- 1967 AC 289 Sports ‘Cobra’
- Supplied new by HW Motors to racer David Skailes
- Continuous history and known provenance
- Recently converted back to 289 spec from 427
- One of only 20 RHD AC 289 Sports
This AC 289 Sports is chassis number COB6116, and was delivered on 31 January 1967 via HW Motors Ltd in Walton-on-Thames. Its first owner was David Skailes, a noted racer who had competed in an Aston Martin DB4 GT and Ferrari 250 LM.
His right-hand-drive AC was finished in Pacific Green with Black upholstery, and it was specified with a hardtop and radio. After part-exchanging a 1965 Marcos 1800, Skailes was left to pay the grand total of £2183 15s. A hand-written note from Skailes in the history file explains that the Marcos belonged to his brother Ian, and that the AC was delivered by none other than George Abecassis – co-founder of HWM and a well-known former racing driver.
Skailes used the AC as a road car and after he sold it, it passed through a couple of owners in the early 1970s before ending up with Brian Bolton. He sent it to marque specialist Brian Angliss, who converted the car to full 427 specification, including side-oiler engine, top-loader gearbox and wide wheelarches. It appeared in that form in Rod Grainger’s book Cobra – Super Profile, wearing the registration number 750 HOT.
In the mid-1980s, the AC was sold by Rod Leach to James Jordan, who kept the car in the UK before taking it with him to South Africa during the 1990s. While there, the AC was repainted and mechanically rebuilt by Hi-Tech Autos of Port Elizabeth.
The car was sold via a Christie’s auction in November 2002, and the new owner had it appraised and fettled by AC Autokraft before using it extensively on trips across Europe, including events such as the Ennstal Classic and the Kitzbühl Alpine Rally.
Its next custodian was based in Japan and had the AC repainted metallic blue. He also replaced the 427 engine with a small-block 302 unit.
Since 2015, the AC’s most recent owner has been painstakingly returning it to correct 289 specification, including the fitment of a correctly dated 289 ‘Hi-Po’ engine. The car has also been reunited with its original Surrey registration number.
The COB6116 chassis number is stamped on the bonnet, doors and boot lid – showing those to be original to the car – and this AC 289 boasts continuous history all the way back to David Skailes in 1967. It’s also sensational to drive, and noticeably quicker than other 289s that The Classic Motor Hub has been privileged to offer for sale.
As one of only 20 right-hand-drive AC 289 Sports that left the Thames Ditton factory between April 1966 and February 1969, this car offers a rare opportunity to acquire a well-documented example of a car that is a Cobra in all but name.
It was a simple but devastatingly effective recipe. Former racer Carroll Shelby – winner of the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours in a works Aston Martin – approached AC with the idea of dropping Ford’s latest V8 engine into the venerable Ace chassis, which could trace its roots back to the early 1950s. The result was the Cobra – a genuine performance icon.
After a short run of cars fitted with 260 cubic-inch engines, the definitive 289 model was introduced, and while the Cobra was immediately successful in domestic US racing, Shelby had his sights set on toppling Ferrari in the International Championship for GT Manufacturers. Developments such as all-round disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering came thick and fast, and in 1965 the Cobra – in Peter Brock-designed Daytona Coupe form – achieved its goal and became a world champion.
The next major step for the Cobra came with the fitment of the 427 cubic-inch Ford V8. The monstrous new engine necessitated a chassis redesign, so the main chassis rails were moved further apart and coil-spring suspension replaced the outdated leaf springs of previous models.
The body was wider, with flared arches to accommodate the Halibrand wheels, the main air intake was enlarged, and everything about this latest Cobra was even more aggressive than the 289 model. The 427 offered truly breath-taking performance, but the world had moved on, and Shelby had grown ever closer to Ford and was increasingly busy with other projects. The final batch of cars was invoiced by AC in December 1966.
But that was not the end. AC decided to build its own run of cars using the 427’s coil-spring chassis but allied to the 289 engine. With Ford now owning the rights to the Cobra name, the British company had to call its latest model the AC 289 Sports, but these cars – considered by some to represent the perfect blend of later chassis and earlier engine – nonetheless represent the final chapter in one of the famous automotive stories of all.