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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tom Meade's Anti-Cobra

An Answer to Carroll Shelby

Above: the Anti-Cobra being prepared by Tom Meade in his Maranello studio.

“Started in 1963, the basic idea was begun over a frustrated Baron: In the town of Laussan, near Lake Geneva,  Switzerland, Baron de Bloney had a Corvette. Being an automotive enthusiast, he raced it regularly but had been complaining that he was getting his ‘doors blown off by the Cobras.’ Thus began the Anti-Cobra project.

“As he hung out in Italy and we knew each other, one day the Baron came with a proposal and cash deposit, commissioning me to build a special car. This weapon for the street and track would rival the legendary Shelby AC Cobras. By this time, in the early 1960s, Carroll Shelby himself was already retired as a winning racecar driver for manufacturers including Scarab, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Maserati (in 1956 and ‘57 Sports Illustrated named Shelby sports car driver of the year, and in 1959 he and co-driver Ray Salvadori won 24 Hours of LeMans).

“To more clearly understand the impetus for the Anti-Cobra, it is important to put the rival car, the Cobra, into proper historical context: 

“Lighter and faster than the Corvette Stingray, by 1963, Shelby’s Cobra arrived at 3 Hours of Daytona for its first international competition. Although it did well, the Ferrari GTOs won, taking 1st and 2nd, while Corvette finished 3rd, leaving the Cobra in 4th place.

Above: 250 GTO ­#4219GT, with Pedro Rodriguez at Three Hours of Daytona.

“Thereafter, Shelby-American entered four cars at 12 Hours of Sebring, Florida, an FIA race. Two of the four Cobras had the new rack-and-pinion steering setup, driven by Dan Gurney and Phil Hill. Although Hill set the fastest GT lap, the Ferraris won again (dominating the field). The leading Cobra finished 11th  but ahead of the Corvettes.

“Later that same year, 1963, Shelby-American completed its first 125 Cobras. Because Ford refused to finance a Cobra Le Mans effort, Shelby put together a deal with AC Cars and Ed Hugus, who prepared one car each. The top Cobra finished 7th. After Le Mans, Shelby began the Daytona Coupe project, as the LeMans experience revealed that AC Cobra roadster body lacked the aerodynamics necessary for the desired 190(+) mph for the Mulsanne Straight. Pete Brock was the Daytona body designer.

Above: 1963 -The 3 Cobra roadsters that would win the 1963 USRRC Manufacturer's Championship.

“By year’s end, December 1963, the Cobra won the USRRC (United States Road Racing Championship). This foreshadowed things to come. And although Ferrari continued to dominate 1963 and ’64, by the end of the 1964 season, Shelby’s Daytona Cobras had come into maturity and for the first time Ferrari’s GTOs were beaten around Le Mans and Sebring. The rest is history.

Above: the 1st Daytona Cobra at 12 Hours of Sebring where it won GT class, placing 4th overall.

“Up against such provenance, I took the Cobra as a sort of benchmark for a starting point, and developed the Anti-Cobra’s capabilities from there. I wanted Anti-Cobra to be its own strike-force, worthy of competing with the likes of Jaguar and Ferrari. To achieve this, I built a bespoke tubular steel chassis with independent suspension and Gurling disc brakes to all four corners (with inboard discs at the rear).

“I used a quick-change differential, and a German ZF 5-speed gearbox. The suspension uprights were Magnesium, as well as the wheels. Most of the components for the suspension and chassis were either aluminum or magnesium, with a 1.5mm aluminum body.

Above: the Anti-Cobra being prepared by Tom Meade in his Maranello studio, with Thomassima III in foreground.

“I designed a removable targa top with gullwing windows (yes windows, not doors). The windows and doors were separate units. In this way, when the targa top was removed, there were no windows.

“The Anti-Cobra is one of my cars that has slipped through the cracks. Very little is known about it; very few know of it. It was finished in 1964, although it was one of my first cars, built simultaneously with Thomassima I (started in 1962). In those days I had to make a living with client cars so my Thomassima passion could be financed by commissions. And so was the Anti-Cobra.

Above and below: the Anti-Cobra

“Baron deBloney one day loaned the car to a friend who eventually wrecked it. It was then very poorly repaired and I bought it back from him. I then stored it where it remains to this day, in Italy. I plan to build a new and updated version of Anti-Cobra using Corvette ZR-1 components, supercharged, with a hammered out aluminum body over wireframe, made in Italy.”

Above: Anti-Cobra's gull wing windows are featured.

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