Corvette vs. Cobra Circa 1964 -
Two different cars playing in the same market - or not?

Pointing Up the Differences, and Similarities, Between Two Fantastic Cars

by Auto History Preservation Society Staff - reprint with permission only

Looking back on the various tests of Corvettes and Cobras from back in the day, one thing stands out – they really were different cars for a different type of driver, built by totally different types of manufacturers for really a different purpose.

Of course, the press and even the public wanted them to be competitors, because what stirs the pot better than a Ford vs. Chevrolet rivalry? And obviously, early on, Chevrolet wanted to discredit the new interloper with a haughty "pfah", while Carroll Shelby wanted to respond with an "Oh yeah".

But we really need to look at the whys and wherefores of both cars before we get into a heated discussion of which one was better, because to some degree, they were both best at what they were intended to do.

The Corvette

First, let’s look objectively at the genesis of the Corvette. Born when most sports cars that were affordable were rather crude, the Corvette was little different in design from the cars who might have been its competitors, the Nash Healy, MGs and Triumphs, for example. Most were underpowered and those that had a decent HP to weight ratio, like Jaguars and Ferraris, cost thousands of dollars more.

While even the early ‘Vettes handled well for their time, their weight worked against them, something that was only cured then the V8 arrived. Even so, it really wasn’t until the early 60s that the Vette could be called a real sports car, and even then it was far more a gran turismo, built for fast touring – being only competitive on the race track with significant adds and mods (which could be easily done, but cost big bucks).

Then you had the further disadvantage that most of the running gear had to be off-the-shelf parts or certainly adapted for assembly-line installation. And, the car needed to be capable of being sold in sufficient numbers to justify production, and last, it had to be capable of being serviced at your local Chevrolet dealer.

Given those limitations, it is a tribute to Zora Duntov, his engineering team and GM management that the car was such a great success. Think, the car had to be docile enough that John Q. Public could buy it, that it could be used as a daily driver, and that someone could modify it in their home garage to go racing. That it made all those criteria and yet could kick some major league butt in all three categories is actually astounding.

The Cobra -

The Cobra, on the other hand, was conceived with just the opposite in mind. Carroll Shelby wanted to take on Ferraris and Maseratis on the race track and win. The fact that it could be streetable enough to allow Joe to drive it daily on his way to work was just a side-bar benefit. Of course, selecting a US V8 as delivered in Hi-Po Mustangs allowed Carroll to meet the daily driver criteria. And if the car was a little fussy, well too bad.

Second, to ensure that the Cobra could be driven by someone who just wanted a "sporty car" and not a racer, Shelby offered the car with an unmodified Hi-Po 289 V8, but if you were serious, you received a tweaked 289 with either 2-4 barrels or a set of 4 Webbers, and a lot of head work and more.

Let’s face it, Carroll didn’t give a hoot if the car was uncomfortable on the street – he wanted it to kick the prancing horse and others on the track. In that vein, whereas the Corvette could be a comfortable cruiser, the Cobra was going to shake rattle and roll you to your destination.

The Comparison - Click HERE!


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