Even after dying in 2012, Carroll Shelby is still selling his Cobras. Carroll was an American automotive designer, racing driver and entrepreneur. He was best known for his creation of the AC Cobra – a legendary sports car with an open top. Today these cars go for a cool half a million dollars.
And thats where the problem starts.
Back in 1965, Shelby completed 53 of the proposed 100 Cobra 427 S/Cs required to comply with FIA GT rules that stated all manufacturers must produce at least that many examples to qualify for competition.
Shelby stopped building the cars because his focus had shifted into taking over the Ford GT-50 racing program, competing in the prototype class, a segment he dominated for a number of years. It wasn’t until 1988 that Shelby decided to resurrect the remaining ‘65 427 S/Cs — primarily because he knew it would reap large profits. Five were built and sold between 1990 and 1992, all with original 1965 titles.
Now that he’s dead, his trust wants to continue to build and deliver the remaining 427 S/Cs.
Shelby had been quoted as saying the cars derived from old AC chassis he had kept in storage since 1965, but had lost the original titles.
According to a Los Angeles Times report from 1993, this claim helped him secure duplicate titles from the DMV — but it later emerged that the chassis were in fact built by McCluskey Ltd. in 1991 and ‘92, with only the motor and transmission being original from 1965.
Shelby later backtracked, admitting that McCluskey did in fact build the chassis — said to be an exact AC replica, even duplicating the coarse welds and saw cuts to perfection — but responded by saying, “If I said they were 1965 chassis or if I inferred it, it meant that they were built in the ‘60s and I was using ’65 engines which means that they are ’65 cars if I so choose to say so.”
The waters muddied further as all 1,100 original Cobra chassis were built in the United Kingdom by AC Cars and shipped to the United States for Shelby to shoehorn in a Ford V-8. If it isn’t a chassis derived from AC, can it truly be an original Cobra?
Shelby and AC Cars, then run by Brian Angliss of Autokraft who acquired the license for the AC name in 1982, entered a vicious legal war. Shelby claimed much of the negativity surrounding the new 427 S/C builds was due to Angliss stirring the pot, who around that time was battling Shelby over who was the definitive manufacturer of record for the ‘60′s AC Cobras in the United States — a legal war Shelby won.
Shelby reportedly asked Angliss to build the chassis for the then-new 427 S/Cs in 1988 and ship them to the U.S. labelled as “washing machine parts.” Shelby planned to let the cars rust in the rain for a while and then claim he had stored them since 1965. Angliss declined the order, while Shelby denied he asked for the cars to ship as washing machine parts, stating he didn’t need him to: “It is perfectly legal for me to build a new car today and register it and sell it as a ’65,” he said.
The situation back then was one big mess, and Percel, the buyer of one of the five newly-made S/Cs, admitted to the LATimes in 1993 that he felt “disappointed” in what had developed regarding the origin of his $500,000 Cobra, but stated that his car was still built by Shelby himself and wasn’t too concerned with the loss in value the revelations almost certainly brought on.
But what of the new Cobra 427 S/Cs being built in 2015, signifying 50 years since the project first began?
Each will arrive with a CSX VIN and badge number originally assigned in 1965. The MSO and title documents were all signed by Carroll Shelby himself, prior to his death. These 427 S/Cs will not be street legal, however, usable only on the racetrack — like the original Competition model.
Shelby American’s press release on finishing the 427 S/C project mentions no word on where the chassis will derive from. The whole thing is written coyly, seemingly to detract from the issues Shelby faced back in the ‘90s. What it does say is that the body will be clad in aluminum and arrive with a black interior. The engines are all “period correct” and supplied by the Carroll Shelby Engine Company, owned by Bill DenBeste. According to Shelby American, “each will be fitted with an original cast-iron Ford side oiler 427 block, forged internals and correct medium riser cylinder heads. The engine will be dressed with period correct parts including an Aviaid oil pan, sandcast Cobra valve covers, medium riser intake, Le Mans carburetor and turkey pan air box.” Power routes through a “blueprinted 4-speed correct gearbox.”