- 1967 AC 289 Sports – A Cobra in all but name
- COB 6120 – 1 of only 27 AC 289s built
- Continuous history from new
- First owned by William Cadbury
- Recent restoration – in outstanding mechanical and cosmetic condition
The AC/Shelby Cobra is an icon of classic motoring, revered on track and admired by all on the road, although the Cobra story differs somewhat depending on who’s account you hear. A.C. Cars were one of Britain’s oldest manufacturers founded in 1901 and specialised in building small delivery vehicles. By the 1920s the company had evolved into building sports cars and in 1954 introduced the AC Ace based on John Tojeiro’s LOY 500 chassis. Models equipped with a 2.0 litre Bristol engine made the AC Ace a mighty British Sports car winning the 2-litre GT class at Le Mans.
The story of the Cobra begins in the autumn of 1961 when a Texan chicken farmer named Carroll Shelby approached Derek Hurlock of AC Cars with the idea of fitting American V8s. After being turned down by General Motors, Shelby signed up Ford to fit their new 260 cu-inch V8 engine slated for the Fairlane model. An example of the engine was promptly sent to AC’s factory in Thames Ditton where it was found to be an easy fit in the little car’s spacious engine bay. Shelby named his new model the “Cobra” – a name that reportedly came to him in a dream.
Production ramped up during 1962 and the early competition Cobras showed real promise, upsetting the established Corvettes but development was clearly necessary. The first major update was made to CSX 2075, the 75th Cobra ever made and the first to receive the bored-out 289 Cu-inch (4.7-litres) engine. In addition, AC flared the wheel arches to fit wider tyres, strengthened the chassis and fitted a stronger differential as used in the Jaguar E-Type. Disc brakes were fitted all round and a Cam gears rack and pinion-design steering box was also installed as the Cobra developed. The improvements were a big step forward and made a real difference on track with Shelby Cobras winning the Sports Car Club of America A/Production National Championship and Cobras dominated the United States Road Racing Club.
Caroll Shelby however wasn’t satisfied and spurred on by concerns of a 7-litre Corvette for the upcoming season fitted Ford’s latest big-block 427 Cu-inch (7.0-litre) V8. An improved chassis was designed by AC’s chief engineer Alan Turner and Shelby American’s Bob Negstadt with featured strengthened tubing and coil springs at every corner. The 427 model also boasted even wider arches to give the car real presence. Although the 427s were nearly unbeatable on track, they were not a financial success and so production ceased in 1967.
However, AC kept the coil spring car in production and sourced the 289 Cu-inch engine from Ford. Meanwhile, Caroll Shelby sold the Cobra name to Ford, making him a wealthy man overnight but the snake badging had to be removed from AC’s 289 car, instead leading them to call it the “Sports”. AC made just 27 of these special cars between April 1966 and February 1969, with only 20 supplied in UK right hand drive. The 289 Sports was built with the flared arches from the 289 Cobra but features the later coil springs of the 427.
THIS MOTOR CAR
The AC 289 Sports now for sale here at The Classic Motor Hub is a 1967 model in Guardsman Blue with Black interior as supplied by AC Cars Ltd to Lincoln Street Motors of Birmingham on 1st August 1967. The first owner of COB 6120 was a Mr William Cadbury of the midlands-based confectionery family who registered the car as “KOX 6F” which the car still carries today. KOX 6F was a star of print journalism and advertising. Early in the 289’s life it featured in a Castrol GTX advert, a copy of which is in the accompanying history file as well as a full write up of the 289 Sports from Autocar April 1979. The car was sold to Eric Aston in 1970 and then William Pelly in 1972. The next owner was Stephen Klinge who raced the car frequently and in 1976 the car now wearing BRM wheels placed 2nd in the AC Owners Club scratch race at Silverstone.
However, the COB 6120 was not so successful around Silverstone the following year where it was damaged in a racing accident. The chassis was repaired, not replaced, as recorded in the Shelby Registry. This was confirmed by the AC Cobra Registrar in a 2014 inspection of the car. The opportunity was taken at this time to modify the body to the wider flares of the 427 as well as fitting a racing bonnet scoop and competition fuel filler. All work was done by AutoKraft, renown Cobra specialists in period. Following the reparations the car was sold to a Mr S. Hauser of Switzerland and then Jonas Lidén of Sweden in 2002.
In 2005 the car was bought by Mr J M Agace of Monaco who carried out a full engine rebuild with invoices totalling over £20,000 overseen by Steve Warrior. Mr Agace enjoyed his car around Monaco until 2014 when he returned the car to the UK for a cosmetic restoration carried out by Historic Automobiles to the outstanding condition the car is in today.
In recent years the car has attended AC owners club events but has seen relatively little use, hence the decision to sell. While maintenance has been kept up to date, COB 6120 has also had the benefit of a thorough inspection by our own workshop and is in rude health, ready to be enjoyed as Caroll Shelby intended on track or to turn heads on the high-street.