19. Shelby Cobra 289
The story of the Shelby Cobra 289 is infamous. In 1962, retired American race driver Carroll Shelby heard that AC Cars from England was shutting down the production of their Ace sports roadster because Bristol engines weren’t available anymore. In just a couple of days, Shelby managed to get several engineless bodies on the transport ship to his Venice Beach shop where he had Ford 260 V8 engines waiting for the new bodies.
The small but powerful American V8 in a light, nimble body proved to be a match made in heaven. Soon, Shelby installed the 289 V8 with 271 HP, bringing some serious performance to this little roadster. Of course, Shelby’s main goal was racing. Tthe Cobra dominated domestic championships, beating Corvettes, Ferraris and Jaguars. But Shelby wanted to go to Europe and prove his concept.
So, in 1963-64, Shelby campaigned Cobras all over Europe’s finest race tracks, repeating the success. The small V8 roadster proved extremely capable, so it dominated the GT class. Even though the Ford V8 was a durable and reliable unit, Shelby’s knowledge and racing know-how were crucial in setting the car right for different tracks. Also, Shelby sold factory-prepared “Competition” Cobras to private teams.