The old corollary to that old adage, “There’s no substitute for cubic inches,” is “except rectangular money”–and who would know better than Carroll Shelby. When the Cobra 289 peaked out on the racetrack, there were several ways of making it go faster–most expensive, one cheap. One of the more expensive ways was the Daytona coupe body. The late Ken Miles found a better way. At Sebring in 1964, he shoehorned a Ford 427 NASCARized engine into a Cobra roadster. The experiment came to rest, sorely bent, against a palm tree, but Miles persisted. By the end of the season, at Nassau, he had another one bolted together. It blew up, but the die was cast. Early in 1965, Shelby announced the Cobra II with a 427 cu. in. V-8 replacing the 289. That June, at Le Mans, two of Ford’s rear-engined GT prototypes appeared with the big 427 instead of the 289. The Europeans hooted and jeered at the bulky, heavy, unsophisticated V-8 with its pushrods and single four-barrel carburetor. A year later, Ford 427s swept the first three places at the French classic, with Shelby’s two entries dead-heating the final lap. What the 427s had beaten was a team of 270 cu. in. Ferrari V-12s with multiple carburetion and four overhead camshafts. The Italian engine developed almost as much horsepower as the Ford–425 hp vs. 485–but it was much more tautly stressed and, therefore, fragile. Which is the whole point of 7-liter Fords, Cobras, and now, Shelby Mustangs.
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