctive voice all of its own. Predictably, the 427Sc was made Halibrand replica wheels support 23s-sec- tion Yokohama rubber. Good enough for a towards the rapidly approaching horizon. You only need the 302-engined Almac sounded almost like a pussy-cat - muted, almost civilised but with a lovely, soft V8 wuffle. understand the attraction Shelby's venomous snake still holds for lovers of fast, loud motoring machineryl I built in adjustable sway bars, while NZ- 14- second standing quarter, the car provides Keith with all the performance he needs - and unbeatable pose value. neck. By comparison, 2OO4 FORD SHELBY COBRA CONCEPT t 2# A COBRA FOR THE NEW MILENNIUM? This 2004 concept car, recently shown by Shelby and Ford, is powered by a 6.4-litre vl0 based on Ford's modular V8. Producing 450Kw and 680Nm of torqug the Vl0 allows the Cobra to break 210kph in thkd gear before topping out at a claimed top speed of more than 400kph! There is news on whether this contept will ever become a production reality. I race- loudest, its huge V8 growling Iike a caged grizzly at rest and, when prodded, responding with an avalanche of noise as it smoked its way has 12 for the sound of a properly tuned Ford 289 V8. Pitched well beyond the low ominous rumble of the 427, and far meaner than the 302, the hard-edged sounds emitted by Rogan's Cobra on full song send a delicious ripple right up your spine - simultaneously raising all the hairs on the back of your NZC|-ASS|CCAR ::4 \ I t? I to experience that once to