. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Cobra Oddballs: The Willment Coupe

Cobra Oddballs: The Willment Coupe
By Wallace Wyss

   There is an old axiom in racing: “Never, repeat never, sell rival teams the same model you are racing.”
     Shelby stuck to that around 1965 when a British team, owned by a Ford dealer, asked to buy a Daytona coupe.  Shelby hemmed and hawed and pretty much avoided it but said “Hey, I’ll send you the plans.”  Which he did, and with a Shelby crewman, John Ohlson, working on the car, the same man who had worked on the originals, it looked more or less like  a Daytona coupe, except it didn’t have a fastback window.

      The chassis is said to be the same Cobra roadster that  that finished at Le Mans, s/n CS2131, which was sold to privateer John Willment. The car was a wreck when it was returned to A.C. cars so rather than put a roadster body on it, they chose to build a coupe. When Shelby said “no” to one of the six he had ordered, they said “hell with it, let’s do it ourselves.”
Compared to the 'original', the 'Willment' coupe has a sharper nose and some cutlines the originals don’t and a higher tail.

     By the way there is no small amount of confusion that Willment also took owned a roadster with the same serial number but one of the cars did not have an "X" in the number since it was never exported to the U.S. The Willment (CSX2131) coupe was built on a spare un-numbered chassis, so Willment also called it 2131 which offered certain tax and import advantages when shipping the car to overseas races since it was already registered. It was registered 39PE but in South Africa was registered 39PH. Cobra expert Trevor Legate points out the low roofline was more in keeping with Peter Brock's orginal idea.
     Painted in the familiar red and white Willment colours, the Coupe was completed in the fall of 1964 and had the pleasure of delivering a debut victory when piloted by Jack Sears in a 3 Hour race at Snetterton against strong competition including a lightweight E-Type and the Cobra’s mortal enemy, the Ferrari 250 GTO. Before the end of the season the car was raced twice in South Africa, clinching one class win. Willment campaigned his unique Coupe throughout Europe in 1965 with mixed results—not enjoying the benefit of Shelby sponsorship (actually Shelby’s Daytona coupes were farmed out to an English team that season) . Sears finished second in the Sussex Trophy at the start of the season and scored the car's only win in the Guards International Trophy in the fall of 1965.

     The car had a checkered career after that, being sold to a Liverpudilian police officer, who raced the car at club events and then reaching an owner with moneyt o do it up nice, one  the Rothschild banking heirs. Early in the 1980s the car was sold to an American collector and has been on display recently at  the Shelby American Collection. During the 2007 Goodwood Revival where it was driven by Desire Wilson and Lyn St. James.

1 comment:

  1. I would just like to correct some small points in this article:

    The Cobra 289 with fastback hardtop and split boot/trunk lid was the same car run by AC Cars at Le Mans in 1963, it was registered as 39PH from the start.

    The Willment Cobra Coupe did have a fastback rear window, which was changed in the 1970s to the arrangement as it is now. I know this as I climbed in through the opening fastback window in 1966.