My Car Quest

June 3, 2023

What’s In A Name – Shelby Cobra: AC Cobra: AC-Ford Cobra or Shelby AC Cobra?

by Mike –

The Cobra was introduced in the September 1962 issue of Road & Track. On the cover at the top they called it the AC-Ford Cobra and at the bottom the cover photo was labeled Shelby AC Cobra. Inside, the article title is AC-Ford Cobra.

It is understandable if anyone was confused about what to call the Cobra when it was introduced in 1962.

Road & Track September 1962

Carroll Shelby Driving a Cobra – Road & Track September 1962

In the US it soon became clear this was the Shelby Cobra and in Europe it was an AC Cobra where AC made Cobras for U.K. or Europe delivery without Shelby’s assistance or name.

According to the book, “Cobra The First 40 years” by Trevor Legate, Shelby had asked both AC and Ford for financial credit in getting production of the Cobra off the ground.

On page 48,

Charles Hurlock (AC) was happy to play his part, asking only in return for his financing of the cars, that the AC name be part of the car’s title, a pretty small request on the face of it. Ford were not too concerned to have their name on the car (just in case…), being happy to have a small “Powered by Ford” badge on the wings, but insisted that Shelby had his name on them – thus the Shelby AC Cobra was launched.

Maybe this arrangement about the official name of the Cobra wasn’t final by press time for the September 1962 issue or the message did not reach the editors of Road & Track.

It seems to me that over the years the AC name and logo dropped off of the Shelby Cobras. It certainly did on the many Cobra replicas.

Have I mentioned that I just acquired an AC Cobra Mk IV by Autokraft? That name is a mouthful.

The Shelby badge is no where to be found, the AC script logo is on the nose and trunk and the Autokraft logo is small and located low on the trunk. The only place I can find the Cobra logo is on the door sills and very small at that.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

AC Cobra Brochure

What's In A Name - Shelby Cobra: AC Cobra: AC-Ford Cobra or Shelby AC Cobra?
Article Name
What's In A Name - Shelby Cobra: AC Cobra: AC-Ford Cobra or Shelby AC Cobra?
Is this a Shelby Cobra, AC Cobra, AC-Ford Cobra or Shelby AC Cobra?


  1. Rafffi Minasian says

    A lot of the naming and story has evolved over the years, but as Mike points out, when the car was first released it had a great deal of confusion around the name. These were confusing times for car makers wanting to build credibility with performance but worrying about liability with accidents.

    In the US, the cars were all delivered with Shelby VINs so these are all Shelby cars as far as the legal venues (DMV and Federal Gov, insurance etc) are concerned. The fact that they are powered by Ford engines and compiled by AC is much like referencing the coach builder on a car like the Bertone Grifo or Lancia Zagato (though AC was building the same car concurrent to the Cobra). The GT350 was essentially a Ford Mustang but it was delivered as a Shelby product with the GT350 name. Thus with just a handful of unique parts and dual stripes, you have a car worth more than three times that of a 1965 factory HiPo GT Mustang.

    The naming and credit for these cars became a legal matter of great concern for AC, Ford, and Shelby when the first ERA and Arntz Industries Cobra replicas began to appear on the market in the mid to late 1970’s. Ford, AC, and others cared little for this largely quaint attempt at car building. But as the industry grew and aftermarket parts, models, jackets, posters, all tugged at the dreams of car owners around this iconic era – the Cobra took the throne as king of performance, an American upstart flexing its muscles through the anemic automotive horizons of the 70’s, the 80’s and into the 1990’s.

    The money and the market made both Ford and AC pay attention. The name, the brand, the snake, the image, all of it came into question. Into the courts they scampered 0-100-0 again in legal time at snails pace while the original cars began to climb in value beyond comprehension, furthering the demand for ownership of the sacred brand.

    Today, to do anything using the name Cobra, Shelby, AC, the visual for the snake, the wording in combination with the exact dimensions of the car etc. requires a license and permission from both AC and Shelby AND Ford. The body design was disputed as “public domain” so you can make a model and a kit version of the same car, but you have to call it something else unless you get permission from AC, Shelby or Ford. In the case of the Mark IV it is built by Autocraft with AC as a shared partner for authenticity and marketing. If Ford were to make a new Cobra (the name Cobra is legally shared for use with Shelby and Ford depending on the use conditions) they would likely not have to use or credit AC in any way other than the value of the heritage claims that AC has to the original.

    In any case, the Shelby Cobra exists as a slice of automotive history where amazing sports cars were conceived and built out of the love and passion for performance, by people who wanted to tease the edge of danger with the flick of the ignition switch and a right foot mashed to the floor. Call it anything you want – I’ll call it a heck of a lot of fun.

    • Raffi,

      Thanks for the great information. I have learned after I acquired the AC Cobra Mk IV that this car was created by a joint venture with AC/Autokraft and Ford – so Ford had a stake and of course supplied engines and other stuff.

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