Modified Mustangs & FordsFeatured Vehicles
1965 Ford 289 Cobra - Simply Automatic
Jim Petersen's 289 Cobra is one of just 17 assembled by Shelby American with an automatic transmission. What's more, it managed to survive a 100-mph rollover, missing the crusher by pure luck and little else. Jim happened upon this '65 289 Cobra when a friend spotted it in a Salt Lake City salvage yard in the early '70s. At the time, it was a mangled mess.
Friends laughed when Jim handed the salvage yard $450 and hauled it home. But everything was there, including four good Shelby American mag wheels with knock-off spinners, the complete suspension and underpinnings, fuel tank, brakes, and the original Cobra 289 and C4 transmission. Amazingly, the decklid wasn't touched in the rollover, but the rest of the car needed a lot of help.
When Jim brought this Cobra home, it was British Racing Green with a black interior. Close inspection showed it was originally black with a red leather interior. The original invoice, obtained from the Shelby American Automobile Club, confirmed Jim's findings. Jim adds that his Cobra is one of 15 built in this color combination.
Bringing this Cobra back to life wasn't an easy task. Jim completely disassembled the car, disposing of the damaged sheetmetal. He bought an original AC body from Autosport in California. Most of the interior body panels from the damaged body were salvageable. Then, because Jim kept a busy work schedule, the Cobra sat for 20 years. He finally resumed the restoration in the early '90s, putting a lot of time into the project to restore the car to original street condition.
The crackly roar of the reproduction exhaust system gives us an idea of what these cars were like in the '60s. The roar comes from a well-oiled 289 High-Performance V-8 built by Hunter Machine in Salt Lake City. It is a balanced and blueprinted assembly with twin Holleys and a stock Autolite dual-point ignition system. The C4 Cruise-O-Matic is what makes this Cobra so unusual. A Salisbury rearend, common to Cobras, has 3.77:1 limited-slip cogs.
Underpinnings include 11.7-inch front and 10.75-inch rear disc brakes. Wheels are 72-spoke, 15-inch wire wheels with knock-off spinners and Goodyear Wingfoot tires, which look decidedly authentic.
The red leather interior was custom fabricated by Rags To Riches Interiors. As you might expect, instrumentation is Stewart-Warner. An AC Cars steering wheel gives Jim control. Bodywork and paint were professionally handled by Alpine Body Shop.
It takes vision and perseverance to pursue a project like this successfully. When friends laughed, Jim understood what he was getting into, smiling to himself, and going after the rubble dreams are made of. Today, he's still smiling.