14 January 2004

Ford is plotting the revival of the Cobra sports car and revealed a brash 605bhp two-seat concept at the Detroit Motor Show as a taster.

Under the new skin is an alloy spaceframe, with parts from the mid-engined Ford GT adapted to the Shelby Cobra’s front-engine, rear-drive layout. It even borrows the GT’s rear transaxle and front suspension wishbones. ‘This car is already 80 per cent engineering feasible,’ claimed Chris Theodore, head of Ford’s Advanced Product Creation secret R&D base, or ‘skunk works’.With a 6.4-litre modular V10 borrowed from last year’s 427 saloon concept, the Cobra promises electrifying performance and Ford quotes a sub-4.0sec 0-60mph sprint.

Its kerbweight is targeted at 1400kg, helped by tight dimensions. At 3.9m long and 1.9m wide, the Shelby Cobra concept is shorter than an Audi TT but as wide as a Dodge Viper.

However, most showgoers appeared disappointed with the car’s styling, which failed to capture the emotional essence of the sensuous ’60s original. ‘There’s just not enough Dolly Parton in it,’ quipped a rival designer.

Design boss J Mays makes no secret of his dislike of the curvaceous original, but the melding of a shapeless nose to a modern interpretation of the original’s characteristic rear arches doesn’t create a magical shape worthy of the Cobra name.

‘We couldn’t just borrow the original’s shape because it wouldn’t pass any modern legislation,’ said Mays. ‘People are telling me that they like it.’

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