The AC Cobra sports car first hit the road in 1963.  The stylish and unmistakable two-seater would become a favourite of motoring enthusiasts around the world.

The original idea for the AC Cobra came from American retired race car driver and automotive designer Carroll Shelby.  His aim was to build a racing car to compete with manufacturers including Chevrolet.  He contacted AC Cars, based in Thames Ditton in Surrey, UK, who then designed the AC Ace 3.6 prototype and the AC Cobra evolution began.

AC Cobra

Once the design was finalised, AC Cars continued to build the painted cars, without the engine and gearbox, to Shelby in the US.  The Shelby team finished the cars in their Los Angeles workshop, adding the engine and making any final adjustments.

The first Mk1 Cobra cars were fitted with powerful V8 4.3-litre engines supplied by Ford, with later models featuring a larger 4.7-litre engine.  All the original car bodies were aluminium, although fibreglass versions were available on later models.

The Mark II was produced between 1963 and 1965 with a 4.7-litre V8 engine.  This was replaced with the Mark III in 1965, which had either a 4.7 litre or gas-guzzling 7.0 lire engine.  The Mark III was produced until 1967.

The AC Cobra featured in many of the Le Mans 24-hour races of the 1960s and restored AC Cobra sports cars can be seen speeding around the track at the Le Mans Classic today.  The Superperformance Mark III Cobra is the only replica presently built under licence from Carroll Shelby Licensing Inc.

AC Cobra Instrumentation

AC Cars already used SMITHS instrumentation in sports cars such as the AC Ace and, once again, turned to SMITHS for the new Cobra.

AC Cobra Dashboard

The appearance of the gauges for the AC Cobra had to reflect the classic feel and style of the car.  The gauge array was unique, with a central dashboard carrying a bank of gauges.

Caerbont Automotive Instruments continue to build the original style AC Cobra SMITHS gauges at their UK facility, using the original drawings.  This ensures that any renovation maintains the styling and appearance of when they left the factory for the first time.

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