My Car Quest

June 21, 2024

Editorial: When Close is Good Enough

by Wallace Wyss –

I went out to the racetrack the other day (not the horsetrack but the car racetrack) because the Cobra Owners of Los Angeles were going to have a go at the track and I hoped to photograph lots of Cobras.

But when I was there, even though I saw familiar faces from 40 years or so of attending similar events, I was befuddled by the Cobras. There were at least five and a dozen or more Shelby Mustangs. Sure the two seaters all looked like something that rolled out of the AC Cars Ltd. factory in Thames-Ditton UK between 1962 and 1968.

AC Shelby Cobra

Odd vent on the side is non historical but it’s a real small block Cobra

Two I recognized for sure because that small block had a screen side vent unlike the factory ones–done in a hurry way back in the day to an early Cobra when the owner saw it should have a side vent like the factory had begun installing. But otherwise it’s a correct early car.

And then there’s Tom McIntyre’s 427, a gun metal gray one that has a beautiful patina of road rash all over the nose, yes a patina can be beautiful if they are the scars of battle, I say.

AC Shelby Cobra

As real as real can be with the patina from track sand to prove it.

But the surprise was Lynn Park, in his Smokey the Bear Hat, who owns God knows how many real Cobras. He was there with two sons and among them it seemed all they brought were replicas, one a small block Competition style body on a coil spring 427 style chassis, sort of a mix and match in bright yellow, another a blue roadster with a well crafted passenger seat cover that was once the style.

AC Shelby Cobra Replica

This one belongs to the Park family who own close to a dozen real Cobras. It’s more styled like a 289 comp than a 427 comp.

While one side of my brain asked “Why don’t they have real ones so I can photograph them?” The other side of my brain answered: “When real ones are worth $500,000 and up, no one’s gonna risk that much of an investment for just a Saturday non-race tour around the track.”

AC Shelby Cobra Replica

Another replica

And yet I still could have The Cobra Experience, hearing them, seeing them, etc. So I guess this is the New Reality. Like that saying “It is what it is.” With a real Cobra’s value sufficient to buy a 3-bedroom home in say Memphis (not in crazy California) it’s just too risky to drive. So one way of anticipating some good is that, as these owners sort out their cars, maybe their changes for the better will influence the replicas coming off the line just as real Cobras built from ’62 to ’68 had a lot of running changes when the factory team learned things from racing.

I was at some of the original races in ’65 when Cobras raced. I was there taking pictures when there were no replicas. I just didn’t take enough pictures. So now I live in hope that I will have another opportunity to photograph them, for posterity’s sake.

AC Shelby Cobra Replica

Tonneau cover over passenger seat brings back memories, but it’s a replica.

AC Shelby Cobra Replica

Close up of the tonneau cover

Time has moved on. Pebble Beach for sure will have documented CSX2000 (the small blocks) and CSX3000 (the big block) cars. I don’t know if the historic races are policing replicas. I better get used to it…So maybe I won’t see the real Marilyn Monroe but I’ll see a gal that looks awfully much like her…and hopefully has some of the same moves…

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss wrote three books on Shelby and Cobras and is now painting portraits of them. For a list of prints write


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Editorial: When Close is Good Enough
Article Name
Editorial: When Close is Good Enough
I was at some of the original races in '65 when AC Shelby Cobras raced. I was there taking pictures when there were no replicas. I just didn't take enough pictures.


  1. Glenn Krasner says

    Unfortunately, as you surmised, the value of the cars relegates most Cobras to garage storage items or trailer queens when they come out at all. One of the celebrities who still has his original Cobra, bought brand new from Shelby, is the phenomenal musician Herbie Hancock. He bought it once he got some money, and used it as a daily driver, even schlepping around his instruments around it it with its limited space. He is actually one of the few people I know of who still has his Cobra from new. Glenn in Brooklyn, NY.

  2. I attended Sebring numerous times during the 60’s. One night as I was sleeping in my car, recovering from to much fun I heard the most wondrous mechanical sound. Looking outside I was startled to see a Cobra backing into the space between my car and a tent belonging to my friend. I got up and the guy inside the Cobra asked if it was all right to park his car there. Eventually everyone close by meandered over for a look. The owner of the Cobra was leery of leaving the car alone. We assured him it would be closely guarded. After he strolled off to find something to eat we had a great time inspection every inch of that wonderful machine. Remember it like it was yesterday. I have always wondered why the AC brothers and an Shelby didn’t fight in court to stop all the replication like Ferrari did.

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