IOL Motoring Staff
In 1964 Texas chicken farmer Carroll Shelby introduced a competition version of his British-American hybrid, the AC Cobra, powered by a tweaked version of Ford's '289' 4.7-litre small-block V8, to compete in Division III of that year's World Manufacturers' championship for sports cars against thoroughbreds such as Aston Martin, Jaguar - and the Ferrari 250 GTO.
With oil-cooler scoops, flared wheel arches, upgraded dampers, competition rims with pin-drive hubs, cut-down doors and a somewhat basic interior including a new dashboard, it had more than 200kW on tap and weighed less than a ton ready to go.
Its acceleration was awe-inspiring, its performance on dry circuits commanding (then, as now, Cobras were regarded as essentially undriveable in the wet) and legendary drivers of the period including Ken Miles, Dan Gurney, Phil Hill and Bob Bondurant rattled a lot of cages with the five 'works' cars - two of which still exist.
Four of them were entered in the Targa Florio in April; only one finished but Gurney set the fastest lap of the race in it and came home eighth overall and second in class. Later in the season Bondurant won his class in the Freiburg-Schauinsland Hillclimb, as well as the Swiss Mountain Grand Prix, and in 1965 Bondurant's car (running in the colours of Alan Mann), went on to score three more class victories including the Tourist Trophy.
This year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Cobra FIA, Shelby American is producing just 50 limited-edition replicas, each finished in the royal blue of the 1964 works cars with regulation FIA white stripes and roundels, original-style 15" alloy rims and a period interior in black vinyl with special floor mats and anniversary badges machined from solid blocks of aluminium alloy.
The chassis uses the later frame with 100mm main members and modern disc brakes but retains the original suspension; the body is available in either fibreglass or aluminium. Included is the 289's signature side-mounted exhaust system, a special fitted car cover and optional detachable steering wheel.
The first of the 50 planned examples was introduced at the annual Barrett-Jackson classic car auction in Scottsdale, Arizona on Friday 17 January). The rest will be built to order with prices starting at $94 995 (R1.03 million) for a fibreglass or $159 995 (R1.74 million) for an aluminium bodied car.
Oh, and just so's you know, those prices do not include an engine or gearbox. Those you have to buy separately from Ford.