The AC Cobra, also known as the Shelby Cobra, is an Anglo-American sports car that was produced during the 1960s.
Like many British specialist manufacturers, AC Cars had been using the smooth, refined Bristol straight-6 engine in its small-volume production, including its AC Ace 2-seater roadster. This had a hand-built body with a steel tube frame, and aluminium body panels that were made using English wheeling machines. The engine was a pre-World War II design of BMW which by the 1960s was considered dated. Bristol decided in 1961 to cease production of its engine and instead to use Chrysler 331 cid (5.4 L) V8 engines. Although untrue, it is commonly believed that AC was left without a future source of power and that American ex-racing driver Carroll Shelby saved the company from bankruptcy. AC started using the 2.6 litre Ford Zephyr engine in its cars. In September 1961, Shelby airmailed AC a letter asking them if they would build him a car modified to accept a V8 engine. AC agreed, provided a suitable engine could be found. He first went to Chevrolet to see if they would provide him with engines, but not wanting to add competition to the Corvette they said no. Ford however, wanted a car that could compete with the Corvette and they happened to have a brand new thin-wall small-block engine which could be used in this endeavor. It was Ford's 260 in³ HiPo (4.2 L) engine - a new lightweight, thin-wall cast small-block V8 tuned for high performance. In January 1962 mechanics at AC Cars in Thames Ditton, Surrey fitted the prototype chassis CSX0001 with a 221ci Ford V8. After testing and modification, the engine and transmission were removed and the chassis was air-freighted to Shelby in Los Angeles on 2 February 1962. His team fitted it with an engine and transmission in less than eight hours at Dean Moon's shop in Santa Fe Springs, California, and began road-testing.