Peter Brock’s Blog

Peter Brock

Peter Brock has become a blogger!  Sometimes referred to as the Energizer Bunny, Brock continues to delight us with his designs, insights and stories.

Now you don’t have to go to an event to ask Brock a question. He will answer your questions online on his blog, which will also make the answers available for all to see.  You may want to ask questions about a project or vehicle Brock has worked on, a person he may have worked with, a design, his photography career or a question on current automotive happenings on which you would like his opinion.

Brock may not be able to get to all questions but he’ll try. Brock’s answers may be in various formats such as a text response or as video. Often Brock will have something in his archives or in the shop he will share.

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first shelby cobra
Ak Miller No question that Carroll Shelby “invented” the Cobra sports car with the idea of installing a V8 Ford engine in an English AC Chassis, but he wasn’t the first to actually do it!  If we forget the name Cobra, which defines this question, we have to acknowledge the first man to put a Ford V8 in an AC chassis to go racing.  Famed California “Hot Rodder” Ak Miller had completed the project with
DeTomaso P70
In my book on this car, I stated I never knew why De Tomaso didn’t finish the 7-litre engine he had promised Shelby for the P70. Wonderfully, someone who read my book sent me the answer. He is absolutely correct and I thought I’d share his GREAT letter with you! Dear Mr. Brock: I just read "The Road to Modena." What an incredible book about an incredible car! Thank you for writing it and including
peter brock with clay model
The main difference was the oversight and the number of people involved. At GM I was working for Bill Mitchell the VP of corporate design with some 27 years of experience in heading several teams of designers in various studios. At Shelby’s, I was completely on my own in designing the Daytona simply because it was my idea to begin with and there was no one else in our small team of fabricators and mechanics
interpart poster with woman
The history of BRE’s Datsun parts business during and after the TransAm championships seems totally undocumented.   1. How important was the parts business to the viability of BRE? One of the main tenants of my contract with Mr. Katayama (Mr. K), the President of the western half of Datsun USA, was that we’d make all the race development information and speed equipment we designed for the BRE race cars available to anyone who seriously
Ken Miles
Ken Miles made all the difference in the world in my success at Shelby’s.  First, when I started for Carroll and ran his driving school, I only had less than a dozen races under my belt. I hadn’t been back from GM Styling in Michigan too long before I hooked up with Carroll and he asked if I’d run his school. I wasn’t about to question my driving experience and turn down this amazing opportunity.

15 thoughts on “Who built the first Cobra, and where?

  1. Hi Peter, great Info. on the early history and creation. I’ve moved to Calif., but please let me know when your open house will be [if not already past]. I don’t look at my e-mail too often. If possible I would make it a point to combine a trip with other business in LV.

    Regards, E.G.

  2. Dear Mr. Brock,

    Thank you for your continuing contribution to capturing automotive history and in particular the Shelby world. My area of interest is the early conversion of the Ace in the UK before exportation. It was you that directed me to the Canadian small block truck engine that was used in that mock-up and road test before the Fairlane 260 was available, It was also you that shed light on John Tojeiro’s use of pre-war, Fiat designed leaf springs which were adapted to his ladder frame. Bringing this technology forward to achieve a world championship is a super human feat by any standard. I vote that you receive an Honorary Doctorate in Automotive Design! A builder is now finishing my FFR Type 65 Coupe (in my tax bracket) which I plan to show at your open house this year,
    Best regards, Deane CB

    1. Hello Dean…so cool that you are building your own Daytona. It’ll be a car that commands presence anywhere you go! Look forward to seeing you at our open house. Peter Brock

  3. Interesting that the rears on the “Cobra Kit Special” appear to be snows. Better traction on the dry lake, perhaps? I guess this was before speed ratings were a thing for tires.

    Great article.

    1. Looks to me like that photo was taken at the 1964 Pike’s Peak Hillclimb. A.K. Miller’s car consisted of an Ace-Bristol chassis, Ford V8 and Devin body.

  4. Hi, Peter! Thanks for this great historical tidbit. Got a question about Cobra styling: To my eye, the 260/289 Cobra’s face is so much more attractive than any AC Bristol I’ve ever seen. Do you have any idea how/when the design of the nose evolved from the look of the AC Bristol?

    1. AC had started fitting the Ford Zephyr engine to the Ace due to supply of Bristol engines drying up, and Alan Turner, AC’s designer, took a spare grille from an AC Greyhound, turned it upside-down, lowered the bonnet(hood)line, and reprofiled the front to the shape that later graced the Cobra.

    2. The lovely tapered nose made its debut on the AC Ace 2.6 “Zephyr”. The body grew fender flares when it evolved into the Cobra.

    3. Hi Edd….There was one model from AC called the “Ace” that came just after the Bristol engined car and before the first Cobra. The Ace body style (designed internally at AC) was adapted for the first Cobras. Thanks for your interest and good questions! Peter Brock

  5. This is the kind of factual information true “car folks” love to have when discussions come up.
    What fabulous insight!!

  6. Thanks, Pete. I worked with Ak Miller for several years when I was in charge of Ford’s Muscle Parts program. Being a modest guy, Ak never mentioned building the first AC/Ford. Ak was a real innovator, but not well known outside the Hot Rod world (early turbo charging, propane induction, Mexican Road Races, etc.)

    Don Coleman

  7. Be fun to try and track how many deals Shelby tried to make before one clicked. For sure he tried GM on engines before Ford. Among the chassis makers in England he tried were Aston Martin, Cooper, and Austin Healy.
    Wild alternate future – what if Cooper had had the capacity to supply the number of cars Shelby wanted(?) – the Cobra would have been a mid-rear car!
    There was the Cooper based King Cobra but that’s a differehnt story.

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