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This or That: 1964 Shelby Cobra versus 1965 Griffith Series 200

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1964 AC Cobra (top); 1965 Griffith Series 200 (bottom). Images by the author.

Editor’s note: This or That is not a comparison report between two vehicles, but rather a feature that enables us, in an idyllic world, to add a collectible vehicle into our dream garage on a weekly basis, but with a catch: We can only pick one vehicle from this pairing and it has to be for enjoyment purposes rather than as an investment.

This episode of This or That features a pair of high-powered Anglo-American hybrids: a 1964 Shelby Cobra versus a 1965 Griffith Series 200. Both were former Hemmings Muscle Machines feature cars.

How the Cobra came into fruition is far from a mystery. Carroll Shelby, a former racer and keen-eyed opportunist, was eager to find a European car that would accept high-powered American V-8 engines. Coincidental to his search, AC Cars received word that the 125hp six-cylinder engine used to motivate their two-seat Ace Roadster would no longer be available from Bristol. Meanwhile, Ford Motor Company’s heavy involvement in all forms of auto racing meant Dearborn executives were eager to listen to just about anyone willing to use Blue Oval power to beat the competition. Fortunately for Shelby, not only did Ford approve of the proposal, they financed the launch of the Cobra project.

The original Ace chassis was a ladder-type frame with three-inch main tubes connected by multiple crossmembers with transverse leaf springs , joining towers where the suspension components, brakes, wheels and tires were mounted. Shelby stipulated modifications that included new engine and transmission mounts, along with stronger suspension mounting points, while inboard brakes were moved outboard. These changes would support the installation – and manage torque output – from Ford’s 260hp, V-8. The Cobra we featured, pictured above, was assembled with running production changes, the most notable being the installation of a 271hp Ford V-8 that touted and 314-lb.ft. of torque. Other notable changes included the adoption of rack-and-pinion steering – replacing a worm-and-sector setup – and the fitment of a 3.77:1 rear differential that displaced the 3.54 unit in 260-powered Cobras.  Likewise, the aluminum body received functional vents behind the front wheel wells while larger flares subtly worked into the fenders. It should be noted that all 289 Cobras were furnished with a T-10 four-speed, close-ratio transmission. Fully assembled, a 289 Cobra tipped the scales at 2,030  pounds.

Like Shelby, Jack Griffith – a Long Island, New York, Ford dealer who was involved with SCCA racing – pitched the idea of dumping a Ford V-8 in a lightweight European car. Griffith’s target was the MG-powered TVR Grantura Mk. III. Just as Shelby had mandated changes to the AC chassis, Griffith had to make adjustments in order to wedge Ford’s 289/four-speed combo into place. Before being shipped to the U.S., TVR moved the front cross tubes forward to make way for the oil pan sump, the frame tube on the passenger side was massaged with a hammer to clear the starter and the front suspension mounts were strengthened. After taking delivery, a Corvette differential was installed to complement the front two-thirds of the driveline. When completed the TVR was rebadged as the Griffith Series 200, which weighed in under 2,000 pounds thanks in part to the fiberglass body. Unfortunately, the Griffiths – which were known to be a rather scary drive for the uninitiated – also became known for overheating issues, undercharging electrical systems, failing rear axles and leaking gas tanks. This on top of the fact that Griffith bodies were mounted to the chassis with strips of fiberglass. Fewer than 200 1965 model year Griffith 200 sports cars were built in the company’s Syosset, New York, facility.

Given the brief particulars of each, which one would you add to your stable and why?