THE SNAKE: AC COBRA
posted: 26 June 2015 | Words and photos: RaceMasteR J
A few months ago I was asked to drive around with the lucky winner
of a Gordons competition who won an all expenses paid 7 day trip
to Cape Town to do various amazing and exciting activities. Today
was the chance to drive an AC Cobra on some of Cape Town’s
most scenic roads. Three AC Cobra’s provided by Cape
Cobra Hire were given to us. The main prize winner
and his wife in the one, his brother in law and his wife in the
second, while finally myself and a videographer in the third.
If all I had to do was drive someone around to film out of a car,
I surely didn’t need an AC Cobra to do it in, but who was
I to complain? The brief was simple. Tag along to capture the
fun and make it a bigger spectacle by having 3 Cobra’s instead
of two. That sounded easy enough, sure, why not!
We met up at 15 on Orange Hotel in Cape Town and proceeded to
head out towards Camps Bay via Kloof Nek Road. Some nice twisty
roads going up a mountain. I was looking forward to it! The problem
came in when I realized I had a video man next to me and I had
to drive as smooth as possible. Oh well, I was still enjoying
the awesome weather and wind through my hair. We ended up driving
through Camps Bay and eventually stopped on the side of the road
for some photo ops with the winners. But time was running out
as their next appointment was at the top of Table Mountain for
lunch. I wasn’t even in the car for an hour and the winner
who was also the pace setter drove like every day was a Sunday.
Either way I still enjoyed myself.
Meeting at the foot of Table Mountain and greeting the winner’s
farewell I was pleasantly surprised when the organisers told me
that if I wanted the car for the rest of the day, I could have
it, at no cost! Say whaaaat?! Ka-ching! The first thing that immediately
came to mind was to check how much of fuel was in the car. Even
though the fuel price was the lowest we’ve seen in years
at the time, the AC Cobra is still a V8 after all. And boy did
it sound thirsty!
From the choice of the 3 cars, I opted for the matte black one.
I thought it looked the most menacing of the lot. I did a quick
overall check of the vehicle and chatted to Dean (awesome guy),
the owner of Cape Cobra Hire, about the car itself. I just wanted
to know as much as I could about the vehicle before I drove off
into the sunset with it.
As you could imagine I was smiling from ear to ear at this point.
I said my goodbyes and set off to spend the rest of my Friday
in a legendary V8 muscle car. But there lies a problem. It’s
Friday. Friday’s are very short and busy days for me. It
didn’t help that I only found out about this now! But I
was going to make the most of it. Driving into the CBD I thought
let me give my buddy Ernest Page a call to see if he was busy.
After all, he was the person responsible for setting this whole
gig up for me, the least I could do was take him for a spin. Right…?
I picked up Ernie and proceeded to take a leisurely cruise through
De Vaal drive and back into town. No, it’s not what you’re
thinking. Whenever the words “test drive” and De Vaal
drive are mixed together, it usually means a very spirited drive.
But the thing that amazed me the most about this car, or maybe
because I’m getting old, is that I had no will to cane this
car. As soon as I start driving I end up sitting back and my right
arm automatically ends up resting on the side of the door, like
out the window, if there was a window... Don’t ask me how
it got there every time, I don’t know, it just did!
Probably because it’s an automatic...
This car is a cruiser. It’s loud, it’s proud, and
it’s got nothing to prove. The looks you get from people
are only ones with smiles on their faces. People are so courteous
and ever willing to let me go first. I loved it. I never get this
polite attitude from fellow road users when I drive my Polo.
There was even an OLD man who was about to cross the road as I
approached a stop street. He even gave me way; in fact he insisted
I go first, even after I told him to go first. I smiled and waved.
Maybe he thought I was going to run him over…? Oh well,
I felt like a celebrity in this car. Absolutely legendary!
Speaking of legendary, these cars were capable of doing speeds
close on 300km/h and push power figures well over 300kW’s
from its 7L small block V8… in the 1960’s!! A lot
of that has to do with the brands history. I say it’s American,
and yes it is now, but the car started off being British.
AC was a British based company that designed and built the car
originally and they used German BMW engines. American racing legend
Caroll Shelby then wrote to AC asking them if they could build
a chassis that would accommodate a V8 engine. They obliged and
sent the chassis to Caroll where him and his team conceived the
original Shelby Cobra.
But it also had a lot to do with the Italians. One in particular,
Enzo Ferrari. Caroll Shelby, being the racing enthusiast that
he was, entered the Cobra into various racing series where it
competed against much bigger manufacturers like Ferrari. Enzo
Ferrari eventually persuaded the FIA to enforce homologation rules
in hope to oust the new competition. But it actually drove Caroll
and his relatively small company to push the limits and comply
with those new rules. In the process they ended up developing
the car with Ford.
From being a typical unreliable prototype in its early stages
of life, the Cobra developed into a race winning champion giving
it that legendary status. Shelby also introduced a drag racing
package called the Dragonsnake for the drag racing market where
it proved to be rather successful as well.
So coming back to “my time” in this legend, like I
mentioned earlier, it was Friday and I had a million things to
do, one of them included attending and covering the Ultimate X
Action Sports Fest at Grand West. I was so busy in my daily duties,
and enjoying driving the car when I got the chance, I completely
forgot to set some time aside to take some photos of the car,
remember that having a Cobra for the day was completely unplanned.
The next thing I knew it was past 12 at night and I needed to
return the car back to the 15 on Orange Hotel where I collected
I wasn’t going to give this car back without taking some
pics of it, so I quickly found a spot and snapped away. That explains
why most of the pics are at night, while the day time pics were
taken with my cellphone. I do enjoy taking pics of cars because
I tend to see details otherwise missed before. But I guess my
eye is just used to looking for extra detail when it looks through
a camera lens.
The night was almost over and I had to return the car, but it
meant one last drive through central Cape Town. Since the Hotel
was basically at the end of Long Street, I decided to drive that
way. What an experience that was. Open top car, completely exposed,
bumper to bumper traffic and packed with drunk party goers late
People were going crazy expecting me to do silly things with the
car, rev it all the time etc. From “bergies” to crossed
dressed moffies, drug dealers and drunken people, this car attracted
all sorts of weird in Long Street, but I suppose I asked for that.
Though even in between all of that there was the one dude who
came up to me and asked to shake my hand because I drove a Cobra.
(He was the second person to do that on the day.)
After such an eventful day from meeting some amazing people and
driving around in an amazing Cobra through one of the best cities
in the world to being treated like a rock star, it was finally
time to hand over the keys. The car was safe and sound back in
the parking lot of the hotel.
But before I could leave I stood next to the car one last time,
stroked my finger over the fender and said quietly… It was
awesome hanging with you Cobra, I hope to see you around again
soon. That’s when my wife pulled my arm and said lets go
home! What a day!
Special thanks to Claire Allen from Signature Productions, Kenne
Loubser from Liquorice, Ernest Page and lastly Dean from Cape