The AC Cobra Le Mans hardtop by Mike Sells
As early Cobras were constructed and raced, it was inevitable that someone, or in this case, two someones, should decide that LeMans would an appropriate outing for these cars. Specifically for the 1963 event, aluminum hardtops were added in an attempt to improve the admittedly poor aerodynamics of the Cobra roadsters. It worked well enough to increase the top speed to 160+ down the Mulsane. Two roadsters were entered: one by Shelby American and the other by the AC factory itself, both fitted with 4.7 litre Ford engines prepared by Shelby to racing specs. The American racer was painted in the classic refrigerator white with two longitudinal blue stripe combination made famous by Cunningham in the early 1950's and was left hand drive while the AC entry was prepared in the traditional factory light metallic green and the driver sat on the right. As the racing hardtop extended further back than the normal soft or hard tops, the deck lids were shortened to clear the roof and hinged at the bottom edge. Both cars had fender lip extensions and small identification lights installed and were the first Cobras to carry the front fender vents and hood scoops used universally by the racers from then on. The American car retired but the AC entry finished 7th overall, 3rd in class - not bad for a 10 year old design utilizing leaf spring suspension!
This is a very straightforward model to build as only the hardtop parts and correct paint are difficult to find. If you can find one of the Revell Cobra slot car body kits, rejoice; the hardtop is included. John Bacon in Australia casts fiberglass clones of the Revell LeMans Cobra body but I don't know if he does the hardtop. Huge numbers of the Revell Cobras were produced and even a restorable one can be used; this model was restored from an ex-slot car. If you wish to do a shelf model, you'll also need one of Monogram's 427 Cobra kits for chassis, interior and detail parts; suitable Dunlop wheels with narrow period tires; assorted styrene rod and tubing for exhausts and correct number and emblem decals together with some plain white film. Side curtains are clear acetate sheet with 1/32" wide black crepe tape stripes. Issue number ?? of Model Replica Racing News contains excellent drawings and notes on the AC car so borrowing one of these magazines for reference would really help.
Once your body of choice has been primed, glue the windscreen in place temporarily with white glue and fit the hardtop to the body and screen. Mark the rear edge of the hardtop with pencil and scribe a new rear deck line across the tail about 1/16" behind your pencil mark. You might wish to scribe all of the panel lines deeper as the original lines by Revell are very shallow. Add fender spats (0.010" sheet) to the inside of all four wheel openings - they look like body colored mud guards when complete.
Drill a 1/16" hole in the center of the cast fuel filler cap on the roof, then sand off the filler cap off entirely. Put the roof on in the correct position, tape in place and drill from the roof through the rear deck behind the right hand seat. The fuel filler extension is straight down from the roof hole fore and aft but slants towards the center of the car where it hits the deck. Remove the roof again and drill out the rear deck hole to fit ¼" styrene tubing. Tape the roof in place once more and sliding a length of the tubing up from underneath the body and shape the upper end to match the contour of the inside of the roof. When it fits well, glue the tubing to the roof, centered on the fuel filler cap hole, but NOT to the body. Let everything set up and mark the end of the tubing inside the body before removing the roof. Cut off the extra tubing below the body and set aside. The tubing positively locates the roof at final assembly. I also blended square styrene strips under the nose and tail to allow the Monogram chassis to snap into place.
Wheels (aluminum) are castings from an Aurora Alfa Romeo kit with chromed two-prong knockoffs in the center. Wheels from ARII's currently available (Hobbylink Japan) excellent Datsun 1600/2000 roadster kit are also very close. Tires on the shelf model are ex-Tamiya 1/24 scale Mini Cooper as they are exactly the right size with a beautiful tread pattern. Jack mounts are resin castings from a Monogram 1/24 scale 427 Cobra kit; exhausts are styrene 1/16" rod and tubing constructions. Numbers and registration plates are ¾ size Xerox copies of the MRRN plans on to white decal film. Cobra emblems, Powered by Ford, and the GB plate are from various decal sheets but I never did find an AC emblem for the rear deck. Bare metal foil is used to highlight the 427 Cobra headlight rims, turn signals, taillights and windscreen frame. The 427 cockpit was modified as detailed for the Coventry Cobra but this model is still left hand drive. I checked with 1/24 scale Cobra expert Gary McNutt at the Toledo NNL #20 and he suggests sanding the back of the dash smooth, then drilling out the individual instruments completely through the dash panel. Reverse the dash, scribe in a new glove box door and paint flat black. Install a sheet of styrene behind the gauge holes, paint the edges chrome silver and fill them with small gauge decals. He says it looks just fine but I have yet to try this solution myself.
Paint is Duplicolor Alpine Green Pearl which may in fact be slightly dark. The body was painted and polished, then clear coated before applying the decals. This puts a gloss on the body but leaves the decals semi-gloss which I think looks more accurate. Slot racers will want to clear coat after the decals are in place to protect them from racing damage. Also included here are photos of one of the LeMans Replica hardtops painted as the '63 LeMans American entry, photographed at the Cobra Reunion at Sear Point, California in 1995.