My Car Quest

November 19, 2018

Did I Inspire The Replica Cobra Movement?

by Wallace Wyss –

So I was going along he freeway sometime around ’70 to ’72 (memory fogs over) and I am in a Toyota and ahead of me is a 427 Cobra, red with white sidepipes. I began to chase it. We zoom in and out of traffic, my Toyota hard put to reach the 80 mph the Cobra could do without half trying.

The young man driving the car finally pulls into a suburban driveway in the San Fernando Valley, jumps out and confronts me , demanding to know: “Why the hell are you following me?”

Shelby Cobra CSX 2001

AC Shelby Cobra CSX 2001 – photo by Mike Gulett

I explain I am a reporter, with Motor Trend and I want to do a story on his car.

We make a photo appointment and I call Carroll Shelby, who had returned from Africa (the whole game preserve thing went sour, but that’s another story) and really was not doing much except managing his office building and apartments. His bridges had burned with Ford.

Carroll Shelby in the '50s, portrait by Wallace Wyss

Carroll Shelby in the ’50s, portrait by Wallace Wyss

Shelby agreed to meet us (including my photographer Marc Madow) on a bluff in Playa Del Rey, overlooking the ocean and on the way there I ran into a store and chose a cowboy hat as a prop. Much too small but hey, Shelby was a cowboy, right?

So as we shoot the car, Shelby keeps looking at the car and wondering aloud “Do people still care about these things?” and we’re assuring him that “yes, they do.” I think by that time Steve Arntz had already made his first 427 Cobra replica.

Shelby’s battle with Brian Angliss in England, first a Cobra restorer, then a replicator and later a manufacturer of continuation AC Cobras hadn’t started yet. That was fun later to follow in CAR magazine, each accusing the other of stealing the design (it eventually led to a court battel between Shelby and other replicators, and Shelby lost).

At the shooting, Shelby got a kick out of the way the owner, who ran a shop called Solo Performance, had mounted an inline four barrel on it.

Deciding Motor Trend was too mainstream to run a story on a Cobra, we sent the story to Auto Motor und Sport in Germany, and they ran a 2 or 3 page feature. It was years later Shelby began thinking about making replicas, ( after first announcing he had found some unfinished chassis and was going to build those as “continuation cars.”)

Wallace Wyss - photo by Brian Winer

Wallace Wyss – photo by Brian Winer

At any rate, I think back upon that shooting session. Shelby was truly amazed anyone cared about the old Cobra, a car phased out in ’67, almost forgotten in the rush to win Le Mans for Ford and the redesign of the Shelby Mustangs for ‘68, and ‘69 (the ’70 Shelbys were just leftover ‘69s renumbered).

I would like to take credit for inspiring him to bring back the Cobra, but I am sure I was only one of many influences. In contrast to his braggadocio reputation, I found him modest, unassuming and jus’ plain folks. As I have done some cowboying myself, in the Bitterroot range, we even talked about things like barb wire and bullwhips and the killing power of that huge elephant gun he kept in his office.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

Wallace Wyss

 
 
 
 
 
THE AUTHOR/ARTIST: Wallace Wyss has authored three books on Shelby and his cars. He is currently a fine artist offering fine art prints of Cobras. For a list of available prints write Photojournalistpro2@gmail.com

 
 
 

 

 

AC Shelby Cobra Post Card

AC Shelby Cobra Post Card Announcing the Cobra 427

Summary
Did I Inspire The Replica Cobra Movement?
Article Name
Did I Inspire The Replica Cobra Movement?
Description
I would like to take credit for inspiring Carroll Shelby to bring back the Cobra, but I am sure I was only one of many influences.
Author

Comments

  1. William Rice says:

    I have had some of my cars serviced at Solo Performance, by Wayne, the owner. The last time I was in there, that same cobra was still sitting there in the shop. I didn’t realize that it was his until now. Great story Wally, thanks.

  2. You should talk to Mike McCluskey.

  3. Or Patrick Crowley.

    It was nice to have him, you and Murray over in my shop at the same time, Ed. Ricky still barks about it!

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