UPDATE: Sold for $13,750,000 – a new auction benchmark for an American automobile.
Today RMSotheby’s anounced the AC/Shelby Cobra prototype for their upcoming auction in Monterey.
What they call “the most important modern American car” is actually British.
That’s because this prototype was assembled by AC Cars in Thames Ditton, England.
In fact the front badge gives equal credit to both AC Cars and Shelby!
I wrote earlier:
Shelby recalls “I went to AC Cars in about June 1961. I’d looked at several other chassis situations for building my own cars, including AC’s Ace. Ray Brock came to me about the same time and said, ‘Ford has a new small-block V-8. 221 inches.’” Not long afterward he was in Detroit to meet with Dave Evans, Don Frey and Lee Iacocca. He recalls “I told him that I had a chassis, and that, if I could get these Ford engines, I thought I could build a car that would blow off the Corvette. I needed to borrow $25,000 to build two cars, plus engines. Iacocca agreed.”1
Putting an American V8 in a well-used european chassis such as a Ferrari or Maserati was common in 1960s racing, but Shelby was the first to market a working a sports car with official factory backing. Furthermore, many of the V8-powered specials in SCCA racing had achieved success alongside more expensive European marques. With the Cobra, Shelby saw a new opportunity.
After Shelby’s visit to Thames Ditton, AC Cars agreed to ship a modified version of their AC Ace to America without an engine. All the initial development of the chassis was done by AC who fitted the first prototype with the 221 in³ Ford V8. Like the production cars to the follow, this first car was eventually shipped to America, engineless.
In February of 1962, CSX2000 sometimes known as CSX0001 was completed in Dean Moon’s shop in Santa Fe Springs, California. When it reach Shelby, one of Ford’s first 260 in³ engines was available, which at the time was an upcoming racing engine developed with joint co-operation with Holman & Moody. Not long after arriving, the brushed-aluminum car was outfitted with a 260 and christened a Shelby.
Shelby gives little credit to AC. He commented “We strengthened the chassis tubes, we had to put different spindles and hub carriers on it, we had to put a different rearend in it,” recalls Shelby. “We changed those old buggy springs…there were very few nuts and bolts in that car that were the same nuts and bolts as in an AC Ace.”
Images by the talented Darin Schnabel for RMSotheby’s