Video Tribute: Carroll Shelby and the Cobra

May 15, 2012
As most of you will have probably heard or read by now, we lost an American automotive legend last week – Carroll Shelby passed away resulting in complications from pneumonia… He was 89.

Carroll in the original AC Cobra – the 1962 CSX2000

Responsible for developing the mighty AC Cobra (great feature in last month’s Octane magazine), the Shelby line of high performance Mustangs and lest we forget his heavy involvement with bringing the Ford GT40 to fruition where it swept the limelight away from Ferrari in ’66 by winning Le Mans 1, 2, 3… It subsequently won Le Mans every year to ’69.

The GT40 that crossed the line in 1st place at the legendary 1966 Le Mans

The video below comes courtesy of a ‘Behind The Headlights’ feature/documentary that originally aired on the Speed Channel. At just over 43 minutes in length (edited w/out those annoying US commercials) it comes as an intriguing testament to the die-hard mentality and perseverence of Carroll and all the talented ‘blue collar’ engineers that developed and assisted with the birth of the Cobra from its original, humble British roots to the flame-spitting, Le Mans-entered Daytona Cobra Coupe…
Enjoy… 😉
Rest in peace Carroll…
Also, for those wishing to own a Carroll Shelby-approved ‘continuation’ of the original Cobra Coupe (amongst other ’60s Ford/Chevy Motorsport icons), you simply can’t go wrong in checking yourself into one of the incredibly beautiful (and detail-ridden) examples built by South African-based Superformance. Some tasty examples of their stunning recreations below…

The Superformance Corvette Grand Sport Roadster

Their Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe…

And their exquisite GT40 recreation…

Blake J.

Forgotten For Good: The ’74-’78 Ford Mustang II

December 12, 2011

From within the vast, long halls of the Better-left-unsaid files of American motoring comes this: The truly terrible ’74-’78 Mustang II.

Lee Iacocca - mastermind of the original 60's Ponycar, proudly displaying his new 'little jewel of a car'

When the fuel crisis of the early-’70s sounded the inevitable death-knell for big-block, mega-horsepowered V8 engines within the automotive industry, Ford was in the same camp as everyone else by initiating the fleet-wide downsizing efforts and subsequently harsh, power-sapping emissions controls that basically choked and neutered any ‘performance’ that may have existed in the first place. Gone was the 100-octane fuel and 325+ bhp Cobra Jet engines of recent latter days and in place was 87-octane lighter-fluid powering an asthmatic Pinto-sourced 4-cylinder engine dispelling a horrifically depressing 88 bhp. If you craved more power (and you would), Ford could offer you up a 2.8L ‘Cologne’ V6 sourced from Ford of Europe – gee, thanks…

The first year that saw the Mustang gain a 4-cyl. engine - no V8 was on offer

Throughout the mid-1970s leading up to the early ’80s, the onsluaght of ‘fake’ musclecars (what with their fake air-scoops that scooped nothing and tarted-up graphics promising ‘exciting’ motoring) didn’t exactly help matters either. The sting of industry-wide downsizing had bitten hard and nowhere was this more evident than with Ford’s attempts to glamourize and illusion-ize the depressing fact that their Ponycar’s damaged reputation was now a mere shadow of its former self.

The 1976 model with the 'performance pack' option - looks fast. Wasn't...

In 1975, Ford attempted to regain some of their former glory by bringing back the option of a V8 engine, but by then the 302 cu. in. motor was only able to chuck out a paltry 122 bhp – a new low for the legendary small block that had seen it carry 271 bhp just ten years earlier. The debilitating emissions equipment imposed by the Federal Government was made even worse by the fact that almost all of the American automakers were trying to gain economical fuel/emissions figures from 1960s engines – engines that were never designed for fuel economy in the first place.

Ford clung to their new creation though and marched on with this automotive catastrophe – in 1976 they introduced a ‘performance package’ option that saw a rather gaudy ‘Cobra II’ graphics pack (complete with iconic twin racing-stripes) emblazoned across their wheezing, still single-tail-piped embarrassment. 1977 saw the visuals (remember, there was no more performance) take on an even-more pronounced presence with loud, fibreglass air-dams, a chin-spoiler and a hood scoop that didn’t actually scoop anything. This was the act of dressing-up a polished turd taken to all-new heights (and lows)… Or so everyone thought….

The hit TV show, Charlie's Angels, saw Farrah Fawcett's character glamourize Ford's ailing creation

1978 was to be the ultimate low for the ailing, burnt-out Disco days of the Mustang. With the introduction/final-blow of the ‘King Cobra’, Ford must have surmised that buyers enjoyed the feeling of looking as if they were going fast while not exactly doing so – this was a page in the Mustang’s history that saw it borrow inspiration from the flashy, decal-identifying Pontiac Trans Am of the time. GM had a flame-belching chicken splashed across the hood of its ‘sportscar’ while Ford opted for a Cobra seemingly spewing out beams of venom – good comedy, that.

The final act - The King Cobra

Mercifully, the Mustang II’s existence came to an end after the 1978 model year after 5000+ models of the King Cobra were built, leaving behind a chapter in the once-proud Ponycar’s legacy that will forever be looked upon as the era best left forgotten.

-Blake J.

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