To understand how the 427 Cobra Super Coupe fits into Cobra history it is necessary to place it in context. It didn’t just suddenly materialize one day in a puff of smoke. In 1963, the Cobra was reaching its stride as a race car. But Shelby always planned one step ahead. While the Cobra team was working to make the cars run reliably in this country against Corvettes, Jaguars and the odd Ferrari, Shelby was thinking about invading Europe the following year. Ferrari was the top dog over there and knocking him off the hill would establish the upstart Cobra as a world-class sports car.
Shelby American surreptitiously entered two cars at LeMans in 1963. One was entered under the AC banner and the other by one of Shelby’s first dealers, well-known SCCA racer Ed Hugas of Pittsburgh. Shelby wanted to assess the track and the competition without risking the factory team’s reputation the first time out. Both Cobra roadsters were fitted with special aluminum hardtops which improved the aerodynamics, but only marginally. The Hugas entry retired after 10 hours with a blown engine but the AC entry finished 3rd in class and 7th overall—behind six Ferraris. A credible finish for a newcomer, but Shelby had his work cut out for him.