The ‘King Cobra’ moniker was thrown around by journalists in the 1960s to describe a number of Carroll Shelby’s projects. However, I’m told that the T-10 is the only one that Shelby himself referred to as such.
This particular chassis is the last remaining example of the two T-10 King Cobra Canadian-American racers ever built, and it’s not to be mistaken for the far more successful Cooper Monaco. Unfortunately, this car’s namesake didn’t carry over to any actual racing results, with the so-called king being somewhat of a failure in this regard.
The T-10’s unremarkable results in the 1967 Can-Am season also marked the temporary end of Ford’s official involvement in motorsport. More drastically, for Carroll Shelby anyway, Ford also ended the support of Shelby’s workshop. Due to this, the King Cobra died an obscure death with no further development or Shelby-led race entries. With one chassis destroyed in the line of duty, the other was passed around over the years and could often be found being wound up on race tracks around the country.
Last weekend though, it was not. I found the T-10 in the garages at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California during the Shelby American Automobile Club’s 43rd annual convention. We’ve already taken an overall look at the event, but for now I want to focus on this very small piece of American racing history.
The reason for the T-10 not being taken out on the track wasn’t because it couldn’t, but rather that it shouldn’t. With the Rolex Monterey Motorsport Reunion right around the corner, the car’s been freshly prepped for track duty.
But the owner didn’t want to risk any funny business with the motor, the reason being that this is the very last of these blocks in existence. As the T-10 was pioneered in 1967, I figured it would be a race-ready 289 variant. It isn’t, nor is it a 302, nor any Windsor or Cleveland-based engine.
Instead, the car made use of Ford’s prototype 351 cubic inch XE V8. Only six were ever cast in aluminum, with perhaps only 50 being built in total. This example is topped of with four Weber carburetors, just as it was in period.
Making in the neighborhood of 520 naturally aspirated horsepower at the wheels, the 1,400lb (635kg) chassis was a bit on the unpredictable side. Featuring quite interesting single-spring suspension in the front and rear, the car was known for its odd body roll and unusual cornering characteristics. Designed by an otherwise brilliant British engineer, Len Terry, the T-10 King Cobra was an oddity to say the least.
Contrary to the Le Mans results in previous years, Shelby’s results with the T-10 marked the end of an era. But chassis #002 lives on, and I look forward to hearing it wound up at the Laguna Seca historics in just a couple months.
Trevor Yale Ryan