My Car Quest

November 29, 2022

Carroll Shelby vs Brian Angliss and the AC Cobra Mk IV

by Mike Gulett –

Kit Car Illustrated - October 1986 - Cover

Kit Car Illustrated – October 1986 – Click on the Cover Above to Read the Article

Man, Carroll Shelby was really pissed off at Brian Angliss (the founder of Autokraft) and Edsel Ford. All because of the new AC Cobra Mk IV by Autokraft.

Why was Shelby so upset about the new AC Cobra Mk IV? Was it the Cobra name, body style, lack of credit to his team, his loyalty to original Cobra customers, or money?

Robert Krantz recently sent in a copy of an article from the October 1986 issue of Kit Car Illustrated which is available here for all to read. Click on the magazine cover and read the interesting history and the interview with Carroll Shelby where he shares his feelings and does not hold back. A summary of Ford’s relationship with Autokraft is also here.

I provide a synopsis and my opinions below.

 
 

Carroll Shelby vs Brian Angliss (Autokraft)

Wallace Wyss wrote this about the Shelby-Angliss feud here on My Car Quest in October 2018:

It is interesting if you are into the Mk. IV to find old CAR magazines from England that contain letters from Shelby and from Angliss, each accusing the other of stealing the Cobra. Here it was, the original creator and the man who (Shelby thought) had stolen the idea, duking it out in print! Shelby was mighty bent out of shape to see the AC Mk. IVs in Ford showrooms and he wasn’t getting a penny from it!

Years later, Shelby of course began what he called “continuation cars,” trying to continue the CSX serial numbers but then finally capitulated and began selling replicas. There is still muddied waters on what to call the more than a dozen alloy bodied 427 roadsters he made that used SN for cars not built in the Sixties but for which numbers were issued back in the ‘60s.

Read the entire article click here.

I do not have the old CAR magazines mentioned by Wyss but I now have a copy of this Kit Car Illustrated article from 1986 where Shelby discusses his feelings about this situation.

Carroll Shelby quotes from Kit Car Illustrated – October 1986

As you know, Shelby American was the builder of the Cobra and not Ford. Ford really had nothing to do with it.

I sold the name Cobra to Ford for $ 1.00, I didn’t sell the right to manufacture this car that AC cars was building.

What I’m saying is they (Ford) don’t have the right to give the name away to be used on this particular car. What ever it takes to stop it, I will do. I was lied to by Edsel Ford.

The one thing I’m upset about is them letting these people, Autokraft, who have no right to use the name, use it on a car without consulting me or asking any questions.

I’ve seen the cars before and they’re damn nice work but why doesn’t Brian Angliss build something he thought up instead of copying somebody else?

The people who went out and spent the 8 Grand 20 years ago, they had guts. I couldn’t even sell the 1000 cars I built. These folks are the ones who deserve to get the appreciation if there is money to be made.

If anybody was going to build the Cobra again, it would be me. Believe me, I’ve had ample opportunity but, I’ve said no. It isn’t right to the folks who bought the cars originally. That’s the way I feel and you can print that.

Why was Shelby so upset about a new version of the Cobra so many years after he shut down production and walked away from the Cobra in 1968? He was complimentary about the quality of the AC Autokraft Cobras unlike the replica Cobras.

Maybe he was hurt that no one talked to him about the new Cobra? He mentions the original buyers of Cobras and how they would be hurt by this new Cobra and he mentions his employees who helped build and race the original version.

Maybe he wanted a part of the financial success? Or maybe he was upset that he did not think of this idea himself, which he did a few years later when he introduced a continuation Cobra using found CSX chassis numbers and then later went into the sanctioned replica business himself.

Only Shelby knows for sure but it is clear from this interview that he was very upset.

AC Cobra Mk IV by Autokraft

Ford and Autokraft

Quotes from Kit Car Illustrated – October 1986

The new relationship between the Ford Motor Company and Autokraft of England has received quite a bit of publicity in the automotive press lately. It appears that a new Cobra has been born, or resurrected as the factory prefers to call it.

…we spoke with John Clinard, Marketing Manager of Ford’s Special Vehicle Operations Group. John was one of four individuals involved with the deal-making. The other three were Edsel Ford, Michael Kranefuss head of SVO, and Brian Angliss owner of Autokraft.

The Ford Motor Company will become a sub-contractor of 5.0 liter engines (302 cu. in.) and transmission to Autokraft.

By the way, Ford was also a sub-contractor to Shelby American when the first Cobras rolled off the line.

The finished cars will be sold through Ford dealerships …

About the Cobra name…

As the cars are now imported to the United States, they wear only the AC logo.

The name Cobra has been given to Angliss and Autokraft for a length of time not specified. The cars are now being sold in Europe under the Cobra name and they wear the appropriate nameplates. Once the final product liability questions have been answered here in the US, the cars will be sold here as AC Cobras, again with correct insignia.

The conclusion…

It would appear that Brian Angliss has come as close as any individual has in resurrecting the Cobra. With the exception of Shelby, Angliss has reassembled, the original players…

Brian Angliss was brilliant in getting together with Ford and AC in addition to his own company Autokraft. This venture had a great potential but in the end only 480 of the AC Cobra Mk IV models were made.

I do not know why Angliss did not continue with another model following the Cobra Mk IV and keep the business going. It seems like there would have been demand for other designs made with the quality and attention to detail as the AC Cobra Mk IV; powered by Ford of course.

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

AC Cobra Mk IV

AC Cobra Mk IV – photo by Mike Gulett

Click this link to read the Kit Car Illustrated article.

Reporting in the Kit Car Illustrated article was by Michael Baranowski. Kit Car Illustrated shut down in 2002.
Summary
Carroll Shelby vs Brian Angliss and the AC Cobra Mk IV
Article Name
Carroll Shelby vs Brian Angliss and the AC Cobra Mk IV
Description
Carroll Shelby was not happy about the AC Cobra Mk IV. He was upset with Brian Angliss and Edsel Ford. More details are in this article from Kit Car Illustrated in October 1986.
Author

Comments

  1. Wallace Wyss says

    There was another design following this but it was ugly and departed from what everyone thought a Cobra should be, By that time Ford had bought AC. Ford also made a mid-engine AC , the ME30000 ,which was better looking than the front engine follow up to the Cobra but not a success, though I think it was in production at least three years. To sum up, Shelby didn’t lock down the original design enough so that led to a whole kit car industry, which he fought against before joining it. His lawsuits continued for years but in one notable US defeat for him Factory Five was able to prove their Cobra shape resembled the A,C, Ace which was a car in production before Shelby ever had his idea,

  2. It’s nearly impossible to patent or protect the look of a car. It’s been done before but even “protecting” a visual element of a car or the entire body design creates problems because anyone can generally alter a wheelbase by millimeters, widen the stance, put a different trim on the car, or change the fender flares resulting in a different body.

    This is not why Shelby was so upset.

    Shelby was upset because the idea of the Cobra became an industry, and Shelby was the man who did the thinking and took the risks to make the car what it became. The Cobra name was not the issue, though that did make it worse. Ford and Autocraft took the sum total of what the Cobra MEANT to history and enthusiasts and built it without honoring or acknowledging the original as designed, built, and manufactured (solely) by Shelby American.

    Shelby earned that right by fair and historic authorship, as did the employees he paid who worked at Shelby American during the development of the car. He was upset for the same reason all innovators get upset – time and greed does not exclude the courtesy (financial or otherwise) to those who took the risk, wrote the paychecks, and struggled to build something unique.

    • raffi,

      I believe it would have been a great idea for Angliss and Ford to have included Shelby in this new enterprise. Sharing part of the pie with Shelby would have very likely created a much bigger pie.

      What do you mean when you write “manufactured (solely) by Shelby American”?

      AC delivered complete cars minus the engine and transmission to Shelby American.

      • “AC delivered complete cars minus the engine and transmission to Shelby American.”

        I’m sure you realize that from 1965 on the 427 Cobra “complete cars” were no longer the AC designed buggy sprung 260-289 cars of 1962-1964. Those early cobras still had AC’s transverse leaf spring front ends, which were dinosaurs, but somehow still won races. The “complete cars” AC delivered from 1965 onwards were COPIES of the 1964 Miles/Remington 427 Cobra with a bulging new body, new Shelby designed IFS coil overs and a new rear suspension believed to be the firsts computer designed IRS in history, thanks to Ford’s deep pockets.

        No AC Ace (nor any 289 Cobra shipped from the UK as “complete cars”) can swap parts with the 427 cobra, right? Not the original ladder frame, not the body on any quarter, or front or rear facia, and not any of the suspension components (hubs, axels, control arms or even shocks).

        An honest question is …what’s left of AC’s design by 1965?

        I’m not sure on this side of the pond we can claim that the 427 Cobra is an AC at all. We, or rather AC, copied the complete Shelby design and put UK sourced Lucas, Girling, and Smith’s components on it as AC were contracted to do. The 427 and 289 both have the same 90″ wheel base, but share little else.

        To be fair, it was AC who was shipped a 427 cobra as a “completed car” from Shelby in California. Right?

        Just another twist and turn in the US/UK “special relationship” each side claims credit for. And the 427 only reached our shores after development on the prototype aluminum 390FE “Turd” completed in California and tested at Riverside. A second final example was built with the 427 Side-Oiler we know today panel pounded by Bill Leahy from Scarab and others in Southern California.

        AC was then given the task to copy what was an entirely new Team Shelby creation.

        Most of what is written in this thread applies only to the beginning of the AC-Shelby partnership, 62-64. 1964-67 is the opposite story. Shelby did not simply supply the engine and transmission and put his name on an AC. The 427 was engineered, and even panel pounded into life in his workshop by Bill Leahy and other Americans.

        Of course Ken Miles was from Sheffield if this is a national pride thing…

        • Rob Krantz says

          The Mk III 427 Cobra was not a Shelby design. Ford took over the design of the 427 Cobra with AC Cars as the constructor. According to Trevor Legate in his book “Cobra-The First 40 Years”, Klaus Arning and Bob Negstad of Ford designed the chassis and the 427 Cobra was a collaboration between Arning and Negstad of Ford and Alan Turner of AC Cars. Apparently the Shelby folks were otherwise occupied with development of the GT40 and also the Shelby Mustang. This,while the 427 Cobra is not the Ace derived cars like the 260 and 289 Cobras, the 427 Cobra did have AC involvement in the design and it was constructed by AC Cars in England.

          • Peter Bastian says

            the 289 was neither AC design but bought from english-portugise designer John Toijero who copied the design from the Ferrari 166 Barchetta built by Touring…

      • Raffi Minasian says

        Mike – sorry for a rather late reply on this thread. The recent comment from Mark caused me to return to this post. In answer to your question about Shelby and manufacturing, yes Shelby had a unique situation with Ford backing and AC support, but in the end, Shelby was the name on the car. The VIN was a Shelby issued number, the chassis plate was for Shelby American, and the cars were HIS cars. Period. Which made him (up until Tesla) the only post war manufacturer of cars that survived more than a few years as an independent and successful automobile manufacturer. Yes, Shelby manufactured automobiles complete with warranty, service arrangements, and legal responsibilities associated with being a manufacturer.

        I agree with Mark as to the origins of the 427. The prototype was built as a combined effort from Shelby, Ford team members, and AC. Much like many other cars of this period, a lot of talented hands touched the 427 making it totally unique from the 289 in frame, suspension, body design, etc. The fact that it has become legendary and still draws massive attention half a century later is just one of the many reasons people still talk about the origin, the history, and the performance of these brutally impressive cars.

  3. Wallace Wyss says

    While ideally I agree with Raffi, it was part Shelby’s mistake for selling away the name COBRA to Ford for one dollar, and for always being focused on the next project and not retaining a piece of his last project to mine dividends from it should it develop a fan base, like for example, Roy Rogers had a museum out in the desert and still made money off the movie and TV character long after he stopped making movies and TV shows. Also I have to look at the timeline but if Shelby was already at Chrysler, when the Mk.IV was being made, this was a way for Ford to show their disapproval of his going to the other side, as it were. Kind of like a songwriter writing songs for a play and then leaving the production after one season, and somehow leaving his ownership of the musical rights and then, decades later, a hit movie is made using HIS songs. I’m sure it’s happened…..must have been painful for Shelby to see Mk. IVs and replicas made of Cobras that he had nothing to do with, but he still autographed them because he could see the owners were 100% Shelby fans.

  4. Shelby American put their VIN tag on the cars and as such were recognized by the Federal Government as the manufacturer of the car, assuming all liability for the vehicle as a complete car AND accepting all legal, licensing, and federal regulations associated with it being a legal Motor Vehicle according to US vehicle requirements.

    Put another way, AC was simply a supplier for Shelby American. Granted, a BIG supplier but nothing more.

    Component manufacturing has been around a long time. Car companies get entire assemblies built in China, Mexico, etc. and then bring them into the factory to do the final assembly.

    When you go to register a Shelby Cobra it is using the VIN from Shelby American, nothing at all to do with AC because they were NOT the manufacturer, nor was Ford – just another helpful supplier.

    • Rod Steller says

      It is my understanding that AC Cars built totally completed Cobras,to the rest of the world outside the US. That body, chassis , and Ford supplied drive train were entirely built in the AC factory. These cars had a COB designation rather than CSX which Shelby used. I think it is safe to say that every Shelby Cobra had AC workmanship in it but not every AC Cobra had Shelby workmanship in it. There was mention in this discussion about unused AC chassis and VINS that would be used for continuation Cobras. I think that was settled in a lawsuit between AC and Shelby in the early 90’s. These 42 chasis were made by an American Cobra restorer restorer and were not from the 60’s. They could not be called Cobras and if manufactured they could not driven on the road legally because the did not comply to EPA and DOT standards in the 90’s..

      • Rob M Krantz says

        Rod, you are correct in what you say. The early small block cars (260 and 289) had the COB (Cobra Britain, all right hand drive) chassis designation for the British market and also COX (Cobra Export) which were all left hand drive for export to mainland Europe. These cars never saw the inside of Shelby’s shop in the L.A. area and were assembled in their entirety in England in the AC Thames Ditton factory. The CSX (Carroll Shelby Export per AC or Carroll Shelby Experimental per Shelby) as noted in Brian Laban’s book on the AC Cobra were meant only for the U.S. market for shipment to Shelby to finish off with installation of the powertrain. My understanding is that the COB, COX and CSX chassis designations were all created by AC Cars only (CSX was not a Shelby created chassis designation) as followed the Company’s internal designations of the cars it built. All of the chassis numbers are contained in the historic records of AC Cars in the “Bible” as it is called. In fact, your Mk. IV, mine and Mike’s are also contained in the Bible as well. I will try to post a screenshot from Instagram as published by AC Heritage. They discuss the chassis information pertaining to the 427 Cobra, which is the 4″ round tube chassis that also underpins the AC Mk. IV. The posting also covers the AC designation of the Mk. III which applied to the 427 Cobra from the 60’s As you likely know, the AC Mk. IV is a continuation of the same terminology applied by AC for the Cobra. AC Heritage is the repository of the original Cobra body bucks and tooling and restores original Cobras and also creates new ones from scratch on the original tooling. Thus, they are very well qualified to opine on all matters pertaining to the Cobra from first hand knowledge..

  5. Wallace – I generally agree but you are mixing licensing issues for cars with songs/movie rights and those have very different rights and limitations. The authorship for songs under a record label are contractually different as are rights of use outside of recording or broadcast. Same with art or illustration. Very different domains and as such different liabilities and territory distinctions for licensing rights and usage.

    Shelby sold the rights to the Cobra name for a dollar most likely for tax or financial leverage reasons. Like buying a car from Ford for $1, a common practice for custom shops who want to do a feature build at SEMA. The rights to the Cobra name were not the issue at hand. It was Shelby being disregarded in a very public way (magazines, news articles etc) with the sale of a car that he authored and created under the guise of a partnership of component vendors who refused to acknowledge Shelby’s right to the total vehicle. It was his car period. Conceptually and doggedly so – to prove his ideas, to fight for his team of people who knew how to do it, and to build an eventual and lasting icon of performance.

  6. Rob Krantz says

    While Shelby came up with the “Cobra” name and cobbled the players together (Ford, AC, etc.), a incredible feat in of itself to create the legend that is the Cobra and his legacy as well, AC Cars had a HUGE involvement in the manufacture of the Cobra. AC Cars was an integral part of the history of these cars that is little understood or realized in the U.S. Shelby was a big part of the reason for this as he downplayed any role that AC had in the making of the cars themselves. I’ve seen in print where Shelby said that he “made” the cars. However, AC supplied the entire car more or less (the rolling chassis) to Shelby in L.A., where Shelby installed the drivetrain, tweaked the cars with his talented team, went racing and made history. I understand his wanting to take authorship, if you will, and making the car his own, but he did a disservice (IMO) to AC by pretty much negating their role in actuality building the majority of the car itself. Please remember that besides the early small block CSX cars, there were the small block Made in Britain only versions that never saw the inside of the Shelby facility. These would be the COB (Cobra Britain-all RHD) and the COX (Cobra Export-all LHD for mainland Europe) cars that are an integral part of the Cobra legacy. AC maintained the ledger (i.e. “The Bible”) of all cars AC Cars made, including all of the cars made for Carroll Shelby and shipped to him in the U.S. So, while Shelby did indeed add his own chassis plate on the CSX cars, the COB and COX cars had the AC Cars chassis plate and were also “Cobras”. Only the key players back in the day know all of the backstory, however, I think that while Shelby was making tweaked Chrysler pocket rockets in the 80’s during the Brian Angliss era, he was surprised and a bit upset that the Cobra, that he took to great victories, was being made again after he distanced himself from these cars in the 60’s after he had moved on to greener pastures. I’ve read that at one point, Shelby and Angliss were trying to make an arrangement for Angliss to supply rollers to Shelby so he could get back in the game, but that never came to fruition as they had a falling out. I imagine (my conjecture) that AC and Shelby had an agreement that all cars that AC made for Shelby and shipped to him could bear a Shelby American chassis tag while the British produced cars could carry the AC Cars chassis tags. Interestingly, a Kirkham made car or a Factory Five or Superformance car, all produced as rollers as well such as AC did for Shelby, are not called by the name of the shop that installs the drivetrain and finishes the car much as Shelby did. They are called Kirkham’s, Factory Five or Superformance made cars. Obviously, a big difference in that Shelby’s goal was to race as well as sell customer cars. Again, the Shelby made cars were likely produced under some sort of agreement with AC where he could be called the manufacturer of the CSX cars. Definitely not the entire story here, and the Shelby “lore” definitely downplays AC’s integral role.

  7. Wayne Watkins says

    I’ve heard a story that the workers at AC Cars Britain were intrigued when the early 260 V8 engines arrived from the US were in boxes labelled FOMOCO and they thought the owners had gone crazy and ordered Japanese engines . So , the early cars were totally made and assembled in England with American engines after Donald Healey knocked back Shelby’s request for Healey 100 bodies .

  8. Roger Morrison says

    Will you please tell me a little more about Shelby wanting Healey bodies? Thank you

  9. wallace wyss says

    That’s all I know. He approached Donald Healey. He knew Healey well having raced a a Healey in Mexico (he crashed) but Healey was getting good distribution and didn’t need Shelby. I have seen several Healeys with Chevy V8s so I know they fit. And there was an all alloy Healey body that could’ve been the “Comp” version.

  10. Wayne Watkins says

    Shelby crashed an alloy bodied 100S Healey in Mexico of which there were only 50 made , most in American race colours , but all in RHD .They were the first production car with 4 wheel disc brakes .

  11. wallace wyss says

    Methinls Healey recognized early that if Shelby became too identified with a car, his company as a supplier would suffer so he refused Shelby’s offer. A.C. thought they had a good deal, and continued to market cars all over the world under the A.C. label during the years they made cars for Shelby but in the end they lost their way product wise and sold out. There’s some saying like “He who rides the tiger ends up inside” and Shelby was the tiger in those days.

  12. Mark Reber says

    There are many tigers it seems. To provide another example of the Shelby engineered 427 cobra being marketed as an AC:

    https://www.pistonheads.com/buy/listing/12719844

    The name Shelby appears nowhere in the listing, but that’s not an AC design. It’s not an Ace with a new drivetrain as we are discussing for the first 2 years of the Cobra.

    The car listed has a 5 inch wider Shelby designed chassis, a wider 4″ rather than 3″ tubular ladder frame, totally new suspension geometry and all components, new alloy body, half shafts, driveshaft, IFS, IRS, all worked out by Shelby’s team, and raced! Only later was AC given the go ahead to build examples for sale to the public. AC was licensed to sell them as COB, and Shelby as CSX, but this most copied, and most desired cobra from 1965+ was born and raised in California before the final design was imported back to us in the UK for production.

    It’s a UK/US triumph, but one that only separates us when fought over.

  13. Rob Krantz says

    The Mk III 427 Cobra was not a Shelby design. Ford took over the design of the 427 Cobra with AC Cars as the constructor. According to Trevor Legate in his book “Cobra-The First 40 Years”, Klaus Arning and Bob Negstad of Ford designed the chassis and the 427 Cobra was a collaboration between Arning and Negstad of Ford and Alan Turner of AC Cars. Apparently the Shelby folks were otherwise occupied with development of the GT40 and also the Shelby Mustang. Thus,while the 427 Cobra is not the Ace derived cars like the 260 and 289 Cobras, the 427 Cobra did have AC involvement in the design and it was constructed by AC Cars in England.

    The car posted in the Piston Heads link is a “continuation” car built in the late 1990’s on the same tooling and equipment as the original 427 cars. As AC and their subcontractors in England built all of the Cobras (260, 289 and 427) all of the original tooling was in England and eventually purchased by Brian Angliss of Autokraft who bought much of the Cobra tooling from the Hurlock family who owned AC Cars, and Angliss eventually purchased out the Hurlock interests in AC Cars and became the new owner of this revered marque. AC Cars were the constructors of the 427 style Cobra, and as mentioned herein, was a Ford and AC collaboration vs. Shelby as they were busy on other huge projects as mentioned above. When the 427 Shelby Cobra days waned in the 1960’s, AC constructed a limited number (32 cars per Brian Laban in his book on the AC Cobra) called the AC 289 Sports with a narrow hip 427 style body with small block 289 Ford V8. AC used the chassis designations of COX which means “Cobra Export” which cars went to mainland Europe and were left hand drive and COB for “Cobra Britain” which were all RHD cars for England. The CSX chassis designation was meant for cars sent to the U.S. to Shelby and was a chassis designation created by AC Cars.

    There are various books on the Cobra and lots of differences of opinion on the Cobra depending on who is from the USA and who is from England. The Shelby legacy is intact by any and all definitions and his and his teams exploits are legendary. However, what seems to be left out of the discussion, particularly here in the U.S., is the roll that AC Cars had in the Cobra. The Shelby legacy overarches all discussion about AC Cars, but without them and their talented craftsmen and constructors and their roll in producing the cars, the Cobra legend would not have happened.

  14. Trevor Legate and the WW Shelby Registry both mention Arning derived suspension on page 468 of the 4th edition, but they don’t have much else in common in their accounts of the development of the 427. Your account omits CSX2196 which was already racing in March of 1964 in Sebring and built at Shelby. After Ken crashed it, it was rebuilt again at Shelby, not Ford, or AC, who enter later.

    • Rob Krantz says

      No question that Ken Miles and the Shelby group took a 289 Chassis (CSX 2196) and stuffed in the bigger V8 (apparently a 390 modified to give 427 power). What I’ve been referring to however is the actual making and distribution of actual production 427 Cobras that were for sale as competition cars and customer/over the road cars. Not the pre-production prototypes. The pre production prototypes were based on a 289 chassis. The actual production 427 cars had the wider chassis with 4” round tubing. No one is questioning Shelby’s role in the Cobras…..all of them from Mk I through Mk. III. AC in England made much of all of these cars and they were shipped to Shelby who finished the cars and marketed them as Shelby Cobras. He had the rights to market them as Shelby Cobras. AC in England had their own Cobra versions (the COB and COX cars) that were entirely produced in England. My main point in my posts is to acknowledge AC’s intimate involvement in production of all Cobras.

      • Wayne Watkins says

        You are 100% correct Rob and without AC manufacturing these brilliant looking and good handling cars with brakes that actually stopped , the Shelby Cobras would not have existed at all .

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