Shelby Cobra Concept
|SHELBY COBRA DESIGN
The Ford Shelby
Cobra concept, like the legendary 1960s original, features
a utilitarian body tightly wrapped around a race-bred
engine and chassis. Every surface and line has its roots
in the car’s uncompromised performance.
the powertrain, the space frame and the suspension dictate
the architecture for the body," said Richard Hutting,
result was a very authentic, modern and desirable shape
that does justice to the original Shelby Cobra, but
doesn’t share a single dimension or proportion
Through key design details
– the dominant grille opening, vertical bumper bars, stacked
lamps front and rear, side air extractors and, most importantly, the
powerful bulge over each rear wheel – the historical connection
to Shelby’s original creation is undeniable.
While Ford Design is known
for its modern interpretations of legendary vehicles – the Ford
GT, Mustang and Thunderbird, to name just a few – it also leads
the industry in innovative ways to carry people and cargo.
From the Model A to the first Mustang, to the
world’s most versatile sport utility vehicles, Ford has a
history of packaging efficiency, and the Ford Shelby Cobra concept
is no exception.
A key engineering decision – to mount the concept’s
six-speed manual transmission at the rear of the car – enabled
designers to give the car almost 3 inches more legroom than similar
competitors’ performance vehicles, while providing nearly
perfect weight distribution.
"From a package perspective, the rear-mounted
transmission and the small-diameter, twin-plate clutch made for
a larger foot space than typically possible in such a small car
with a large engine. This 10-cylinder, 605-horsepower, all-out sportscar
has more legroom than in a Ford Crown Victoria sedan," Hutting
said. "We also didn’t have to compromise the driving
position by offsetting the pedals – an important consideration
in a performance car."
Short Overall Length
elements help to define the exterior, as well. Because
the engine sits rearward of the front wheels, the front
overhang is extraordinarily short. An equally brief rear
overhang gives the Cobra concept a 100-inch wheelbase
– longer than that of a Dodge Viper, but with a
head-to-tail measurement that is more than 20 inches shorter.
In fact, the front and rear overhangs are both shorter
than on the 1965 Shelby Cobra – the rear considerably
place the Ford Shelby Cobra concept into a league of its
own among production-feasible vehicles, communicating
rear-drive power and serious performance.
| The car's stance
on the road is unmistakably purposeful, with only 4.5
inches of clearance between the carbon-fiber chin spoiler
and the pavement. From the rear, powerfully bulging wheel
arches embrace the massive 19-inch rear wheels, signifying
that that’s where the power comes to the ground.
Unadorned Surface Language
|Just as designers
used the mechanical package to drive the Ford Shelby Cobra
concept’s proportions and attitude, they drew from
the car’s racing persona to create a clean, unembellished
"wrapper" for the powertrain and chassis.
|The front section of the
body is a forward-tilting "clamshell." This simple design
provides immediate, wide-open access to the powertrain and front suspension
while defining the clean hood profile. Prominent design elements include
the oversized grille opening for the radiator and the chin scoop below
it for the oil cooler.
The headlamps and driving lamps at the front
of the car are stacked vertically, as on the original Shelby Cobra.
"These lamps, combined with the vertical
billet-aluminum bumper bars, the grille opening and the muscular
fenders, are the way the front of the concept communicates ‘Cobra,’
" Hutting said.
In character with the Ford Shelby Cobra concept’s
uncompromised performance, there are no windshield wipers, no side
windows and no convertible top – it is a fair-weather-only
The sides of the body are pure function. Just
aft of each front wheel is a prominent rectangular air extractor
– to cool the engine and the brakes – and a conventional
forward-swinging door with a dramatically simple shut line that
terminates at the rear fender. To emphasize the clean body sides,
designers also omitted door handles.
The decision to forgo exterior door handles
left the team with a quandary: How do you open the doors? They briefly
looked at incorporating an electronic button but settled on the
original, elegantly simple Cobra solution of placing the inside
handle up high, where it can easily be reached from outside the
"It’s a race car," Hutting said.
"The driver would rather reach inside to open the door than
carry the weight of two more handles."
Aluminum A-pillars and dual roll hoops behind
the low-back seats are modern touches that expose the advanced aluminum
space frame while echoing the form and function of the classic chrome
roll hoops used on some original Cobras.
System for Clean Flanks
|In keeping with its racing
mission, the Ford Shelby Cobra concept does without side mirrors in
favor of a higher-tech, lower-drag design. A trio of video cameras
– mounted high in each A-pillar and at the center of the windshield
frame – create real-time color images that are displayed on
a digital version of the traditional center-mounted rear-view mirror.
The images from each camera are stitched together on this liquid-crystal
display to form a perfect 180-degree panorama of the competition.
A mere 27 inches of rear overhang (measured from
the axle line to the bumper) and other rear design details further
develop the themes of uncompromised performance and Cobra heritage.
Benefiting from four decades of aerodynamics research,
the Ford Shelby Cobra concept departs from the original car by incorporating
carbon-fiber "barge boards" to manage air extraction from
the side vents, and a carbon-fiber diffuser in the rear to create
downforce. These aerodynamic aids borrow heavily from wind tunnel
lessons learned with the Ford GT and Formula 1 racing and were devised
and tested with the aid of computational fluid dynamics software.
The rear transaxle cover is left exposed and becomes
a design element that conveys mechanical strength.
Small, stacked round taillamps and vertical billet-aluminum
bumper bars subtly trace their bloodlines back to the original Cobra.
"Even within the very modern framework of the
short overhang and exposed underbody aero effects," Hutting
said, "the rear of the car has Cobra cues to connect it to
A bright, Tungsten Silver metallic paint reinforces
the car’s mechanical precision, while twin stripes in a lighter
shade of silver run fore and aft over the hood and rear deck, in
a nod to Shelby’s traditional race car stripes.
Seven-spoke BBS racing wheels were chosen for strength
and light weight. Dramatically larger than the 15-inch wheels of
the original Cobra, they measure 18 inches in front and 19 inches
at the rear. The wheels wear lower profile rubber all around –
with the massive 35-series rear tires measuring more than 13.5 inches
"When you see those massive tires under their
bulging fenders and those exposed aerodynamic aids, you know at
a glance that this is a serious racing machine," Hutting said.
a minimalist roadster also can be comfortable, the 605-horsepower
Ford Shelby Cobra concept offers none of the traditional
electric amenities, yet boasts more front-seat legroom
than a Ford Crown Victoria sedan.
transmission offers a huge advantage in interior packaging:
The driver and passenger are positioned close together
near the vehicle centerline and separated by a narrow
driveline tunnel. The spacious foot wells are nearly rectangular,
in marked contrast to vehicles where the transmission
tunnel hump severely restricts the driver’s foot
room on the right, or the front wheel intrudes on the
left – or both. The Ford Shelby Cobra concept driving
position is comfortable and ergonomic, with an adjustable
racing seats with five-point belts offer support for high-performance
driving. Their low-back profile – a nod to traditional
sports cars – is made possible because the roll
hoops behind the seatbacks are padded to double as head
restraints. This allowed designers to capture the old-school
feeling of the original Cobra seats in a thoroughly modern
|The cockpit is trimmed in
aluminum, with electric blue splashed on the seat trim
and steering column.
| A full-width aluminum instrument
panel spans the cockpit in one unbroken swath – a throwback
to the true "dash boards" of yesteryear and a contrast with
today’s driver-centric cockpits. Instruments include a 220-mph
speedometer, 10,000-rpm tachometer and critical temperature and pressure
|There is also a fuel pump
switch, an under-hood fire-suppression system release and an emergency
master kill switch to comply with racing rules.
What’s missing? "There’s
no audio system at all," Hutting said. "The tuned exhaust
makes its own music."