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Buy a 50th Anniversary FIA 289 Shelby Cobra today

Fri, 17 Jan 2014

By 1964, Shelby had grown too big for its American britches with its 289 Cobra. It had dominated almost every single race of the United States Road Racing Championship for the past three years, defeating its archrival Corvette at every turn. Two Cobras had been entered in the 1963 Le Mans; one did not finish, but the entry entered by AC Cars, with Stirling Moss running the team, placed sixth overall. That same year, Dan Gurney drove to Shelby's first FIA victory at the Bridgehampton Double 500, marking the first American driver in an American car to win on the global stage. Gurney, of course, went on to be the first American driver to win a lot of things.

Shelby, emboldened by these efforts, sent five Cobras to the World Manufacturers Championship against the likes of the Jaguar E-Type Lightweight, the Aston Martin DP214, and the AC A98 Cobra Coupe. By now, the Cobra had latched on to a new rival, the Ferrari 250 GTO. Gurney again set another first when he set the lap record at the Targa Florio with the Cobra, and he ultimately finished eighth. All in all, by the end of 1964, Shelby finished second in the Division III class, one better than they did the year before. Ferrari finished first. But Shelby was closing in fast.

Bob Bondurant tests the FIA 289 Cobra before the 1964 N

By Blake Z. Rong