Way Beyond Cobra

20140510_153315 With cars, there comes a moment every now and again when you have to pause and reflect on what you’ve just seen. It could be a passing glimpse in your peripheral vision, a flash that you just about recognise but disappeared round the corner just that bit too quickly to properly assimilate. But sometimes you find yourself face to face with a car, static, stationary, and you still can’t quite believe it’s really in front of you. A car that you’ve maybe seen in photos or on TV, which as far as you’re concerned exists only in mythology. And here, in scarlet jewelled with typical spring rain, sits just such a machine: The AC 427 Cobra Willment/Ghia Coupe. 20140510_153326 “Supersonic” was the name given to this body style, which was usually wrapped around a FIAT 8V chassis and two-litre V8 engine. The name gives a clue as to the designer’s inspiration; these bodies were produced during the ’50s at that exact time that the Jet Age was getting into full swing. It was built, of course, by Carrozzeria Ghia; this being long before that name became associated with Ford Mondeo’s equipped with plastic wood on their dashboards. This example is rather different to other Supersonics, and those Hallibrand wheels give you an immediate idea as to where the differences lie, before you clock the Cobra emblem on the front grille. Strip away that outrageous skin and you’ll find something altogether more animal than the original Italian hardware you might expect. 20140510_153341 The stance and wheelbase are exactly what you’ll usually see on a competition-spec 427 Cobra chassis, because that’s what this bodywork has been draped over. The body itself spent some years divorced from any underpinnings whatsoever and the story goes that Mr John Willment found the unmistakeable shell in a derelict condition in some godforsaken junkyard, before reviving it and mounting it on a chassis befitting its astonishing appearance at some point in time. Adjustments had to be made, of course, because the 8V and Cobra were worlds apart, with particular fettling no doubt due around the engine and steering accommodation, not to mention the rear end. The engine itself, incidentally, is worthy of note, having received a severe tickling from Messrs Holman Moody. 20140510_153419 Really, we’re looking at a bit of a mongrel, here. It’s no longer a numbers matching original, but a valid question is whether or not it’s actually all the better because of that. An image search will reveal that this car is all over the internet, being wheeled out at classic and concours shows all over the place on a regular basis, so it’s obviously a well known car. And presumably a somewhat valuable one, having a provenance as interesting as this one. But who cares what it’s worth; I’m more interested in the fact that it exists and was ever put together in the first place. What a machine; to have NASA levels of thrust from that naughty 427 combined with aerodynamics which are probably rather better than the regular open Cobra, I’d imagine this thing can cover ground at a fair old lick. And the Supersonic bodywork is the absolute perfect choice for the job. 20140510_153439 With the oversized ’50s style headlamps and peculiar proportions, I’d hold off from saying it was a pretty car. It is, though, completely arresting. It’s so unlike anything you’ve ever seen before, even other Supersonics, as to stand totally alone. It is in a class of one. Cobra, and then some. [Images Copyright Hooniverse/Chris Haining 2014]

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