1990 AC Cobra

Mk IV Roadster 5 L

Vehicle values by condition

Fair
Condition 4
£74,600
#4 cars are daily drivers, with flaws visible to the naked eye. The chrome might have pitting or scratches, the windshield might be chipped.
Good
Condition 3
£91,000
#3 cars could possess some, but not all of the issues of a #4 car, but they will be balanced by other factors such as a fresh paint job or a new, correct interior.
Excellent
Condition 2
£109,000
#2 cars could win a local or regional show. They can be former #1 cars that have been driven or have aged. Seasoned observers will have to look closely for flaws.
Concours
Condition 1
£137,000
#1 vehicles are the best in the world. The visual image is of the best car, unmodified, in the right colours, driving onto the lawn at the finest concours.
Insurance premium for a
1990 AC Cobra Mk IV Roadster 5000
valued at £91,000
£901.73 / year*

History of the 1984 - 1992 AC Cobra

1984 - 1992 AC Cobra
1984 - 1992 AC Cobra

The AC Cobra was one of the more powerful sports cars of the 1960s. Texan race car designer Carroll Shelby approached AC's owner Derek Hurlock in the autumn of 1961 with the idea of building him a sports car ready to accept a big V-8. Shelby considered the AC Ace 2.6 to be worthy of further development, and as a result AC modified the chassis, lengthening it by 5 inches, and added disc brakes all round.

Shelby settled on Ford’s new 260-cidh 4.2-litre V8, and as early as January 1962 Ford agreed to lend an engine to AC to fit to the new Cobra prototype. Having fitted this engine, AC then removed the engine and transmission and the new chassis was flown across to California in February where Shelby had also received two of the new V-8s. As soon as Shelby received the chassis and body, their new engine and transmission were fitted inside a working day and ready for testing. The front end of the AC had already been developed to accept the 2.6-litre Zephyr engine, but the rear axle needed to be strengthened to handle the extra power and much wider wheels. The ENV unit gave way to the stronger differential used in the E-type, namely the Salisbury 4HU with inboard brakes to reduce unsprung weight. To reduce costs the rear brakes were moved outboard, and the steering box had to be moved to make way for the V8, which was wider than the straight-6 Zephyr engine.

In May 1962 Carroll Shelby unveiled the new Ford/Shelby AC Cobra, as it was known in the USA at the New York Auto Show, with deliveries commencing later that year. The first 71 cars had the Ford 260-cid V-8s, while the remaining 51 of the Mk1 Cobras gained the more powerful small-block 289-cid (4.7-litre) V-8. Only North America was supplied with cars to begin with, AC in Thames Ditton continuing to supply the chassis and bodies to Shelby in Los Angeles, where the engine and running gear were fitted.

With 260 bhp at 5,800 rpm via a four-speed manual shift, 138 mph was possible and 0-60 mph took a mere 5.5 seconds. The standing 1/4 mile was achieved in 13.9 seconds, which was fast enough to please the most demanding sports car owner.

By late 1962 rack-and-pinion steering was made possible, borrowed from the MGB and mated to a Volkswagen Beetle steering column while still using the transverse leaf front spring. Production commenced in the spring of 1963 and designated as the Mk II model. Around 528 Mk II Cobras were produced until the last ones were supplied to the US in November 1964.

As almost all production was consumed by the American market, it was a full two years before the first AC Cobras were delivered to UK customers in the autumn of 1964. Priced at £2,454 in the UK, it was known as the Shelby Cobra, and important to note, it was established as an American-engined British sports car. Autocar magazine declared it to be the fastest car tested in 1965, and the Cobra held the fastest 0-100-0 mph time for a road car in the Guinness Book of Records for some time.

Shelby had been racing the Mk II Cobras in increasingly faster races with bigger engines including the 390-cid (6.4-litre) V-8. It was clear that the chassis was not up to the power being put through it. Shelby badly wanted to take on Ferrari, the new Ford GT40 and the Grand Sport Corvettes and went to work on the Mk III with AC.

Mk III AC Cobra prototypes were developed in conjunction with Ford USA with all-round coil springs and sent to the US in October 1964. Production started immediately after Christmas on January 1st 1965, now in unpainted rolling chassis form. With a larger nose opening and Ford's fearsome big block 427-cid (6,997-cc) V-8 fitted, it was not a successful seller and the decision was taken to fit the tamer 428-cid (7,014-cc) unit which had a longer stroke and smaller bore unit. The engine was cheaper to supply and more suited to road use. Approximately 300 Mk III chassis were sent to Shelby in Los Angeles during 1965 and 1966, and a further 27 small-block 4.7-litre AC 289 Cobras were sold to Europe.

The racing drivers Jack Sears and Peter Bolton tested an AC Cobra Coupe flat out on the M1 motorway in 1964 in preparation for Le Mans that year, and it was calculated that the car reached 186 mph. The 70-mph motorway speed limit was introduced in the UK the following year.

In 1967 Ford and Carroll Shelby finally decided that the AC Cobra was a financial flop and cancelled further imports to the USA. AC themselves kept the Cobra in production and fitted the small-block 4.7-litre Ford 289-cid V-8, selling them in the UK and to Europe until the autumn of 1969. In all, 1,137 cars were built, including the fearsome big-block 427-cid (6997-cc) V-8, which was not an official Shelby export to the UK.

Buying an AC Cobra is all about the history, who has owned it and what the car has done in competition in order to establish a value, and each one is different. AC Cobras have aluminium bodywork, so check for a cracked body shell. Be very careful and take lots of advice as replicas and kit cars abound. All engine parts are widely available from America, and the AC Owners Club offers a wealth of knowledge and events. Its legacy today is as a car for top level speed merchants, much as it was from new.

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