Few examples of the 453 ‘289’ Shelby-AC Cobras built by AC Cars during 1963 and 1964 have such detailed records as COB 6008. It’s first owner, Bruce Ropner, was born into a familial love of motorsports. Born in Yorkshire as the son of a shipping magnate, Ropner in fact, lead a consortium of enthusiasts to purchase the northern half of Croft aerodrome in 1962, with the intention of opening a more permanent motorsports facility. Planning permission acquired, the circuit opened its doors in July 1964.
With development for the circuit in motion, in 1963 he ordered a Cobra, taking delivery of COB6008 in early 1964. He had insisted the car be fit for competition, and as such, the Thames Ditton factory granted his request for the rear arches to be flared to accept wider tyres and as such, the doors cut back for the trailing edge to bleed into the curvature of the rear arches.
The bodywork was crafted from thinner gauge aluminium and fitted with the latest Halibrand alloy wheels. Uniquely the order requested that, much like a Jaguar D-Type, the Cobra should offer a ‘single-seat’ setup with a full width windscreen that could be replaced with a small aero screen and the passenger seat covered with an aluminium slot-in panel.
Receiving the car in early 1964, Ropner vividly recalled sending the car to a friend and ex-Ecurie Ecosse mechanic Wilkie Wilkinson, now at BRM, for further racing modifications. The Halibrands were replaced with wider BRM alloy wheels, larger brakes were fitted and Weber carburettors were installed. Wilkinson also hand cut the two distinctive rows of louvres along the length of the bonnet to aid cooling.
Ropner built the Cobra to go racing, but it wasn’t used exclusively on the circuit. On one occasion, Bruce famously left London at 3.15 a.m. one summer morning and set his stopwatch as he left Hyde Park Corner, heading to the A1 for the 220 mile drive north to his Yorkshire home. His elapsed time for the journey was 2 hours 18 minutes, in a time when the whole length of the A1 was single carriageway. The pace of the Cobra was undeniable; to achieve the time, he needed to average 95mph!
Bruce Ropner raced the Cobra extensively during 1964, sharing the car with Keith Schellenberg at such events as the Capston 4-Hour relay races at Croft. At one of the first race meetings at Croft, the Daily Mirror Trophy was held. Celebrity driver Jacks Sears was entered, driving his usual Willment Team Cobra, but when the car was started, it was found to have a broken rocker and damaged pushrod. This meant that Sears could not take part in practice so Ropner offered his Cobra to allow Sears to qualify, despite such a move contravening the rules.
The stewards could not be deceived. Ropner’s car was white and the Willment car, red. The Clerk of the Course confirmed this, but when subjected to Ropner’s persuasive techniques, he decided he ‘was colour blind’. Sears practiced in 6008 but started at the back of the grid. Sears went on to win the race in his repaired Willment Cobra.
COB 6008 famously won one of the very first drag races held in the UK. American driver Dante Deuce had read about growing enthusiasm towards drag racing in the UK and after challenging several drivers, made the trip to the UK in a Shelby American ‘works’ team Cobra.
Paired against Deuce at the British International Drag Festival at Church Fenton, Deuce was faster off the line but a missed gear change saw Ropner catch and pass him before the finish. This victory led to Ropner taking a greater interest in drag racing and shortly after, he sold the Cobra to his good friend Keith Schellenberg.
Schellenberg continued to campaign the Cobra during 1965 in events at Croft. Late in 1965, the car was shipped to Africa and on November 28th, the car was entered in the VIII Grande Premio de Angola, a major international sports car race held around the streets of the African port of Luanda in the Portuguese colony of Angola. Entered against opposition such as the Ferrari of David Piper and the 7-litre Ford France Cobra of Jo Schlesser, Schellenberg brought his new car home in a respectable 10th place behind a plethora of Ferrari 250 LMs and Porsches after a gruelling race.
Following several more races, including a return to Croft and now re-registered 131 YHN, COB 6008 was retired from racing in 1966 and was put into storage for several years. It finally changed hands again in 1984 when car dealer Brian Classic acquired it. Shortly afterwards it passed to Michael Fisher who carried out some restoration work and painted it Viking Blue. The car passed through a number of owners (including David Cottingham of DK Engineering) before being purchased in 2003 by Kevin Kivlochan. No sooner had he purchased the Cobra it was back on track and raced at the Macau Grand Prix.
Between 2003 and 2012, COB6008 competed in some of the most prestigious events; Goodwood, Silverstone and Le Mans where notable drivers such as Jack Sears, Jackie Oliver, Dan Gurney, Gerry Marshall, Derek Bell, Sir John Whitmore, Stefan Johansson and Richard Attwood shared driving duties. COB6008 has also been entered in smaller club events such as the annual AC Owners Club Goodwood Sprints, where in 2005, 2007 and 2011, it recorded the fastest lap of the day.
The car has been featured in numerous magazine articles including Octane and Classic & Sportscar. Eventually, the ravages of time began to show and in 2009 it was decided to carry out a full restoration, retaining as much of the original car as possible, including the chassis and body panels. Thus the long, arduous process began and it was decided to repaint the Cobra to the same specification as the day that Jack Sears drove it at Croft in 1964. As soon as the restoration was complete, it took part in the 2011 Le Mans Legends race and a few weeks later was displayed at the prestigious Salon Privé event in London. In September 2011 the car was invited to and took part in the Goodwood Revival Tourist Trophy race.
Purchased by its current owner in 2012, the Cobra continued to be used as intended. This amounted to a further four outings at Goodwood, two trips to the Le Mans Classic, several outings to Spa including completing the 6hr race in 2014. Placing 8th overall at the 2014 Tour Auto as well as numerous other outings both in the UK and in Europe.
Few cars have the ability to be suitable for both fast road use and competitive race use whilst being what is probably one of the most iconic cars in existence; a Cobra. COB6008 must be one of the finest and most famous privateer Cobras offered for sale. It is a true rarity to find an example with such fabulous period history that is so wonderfully original including its original chassis and bodywork. An extensive history file (x5!) accompanies the car validating its genuine position amongst the greatest and most unmolested yet eligible and competitive Cobras in existence.
COB6008 is race-ready and consistently both eligible for and invited to the world’s most famous events. This fantastic Cobra is available for viewing by appointment only at DK Engineering just outside London.
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