. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Shelby Cobra to be honored marque at 2012 Monterey Motorsports Reunion

by Wallace Wyss and Eric Musarra


     The vintage races at Monterey, on the famous Laguna Seca race track, honor a different marque each year. Of course there are as many as 30 different brands, called marques, competing but the honored marque gets its own half-time parade. This year --2012-- the honored marque will be the A.C. (Shelby) Cobra.
    This is to coincide with the fact that the year 2012 is the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra, which first saw the light of day in 1962.
   The car came about when a one-time failed East Texas chicken farmer turned race driver, Carroll Hall Shelby, decided to mate a British sports car, the A.C. Ace, with the new 260 cu. in. V8 engine from Ford. He had earlier approached Austin Healey with the idea of putting a Chevy V8 into a Healey but Sir Donald Healey turned him down.
    He then managed to hornswoggle the British company A.C. Cars Ltd., into thinking he had Ford as a partner and also convince Ford that he had A.C. as a partner. At any rate, soon Cobras were roaring off the assembly lines in two countries. Approximately 998 were made. In 1965 they beat their arch rival Ferrari in a series called the World Manufacturer's Cup. They were Ford's mainstay in endurance racing until they got Shelby to help them fix the problems in their GT40 mid-engined race car. By June 1966 the GT40 had won the 24 hours of LeMans and Ford promptly withdrew any racing support for the Cobra, which as a front engined car was thought to be obsolete.
    They originally sold back in the Sixties for about $6,000 which was almost twice the price of a Corvette. But today the small block Cobra, 260 or 289 cubic inches, is worth about $400,000 and the big block (427 and 428) are worth the same or more. Double the price if you can prove it was a team car in European races. Million dollar Cobras are now common at auctions in Monterey each August.
   Ironically, at this writing, Carroll Shelby is still alive and still making Cobras though today's Cobras are sold as replicas. You can order one fitted out to look exactly like one of his famous race cars, say to match the color and trim of Dan Gurney's ride in the 1964 Targa Florio in Italy.
     The 2012 vintage racing event, taking place in August, will mark the 39th year of historic racing at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Carroll Shelby himself drove his last race on the track when he was still a race driver driving Ferraris and Maseratis. He was honored in 1997 at the formerly-named Monterey Historic Automobile Races, and 2012 will be the first time the Shelby Cobra will be featured.
     The Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion is an annual tradition that hosts approximately 550 authentic and historic race cars from nearly every decade of motorsports history. The cars are divided into individual groups according to age and engine size, and each one must be period-correct in their presentation.
    It is very expensive to go to Monterey that weekend (motels jack up their rates and are holding reservations a year in advance) but fortunately there is Santa Cruz to the north to look for lodging (take your sleeping back just in case). That same weekend sees the Concorso Italiano and the Pebble Beach Concours as well as five major auctions.
    Visit www.MazdaRaceway.com for additional information.

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