Those of us who share this deep passion for cars and machines appreciate the story to a car. The story is what Testa Veloce is all about as the story creates an image to the machine, a character, this is what entices us. Example; the Jaguar E-type was driven by factory test driver overnight drive to the Geneva motorshow and then it is also responsible for motorway speed limits in the UK being introduced after the Jag topped 140mph on the M1. Another example is the Citroen 2CV. This stylish car is meant to be able to smoothly drive across a ploughed field with a basket full of eggs of which none shall break, fun to try. These stories and myths create an image of the machine and a character that it assumes. What we have the keys to in our hands today is regarded to be the king of the myths, a beast on the road and a demon on the track. An AC Cobra
OK so this one is not an original AC Shelby Cobra, we are not that lucky, its a kit Cobra, yet these kits are so good it should invoke the feeling of the original, at least thats the idea.
The story behind the Cobra is one of pure competition. Competition between Mr Ford and Mr Ferrari, with the battle to take place at the most prestigious of battlegrounds the 24 hours of Le Mans. A well documented battle of development began (read all about the legend of Ken Miles here). Come race day Ford comprehensively beat the cars from Modena, the legend of the Cobra had begun. An accompanying anecdote is that proud creator Carroll Shelby would place a 100 dollar in the glove box (hole in the dash) and If a customer could reach the bill whilst the car accelerated they could keep it. Needless to say not many people were able to grab the bill. Fun game to play in todays cars too.
Cape Town Cobra Vlog: All mistakes are intentional !
Such an aggressive car carried a widow maker like attitude. A 4.7 v8 under 1,000 kg of car, 1960's American engineered, it was bound to be a handful and certainly not the ideal hire car for a tourist on holiday. However with the advent of so many kits on offer, CapeCobrahire.co.za in Cape Town, South Africa realised they would be able to generate an unforgettable experience to those willing to hire one of their Cobra replicas. To be able to provide this utterly unique experience CCH use Shamrock kits, a 350 Chevy engine and an auto box. These are obvious enhancements not only to ensure the life of the car but also the client.
Arriving at CCH headquarters we are presented with a garage full of cobras and we're offered a choice of red or blue (just missing the white one). Blue car selected, brief safety instruction out of the way and operating guidelines passed, our car is keen to go. Straight away you experience the punch of low down torque, with the car lurching on the creep of the auto box. With the trademark soundtrack of a WW2 fighter you know you are about to have a special day and you immediately feel the fangs of the Cobra sink into your skin. The beast is alive.
Todays route is based on intel from Andy at Ride Down South. With Andy we rode the beautiful southern peninsula on Africa Twins yet he advised that the best road for driving is over the other side of False bay, a road called Clarence Drive. Starting the drive you can see what Andy means. Its a coastal road with a lot more bends, a better surface and less cars than Chapmans Peak. Unfortunately there were roadworks on early on the drive which meant for most of it we found ourselves in a train of cars. Two hours into our drive and and we note that the petrol gauge is one of the fastest moving dials. South Africa does not have a wealth of petrol stations out of town so mild peril kicks in as the needle drops past a quarter of a tank and we start a game of petrol roulette. How reliable is this gauge ? The turn around and lunch stop is Bettys Bay a further 30 km along. Petrol dwindling, the Cobra flew along the wide open roads with its thumping driving force. Every bump and stone bounced the thin wooden steering wheel. This is truly and authentic experience and one that would be hard to repeat anywhere. CapeCobraHire have really found a gem of a business. Finally reaching Bettys Bay we are glad to see a Caltex petrol station and a burger joint. Post fuel stop we spin around and head back to Clarence Drive.
Driving round the tip of the peninsula to start Clarence Drive we are in luck, no traffic but for a Hilux or bakkie as they are known these parts. Fortunately we are in a Cobra and can overtake, sun shining, exhaust banging we blast into Clarence Drive once more. This time we can set our own pace, much to the satisfaction of the Cobra. With the correct amount of momentum in the car the chassis tightens up and we are able to push, just a little, into the tyres. Still wary of the myth with these cars we don't push anywhere near to the limits but just enough to enjoy the winding road, the sky and oceans. The authentic thin wooden wheel shakes and rattles as we accelerate out of a left bend and what feels like only a few rpm later we need to stand on the brakes to achieve our entry speed for the next right hander. Apex locked in its back on the gas and off we go again. Repeat several times and we find ourselves at the end of the drive,cruising into Gordons Bay.
This is a real head turner of a car, plenty of workers in pick ups grinning and waving, it is utterly non discreet and that is only part of the overall experience. The car is not an original but in this setting it really does pack enough bite to install an authentic Cobra driving experience and it is a very special thing. So special we made it the subject of our first full Blog. See below.
Cape Cobra Hire identified this gap very well and the experience is truly unforgettable. Of course the cars are not the all out savages of the originals yet CCH have managed to find a perfect balance that provides both the pomp and power. Cape Town is a great place to be and with places like CCH, Wolf Moto, Ride Down South there is so much for the tourist to enjoy and experience. We cannot wait to go back.