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Shelby Cobra III Prototype


cobra 3

These black and white photos were taken by Scott Malcomb circa 11-1-67 for Road and Track Magazine. Shelby had Len Bailey design this prototype 1968 Cobra, originally called the Cobra III in Shelby American internal documents, as a replacement for the 427 Cobra, which Shelby American called the Cobra II. Ford, which owned the Cobra trademark, complained about Shelby's use of the name, so Shelby re-named it the Lonestar.

cobra lonestar interior
Len Bailey contracted Maurice Gomm in Woking, England to construct the car and delivered it to John Wyer's Ford Advanced Vehicles in Slough. Wyer's chief engineer, John Horsman, drove the car to the docks for shipment to L.A. The car originally had white interior upholstery and Shelby's L.A. crew quickly changed that to black and added the "ear" scoops on the top of the rear wheelwell quarterpanels to deliver fresh air to the engine compartment.

cobra 3 lonestar
Len Bailey had been the Ford engineer in charge of the road-going version of the GT-40, the MkIII. The Lonestar was essentially a simplified GT-40 tub with the GT-40 Ford 289/ZF layout, an aluminum Ferrari-like body, GT-40 suspension and Cobra brakes and wheels. In December, 1966 Bailey conducted wind tunnel tests on a 1/4 scale model and determined a cd of .36 requiring 295 horsepower at 200 mph. with front downforce of 81 lbs. and rear lift of 100 lbs.

cobra lonestar engine
A Holley four-barrel carburetor on a 289 motor.

cobra lonestar
Len Bailey wrote a report for Shelby: "1968 Cobra; Objective: To create a successor to the Shelby Cobra in the same image by a contemporary functional design, with overall performance potential superior to any available vehicle in the world." I found this report and a bunch of other Lonestar stuff when Shelby opened up his unused Princeton building. I put everything back after I was finished. There was also a very large cardboard box full of GT-40 and Mk IV Ford stuff. As far as I know this material has never surfaced again. Len Bailey later sent me his report.

shebly prototype
Shelby's crew later placed air intake scoops just behind the side windows. The wheels were GT-40, because Len Bailey had not been able to acquire the Cobra SC Halibrands for which the car had been designed. The car was designed for the U.S. 1968 bumper and headlight height requirements. Shelby told me that the car was impractical because the occupants had to slide over the side sill. At about this time, Shelby was pretty burned out, and the project was dropped.

cobra iii
Road and Track printed this for me from a transparancy. I purchased the Lonestar in 1975 and drove it around L.A. before I trailered it home to AZ. The car was a bit trashed, but gave every evidence of GT-40-like performance. It drove right on my 1964 team Cobra competition 289 trailer like it was made for it. Everyone thought I was crazy.

cobra lonestar for sale
This ad appeared in Autoweek/Competition Press in October 1968. Shelby had decided to bail on any new Cobra.

cobra lone star for sale
This ad appeared in the 1968 November issue of Autoweek/Competition Press. The same photo had already appeared on the December 9, 1967 cover of Autoweek with the heading "New Cobra". The page one story was titled: "Shelby's New Street Cobra -- U.S. Congress Permitting". The text began: "This will be the new Cobra if Congress passes the bill exempting small manufacturers from some of the new standards."

shebly prototype drawing
The text in the lower left hand corner reads: "Carroll Shelby's 1969 Lonestar prototype. R. McKee".

cobra lone star restoration
This is the Lonestar tub in 2007, the subject of a nut and bolt restoration by Geoff Howard of Danbury, Conn. Geoff has been working on the car for over ten years, and the car went to the paint shop in March 2015. The front and rear body sections are fully removable.

cobra 3 restoration
This is the Lonestar June 2012. Geoff did everything he could to save the original metal. Geoff made the compound curve bumper from steel and it is beautiful. Shelby American's last real Cobra. We will see this car running around Arizona in 2015.

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