AC/DC? - Cobra Le Mans goes electric!
Barely a week goes by of late without another ‘forgotten marque’ being reborn with the launch of some kind of continuation model or recreation. Whilst there is no shortage of ear-splitting, V8-powered AC Cobra replicas, few would have imagined that the actual owners of the AC Cars marque would bring back their hard-top Le Mans variant in a near-silent, battery-powered form.
AC Cars, owned since 1996 by South African born Alan Lubinsky, have recently announced a limited series of 12 cars; six to be based on each of the two factory AC Cobras that took part in the 1963 24 Hours of Le Mans. However, instead of a Ford 4.7-litre V8 under the hood, the AC Cobra Le Mans electric specials will be powered as the name suggests by an emission-free 460KW (617bhp) electric powertrain delivering 1000Nm (738lb.ft) of torque.
The electrical engineering will be carried out by hi-tech development partner Falcon Electric of Derby but AC Heritage of Brooklands, fabricators of many of the higher quality Cobra reproductions, will be hammering out the bodywork using rather more traditional ‘technologies’. Primarily, a pair of highly-trained human eyes will be employed to guide a specialist ‘planishing hammer’ over sheets of high-grade aluminium, fitting them to an AC-supplied body-jig.
The most distinctive feature of the original two bespoke Le Mans cars compared to the regular Cobra was their large, streamlined hardtops fitted to improve aerodynamics by reducing drag and thereby increasing their top speed along the Mulsanne Straight on the Circuit de la Sarthe. However, in what was an early skirmish in the Ford-Shelby vs Ferrari battles at Le Mans, these tintop Cobras had limited effect on Enzo’s dominance.
Car number 3, registered ‘39 PH’ and driven by Brits Ninian Sanderson and Peter Bolton, was classified seventh overall; finishing after five Ferrari 250s and a 330, and less than a lap behind the unplaced experimental gas-turbine Rover-BRM driven by Graham Hill and Richie Ginther.
Car number 4, registered ‘645 CGT’ and driven by American privateer Ed Hugus and Briton Peter Jopp, was disqualified at less than half the race distance for carrying out a premature oil change.
Needless to say a small-block V8 would be a preferable form of propulsion for enthusiasts and traditionalists but if these new sparky Cobras are a success, we can probably expect a lot more DC from AC.
You can read more about Carroll Shelby’s creation of the AC Cobra in our book The First Three Shelby Cobras and also about his Daytona specials in Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe.