Cobra: The First 40 Years

Cobra: The First 40 Years

by Trevor Legate




This book tells the complex saga of a sports car that was created in the early 1960s as a result of an unlikely collaboration between a plain-talking ex-racing driver from Texas and a conservative British automobile manufacturer, funded by one of the giants of the industry, the Ford Motor Company.

Carroll Shelby, AC Cars, and Ford came together to create a car called the Cobra, based on the AC Ace roadster that had been in production since 1954. When the Shelby Cobra was created, it was far from state-of-the-art, but the use of a new series of Ford V8 engines saw the lightweight car annihilate the Chevrolet Corvette in American sports car racing. By adding aerodynamic bodywork, the Daytona Cobra Coupe arrived in Europe to contest the FIA World Championship and took victory in the GT category in 1965, making Shelby American the first (and only) USA-based manufacturer to achieve this feat.

In order to capitalize on this success, even greater power was required and the car was developed to take a huge 7-liter engine that proved to be a triumph of horsepower over handling – thus the 427 Cobra became an overnight legend, establishing new performance records and creating a reputation for being more than a little tricky to drive.

The era of the Cobra was brief – production ended at Shelby American during 1966 and at AC Cars in 1968 where they built their own final version, the AC289 Sports. Just over 1000 Cobras were built during that time but the final cars proved difficult to sell, their vintage qualities deterring potential owners. Carroll Shelby closed his company and went to Africa while AC developed other models, but the Cobra was not quite finished yet. Within a matter of a few years, a new market for the car was created as the demand for affordable kit cars grew. The most popular model by far was the Cobra and many thousands were built, with the result that both AC Cars and Carroll Shelby put their own versions back into production. And then the arguments really started…

If it was an improbable car over forty years ago, it is even more implausible today, but the remarkable Cobra, in one form or another, is still with us. It may be dead, but it just won’t lie down!

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780760324233
Publisher: Motorbooks
Publication date: 07/28/2006
Edition description: First
Pages: 288
Product dimensions: 11.38(w) x 11.75(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

After leaving art college, Trevor Legate became a commercial and advertising photographer with a passion for motor sport and cars. He wrote and supplied most of the photographs for his first book, Cobra, in 1984. A book about the GT40 followed, while he continued to build up his photographic business. In 2002, Trevor sold his share in his studio and was soon commissioned to write books about the Corvette and Mercedes-Benz. He also writes and photographs for various UK motoring magazines.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Road and Track, May 2007

“With many of the previous Cobra books out of print and the popularity of Cobra replicas, anyone interested in the marque should already have it on their shopping list. I’m making room for it on my bookshelf right now.”

                                                                                                                                                                       Cars & Parts, December 2006

“Legate presents a spirited text and employs some 300 color and black and white photos to illustrate the history of this special car.”


Fort Worth Star-Telegram, May 25, 2006

“In coffee-table format, but without the overwhelming bulk ‘coffee table’ sometimes implies, Mr. Legate’s work is highly enjoyable and, at $50, a relative bargain. Try buying a Cobra for that.”


Old Cars Weekly News & Marketplace, Oct. 5, 2006

“Anyone who measures their blood pressure in pounds per square inch will be unable to resist picking up this heavy, over-sized hardcover book and perusing its 288 pages … To illustrate the history, wonderful black-and-white photos and professionally shot color photos have been employed.”


Victory Lane, November 2006

“The whole story is here from the beginning in 1962 through 1968 then the revival of continuation and replicas … Lavishly illustrated …Well done.”

New Zealand Collector Car, Winter 2007

"This large format book is well written, full of interesting facts, and features a large collection of excellent modern and historic photographs – a must-have for all enthusiasts of the legendary Cobra.”
The Shelby American, No. 75 (circ. unavailable)

“The reader sees where everything fits and along the way is treated to some of the best photography of the cars that you won’t find anywhere. If it has been awhile since you have bought a Cobra book, this is a good one to break the draught.”


“Illustrated with over 300 photographs, the book is a must for Cobra sports car lovers.” – Peter Elsworth, Providence Journal

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