9. Shelby Cobra 289
The story of the Shelby Cobra 289 is widely known. In 1962, the retired American race driver, Carroll Shelby, heard that AC Cars from England was shutting down the production of their Ace sports roadster since Bristol engines weren’t available anymore. In just a couple of days, he managed to get several engineless bodies on the transport ship to his Venice Beach shop. And he installed Ford’s 260 V8 engines in the new bodies.
The small but powerful American V8 in a light and nimble body proved to be a match made in heaven. Soon, Shelby installed the 289 V8 with 271 HP, which brought some serious performance to this little roadster. However, Shelby’s main goal was racing, so it was obvious the Cobra was a race track terror. However, it dominated domestic championships, beating Corvettes, Ferraris and Jaguars.
But Shelby wanted to go to Europe to prove his concept. So in 1963/64, with immense help from Ford, Shelby campaigned Cobras all over Europe’s finest racing tracks, repeating the success. The small V8 roadster proved extremely capable and dominated the GT class. Ford`s V8 was a durable, reliable unit and Shelby’s racing know-how was crucial in setting the car right for different tracks.
Also, Shelby sold his factory-prepared “Competition” Cobras to private teams and numerous amateur racers who enjoyed much success. Although the Cobra promoted Ford and American performance, it was a small roadster they designed in Britain and “hot-rodded” in America.