According to Shelby’s account in The Cobra Story, after securing a body and chassis from AC and the new small-block V-8 engine from Ford, “a strange thing happened. One night I had a dream in which I saw the name ‘Cobra’ on the front of the new car. I woke up and jotted the name down on a pad which I kept by my bedside… Next morning, when I looked at the name ‘Cobra,’ I knew it was right.” Or maybe he’d seen this ad. The fact is, Shelby was notorious for his snake-oil salesmanship and bending facts to his benefit.
I’d never noticed this use of the “Cobra” in any Ford ads before. But the timing is right, as the Cobra project started in September of 1961. What say you: coincidence or inspiration?
In addition to the 300 hp “Thunderbird 390” version there was also the “Thunderbird Super 390”, which was a genuine high-performance engine with different heads, forerunners of ones that would also be used on the high-performance 406/427 engines to come. With a single four barrel carb, it was rated at 375 hp at 6000 (!) rpm; and 401 hp with optional triple carbs. It was the terror of NASCAR that year.
My full story on this factory hot rod is here: