Snake Stories: why fanatics love the Shelby Cobra
The Shelby Cobra is the dream child of racing legend Carroll Shelby. We chat to Shelby Cobra fanatics to uncover what they love about this classic car.
Widely considered the most iconic American sports car of all time and a technical triumph, the Shelby Cobra is the dream child of the late Texan motorsport legend Carroll Shelby.
After a lustrous career throughout the 1950s, Shelby decided to steer away from motorsport due to ill health and focused his energies on designing the “fastest, meanest car on the road”.
His vision involved a rather interesting business proposal he believed would help revive the declining AC Ace automotive brand. So, he decided to create racing royalty by marrying a mighty American Ford V8 engine with a British AC Ace chassis and the honeymoon has been super sweet.
The nimble Shelby Cobra became known as the ‘Corvette Killer’ and certainly proved its track mettle by going on to win the SCCA A-Production and United States Road Racing Championship in 1963 and Le Mans 24 hour in New York later that year. This was just the beginning of the famous Cobra-Ferrari wars.
But this venomous ride wasn’t as powerful as Shelby envisioned and he wanted to beef up the engine. So, in 1964, he built the 427 powered by a robust Ford big block seven litre and 600 Nm of torque on tap. This little roadster went from frightfully quick to blisteringly fast with a spellbinding soundtrack!
The Cobra to end all Cobras
In 1966, the Shelby Cobra reached dizzying heights with the launch of the sinister Super Snake. With an unwieldy 800HP, 626Nm and a kerb weight of 1035 kg, the Super Snake was bitingly bad and the Cobra to end all Cobras.
The Shelby is certainly a rare beast with only 998 examples built from inception to 1968, paving the way for replicas which command the same respect as original models.
And the last non-street legal 427 Cobra Competition roadster built in 1966 fetched a cool USD $5.1 million at an auction in Scottsdale a couple of years back.
The Ford Mustang vs the Shelby Cobra
Back home, the Ford Mustang has broad appeal and continues to dominate the sports car market. In fact, overall sales of the pony car galloped throughout 2018 and outstripped overall sales of the Holden Commodore in August 2018 according to VFACTS.
However, there are many enthusiasts who have been completely charmed by the Shelby Cobra and believe it’s a superior alternative. We chat to these Snake fans.
Rohan, Snake Lover #1
Rohan Smith is currently the President of the Cobra Club of Victoria and has been passionate about Shelby Cobras since the ripe age of 18. He purchased an AC Shelby Replica in 2004 and a Shelby Daytona Coupe in 2010.
“I love the shape, the sound, the tradition,” he enthuses.
“Everyone loves the cars, male/female it doesn’t matter. People will take a photo of your Cobra instead of a Ferrari and Lambo! The Ford motor has a great sound, especially with the four into one side exhaust which adds to the unique sound”.
He’s also taken his raucous reptiles out on the track many times.
“I LOVE motorsport and the Cobra is a dream on the track. I used to do three to four track days a year in my Cobra vehicles but nowadays I prefer to watch from a corporate facility.”
Trevor, Snake Lover #2
Trevor Sharpe is an avid fan of the Melbourne Cobra Owners Club Facebook page which has a steady stream of engagement and is a hub for Cobra fans from all walks of life.
Trevor has always enjoyed tinkering with cars and machines and has been captivated by the Cobra’s beautiful lines and curves.
“They just look fast, tough and menacing. I never lose the excitement and thrill when I hear the V8 engine burst into life and set off for a drive.”
He dreamed of owning a Shelby Cobra but believed they were financially out of reach- until he looked into building his own.
“The Cobra is something very special that I had always dreamed about owning one. With the arrival of an AC Cobra chassis and body in my shed-the passion just flared up.” he says.
“I ended up building a RCM (Bongailas) Replica of the Shelby AC Cobra which took me two years to build to road registration stage.”
Shane, Snake lover #3
Shane Warren owns a RMC Shelby Cobra replica which took five years to complete between 1997-2002. He credits his passion for the Snake to Matchbox cars, his family’s love of Fords and a very special man.
“The absolute passion for the Cobra for me came from ‘The Godfather of Cobras’-the late Laurie Bongailis. He was a down to earth and wonderful man whose spirit lives in our hearts,” Shane reflects. “I was considering adding a Cobra to my collection, so a friend suggested I call Laurie. After meeting with him and seeing his car (which was basically an unbeatable weapon), I couldn’t get over the infectious way he pointed out the features of his Cobra. Just like a sculptor would with his hands- Laurie did it with words.”
“I have no doubt Laurie passed on the passion for the mighty Cobra to me. I love the beautiful curvaceous bodylines, the overall rawness and of course, the earth rattling sound of the grunty V8 heart.”
Belinda, Snake Lover #4
There are many aspirational owners who long for the real deal including Belinda Guthrie, who has loved everything about the Shelby Cobra since the tender age of 10.
“They’re small, sleek and have a whole lot of grunt. I’ve always been drawn to cars with a nice tune, so the Cobra obviously caught my attention,” she explains.
“My younger brother had a Hot Wheels Shelby Cobra and it was definitely my favourite. Our parents always had fast cars that sounded nice too and I think that rubbed off on all of us.”
But hot wheels can only be so fun for so long. Belinda would ultimately love to own an original model, but would also be happy with a replica in royal blue with white stripes as a Sunday snake.
So, it’s clear these enthusiasts have picked their poison.
They can sing high praises about the sonorous Shelby Cobra and its formidable performance, elongated body, fine lines and pure grunt.
Have you been charmed by the Cobra too?
Natasha Laging is a Digital Content Specialist with a passion for the automotive industry. She has previously worked for the carsales network contributing news and features, and overseeing the execution of strategic social media strategies. She has a special love of Aston Martins and 1960s Ford Mustangs.