The third from last original ‘COX’ 289 Sports MKIII, the final development of the Ford 289-powered ‘Cobra’
Matching numbers, delivered new to the United States of America in left-hand-drive specification
One of just 27 original coil-spring 289-powered ‘Cobras’, of which just seven were finished in left-hand drive
Finished in Black over a black interior
Benefitting from a comprehensive service and bare-metal respray
The AC 289 Sports MKIII
If ever there was a person who needed convincing of the appeal of the AC Cobra, we’d position them on the outside of Lavant corner at the Goodwood Revival during the RAC TT Celebration race and leave them to watch as the train of competing Cobra 289s squirm and slither round virtually the entire lap on opposite lock. It’s a spectacle which treads the line between majestic and savage – an awe-inspiring recipe of brute force and deft skill.
As the Texan chicken farmer turned Le Mans winner Carroll Shelby had the foresight to install a powerful American V8 into the lightweight and nimble chassis of the British AC Ace, so one of the all-time great sports cars was born: the Cobra. And it’s not difficult to understand why this Anglo-American creation has captured the imagination of so many millions of people over the decades.
Thinking about it, the Cobra has everything you want in a sports car. Striking good looks, commanding power, comparatively delicate poise and agility and a hair-raising annoy-the-hell-out-of-your-neighbours exhaust note. What’s more, because of the relatively straightforward underpinnings and the bulletproof nature of Ford’s small- and big-block V8s, the Cobra was reliable. It’s small wonder that Shelby enjoyed so much success with the Cobra 289 on the racetracks of North America.
Beyond the Cobra’s credentials as a physical sports car, it embodies a greater philosophy – that of Carroll Shelby’s unrelenting American Dream.
Of the myriad road and race AC- and Shelby-badged Cobras built between 1962 and ’67, the magnificent example we’re delighted to be offering is, ironically, a Cobra in all but name. Its official nomenclature is ‘AC 289 Sports MKIII’. Allow us to explain.
When Shelby began building and selling a seven-litre big-block 427 V8-powered Cobra with coil springs and a new wider and more curvaceous body in 1965, AC Cars in Thames Ditton, England, were disgruntled. Fuel prices had skyrocketed and the British government had levied higher taxes on cars with higher engine capacities as a result. Furthermore, the brand’s top brass was fed up of playing second fiddle to Shelby in the marketing stakes. From the outset, Shelby and Ford had made out AC to be but a mere subcontractor for the project, when in reality, it was manufacturing most of the car.
The decision was taken to install the smaller 289 engine in the new coil-spring 427 chassis – a recipe which would prove far more refined and useable on Europe’s comparatively twisty roads – and clothe the car in the bodacious new body but with narrower hips at the rear. In what was a bold move, AC then proceeded to remove all ‘Shelby’, ‘Cobra’ and ‘Powered by Ford’ badging from the car, renaming it simply the ‘AC 289 Sports MKIII’.
Just 27 289 Sports MKIIIs were sold before ‘Cobra’ production at Thames Ditton concluded in 1967. Right-hand-drive cars sold to Great Britain, of which there were 17, were assigned by the chassis number prefix ‘COB’, while the seven left-hand-drive cars designated for export were ‘COX’.
This AC 289 Sports MKIII
This left-hand-drive AC 289 Sports MKIII is chassis number COX6122, which was the third from last left-hand-drive example constructed in Thames Ditton, finished in Black over a black interior and fitted with chrome wire wheels. The car was acquired new in May of 1968 by Richard W. Kloos of Blue Island, Illinois.
Kloos kept COX6122 in concours-standard condition, retaining the car until 1973. This AC passed through the hands of a small number of further US-based owners over the course of the following 17 years, during which time it was displayed at two of the Shelby American Automobile Club’s National Conventions, in Hershey and Dearborn. At the latter, the 289 Sports MKIII finished third in the concours class dedicated to the Cobra.
In May of 1990, one Michael Fischer acquired the COX6122 and returned it to England. After a sojourn to Europe shortly after the turn of the millennium, the car returned once again to England, where it was advertised for sale with Duncan Hamilton & Co. Ltd. Following a mechanical and cosmetic refresh, this AC was pictured in the book The Shelby American.
Following a spell in the personal collection of a prominent British dealer, COX6122 was acquired by its current German owner in 2011. The decision was taken to have the car stripped to its bare-metal shell and expertly repainted in its original shade of Black. The aforementioned strip revealed original metalwork in excellent condition with virtually no holes or blemishes. While the rare original factory cockpit tonneau cover remains with this AC, the owner decided to replace the non-original fabric roof with a bespoke new one.
Concurrently, a thorough mechanical inspection was carried out, the findings of which revealed an incredibly sound car beneath the gorgeous surface. This 289 Sports MKIII’s owner has enjoyed the car as intended, entering a number of rallies in the last decade including the ‘Donau Masters’, a 1,000km tour from Ulm in Germany to Budapest in Hungary. He reports that this incredibly original car is incredibly reliable and has not once failed to start during his 10 years of ownership.
More recently, COX6122 has received a comprehensive service, with works including replacement of all fluids and the brake pads. The car has also been professionally detailed, including the engine bay. It is a truly wonderful example of the breed,
Today, this ultra-rare late-production matching-numbers 289 Sports MKIII represents the pride and engineering prowess of AC Cars, but also the vision of Carroll Shelby. Installing the smaller and more tractable 289 V8 into the final-development coil-spring chassis of the 427-powered cars was a stroke of genius on AC’s part, resulting in arguably the most pleasurable ‘Cobra’ to use and drive. Every drive in a Cobra is a scintillating experience which sears itself into your memory. And isn’t that exactly what a great classic car should do?
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