auto ACCobra
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During the Fifties, Caroll Shelby had attained legendary status for his heroics on the track. Sadly, due to a heart condition, he was forced to retire in his prime in 1960 — but the tough Texan fixed his squinty gaze at becoming a legend in his second career, that being building cars. And when he shoehorned a Ford V8 under the bonnet of the gorgeous British, hand-built AC Ace two-seater, it was so good that it made grown men cry...

Indeed, the mere sight of the AC Cobra leaves anyone with any blood in their veins weak at the knees. For many, it is the greatest car ever built. But, before Shelby came along, the roadster was making do with a 120bhp 2.0-litre inline-six by Bristol Cars and really only had its curvaceous looks going for it. That all changed in 1962 when Caroll got involved.

The model was in fact nearing the end of production but AC kept the run going knowing that a new V8 would breathe some life into the elegant sportscar. But, had things worked out, the Cobra could have been powered by a Chevrolet V8. Caroll asked the gold Bowtie for some motors but they declined.

An in-house Corvette competitor wouldn’t go down well so he went to Ford who agreed to give him two all-new 260 cubic inch (4.3-litre) small-block V8s. AC Cars then sent a specially prepared chassis to him in California and he got to work. It was in Dean Moon’s garage in Santa Fe Springs where the renamed AC Cobra was born. But, it was far from perfect; stuffing a big engine in a small chassis brought with it a lot of stability and traction issues.

The car was rebuilt to handle the demands of the potent motor and got a new larger rear axle, disc brakes (front and back) and the twin-tube chassis frame was beeded up. Caroll finally created a car which was loved and feared in equal measure in auto history. It beat Ferrari at Le Mans but this was just the start; in 1965 it got a new chassis with a coil spring suspension and a whopping 427 cubic inch V8 which made 425bhp making the AC Cobra the fastest accelerating production car in the world.

It did 0-100kph in just 4.2 seconds — if you could keep the nose straight. After winning the World Sportscar Championship that year, it had made a name for itself and production ceased in 1968. Caroll and Ford’s work was done but they’d already moved on to tune something called the Mustang...