1963 Shelby Cobra MK I 289
The AC story is a fascinating one. In 1903 a 20hp four cylinder motor vehicle, known as a Weller, was built. It was the brainchild of John Weller, a talented engineer and designer, and John Portwine, a butcher and talented businessman who financed the venture. The Weller never made it into production and the duo decided to focus their attention on building a cheap and reliable three wheeled commercial vehicle. The Auto-Carrier as it was known was powered by a single cylinder 631cc engine, it had chain drive from the engine to the single rear wheel and it had tiller steering. The Auto-Carrier proved to be more efficient than the traditional horse and cart of the day and the vehicle was a resounding success.
In 1907 a passenger version of the Auto-Carrier was built and it was called the Sociable. The Company was renamed Auto Carriers Limited in 1911 and had to relocate to new bigger facilities in Thames Ditton in Surrey. The company went from strength to strength and whilst the First World War temporarily derailed the car business it was post war that really defined AC. Weller designed a six cylinder alloy overhead cam engine that, with ongoing development, remained in production from 1919 to 1963.
AC continued to grow and it built some wonderful cars throughout the 1920’s, 1930’s and 1940’s. During this time AC’s cars achieved a number of significant time and distance records as well as race results.
It was in 1953 that the John Tojeiro designed AC Ace was first introduced. Powered by AC’s proven two litre overhead cam straight-six 100 HP engine, this elegant aluminium bodied two seat sports racing car proved to be a huge success. It was soon joined by a coupe or hard top version called the Aceca. By the mid 1950’s the AC power plant was seen as inadequate and by 1956 AC offered the car with the option of Bristol’s two litre six cylinder engine with triple carburettors giving significantly improved performance. By 1961 Bristol had ceased to build their two litre six cylinder engine, creating a big problem for AC. For a very short period AC offered the 2.6-litre straight-six ‘Ruddspeed’ option. Basically, a Ford Zephyr engine adapted by Ken Rudd.
Around the same time American automotive icon Carroll Shelby needed a new platform to race and approached AC with the idea to install a big American V8 engine in their AC Ace. Ford came to the party and agreed to supply their Windsor V8 engines for the car. The rest, as they say, is history and the Shelby Cobra went on to become a legend.
Shelby built 655 ‘small block’ 260 & 289 ‘leaf spring’ Cobras for the street and track between 1962 and 1964. 61 of these cars were built under licence by AC Cars in the UK and sold as AC Cobras, for non American markets. Shelby introduced the ‘big block’ Cobra 427 in 1965.
Oldtimer Australia is delighted to offer for sale this fabulous 1963 Shelby Cobra MK I 289.
According to the World Registry of Cobras & GT40s, this particular car was the 105th of 126 Mk I Cobras built and one of only 51 Mk I Cobras fitted with the 289 engine. It was originally finished in blue with a black interior. The car was delivered new on the 4th January 1963 to Shelby America and then shipped to New York on the 4th April 1963 on board the ‘SS Vlist”. It was invoiced to Coventry Motors, Walnut Creek, California on the 6th May 1963.
The earliest known owner, Mr. William Nicholas from Mill Valley, California, acquired the car in the late 1960’s or early 1970’s. The car is documented as carrying the yellow on black California licence plate CCZ907 in August 1976. In circa 1978 the car was acquired by Ed Breith from San Remo, California. During Breith’s ownership the car was refurbished, which included a repaint in guardsman blue with the addition of the white stripes, fresh chrome, a retrim in black leather and an engine rebuild. The car changed hands a few more times throughout the 1990’s in the USA before being acquired by Oldtimer Australia and imported into Brisbane in 2003. The current owner, who is a well-known Shelby enthusiast and collector, acquired this Cobra in 2010.
The Mk I Cobras were all fitted with worm and sector type steering. Many of these early cars had their steering upgraded to a rack and pinion type steering, which was standard on the Mk II Cobras. This particular example has had the steering rack upgrade at some stage.
This Shelby Cobra MK I 289 is no trailer queen and it has been used as Carroll Shelby intended – to be driven! That said, today this car presents exceptionally well. The blue paintwork looks fresh and it carries a high gloss with a strong depth of colour. On closer inspection you will notice a few minor blemishes and stone chips. The external trim, including the chrome, lights/lenses also present well. The only exception is the front ‘Shelby’ badge and ‘Powered by Ford’ badges which show some wear. The chrome wire wheels and AC wheel spinners are in excellent condition and a real feature on this car. The wheels are shod with Michelin XWX tyres all round.
The interior of the car presents well with just the right amount patina. The upholstery has aged beautifully and is all in good condition with no rips or tears. The quick release seat belts suit the car perfectly. The dashboard may well be original and whilst the top is in good condition the fascia shows light wear with minor damage in places. The instruments and controls are similarly presented and look to be in working order.
The engine bay looks clean and after opening the bonnet you immediately note that the original Holley 715 carburettor has been replaced with a downdraft Weber set up.
Accompanying the car is a full tonneau cover, which is in excellent condition and a soft top which probably hasn’t seen the light of day in many, many years. It would be for emergency purposes only, but it looks to be in good condition.
It was with great anticipation and excitement that we got behind the wheel of this car for a test drive and it did not disappoint. In fact, it probably exceeded expectations! The weather gods smiled upon us and allowed the beast to be unleashed under a cloudless blue sky. The thumping Ford V8 started easily at the first turn of the key. We expected that the Weber carburettor set up would have made the car a little temperamental, but it didn’t. There’s no doubt it preferred the open road, but it behaved surprisingly well in traffic. The engine sounds fabulous and has more power than you will ever need. The gearbox is smooth and with a short throw it is easy to shift up and down the box. The steering is light, yet direct and the car handles well. The brakes were more than adequate to pull the car up. That said you’d really want to get the car on the track to experience its true potential. The car felt tight on the road, though to be honest you would not hear any rattles or squeaks over the roar of the engine!
- Documented in the World Registry of Cobras & GT40s
- The 105th of 126 Mk I Cobras built and one of only 51 Mk I Cobras with the 289 engine.
- Delivered new on the 4th January 1963 to Shelby America.
- Invoiced to Coventry Motors, Walnut Creek, California on the 6th May 1963.
- Originally finished in blue with a black interior.
- Upgraded to later rack and pinion steering at some stage.
- Purchased by Oldtimer Australia and imported into Brisbane in 2003.
- Acquired by the current owner in 2010.
The Shelby Cobra is one of the most desirable and sought-after world market collector cars. Currently there are only a handful of these amazing cars in Australia. Given the current taxes you would have to pay to import one, it is not very likely that that number will increase. As such, here is a unique opportunity to acquire a rare 1963 Shelby Cobra MK I 289.
This fabulous car is ready for its next custodian to enjoy, show, take to the track or use for Sunday drives.
- Shelby Cobra MK I 289
- 19,352 miles