1963 Cobra 289 Le Mans

The engine and transmission Shelby dropped into the car were as exotic as corn dogs at a state fair

Carroll Shelby’s concept was simple enough. Take the attractive, lightweight, well-proven Ace roadster built by AC Cars and turn it into a world-beating production racer by the simple expedient of replacing its aging six-cylinder engines with a powerful and reliable American engine.
At least that was the plan. In practice the Ford’s greater power exceeded the AC chassis’ design limits. It needed bigger tires to put the power down, which also increased cornering forces and exacerbated the shortcomings of the Ace’s simple transverse leaf spring suspension. Better brakes were needed and introduced even more stress.
By April of 1963, as the Cobra was demonstrating its speed and improving its reliability in FIA competition at Daytona and Sebring, Shelby moved to the next phase-the Le Mans 24-hour race. Two cars were built and were the most highly developed of all the early Cobras.
The Cobra entered by AC Cars finished 7th overall, 3rd in the GT category, and won the 4-liter to 5-liter class. This success resulted in the construction of six more Cobras designated as Le Mans versions by AC and Shelby, among the first Cobras built with rack-and-pinion steering.
The first of these, S/N CSX2136, proudly offered here by RM Auctions, was delivered to Shelby American in June of 1963 and competed in the remaining races of the 1963 SCCA/US Road Racing Championship season. In addition to its Le Mans features, it got the Webers as supplied on the Le Mans cars, Halibrand wheels, front wheelwell spats and wider rear flares, Koni shocks, brake cooling scoops, front and rear sway bars, engine oil and differential coolers, driveshaft hoop, electric fuel pump, and a fuel pressure gauge in the dashboard to replace the standard Cobra clock.
Ed Leslie acquired the Cobra 289 Le Mans from the Shelby Team on January 30, 1964, and made a mockery of the competition in the SCCA’s A Production class, winning his class in seven of eleven SCCA races in 1964, including the ARRC finale at Riverside.
Carefully restored by experts in the Shelby Cobra marque, S/N CSX2136 is presented as it was raced in 1963 by the Shelby American team in its team livery.

Thor Thorson

Thor Thorson - SCM Contributing Editor

Thor grew up in northern Iowa. His father bought a red Jag XK 150 in the late 1950s, and that was all it took; he has been in love with sports cars , racing cars and the associated adrenaline rush ever since. He has vintage raced for more than 20 years, the bulk of them spent behind the wheel of a blue Elva 7. When he’s not racing, he is president of Vintage Racing Motors Inc., a collector-car dealer and vintage-racing support company based in Redmond, WA. His knowledge runs the full spectrum of vintage racing, and he has put that expertise to good use for SCM since 2003.

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