This one gets a little interesting when you know a bit of history. Any car guy worth his weight in used motor oil will immediately know about the iconic Shelby Cobra. That car confounded the Bowtie boys for years on racetracks around the globe. Carroll Shelby and company sold both small-block and big-block variants of the Cobra from 1962-1967, but it could be argued that they didn’t BUILD the Cobras. That’s where a bit of history comes in.
Sometime around 1961, Shelby heard that Britain’s longest-running car manufacturer, AC Cars, was going to cease production of its small AC Ace model since the Bristol six-cylinder engines used to power it would not be available anymore. Shelby, already an accomplished racer, was keenly aware that if a six-cylinder could power the car, then a V-8 would do it, only better! And the rest, as they say, may be history, but it’s not the final chapter in the Cobra’s history! The next time any of your blue-blood car buddies starts spouting off how great these cars were back in the day, just remind him that the little two-seater has evolved whether they knew it or not.
Remember how AC Cars are known as the longest-running car manufacturer in England? They’re still building cars, and in fact, are still building Cobras that are based on the original AC Ace design. There are a few things that have changed in producing today’s Cobras, such as a composite body instead of hammering out aluminum panels, and the biggest “improvement” being the 6.2L, LS-based V8 that now resides under the hood!
That’s right! The folks who originally built the bodies that would become the iconic Cobra have continued production using GM engines. AC Cars have supplied these modern powerhouses with either a naturally-aspirated version in their AC Cobra 378 or with GM’s supercharged LSA variant in the AC Cobra 378 Superblower.
The LSA engine is still available through Chevrolet Performance as a crate engine. With 556 horsepower and 551 lb.-ft. of torque, we’re sure it makes the lightweight Cobra car quite a screamer. Compare that to the big-block powered Cobras’ approximate 450 horsepower and 443 ft-lbs of torque and you can see that the newer Cobra has about a 100-pony head-start over Carroll’s variant. Add to that the LSA engine is almost 150 pounds lighter than the big-block Ford and it only adds to the appeal. Of course, with today’s technology, you also get better drivability, reliability, fuel mileage, and parts availability should the need arise. Going forward, AC Cars is continuing the Cobra legacy but as of this writing, there is little information about its new AC Cobra GT Roadster.
So, the next time the Ford vs. GM feud gets fired up, just remind those Blue Oval boys that the guys who initially created the Cobra for Shelby improved it further by putting LS-based engines in their cars from the factory. That’ll give ‘em something to Google once they get back home!