1963 Shelby Cooper
"Monaco King Cobra"
Configuration: Longitudinal rear-engine
Displacement: 289 cu. in./ 4.74L
Horsepower: 40hp at 7,000 RPM
Torque: 314 lb. ft at 3,400 RPM
Transmission: 5-speed manual
A Little History
In the 1950s, Carroll Shelby became recognized as one of the most internationally successful drivers in the European race circuit. By the early 1960s, he retired from driving start Shelby American Inc., and start constructing his own racecars. His first major American success came with the 427 Cobra, which won year after year in both the SCCA Sports Racing Class and the U.S. Road Racing Championship. In January 1963, however, he turned his sights towards the newly developed SCCA Can-Am series, created for purpose-built racecars, instead of stock production cars.
Shelby quickly realized that his Cobras were no match for the custom builds in the Can-Am series, so he set to developing an entirely new build. As he wouldn’t have the time nor the resources to build a car from the ground up, he put a call in to John Cooper, the co-founder of Cooper Car Company in the UK. Cooper’s latest race model, the 61M “Monaco,” fit Shelby’s needs, so he purchased two chassis: CM/1/63 and CM/3/63. The car on display here is chassis CM/3/63.Upon arrival to the Shelby American factory in California, both chassis were reinforced to handle the impressive size and weight of a Ford V8 engine.
CM/3/63 was the first Cooper Monaco to deliver a victory for Shelby at the Pacific Northwest Grand Prix in Kent, Washington, in September, 1963. It was raced through the 1964 season, then retired and presumably torn down for parts. After being passed through a few owners, Robert Green of Santa Cruz, California purchased the car in 1970, and had it authenticated by Carroll Shelby himself. Green thoroughly researched the car’s history and development, and fully restored it in 1991. He took great care to retain as many original parts as possible. These include the body side panels, the Plexiglas windshield, the intake manifold, the oil pan, the valve covers, and the ZF Transaxle. Unfortunately, the engine currently in the car is a replacement of the one blown by Don Ivy, a previous owner from the late 1960s.
Though six total King Cobras were constructed through the 1964 season, this is one of few to be used over more than one season, and the only surviving chassis from 1963.
Did you know?
- The color of the car is called “Viking Blue.”
- “Can-Am” is slang for Canadian-American, and references the SCCA Canadian-American Challenge Series.
- Shelby referred to the cars as “Cooper Fords” while in production, but it was actually Car and Driver writer Steve Smith who came up with the “King Cobra” moniker.
- Shelby’s success at the 1963 Can-Am series earned him the true attention of Ford. Mid-way through the 1964 season, Ford executives approached Shelby for help with designing a racecar for their entrance into the international race scene. The result of that collaboration was the Ford GT40.