My Car Quest

December 13, 2018

Was There A Fiat Cobra? – Yep There Was

Yes this fearsome beast still roams the earth…

by Wallace Wyss –

You hear Cobra fans talk about Cobra coupes and most of the time they mean Cobra Daytona coupes designed by Pete Brock. The first one was bodied in the US by California Metal Shaping and the remaining five in Italy.

Those cars were instrumental in Shelby American winning the world’s manufacturing Championship in ’65.

But I’m here to tell ya that there’s another Cobra coupe bodied in Italy prowling the earth and it has a more fearsome engine by far than Shelby’s Daytona coupes, a FE series 427 incher. Yes, a big block!

Fiat Cobra

The way the car came about was British Ford dealer and race team sponsor John Willment had a leftover 427 Cobra chassis, left over from earlier racing efforts. He directed his underlings (tell me, if there are “underlings” are there also “overlings”?) to go down to the junkyard and find a body for it and they came back with an aluminum body designed by Giovanni Savonuzzi and hand built by Ghia, originally fitted to a Fiat 8V chassis.

Savonuzzi did the original design for a one-off race car built by Virgil Conrero for the Mille Miglia. It was only after that race that the design was adapted for the production Fiat 8V (called 8V because Fiat mistakenly thought Ford had copyrighted the phrase “V8”)

The engine in the hodge-podge Cobra using that body later was not just a ordinary 427 but one that had been breathed on by Holman-Moody, the stock car racing folks who had also been in on Ford’s ’67 LeMans victory by running one of the GT 40 Mk. IV racing teams. The engine had twin four barrels and depending on compression and state of tune could put out 485 hp.

Some theorize the chassis tubes were extended by 5″ in the front. And the Supersonic body had to be modified to fit the chassis.

Fiat Cobra

This car has been out and around for some five decades. At one point it belonged to a London policeman, that’s when it was kicking around for under $10,000.

NOT A CAR FOR A LADY

There is an old rumor we can now put to rest that it was built for Lady Campbell (wife of Sir Malcolm). Fitting, what with he being from the speed record family. When I heard that rumor for the 19th time, I got impatient and looked her up and, wonders of the internet, talked to her on the phone and she said “not true—I was offered that or an E-type Jag and I took the Jag.”

The car has also been for sale by such notable emporiums as Rod Leach’s “Nostalgia” in England and The Checkered Flag in Marina Del Rey,CA.

In 2009 on the Club Cobra forum website Trevor Legate, a British historian, wrote

CSX3055 is currently undergoing a 2 – 3 year restoration process in the UK that might, finally, make it the car it should have been from day one. (Nobody ever took up the challenge) It needed the suspension sorted, which has been done and now the rather tacky interior is being rebuilt a per a 427, after removing some rather tacky 1970s quilted padding to the doors and dashboard.

Once it’s been painted it should emerge looking the proverbial million $$$ – and maybe it might be worth that as well. I look forward to getting some suitable snaps of the finished product, maybe this summer?

‘Tis a big fearsome beastie and definitely good, in theory, for 200mph+ (it used to start getting scary at around 130mph I’m reliably informed….)

Fiat Cobra

Now the irony of all this is that, since that body was found in that junkyard, Fiat 8Vs, especially those rare ones with the Supersonic body style, have climbed toward a million dollars. And 427 Cobras with genuine CSX3000 numbers have done likewise.

So the eternal question is: what should happen to this car? Should the owner sell the body to whoever has the original 8V chassis so the two can at last be reunited happily ever after? Should the chassis have a Cobra body, hand built of aluminum using as original-as-possible formers to guide its shape? (But then it would be yet another lookalike 427 Cobra roadster…)

Fiat CObra

One of the most recent appearances,according to Classic and Sports Car magazine was at a British concours in 2014.

I dunno. Nobody’s asked me but I kind of would like it to stay as is as a “surprise” car. You think it’s a Fiat and then the driver puts the pedal to the metal, there’s a lusty roar and the car lays two molten rubber streaks from here to eternity…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is the author of SHELBY The Man, the Cars, The Legend, available directly from Enthusiast Books (715)381 9755

 

 

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Summary
Was There A Fiat Cobra? - Yep There Was
Article Name
Was There A Fiat Cobra? - Yep There Was
Description
This 427 Cobra is wrapped in a Fiat 8V body.
Author

Comments

  1. Rob Krantz says:

    Definitely keep it as is! This is how it was built by John Willment and is a historic car in that right. Sort of like some Ferraris of that era that were modified by their owners and/or coach builders when new. There were also some Cobra chassis of the era used with other bodies such as the Cougar II (I believe that is the correct name) show car. Super cool car and story!

  2. i remember years ago…before all the goodwood BS and people talking about prices instead of cars…
    this same car had a towbar and used to tow racing cars to meetings and hill climbs..
    we where running a bedford horsebox car hauler with jaguar e type engine and gearbox and high ratio tyres..it did 100 mph the bloody thing and stopped too….the old ghia used to come past us towing a trailer.

  3. John in Fargo says:

    Like it as-is. I’ll bet that body has been modified! Must’ve been widened 6″. Another great CobraTale.

  4. Robert Cumberford says:

    Well recall roaring up Mound Road from the GM Tech Center in a Fiat 8V Supersonic at night in 1956, Stan Mott at the wheel. The firewall was missing, as was the twiddly Fiat engine. There was a 283 Chevy in there, but it didn’t have exhaust pipes hooked up yet, so flames were spouting from the exhaust manifolds.

    The side treatment of the one-year-only 1958 Chevrolet came from the Supersonic. Car belonged to Henry de Salle Lauve, head of color and trim at GM Styling. Don’t have any idea as to what happened to it… restored to Fiat, finished as a sleeper? But it definitely existed well before the Willment car.

  5. The body on the Cobra chassis were all done in period. It most definitely should be kept as is. Great story on an amazing and unique car.

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