Flat Out in a 2008 Shelby Cobra 427 continuation car

Some things are too good to let die, and the AC Cobra is one of them. Though the fast-moving 1960s made obsolete the various iterations of the Cobra after only five years of production, the ticking clock of mortality that the rest of us live under has never really affected the Cobra.

As original 1962-67 Cobras still blaze across auction blocks at astounding prices, the Cobra lives on in almost innumerable (and far more affordable) modern permutations, up to and including Shelby authorized “continuation” cars which bear CSX chassis numbers and are constructed by a variety of companies. They supply all the sights and sounds of original Cobras, a Shelby stamp of approval, and varying degrees of modern upgrades.

Such a car is John Shultz’s aluminum-bodied Shelby Cobra 427 which comes from the 4000-block of CSX continuation cars and, but for age, pedigree, and sentimentality, might as well be a real Cobra that you can drive every day. Certainly, it’s a Cobra you can drive without worrying about risking an American historical treasure to the hazards of traffic.

Painted in solid Navy Blue, a subtle shade that forgoes the bang-flash of racing stripes, and fitted with black Halibrand-style pin-drive knock-off wheels, Shultz’s car looks the business and sounds authentic when its side pipes start barking. The cast-aluminum Ford 482 FE supplied by Craft Performance Engines is basically a 427 bored and stroked to 482 cubic inches. This one made 648 horsepower on the dyno, which is pretty, uh, adequate in a car that only weighs about 2300 pounds.

Cam-profiled for the kind of high-rpm heavy breathing you do on a track, the 482 sounds like a concentrated wallop of the 1960s as the car roars past, the driver upshifting through the four-speed toploader as the revs soar past 6000.  

As in all real Cobras, the luxury items are few, this one bearing a heater/defroster and fresh-air vent. Period Smiths gauges add to the vintage feel of the vinyl-trimmed cockpit, though the giant scrawl of Carroll Shelby’s signature on the dash reveals the car for what it really is: a beautiful tribute to the old snake charmer.