1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C: The Legendary Race-Bred Road Car


The 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Semi/Competition (S/C) is undeniably the most coveted variant of the iconic Cobra series. Born from Shelby’s competition production line, these purpose-built race cars were hastily prepared for road use, embodying the essence of raw power and performance.

Origins of the Cobra

The Cobra’s story dates back to 1959 when Carroll Shelby achieved racing success with Aston Martin, winning the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans. During his racing career, Shelby noticed the remarkable performance of the AC Ace, which would become the foundation for his own automotive venture.

After retiring from racing, Shelby returned to the United States with the vision of building his own sports car. He turned to Charles Hurlock of AC Cars to provide a suitable chassis and body that could accommodate the new 260 cubic inch Ford V8 engine. Following remarkable success in racing, Ford supplied an even larger engine, the 427 FE, in 1965. Chief engineer Ken Miles aimed to harness the power of this engine to dominate the SCCA’s A Production Class and surpass the Corvette Grand Sport.

The Mighty 427 Engine

The Ford 427 engine was originally developed as a 425 cubic inch V8 for NASCAR racing regulations. These engines were purpose-built for competition, featuring solid lifters and a unique side oil passage that prioritized oil delivery to the crank before reaching the valvetrain. Producing around 400 horsepower, the 427 engine was a force to be reckoned with.

With support from Ford and AC Cars, the team at Shelby American modified the existing AC chassis to accommodate the massive 427 FE engine. The resulting design, known as the Mark III chassis, featured larger and wider-spaced chassis rails. Shelby ordered 100 of these chassis from AC Cars.

To handle the weight and power of the engine, the brakes and suspension were upgraded. The body of the Cobra S/C showcased prominent wheel arches to accommodate wider magnesium wheels and tires. Competition-oriented features included an oil cooler, side exhausts, a large fuel filler, a 42-gallon fuel tank, front jacking points, and a roll bar.

From Competition to the Streets

The 427 Cobra was intended to compete at the highest level of motorsport, both domestically and internationally. Shelby immediately began production, but a setback occurred when the FIA (Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile) expressed dissatisfaction with the minimum number of cars required for homologation in the World Sports Car Championship. With a minimum of 100 cars now required, Shelby’s market was drastically reduced. He canceled his order with AC Cars but was left with 53 nearly completed big block Cobras.

To find a solution, Shelby’s east coast representative, Charles Beidler, proposed painting the remaining cars and offering them as the fastest street-legal cars in the world.

Shelby soon began equipping the cars with production windscreens. Out of the 53 Cobras (chassis CSX3001 through CSX3053), three were sent to Ford, 19 were sold for competition, and the remaining cars were converted for road use.

Unleashing the Beast

On the road, the 427 S/C was a radical machine that pushed the boundaries of performance. Jerry Titus, editor of Sports Car Graphic magazine, achieved 0-100 mph in a staggering 13.2 seconds. By comparison, the closest Aston Martin of the time struggled to achieve that speed in under twenty seconds.

Due to its extremely limited production, encountering an original 427 S/C today is a rare and exhilarating experience. Only Shelby’s personal Super Snake, equipped with twin turbochargers producing 800 horsepower, managed to surpass the performance of the S/C.

The 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C has rightfully earned its place in automotive history as a race-bred legend. With its awe-inspiring power, timeless design, and unparalleled performance, it continues to captivate enthusiasts and stands as a testament to Carroll Shelby’s relentless pursuit of automotive excellence.

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Q: How did the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C differ from other Cobra variants?

A: The 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C was a purpose-built race car converted for road use. It featured modifications for enhanced performance, including a larger and more powerful Ford 427 FE engine, upgraded brakes and suspension, distinctive body design with widened wheel arches, and competition-oriented features like side exhausts and a roll bar.

Q: What was the origin of the Cobra and its connection to Aston Martin?

A: After achieving racing success with Aston Martin, Carroll Shelby turned to Charles Hurlock of AC Cars to supply a chassis and body suitable for his own sports car venture. Shelby noticed the performance of the AC Ace and saw its potential as a foundation for his new project.

Q: What was the significance of the 427 FE engine in the Shelby Cobra 427 S/C?

A: The Ford 427 FE engine was a race-proven powerplant, initially developed for NASCAR racing. It was renowned for its performance characteristics, including solid lifters and a side oil passage that prioritized oil delivery to the crank before reaching the valvetrain. Producing around 400 horsepower, it provided the Cobra S/C with exceptional power and acceleration.

Q: Why was the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C considered one of the fastest street cars?

A: The 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C boasted extraordinary acceleration and performance capabilities. Its raw power, lightweight construction, and aerodynamic design allowed it to outperform many contemporary sports cars. Its 0-100 mph time of 13.2 seconds was a remarkable achievement, surpassing competitors of its era.

Q: How rare are original 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C models today?

A: Original 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C models are highly sought after and extremely rare. Due to the limited production numbers and their historical significance, they are considered prized collectibles among automotive enthusiasts.


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