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1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster: History, Specifications, & Performance


Birth of the Cobra

1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

The Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster is arguably the most famous and relevant of all the automotive legends. In 1962, the Shelby Cobra (or AC Cobra, in the UK) wrote its storied beginnings as a collaboration between Ford and British automaker AC with the release of the first production Cobra known as the CSX2001 / Mark I. 

In the early 1960s, Ford endeavored to build a car that would oust the Chevrolet Corvette as the USA’s most significant sports car. The American automaker was well prepared to take on their local rival and had already produced the engine they would take to the fight – a new, lightweight, thin-wall cast small-block 3.6L V8. However, they still needed a chassis to go along with the powerplant.

Here enters the charismatic Carroll Shelby – financially backed by Ford for this venture – who recognized the racing success of the AC Ace in the late 1950s and would end up brokering an agreement with the Britons who would manufacture a chassis based on the Ace, which Ford would then use its fledgling V8 engine to breathe life into. 

Although the Ace was an aging design near the end of its life cycle, its lightweight structure would become the ideal complement in creating one of the greatest American sports cars ever made over the next few years. Thus, the Shelby Cobra was born; and the rest, as they say, is history.

Shelby Cobra 427

1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

By 1963, the Cobra was subject to its first major design refresh (Mark II) and in 1965, a new chassis was designed (Mark III) for what would become the platform for the Cobra 427. Production of the Mark III Cobras began early in 1965, with the goal of homologation for the racing season that year. 

However, only 53 out of the 100 required for homologation were produced by the time the deadline had passed, leaving Carroll Shelby with a fleet of non-road-legal, competition race cars which could not be sold or raced. He decided that the best recourse was to modify 31 of the competition cars to be allowed for road use, fitting them with windshields and detuning the engines. 

These variants became known as the S/C – an abbreviation for ‘Semi-Competition’ – and would go on to become the fastest production cars in the world at that time. Today, original and mint condition examples of the S/C are sold for more than $2 million USD.

Engine & Performance


  • Engine Type & Size: Front-mounted 7.0L (427 cu. in.) Naturally Aspirated V8
  • Horsepower: 410 bhp (485 bhp in Competition Model) @ 6,000 rpm
  • Torque: 480 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm
  • Drivetrain: Rear-wheel Drive
  • Transmission: Four-speed Borg-Warner Manual Transmission
  • 0-60 mph: 4.2 seconds

The Shelby Cobra 427 gets its moniker from the 7.0L (427 cu. in.) Ford FE V8 engine it uses. This single 4-barrel 780 CFM Holley carbureted engine was originally designed to be used in race cars, with its most notable feature being its ‘side oiler’ design which prioritized oil distribution to the crankshaft and main bearings before the oil made its way to the cylinder head and valve train.

1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

Ford produced two versions of the FE V8 for the Mark III Cobra – the standard version which produced 410 bhp @ 6,000 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque @ 3,700 rpm, and the competition version which output an additional 75 bhp, for a total of 485 bhp. 

Due to traction limitations, both engines propelled the Cobra from 0-60 mph in 4.2 seconds and enabled it to complete the standing ¼ mile in just 12.4 seconds. However, the extra horsepower in the competition version did allow for a higher top speed of 185 mph vs. the standard version’s 164 mph.

Chassis, Handling, & Design

When it came to power and displacement, it was no secret that Americans strongly believed that more was always better. Acutely aware of this, Carroll Shelby knew that his biggest challenge with the 427 would be to find an acceptable common ground in the marriage of the 7.0L monster engine and the lightweight damsel of an AC chassis.

1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster1965 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster

The Mark III chassis would continue to be largely based on the original AC schematic, with the overall design elements of the car remaining largely intact. Under Ford’s direction, the new chassis would continue to be produced by AC and would feature a variety of changes deemed necessary to accommodate the engine’s significant displacement boost. 

The most notable improvements included bolstering the main chassis frame with 4” diameter tubing, up from the 3” tubing used before. On the exterior, new fenders were installed to house the now wider wheel track of the Mark III Cobra, while a reimagined front bumper provided a larger opening for the front radiator. These changes also gave the new Cobra a more aggressive appearance, befitting of its improved-self. 

As far as the suspension was concerned, the transverse leaf springs were replaced with coil springs for the Mark III, although the use of equal length wishbones was carried over from the original chassis.

Based on these specifications, Ford received the first shipment of unpainted Mark III chassis from AC in October of 1964, allowing Carroll Shelby and his team their first opportunity in figuring out how to fit the engine and transmission in; which they did so, in January of 1965. 


AC 289 Sports

Shelby AC 289 SPORTSShelby AC 289 SPORTS

The Mark III Cobra was designed with, mostly, Americans in mind, with its 427 cu. in. engine at the forefront of the new platform. Though chassis producer AC was obviously on board with Ford for this new venture, they had realized there were broader markets in places like Europe, Australia and internationally that would be much more receptive to a more road-friendly, and economical version of the car. 

They had the Mark III chassis fitted with a small block Ford 289 cu. in. V8 engine. This ended up producing an incredibly balanced sports car which didn’t overwhelm the dextrous chassis with a robust engine. It was a hybrid of British chassis and American muscle which highlighted the best elements of each.

Dragon Snake


Recognizing the popularity of drag racing in America, Shelby introduced a drag package known as ‘Dragon Snake’, which fitted the car with a ¼-mile-winning arsenal made especially for straight-line racers. 

This equipment included a 3.77 rear end, Koni shocks, a roll bar, shoulder harnesses and in some of the models, a 289 cu. in. engine. Each example was made to order and highly customizable, where clients could opt for different ‘stages’ which each came with its own selection of options. 

The Dragon Snake won several NHRA National events with Bruce Larson or Ed Hedrick at the wheel. Only six of the 289 cu. in. Dragon Snake Cobras were built, making them amongst the rarest Cobras in existence. There are said to be 8 built in total.

Slalom Snake

Shelby Slalom SnakeShelby Slalom Snake

The Slalom Snake version of the Cobra was designed with auto-cross events in mind, with notable upgrades including Koni struts, front and rear anti-roll bars and Goodyear Blue Streak Sports Car Special tires.

These are also extremely rare, with only two examples were produced. Both cars were finished in white exterior paint with red racing stripes down the middle, and red leather interiors. Each of the two owners opted for some bespoke features such as a hood scoop, side exhaust and a painted roll bar, which would have been amongst the only distinguishing features between the two.

Super Snake

Shelby Super SnakeShelby Super Snake

In 1966, Carroll Shelby embarked on a mission to create the “Cobra to End All Cobras”. He had an S/C version converted into a special model which was called the Super Snake. As the mission objective clearly reveals, this Shelby would become the fastest and most brutal yet, thanks in large part to the addition of Twin Paxton Superchargers.

Other modifications include the use of the racing rear end, brakes and headers that were used in the competition car, though the car remained road-legal since it was based primarily on S/C infrastructure.

Only two examples were made, with one given to Carroll Shelby’s close friend and comedian Bill Cosby. He would end up returning the car shortly after, remarking that the car was “too difficult to control”. The second car was used as Shelby’s personal car which he would sometimes enter into local races or shows.


The price of the Shelby Cobra 427 brand new in 1965 was around $7,500 USD. However, other than being a historical tidbit, that information has become vastly insignificant when the economics come into play today.

Such is the car – so rich in history and exceptional in nature – that the prices of original Shelby Cobras at auction in recent years have become out of this world. It is common to see Mark III Cobras with a strike price starting at $800,000 USD with the more rare versions such as the S/C models, going for north of $2 million USD. 

Then there are the truest of unicorns; the Super Snake which auctioned in 2007 for $5.3 million USD, and the very first Shelby Cobra ever made, going for a record $13.75 million USD (for an American car) in 2016!

Here is an article by RCN Magazine which lists some of the most expensive Shelby Cobras ever sold. 

Performance & Specifications Summary

Model & Pricing Info

Make Shelby
Model Cobra
Sub-model 427
Car type Roadster
Introduced 1965
Units built 343

Chassis, Suspension & Powertrain

Curb Weight 1,035 kg / 2,282 lbs
Layout Longitudinal Front Engine, Rear-wheel drive
Cooling Water-cooled
Body / Frame Aluminum over Tubular Steel Frame
Suspension (F) Equal Length Wishbones w/ Coil Springs over Dampers
Suspension (R) Equal Length Wishbones w/ Coil Springs over Dampers
Steering Rack-and-pinion

(F) Discs, 297 mm

(R) Discs, 273 mm 

Transmission 4-speed Manual 

Engine, Output & Performance

Engine V8
Displacement (Litres) 427 cu. in. (7.0 L)
Aspiration Naturally Aspirated
Power (hp) 416 bhp @ 6,000 rpm
Power (hp) / liter 59.4 hp / liter
Power (hp) / weight 0.40 hp / kg
Torque 480 lb-ft @ 3,700 rpm
0-60 mph time 4.2 seconds
¼ Mile (standing) 12.4 seconds
Top Speed 164 mph (264 km/h)

The Shelby Cobra 427 is a car that has an unmistakable appearance. Its race-derived, British-made tubular chassis would become the platform on which one of the world’s most iconic cars was built. Boasting its flared wheel arches, a bulging stern, and a low stance with meaty tires, the car’s presence is one that is menacing but also somewhat elegant in nature. 

Over the years, there have been many copy cats which have ranged in quality from atrocious to outstanding; which in any case, speaks volumes about the fascination and allure this car commands. It is truly one of the most recognizable and timeless designs of an automobile, and will only continue to enthrall us for perpetuity.

One of the better video reviews of the Shelby Cobra on YouTube was done by a channel called Vehicle Virgins. While the chosen video title is “THIS 1965 SHELBY COBRA IS FASTER THAN A LAMBORGHINI”, the reviewer also remarks that the car “handles a lot better than I was expecting.”

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ThatDudeinBlue was lucky enough to have Superformance in California invite him to drive one of their Shelby AC Cobras for the chance of a lifetime. Built under the approval and certification of Shelby themselves, these cars are built completely from scratch in house down to the millimeter. 

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Donut Media tells us everything we need to know about Shelby the company, and its namesake founder Mr. Carroll Shelby. It is an informative and humorous documentary which chronicles the journey of the man – and his company – during his quest to attain sports car hegemony.

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Car and Driver – November 1965 Issue

Car and Driver - November 1965 IssueCar and Driver - November 1965 Issue

1965 Shelby Cobra 427

Not long ago, the Cobra 427 would have been the hot setup on any race track. Now it’s a civilized street machine!

From the November 1965 issue of Car and Driver


Several years ago, the manufacturers of a posh Brit­ish grand touring car got a fair amount of mile­age out of the claim that their vehicle could accelerate from 0–100 mph and brake to a complete stop in less than 25 seconds.

This was indeed an impressively brief period of time during which all that change of velocity happened, but automotive development has come a long way since then and today perhaps half a dozen produc­tion cars of one kind or another can perform on that level. What’s more, there are several automobiles being produced in the United States that will breakthrough that arbitrary 25-second barrier like the Germans through the Maginot Line. One is the 427 Sting Ray; another, most certainly, is the new 427 Cobra from Shelby American.

Alright, you say, if 25 seconds from 0–100–0 isn’t so hot anymore, what the hell is? Twenty seconds?

Forget twenty seconds.

How about 18 seconds?

Not too bad, but the Cobra can do better.

How much better, wise guy?

How about maybe 14.5 seconds? Get that, 14.5 sec­onds to accelerate to 100 miles an hour and then stop again. Until something better comes along, that may have to stand as some sort of high watermark in performance for cars that are readily available to the general public. 

That figure, mind you, is obtainable by the average Cobra driver with the regular 8.15 x 15 Goodyear Blue Dot street tires. Cobra test driver Ken Miles has done the job in as little as 13.8 seconds, and who knows how much improvement could be made with racing tires that would nullify some of the tre­mendous wheel spin?

The 427 Cobra does accelerate and decelerate at unbelievable rates, as the above figures should imply. What’s more, it is a more civilized machine than the original 289 Cobra that brought the fabulous Shelby organization into being four years ago. It handles properly, thanks to a completely new all-independent suspension system that is traceable to the deft hand of Klaus Arning, the Ford Motor Company genius re­sponsible for the impeccable handling of the Ford GT.

Everyone at Shelby is more than candid about ad­mitting that the handling of the original Cobra was considerably less than optimum. In fact, C/D was once informed by a Shelby lieutenant that the old tubular AC chassis had considerably less torsional rigidity than the rail frame of a Model T! Coupled with this flexible frame was an antiquated suspension system, designed in the post-war years, that utilized leaf springs and lower wishbones. 

One staff member recalls a partic­ularly painful day in southern California when he was outrun down a bumpy orange grove lane by an MG 1100. “There I was, with all that Cobra horse­power, and the rear wheels were bouncing and leaping around so badly that I could barely keep the beast on the road, much less catch up to the MG. It was terrible!”

1964 Shelby Cobra 289

Two worlds collided and turned into the Shelby 289 Cobra, which represents the very best of American and British automotive innovation. Legendary designer Carroll Shelby took an AC chassis and body and paired it with a Ford V-8 engine, the result a sophisticated teeter between sleekness and performance.

While not as powerful as the fan favorite Shelby Cobra 427 S/C, the Cobra 289 remains revered as the one to get. The above, more specifically, is a second-generation Mark II model. It’s got quite a high-octane history, having burned rubber at the SCCA United States Road Racing Championship. It lost only once in three years.

The car has spent much of its time over the years sitting pretty in collections. And along the way, it’s had a pretty intensive restoration. So, no signs of wear, at all. It’s still pumping to this day after snagging the top title at the 1967 SCCA Nationals. And people have used it in numerous vintage events up until now. Talk about endurance.

After many lonely hours at the showroom, the car is now ready for a garage to call it its new home. You can hit up Auxietre & Schmidt to get a price quote if you’re interested in snatching this bad boy up. Do note that it won’t be cheap, but you probably already knew that. It comes with a LeMans Hardtop, too. Will definitely look great alongside your other Shelbys in storage. Just make sure to leave something for the rest of us!


Photos courtesy of Auxietre & Schmidt

Superformance Might Use the GT500’s Supercharged V8 in the Shelby GR-1

Superformance, Supercharged, Superfast

Superformance will build a production version of the Shelby GR-1 in the next few years. Until now, there were not many details about what type of engine the vehicle might get. That has changed. According to Robb Report, Superformance will consider a supercharged V8 engine for the GR-1 instead of the V10 engine that was in the original concept. Most likely it will be the 700-plus hp engine that’s in the upcoming GT500. 

“It sadly won’t be a V-10,” said Lance Stander CEO or Superformance. “Ford doesn’t have a V-10 apart from one they utilize in trucks, and we want the GR-1 to be a production car with a production engine—all coming from Ford.” When asked if the company would use the GT500’s engine, Stader said, “You’re thinking on the right track.”

That’s a pretty clear indication that it will either be the GT500’s engine directly or some variation of it. The Robb Report also talked with Stander about the possibility of using the Tremec dual-clutch transmission in the GT500. “[The Tremac] is a very exciting transmission, and we are in talks with them,” said Stander. “But at this point, we are also planning a six-speed manual.” 

That’s good news for enthusiasts. At this time, Ford only plans to build the GT500 with the DCT, but the company did note it would add a manual transmission at some point down the line if enough customers wanted one. Now, it seems customers may have an opportunity to get the powertrain they want in the even more exclusive Shelby GR-1. 

EV Not Out of the Question Either

With all this talk of the gasoline-powered car, the electric version that was rumored has fallen by the wayside. However, Stander says his company is still talking with Shelby American to make the EV GR-1 happen. Stander said Superformance and Shelby can’t ignore the move toward electric vehicles industry-wide. He also said you never know where EVs will be in two years time. 

2004 ford shelby GR-1

2004 ford shelby GR-1

Stander mentions two years because that’s about how long the company expects for the production version of the GR-1 to come to fruition. Right now the Low Car Volume Manufacturers Act, which is what enables the possibility of the GR-1 in the first place is tied up in the government shutdown. Once the shutdown is done, Superformance can proceed with actually building the car. When it does, let’s hope it has the V8-beating heart of the GT500 under it’s long and gorgeous hood. 

Could the 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 Get a Manual?

We Know You Want to Row Your Own Gears

The 2020 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 will come with a dual-clutch automatic transmission (DTC) with paddle shifters instead of the manual transmission many enthusiasts wished it had. However, Carl Widdman, head engineer for Ford Performance and the Mustang, didn’t rule out a manual for Ford’s 700-plus hp Mustang. That means it could get a manual transmission.

Road and Track talked with Widdman at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit where the car made its debut. Widdman didn’t rule out the possibility of a manual transmission at some point. In fact, he seemed to hint that the muscle car could come with one at some point. 

The all-new Shelby GT500–the pinnacle of any pony car ever engineered by Ford Performance–delivers on its heritage with more than 700 horsepower for the quickest street-legal acceleration and most high-performance technology to date ever offered in a Ford Mustang.The all-new Shelby GT500–the pinnacle of any pony car ever engineered by Ford Performance–delivers on its heritage with more than 700 horsepower for the quickest street-legal acceleration and most high-performance technology to date ever offered in a Ford Mustang.
Image from Ford

When asked if the GT500 could get a manual transmission in later months, Widman said, “Right now, we’re DCT-only, [but] we get feedback, and we’re real tight with the Mustang crowd. We always listen to what our customers want, right?” 

That’s not a confirmation that the GT500 will get a manual transmission, but it’s certainly not a no. It would seem that Ford Performance is open to the idea. Why wouldn’t they be? If they’re going to miss out on sales because of the lack of a manual, then it only makes sense to put one in there.

Road and track also tried to find out if the Mustang GT350 or other versions of the Mustang would get the GT500’s slick new DCT from Tremec, and Widdman said no. That’s a shame because of the fact that the DTC in the GT500 shifts faster and can handle more torque than the current 10-speed automatic in the regular Mustang. 

2020 Mustang Shelby GT500 is Ford’s Most Powerful Street Car Ever

Hang on Tight

Ford is known for high-performance muscle cars, but now it has its most powerful muscle car of all time. The 2020 Mustang Shelby GT500. It comes with a supercharged 5.2-liter V8 engine that produces more than 700 hp. 

Its monster V8 engine is connected to a dual-clutch automatic transmission that puts all that power down to the rear wheels. That should translate to mid-three second 0-60 mph times and a quarter-mile drag strip time of under 11 seconds. 

The GT500 isn’t just a straight line hustler, though, Ford claims it possesses the best braking and cornering of any domestic sports coupe. Dodge and Chevy, Ford is looking right at you. 

The Shelby produced car has an exterior design focused on aerodynamics. It’s supposed to increase downforce and improve thermal management. 

Jim Farley, Ford president of global markets, had this to say about the car, “A takedown artist, the new Shelby GT500 will surprise supercar owners with its Ford Performance racing tech, supercharged engine and visceral swagger.”

A Seriously Special Muscle Car

Ford hasn’t released specific engine power numbers or performance numbers for the car. All that will come at a later date. However, Ford did give insight into just how unique the model is. The powertrain is special to this car, and the aluminum alloy engine is built by hand. 

The engineering team inverted the 2.65-liter roots-type supercharger with an air-to-liquid intercooler to help keep the center of gravity low. To channel power efficiently and effectively, Ford used a carbon fiber driveshaft. In conjunction with the 7-speed dual-clutch transmission that can shift in under 100 milliseconds, this helps put the power from the engine down to the wheels. 

The car also gets fully revised suspension geometry and a new electronic steering system. It gets MagneRide suspension to help manage everything. The massive 16.5-inch two-piece brake rotors (the largest of any domestic coupe) and Brembo brake calipers finish the car’s performance specs for the moment. 

From an aesthetic standpoint, the car looks downright angry. It’s the face of a true muscle car if I ever saw one. It’s here to gobble up Chevy Camaros and Dodge Hellcats with aplomb. It will arrive in the fall of 2019.

Superformance Will Build Production Version of Shelby GR-1 Concept

Dreams Do Come True

The 2004 Ford Shelby GR-1 concept car first made it into the public eye in 2004 at Pebble Beach as a clay model. In 2005 Ford had a full concept car version that it showed at the North American International Auto Show. Despite a lot of enthusiasm, there was no way it would ever become a production car. 

That has changed thanks to Superformance. The Californian company specializes in building complete, rolling chassis replica cars. Most of its cars were vehicles built in the 1960s. Recently, the company announced at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles to the media it would start building the Shelby GR-1 concept car. 

Superformance teamed up with Shelby American. The companies will work together to build both gasoline and electric versions of the car. Details of the model are scarce, but Vince Laviolette, vice president of Shelby American did say the car will be “very fast,” according to Car and Driver. The CEO of Superformance, Lance Stander, said, “We’re shooting for a two-second Shelby.”

I assume that means two seconds to 60 mph. If that’s the case, all I have to say is that I want one. Superformance will build around 200 of the cars thanks to the 2015 Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act.

However, the company has to wait for the government to finalize the laws before it can start building or ever really deciding what powertrain to put in the car. With that said, you won’t need to worry about buying one of these for a couple of years. You should probably start saving your money. It will most likely be a pricey automobile. 

Ford GT, Mustang GT, Focus RS and more go head-to-head in Spain

Ford Performance has a pretty stellar lineup. There seems to be a vehicle for everyone, whether you want a supercar, a hot hatch or even a Baja-blasting pickup. Sometime during pre-season testing of the Ford GT race car, all eight Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Team drivers decided to have a go around Motorland near Barcelona, Spain, in all eight currently available Ford Performance vehicles (that means two Fiestas and no Edge ST). Even with a staggered start, the finishing order isn’t surprising. Watch the full video above.

The eight cars are the F-150 Raptor, the outgoing Ford Fiesta ST, the new Ford Fiesta ST, the Ford Focus RS, the Ford Mustang GT, the Shelby GT350, the Ford GT and the GT LM GTE-Pro race car. The race begins with a staggered start, beginning with the Raptor and ending with the GT LM GTE-Pro. It’s funny to watch the Raptor roll its way through the corners as the first Fiesta ST starts to close in on the rear. The end of the video was likely staged, but Ford did release all eight lap times.

For clarity’s sake, the red Fiesta ST is the outgoing model that’s currently available in the U.S.. It’s powered by a 1.6-liter EcoBoost turbocharged inline-four (Ford lists the European model’s 180 horsepower rating). The new car is powered by a 200 horsepower 1.5-liter EcoBoost turbocharged inline-three. That model isn’t available in the U.S. and likely won’t make it over.

Car and drivers:

Driver Vehicle Engine Power Lap Time
Ryan Briscoe F-150 Raptor 3.5L EcoBoost V6 450HP 2:30.65
Dirk Müller Fiesta ST 1.6L EcoBoost I4 180 HP 2:19.01
Harry Tincknell Fiesta ST 1.5L EcoBoost I3 200 HP 2:16.58
Richard Westbrook Focus RS 2.3L EcoBoost I4 350 HP 2:11.01
Stefan Mücke Mustang GT 5.0L V8 460 HP 2:06.19
Joey Hand Shelby GT350 R 5.2L V8 526 HP 1:58.14
Olivier Pla GT 3.5L EcoBoost V6 647 HP 1:50.02
Andy Priaulx GT LM GTE-Pro 3.5L EcoBoost V6 N/A 1:40.00

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