Car of the Week #11: AC Cobra ’39 PH’

AC Cobra 39 PH

In 1963, Carroll Shelby helped AC to build three bespoke Cobras for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, although eventually only two ever ran there. One of those cars is the one you see here, ’39 PH’, which will also be on display at the Concours of Elegance 2016 in September.

The Le Mans cars’ most distinctive feature was the large, streamlined aluminium hardtop fitted to improve aerodynamics (never a Cobra strong point) and to increase their speed along the Mulsanne Straight. These removable tops necessitated the fabrication of long fuel-fillers which terminated just forward of the top of the rear window.

As the race approached ’39 PH’ created a great deal of interest: it was sponsored by The Sunday Times and had Sir Stirling Moss as a team manager. It was driven by Peter Bolton and Ninian Sanderson and, despite a comparative lack of top speed (its best practice time was 4 minutes 15.3 seconds), it displayed great reliability, covering 2592 miles at an average speed of 108mph, touching 160mph at 5500rpm on the Mulsanne Straight, eventually finishing in seventh place