By: Dave Abrahams
Cape Town - The iconic Shelby Cobra arrived in South Africa on Thursday night - not with a hiss or a bang, but with a snarl.
Years of reading about Carroll Shelby's cars and watching them do nasty things to fine rubber in countless video clips hadn't prepared me for how mean and aggressive the sound of a Shelby-modified five-litre Ford V8 is in real life - especially in a confined space.
The official launch of Shelby South Africa - founded and run by former SA Powerboat champion and classic car racer Peter Lindenberg and his daughters Chiara, Paige and Abbi - was held at its one and only (for now anyway) dealership, classic car specialist Crossley & Webb in Cape Town.
After a short video and a live music intro, the sound system was suddenly drowned out by what sounded like an angry Transformer and, as a black curtain at the back of the shop fell away, the spotlights fell on a gleaming metallic silver Super Snake with tendrils of petrol vapour curling from its Borla tailpipes. One thing's for sure - a Shelby is capable of upstaging even its own show.
How it all started
But one thing Shelby is not, is a car manufacturer. Carroll Shelby got started in the car business in 1962, shoehorning Ford's then-new 260 cubic-inch HiPo V8 into a cute little English roadster called the Ace, made by AC in Thames Ditton, Surrey - and the resulting evil-tempered short-wheelbase spitting cobra of a car was called just that, the AC Cobra.
Three years later Shelby waved his Cobra wand over the first-generation 4.7-litre Ford Mustang, fitting a high-rise inlet manifold, 'branch' exhaust headers and much-needed uprated front disc and rear drum brakes with metallic liners, borrowed from the humungous Ford Galaxie, to create the 228kW GT350 - and to this day the company he founded, Shelby American, produces go-faster kits for Ford's Pony Car.
It was the arrival of the first right-hand drive Mustangs in South Africa late in 2015 that gave Lindenberg the idea to import Shelby Cobra kits for the SA market, and this has now become a reality, with the first three cars handed over to their owners at Thursday night's launch party.
On the South African menu
Four base kits are available at launch from Shelby SA, one for the 2.3-litre Ecoboost model, and three for the five-litre V8.
But first you have to buy the Mustang of your choice for your local Ford dealer, who will then deliver it to Crossley & Webb's classic car workshop in Solan Road, Cape Town. There the kit will be fitted and the car tuned to perfection, before it is trailered back to your Ford dealer for delivery for you. All Shelby conversions are covered by a 12 month warranty.
The whole process takes about six weeks; Shelby South Africa will also fit kits to existing 2016-model Mustangs, as long as they are mechanically sound.
The Shelby GT kit for the 2.3-litre Ecoboost includes only chassis and cosmetic modifications; the 233kW turbopetrol four remains absolutely standard. It starts with 20 inch machined alloy Weld rims and performance tyres, a free-flow exhaust system, carbon-fibre body kit, billet aluminium grille inserts and a raft of badging and detail upgrades. That will set you back R665 000 on top of the cost of the car, which ranges from R713 900 for the fastback with manual 'box to R795 900 for the convertible with auto transmission.
The same GT kit is available - at the same price - for the five-litre V8 Mustang (which costs R852 900 - R935 900) but now you have the option of adding a Ford Performance Supercharger which ups power from the standard 306kW to 470kW, Wilwood six-piston front and four-piston rear brake calipers, Ford Performance half-shafts (and they're mandatory with the supercharger), brake ducts, a Ford Racing suspension kit, adjustable rear toe-in rods, and a differential cooler.
Super size your order
Then there's the Shelby Super Snake: This kit starts at R1 248 000, but includes a Ford Performance supercharger that ups power to 500kW, the heavy-duty half-shafts, an uprated differential and cooling system, the Wilwood front brakes, a dashboard gauge pod and the complete Super Snake badging and body kit.
But wait, there's more - just like in an American-style fast-food joint, you can supersize your order with a Kenne-Bell supercharger (good for a whopping 560kW), or a larger-capacity Whipple supercharger or a Whipple blower with polished finish.
Limited edition Terlingua
But at the top of the Cobra food chain is the limited edition Terlingua, built to commemorate the Terlingua Racintg Team and its total domination of the 1967 Trans Am championship - it won all but three races. Terlingua was actually the name of Carroll Shelby’s California ranch, and the car was named for this ‘boy’s club’ because Ford wouldn’t back Shelby’s plan for a factory Trans Am team.
The Terlingua comes with a 560kW Whipple supercharger, Eibach adjustable suspension and anti-roll bars, heavy-duty half-shafts, Brembo race-spec brakes, 20 inch Weld racing rims and distinctive Terlingua badging and sponsors’ decals on a special carbon-fibre body kit.
No prices for the Terlingua are available yet, as Lindenberg only received confirmation on Wednesday that he had been allocated five of just 50 kits that will be produced for the whole world - but two of them had been sold by the time he made the announcement at the launch party.
So how much would it all add up to?
Just for fun, we did a virtual build based on the five-litre fastback auto and the Super Snake kit.
The resulting order form had a bottom line of R873 900 for the car, R1 248 000 for the Super Snake kit - a total of R2 121 900.
Which is a lot of money for a production-based American muscle-car, not too bad for a 560kW track-ready supercar with a sound track that'll have Michael Bay howling at the moon.
What colour would you like yours?
Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter
Subscribe to our Newsletter