. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cougar II prototype: Opinion sampler

      What if I told you that there's a small block cobra with very low mileage that sits in a dark dungeon in Detroit, hardly ever seen by the public? And that it has a one-off body?  The car is the 1963 Cougar, which was what was called a "dream car" back then, now called "concept cars."   Ford never liked the eggshell thin body of the aluminum bodied Cobra so designed a coupe similar to the Corvette and had one made.
Original Cougar Concept

      It is candy-apple red and is called the Cougar II because there was an earlier Cougar dream car built by Vignale in Italy for Ford.  The Cougar II is a fastback design with a fiberglass body and a 260 High-Performance engine with 4 speed transmission.  It has an all new dashboard.  The top is covered with some kind of brushed metal ( probably aluminum) to reflect heat.  Unlike the production Cobra, it had  concealed "pop-up" headlamps and a serious, fully instrumented interior.
     Where the regular 260 street Cobra would do about 160 Ford  claimed that Cougar II was engineered to reach speeds in the 170 miles-an-hour range. When interior air pressure exceeded 15 pounds per square inch, a relief panel across the rear of the passenger compartment opened automatically.  This panel was required, since there was the possibility that at high speeds, the extreme pressure against the rear window might blow it out. Cougar also had a unique spring-loaded window-lift mechanism that allowed adjustment to the curved side windows.
     Ford said it was constructed on chassis #CSX2004) . They refer in some press releases to the high-performance 289 Ford engine being moved rearward in the chassis so odds are it had a 289 not a 260 as they say elsewhere (maybe it arrived at Ford with a 260).  Ford claims it was designed before the Stingray coupe, which is possible but the timing was close since the Stingray coupe was designed starting in about 1961 for debut as a '63 model.
     Now that Cobra roadsters are worth North of $600,000, the Museum that can't afford to restore it should turn it over to be sold as a fund raiser (we suggest Gooding auction at Monterey) and with the money they could buy ten other prototypes from Detroit automakers.  It is the same argument you would use for a horse breeder who has a potential Secretariat thoroughbred but who can't take it to the big races like the Derby, so why not sell it and buy ten more horses?
     As it is, the Cougar II and the XD Cobra (another prototype on a real Cobra chassis) only see the light of day occasionally as the Detroit Historical Museum does not have space to show them in their regular collection.  Thankfully they have brought them out for special occasions, like for an appearance at the 2011 Detroit Autorama; just enough so we know they still exist!

Comment below if you think would it be more merciful to re-body the Cougar II into a Cobra.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

45th Anniversary of “All-American” Victory at 1967 Le Mans Commemorated by European Tour of Ford Mark IV

With the 24 Hours of Le Mans last weekend, Racing in America reflects on the 45th anniversary of the Ford Mark IV claiming the second of four consecutive victories for Ford Motor Company cars at Le Mans, arguably the greatest American racing victory on foreign soil.
That day in 1967, the stunning red Mark IV, now in the procession of Henry Ford Museum as part of its Racing in America collection, was driven to the overall victory by A.J. Foyt and Dan Gurney.  It remains today the only Le Mans overall win by American drivers, in an American-built car, with an American engine (Ford V8), prepared by an American team (Shelby American).
The No. 1 Mark IV, which was capable of speeds as high as 220 mph, led all but the first 90 minutes of the race, and won easily by four laps over the second place Ferrari.  The iconic car featured numerous innovations for its day, including its aluminum honeycomb structure, a sunken driver compartment, and a sleek, wingless design that had been extensively tested in the wind tunnel.
“It was a very sophisticated chassis, but not a very sophisticated engine,” said Bob Casey, curator of transportation for The Henry Ford.  “The engine they used, a big 427 Ford V8, was based on their NASCAR engine.”
But the car may be best known for the addition of the “Gurney bubble,” a “bubble” on the roof built in to accommodate Gurney’s head, since he stood nearly 6-foot-4.
Gurney and Foyt were known as fierce competitors in the United States, indeed having competed against each other just two weeks before in the Indianapolis 500.  But the two American racing legends were brought together by Ford Motor Company and team owner Carroll Shelby to do just what they did.
"For us, it's a great transference to the United States as far as technology, it’s a wonderful story about teamwork, it's a great story about collaboration, and foremost, it's a great story about the process of innovation, all through the lens of American racing,” said Christian Overland, executive vice president of the Henry Ford.
In addition to the stunning victory, the post-race celebration saw the birth of one of racing's finest traditions -- the champagne shower in victory lane.
The Mark IV race car, in honor of the 45th anniversary, recently left Dearborn for a European tour, including the Goodwood Festival of Speed, and is expected back in Michigan in September, when it will be returned to its place on honor on the floor of Henry Ford Museum in the Driving America exhibit.

Shelby Heritage Display to be in tent at Monterey Motorsports Reunion

by E. Musarra
Not only will there be dozens of real Cobras competion at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 17-19, but now there will be a collection of Cobras of unequaled magnitude at Ford Motor Company’s onsite Shelby Cobra Heritage Display.

The display at the track, in a tent, will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra while shaping up to be a fitting remembrance of Carroll Shelby, who died May 10.

According to Ford Motor Company’s Group Vice President for Global Marketing, Sales and Service, Jim Farley, the weekend is going to be filled with everything and everyone that Shelby touched.

“There will never be another person like Carroll Shelby,” Farley said. “His legacy is forever immortalized within the walls of Ford Motor Company and the hearts of millions of automotive enthusiasts. The Monterey weekend will be a very special gathering and fitting tribute to the man who accomplished the unimaginable.”

Never before, and perhaps never again, will these cars – which helped turn Carroll Shelby’s dream into a reality and created the legend – be grouped together in one location. And while there will be hundreds of Shelby Cobras descending on the Monterey Peninsula for Classic Car Week and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, none will be as historically significant as the featured cars in the Heritage Display, which include:

Daytona Coupe (CSX 2299) – The most significant of the six coupes, this is the car that won the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Daytona Continental 24 Hour, 12 Hours of Sebring and the 1965 FIA GT World Championship. It was driven by Dan Gurney, Bob Bondurant and others. (Courtesy of the Shelby American Museum)

FIA Cobra Roadster (CSX 2345) – Probably the most significant Cobra. It compiled five FIA wins and was driven by Phil Hill, Bob Bondurant, Roy Salvadori, Sir John Whitmore and others. It is completely original and untouched, including tires, from its last win in 1965 at Rossfeld, Germany. (Courtesy of the Shelby American Museum)

USRRC Cobra Roadster (CSX 2431) – The most recognizable Cobra roadster No. 98 was driven almost exclusively by Ken Miles. (Courtesy of the Shelby American Museum)

Sebring Cobra Roadster (CSX 2128) – Known as the “Hey Little Cobra” roadster, this was driven by Dan Gurney and Ken Miles. (Courtesy of the Shelby American Museum)

Cobra Roadster (CSX 2026) – The first Cobra to ever win a race and a national championship, it was primarily driven by Dave McDonald, Lew Spencer and Bob Johnson. (Courtesy of the Shelby American Museum)

Cobra Roadster (CSX 2002) – The very first Shelby factory race car and the third Cobra ever built, it was driven by Billy Krause and others. (Courtesy of the Shelby American Museum)

Cobra (CSX 2128) – This was one of two Cobras built for the 1963 12 Hours of Sebring. (Courtesy of the Larry H. Miller Auto Museum)

Cobra (CSX 3017) – This was a full competition 427 Cobra. (Courtesy of the Larry H. Miller Auto Museum)

Cobra #1 – The very first Shelby Cobra, this car debuted at the 1962 New York Auto Show. (Courtesy of Shelby American)

Cobra (CSX 4000) – This was the first re-creation of the famed Cobra, which has become the most replicated car in history. (Courtesy of Shelby American)

Cobra 289 Dragonsnake (CSX 2427) – This is the only “Stage III” factory Dragonsnake Cobra ever and is also the only original yellow and Weber-inducted Cobra sold to the public. It has undergone a meticulous, multi-year restoration that earned it a nearly perfect score at SAAC’s concourse. The car cost $8,695 in 1964. (Courtesy of Steven Juliano from Pelham Manor, NY)

Advance general admission tickets start at $50. A three-day ticket is only $130 and includes a complimentary souvenir magazine. Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. Hospitality options begin at $200 per person.

For more information on the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion or to purchase tickets, call 800-327-7322 or visit www.MazdaRaceway.com.

Ford's GR-1 Concept Model: Could it be Built Into a Cobra?

      The world of the auto collector is usually divided neatly into such categories as prototypes, mules,
and production cars. Some prototypes sometimes escape auto makers and are put on the road, but it's rare, especially now that there's emissions and safety rules which prototypes handily don't have to meet. Mules never reach the road--they are destroyed, and often don't look anything like the production car. Now we have a new category: Platform model.  We found out a year late that Ford sold the "platform model" (an inanimate non-running life size model for a future car) at an auction in Monterrey a year ago. Now that makes  us wonder if it could be put on a chassis and then
called, and presumably registered as, a Cobra?
     Presumably Ford supplied a receipt for the car and described it and with 50 States in the U.S. (plus Puerto Rico and Guam) that leaves a buyer over 50 DMV offices he can try to register it at.  The sleek GR-1 was first unveiled at the 2004 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.  The platform model sold at the RM auction a year ago for $75,000 (the money going to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) . It was built after the Cobra concept roadster won  Best in Show at the 2004 Detroit Auto Show. 
The design of the car, which in profile, strongly resembles the design by Pete Brock for the 1964 Cobra Daytona coupe is credited to a young designer  at the Irvine Advanced Design Studio,  George Saridakis. His Kamm-tailed homage to the original coupe caught the eye of Ford’s Head of Design, J Mays, and got approved for a show car. Though the coupe they later built in running form for a second prototype was front-engined, the running version used much of the Ford GT platform from their mid-engined car of '05-'06. Why would Ford sell a non-running car? Because they discovered in an auction several years ago where they sold dozens of clay, wood and fiberglass models that buyers of non-running cars generally put them in their vast living rooms or museums on display (or they could be Ford dealers wanting something as a "showroom magnet.") . Hardly anyone, Ford figured,  would want to go through the expense of building a chassis to put under it.  Ford figures: Hey, it's for charity and if they donate it to charity they can write it off as a charitable contribution.
     Going back to the idea of making it a running car, we think if the owner mounted this body on a real A.C. chassis, he or she would have a better argument for registering it as an "A.C. Cobra" because the chassis would be built by A.C. and the body by Ford. Then it would be in the same category as the XD Cobra, a genuine A.C. Cobra chassis rebodied by Ford back in the early '60s with an experimental body design or the Cougar II, another genuine A.C. Cobra chassis rebodied by Ford that's in the same collection.
     Now when it comes to a replica chassis, not made by A.C. (though they could use an A.C. Mk.IV through Mk. VI), then you couldn't call it an "A.C. Cobra" but you could still register it, in one state or another, as a Ford Cobra which is probably how it's described on the paperwork. And once it's titled, you could move to the State you live in and re-title it.  Now what we want to know is, what happened to the polished aluminum one that followed? That's the car we want but if that's not for sale, the present owner of the "platform car" might want to price out what it would cost to get this inanimate platform car to be a running car. But since the Concept Platform is not alloy you couldn't polish it to look like the running car. We'll take a wild guess and say $250,000 separates a running car from having a car like Ford's running GR-1 concept car...

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Autokraft: who are they?

Autokraft: who are they?  
By Walalce Wyss
     Every once in a while you see an Autokraft Cobra advertised. These usually have aluminum bodywork.  Here's the background: Brian Angliss was a Cobra restorer in England in the mid 1970s. After having great difficulty finding original parts to repair and rebuild customers’ Cobras, he began manufacturing and keeping an inventory of parts himself, He called his company CP Autokraft for “Cobra Parts”.  Eventually his spare inventory was sufficient to almost build complete cars. Angliss began negotiating with AC Cars to purchase many of the original parts’ jigs, dies, tooling and body bucks.
     A.C. Cars Ltd. liked what he was doing so much that, in early 1982 AC granted Angliss’ Autokraft company manufacturing and AC trademark rights for building a new generation of Mark IV Cobras. At least 60 were imported to the U.S. where they were sold at participating Ford dealers with 5.0 liter Mustang engines under the hood. Ironically though in other companies like Germany you could get them without an engine and install a big block Ford.

     By 1986,  Angliss, the owner of  what was by then called Autokraft Brooklands Ltd, acquired AC Cars Ltd outright from the Hurlock family after 56 years of ownership. According to Walter Hayes, the biographer of Henry Ford II, Hayes talked Henry Ford II into having Ford buy into Angliss operation. Angliss spent millions developing an all new car he called the Ace (not Cobra styled) but it was a flop. Eventually,  Angliss bought overall control of the company from Ford and manufactured the Mk 4 until 1996.  The editors of the Shelby American World Registry recognize some of the Autokraft cars as  real Cobras. A previous Registry (not the edition out now)  featured only 197 known examples of Mk4s built as original AC cars.  

     Other sources say  348 factory produced AC Mark IV Cobras were made.  Subsequently there have been  Mk. V and now there are Mk. VI models though it remains to be seen how future registrars will recognize them as Cobras.  We only have partial information on serial numbers which may be of some help if you find one for sale.

Example VIN:

SA9AK3025FA017069 AKA AK1069


SA9 = British Standard
AK = Manufacturer - Autokraft
302 = Engine size
5 = Check sum number
F = Model Year (1985) (G = 1986, H = 1987, J = 1988 K = 1989, L = 1990, M = 1991 N = 1992 P = 1993).
A = Plant A or B
017 = British Standard
069 = Chassis production number since 1985 (Cars not necessarily produced in numerical order).

Gooding to Auction 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra at Pebble Beach

By E. Musarra
The Gooding Auction Co. will offer a 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra at their Pebble
Beach Auction on August 18 & 19th 2012 at the Pebble Beach Equestrian Center, located at the corner of Portola Road and Stevenson Drive. Preview days will start on Wednesday, August 15 continuing through Sunday, August 19. The auctions will commence at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 6:00 p.m. on Sunday.  It is just one of 260 road cars produced.  

An excellent representation of what collectors look for in an authentic Cobra today, CSX 3216 has a genuine, date-coded 427 FE big block engine and has been extensively restored to its original livery of Wimbledon White over an original black interior that has acquired a beautiful patina. This is after it was in an auction a few years ago painted blue; the trend now being to go back to the color a car was originally.  The car is equipped with a complete file of documentation dating back to its first owner. Its estimated sales price is $750,000 - $950,000.  

To see the difference in the paint color, here is how it was in blue with white stripes at Maxted-Page Ltd. (Essex UK) a couple years ago and here is how it is in white.  I find the white preferable, if only because I would like to see more original era Cobras look like they did the day they were sold.

Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance Announces Cobra class for 2012

     The Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance has announced the
featured marques and special classes for its 2012 collector car competition that will be displayed on the 18th fairway of Pebble Beach Golf Links on August 19.

     Features for the 62nd annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance include Maharaja Cars and the marques of Mercer and Fiat. Special classes will recognize Saoutchik Coachwork, AC and AC Cobra, Sport Customs, and German motorcycles.

     Special classes they say weill include: "AC and AC (Shelby) Cobra – In 1961, automotive designer Carroll Shelby and AC Cars began a partnership to create a car to compete with Chevrolet’s Corvette. The result was the legendary AC Cobra, also known as the Shelby Cobra, a roadster built from 1962 to 1965."

     Actually Cobras were built until 1967 but otherwise we look forward to the event.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Wallace Wyss to Premiere New Art Series

Wyss to Premiere Burnt Sienna Tone Series Prints at Automobilia Monterey

     Wallace Wyss, a frequent contributor to VT, announces that he will have a booth at Automobila in Monterey, an art and memorabilia event that kicks off "Monterey car week."  The booth will be mark the premiere of his “burnt sienna tone” series.
   “From my days as a photographer, I love black and white,” says Wyss, “ and  after I saw some oil paintings of prewar title fights that were all done in various shades of brown and white that evoked the nostalgia of old photographs , I decided to paint some classic race scenes in the same tones. But it hasn’t been easy—when I go to print, the color control is much more critical because I don’t have all a full color palette to work with.  But it’s rewarding when I do succeed and I think I will find some enthusiasts for this technique, which has a sort of built-in nostalgia.”

    By the time of Monterey, he expects to have several Cobra and several Ferrari racing scenes available as limited edition prints on watercolor paper, sized 12” x 18,” but will still be offering full color prints as well.   Automobilia Monterey takes place Tuesday August 14 and Wednesday, August 15, at The Ballroom of The Embassy Suites, located on US 1, just north of 68 [to Laguna Seca & Salinas.

Photos and hopefully even some samples to be available to Cobra-Ranch after the event.  Stay tuned!

1963 Race Cobra for Sale in Belgium
      This car, CSX2112, was originally sold as a street car. But it has been in race specs since the mid 1970s. It was last raced in 2009 and is ready to race. Race equipment that goes with the car is a spare set of wheels, a differential and an additional engine. The dealer is RMD, over in Belgium near Brussels.

      RMD has been active in the buying and selling of classic cars for the last 15 years and has gradually evolved towards selling classic race cars for today’s historic rallying and racing. They also do their own racing and rallying.

      Their address is RMD , Zilverstraat 14 - 16
2900 Schoten Belgium. For more details write Marc Davis, salesinfo@rmd.be. Tell them Cobra Ranch sent you...