My Car Quest

June 6, 2020

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.

  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.

  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.

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