I’ve got a rule about never driving my heroes. Those include the Lamborghini Countach SV, the Porsche 959 and the Shelby Cobra. As a kid, these rides were the only things – other than Transformers – that mattered, and they’re the three cars that singlehandedly made me a motoring mentalist. And when I began working on a project with Cobra for their 50th Anniversary car, it required me to drive it. So what’s a fella to do?
Shelby American rolled out 50 of these anniversary cars to celebrate their five decades of high performance engineering. They’re carbon copies of the original, now worth $26MM and on display at the New York Auto Show. I snapped a few photos as my original childhood crush as it rolled out of the trailer.
One picture that I took was of the chipping paint because it looks like a Gobstopper with all the layers of color. The explanation for the multiple paint jobs was that when it initially came out, it was black and after the first magazine review hit, other publications wanted a chance to review and shoot it too. So Carroll Shelby kept painting the same car a different color so it looked like he had a fleet of them. Clever man.
But his insight and wisdom is equally well expressed in the car’s performance. Given the keys to one of the anniversary cars, I slipped into the famed bucket seats and after firing it up, I was impressed by two things. Firstly, just how good the Backdraft Cobra replica I’ve driven dozens of times was as compared to the original thing and, secondly, just how much better the details on the real one are. It’s the little things that all add up to one, seriously awesome ride.
For example, the motor is an amazingly great 289 Ford block, putting out 475 HP and 435 lb-ft of torque. The wunderkind at Shelby have tuned just right. It’s happy to idle; it’s happy to get a serving of my left foot; it’s happy for anything. The throttle delivery itself is instant and there’s no slop in the pedal. For that matter, there’s no slop in gear selection, in the steering rack, nor in the brakes. Everything is instantly on and ready to take a backhoe’s worth of throttle with aplomb. It’s like an iPad running on OSX, versus a Samsung rocking Android. It’s simply tighter.
As for the bodywork, the one I drove was a glass-bodied car, weighing in at 2,200 pounds. There were no squeaks, no creaks. Merely beautiful glossy black paint and a cushy maroon leather interior. The best part though was its purity. Just like the original, it had leaf spring suspension up front, skinny tires, no excess weight, no radio, air conditioning or anything comfort minded. Plain and simple, it’s an awesome little roadster.
To make it even more unique, it’s festooned with light gold 50th anniversary badges on the trunk, the center of the steering wheel and embroidered on the carpets. Sitting in the Shelby 50th Anniversary Car, there’s no forgetting you’re in something special.