My Car Quest

May 22, 2024

A Might Have Been Corvette Beater: Ford’s Cougar II Concept

by Wallace Wyss –

Ya wonder, back when Shelby got Ford bankrolling him to make the Cobra a production car, if Chevy was worried. They had their Corvette in production since 1953 and still weren’t making any money on it. All they needed was some cowboy siphoning off the sports car market from them. Fortunately Shelby never got into volume production on his Cobras.

The original Cobra designer doesn’t get much credit, the design was bought by A.C. Cars Ltd. for their A.C. Ace off a guy who made one off cars for those who wanted a Ferrari but couldn’t afford one, so he made rough look-alikes.

Ford Cougar II

A.C. bought the design and paid him a few dollars for each A.C. Ace they sold. Shelby changed it a little, making the trunk lid shorter for more rigidity. But somewhere early in the program Ford glommed onto one of them and rebodied it to a design by chief designer Eugene Bordinat.

Ford Cougar II

His design was more modern with hidden headlamps, a stainless steel brushed roof, a fastback not unlike the ’63 Corvette. Still with chrome wire wheels though, as those were “sports car” at Ford at the time (even the Thunderbird Sports Roadster had them).

Ford Cougar II

The engine in the car was originally the same engine that Shelby had started with the 260 V-8 (later Cobras went to the 289) but Ford still claimed it would that do 170 mph, a little faster than the open Cobra roadster would do at the time (which is why Shelby authorized employee Pete Brock to design the Cobra Daytona coupe).

Ford Cougar II

The dashboard was all new, too, much more production car like. In the original Cobra, it was just a slab of metal sporting a few black faced chrome rimmed gauges.

Ford showed the Cougar II at the 1963 Chicago Auto Show and the 1964-’65 New York World’s Fair. There was also an open version, of similar shape, that one officially called the XP Cobra but unofficially nicknamed “the Bordinat Cobra” and made out of some material called Royalex, made by US Rubber. As expected by the maker’s name, dents would “pop out.”

That car became subject to a couple engine changes and may even had had a big block in it. Both cars were donated to the Detroit Historical Museum, on Woodward Avenue which doesn’t have room to display them full time so they are stored in plastic bubbles at Detroit’s old Fort Wayne, when not on display.

Ford fans worried that the cars were forgotten until Jeff Burgy, a Cobra club member promised the Shelby club he would find them and clean them up for display at a convention for the club in Detroit. A former Ford artist, he found them and cleaned them up, no easy task because some of the chrome trim had been pilfered and he had to find replacements. Since the re-appearance the Museum has made them available at many shows, including the Amelia Island concours.

Ford Cougar II

Barn finders probably missed their chance to buy either car back when they were forgotten cars, but now that they have made appearances at big name concours, there’s little chance they could be bought, er, de-accessioned (a word museums prefer to the plain ol’ easy-to-understand word “sell”.

What would they be worth? Well, since small block Cobras are already worth almost a million (add more for racing history) they could be rebodied and sold as original spec or maybe they are worth more in their unique coachwork.

I never read what GM thought of them, whether they worried that Ford would press Button A and put them in production. I suppose one fly in the ointment would be the slow production rate of A.C. Cars Ltd., which hand rolled cars down the laughable “assembly line.” No mechanized lines here, Gov’ner.

I don’t even know what Shelby thought of it. Let’s say by ’63 he was already a might busy, trying to get a Ford assignment on their endurance racer (they ignored him the first year, 1964) and by then the Shelby Mustang might have even been proposed by Iacocca, who thought Ford could move beyond the “secretary’s special” image Ford had first created for the Mustang. Besides, Shelby had Pete Brock, a race car instructor and driver himself, wanting to build his own fastback coupe, one aerodynamically superior to Ford’s design.

And so it was. Ford’s two Cobra proposals went into obscurity.

But they’re back….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Ford Cougar II

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss has authored 18 automotive histories. He is presently painting a series of oils of race cars form Ford and Ferrari in the Sixties. For a list write

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Ford Cougar II Model

A Might Have Been Corvette Beater: Ford’s Cougar II Concept
Article Name
A Might Have Been Corvette Beater: Ford’s Cougar II Concept
Ford showed the Cougar II Concept Car at the 1963 Chicago Auto Show and the 1964-’65 New York World’s Fair.


  1. A stunning design that deserved more than to do a few shows only to fade into obscurity… there were many ways that these could have found their way into production and likely would have been a huge success with the buying public. but then that is just my opinion… This coupe was one of my personal favorites of the period. Betting it would have given the Corvette a run for its money in more ways than one…

  2. It does not have a split rear window so that may have made it look a bit more modern, compared to the 1963 Corvette coupe, thereby giving it an edge to marketability. The roof line reminds me of the Iso Grifo. Does it have an independent rear suspension? I’d like to see the interior.

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