Shelby Cobra 427 by Hot Wheels

Shelby Cobra 427 by Zee Toys

Shelby Cobra 427 by Johnny Lightning

Shelby Cobra Daytona by Hot Wheels

Ford GT40 by Matchbox

Ford GT40 by Champion

Ford Mk. IV (long-tail) by Hot Wheels

Snakes and Horses
Ford-Powered Cobras frustrate Ferrari

by David Cook

Carroll Shelby's AC Cobras are a favorite subject for small scale die-cast models; many examples exist from different manufacturers. Shown here are a Hot Wheels from 1982, a Zee Toy and the new Johnny Lightning Cobra. When production of these Anglo-American hybrid sports cars began in 1962 they became the hot item for big-bore amateur racing in this country. They beat their main opposition, the Corvettes, so much that people began to lose interest! (The 'Vette GS shown at the bottom of the Ferrari models is a 1963 Grand Sport model by Matchbox).

The high point of the Cobra racing story, however, was the all-out assault on the FIA Grand Touring Constructors Championship in 1964 and 1965. Sports car racing in that era was pretty much a Ferrari playground. Cars like the Ferrari 250TR of the late 1950's were very successful. Hot Wheels offers the only small-scale version (top/right). The limited production full race prototypes would go for the overall wins while "production" GT models (there had to be at least 100 examples made to be eligible) competed for class victory in a "race within a race". The Cobra's main opponent was the famous Ferrari GTO; shown right, second from the top is a beautiful example by Maisto. Below it is the same car done as one of the original Johnny Lightning cars made by Topper in the late 1960's. This is one of the most desirable Ferrari cars and it is curious that only two have been done in small-scale.

In 1964, Cobras won some races, Ferrari some others, until near the end of the season Ferrari led the championship by only 9 points. It is Shelby's contention that the Ferrari factory had the sporting authorities cancel the last race of the season (at Monza, in Italy) ending the Cobra's chances for that year.

At any rate, the following year was a walk-over for the new Cobra Daytona model; shown left is an absolutely fantastic Hot Wheels Collectable example in red. The Cobra Daytona won the GT class in almost every race in which it was entered.

These years also saw the famous Ford GT-40 begin to compete for overall victories. Shown here is a Lesney Matchbox Series 41 (white) and a blue GT40 by Champion of France. The GT40 used a version of the same engine that powered the Cobra. Competition from Ferrari for the GT40 included cars like the 250 Berlinetta done by Husky/Corgi, the 312P done by Hot Wheels and the P330 done by Corgi.

Shelby's success with his effort helped Ford decide to go big-time racing. Ferrari and Ford would lock horns for the Sports Car Championship throughout the '60's. Eventually Ford would walk away after winning LeMans 4 times in a row. Hot Wheels offered the LeMans winning long-tail Ford GT (bottom/left) as a redline. Ferrari pretty much gave up on sports cars after that to concentrate on Formula One.

Ford GT40 by Hot Wheels
Ferrari 250TR by Hot Wheels

Ferrari 250GTO by Maisto

Ferrari 250GTO by Johnny Lightning

Ferrari 250 Berlinetta by Husky/Corgi

Ferrari 312P by Hot Wheels

Ferrari P330 by Corgi

Chevrolet Corvette GS by Matchbox