Cobra Successor? 1994 Kelly Python Prototype

Update 10/14/20 – The seller of this Python has lowered their price by $2k. Is that enough to find a buyer for this unique Mustang? Find it here on craigslist for $37,500. Thanks for to Pat L for the tip!

From 8/28/20 – In 1967, AC unfortunately ended production of the Ace that Shelby’s Cobra was based on. Given the success of the Cobra and the image it created for Ford, there was interest at Ford to keep the Cobra going. Eugene Bordinat, the Vice President of Styling at Ford went to work designing a potential replacement for the AC sourced Ace. Bordinat’s design was a bit too advanced for the time and was never put into production. A few prototypes were built and apparently lost. When Alvin Kelly found one of these prototype bodies, he decided to cast a model and start building the Cobra that never was. A handful of Kelly Pythons were built and it’s believed that only seven remain. This is one of those and can be found here on craigslist in Palm Springs, California with a $39,500 asking price. Special thanks to JohninCM for the tip!

Given how few Pythons were built, detailed/accurate information is fairly sparse. What we do know is that these cars were based on the Fox-body Mustang, used lots of Ford parts, and apparently received Ford’s blessing, as they were sold in Ford dealerships. And this is where the story gets really interesting! These weren’t kit cars, rather fully turnkey vehicle that came with a factory warranty. Each car was taken directly from the factory, the body removed, the chassis reinforced, the suspension reworked by Lotus, and the Bordinat styled body installed.

The seller doesn’t offer any of the car’s history or story, but it appears to have been found in a storage unit. It’s been cleaned up and is said to run and drive like new. The seller notes that under the hood is the 5.0 HO V8 that’s paired to a 5-speed. With 46k miles on the odometer, it should have lots of life left in it. The interior looks to be in good shape, although the seller notes that it needs a new convertible top installed.

What an incredibly interesting find! The body design is fantastic and the fact that it’s based on such a common vehicle means you will be able to easily keep it on the road. I for one would sure love to know more of this car’s history and if the convertible top is a regular Mustang part. So, what do you think of this oddball? Had Shelby put this design into production, would it have done the Cobra name justice?

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  1. MattR Member

    What a find. What year were these prototypes produced? The angles suggest sometime in the ’80s.

    As I kid with car posters like the Vector W2 on my wall back then, I really like the body and stance a lot.

    However, they did a big disservice with the execution what that dash. Perhaps that was still on the list for the production cars.

    Like 5
    • Josh Josh Staff

      They started building these in the early ’90s, but the body design was done in the late ’60s. When you really start looking at it, you can see a few design elements that are very similar to the first Mustang prototype. It seems like the mold taken from Bordinat’s original design would have had to been modified to fit on the Fox body chassis.

      The dash is straight out of the Mustang. I’m sure part of that was cost savings, but probably also made it easier to sell them.

      Like 9
      • MattR Member

        Thanks for the info Josh. I looked up that mustang prototype and definitely see the similarities up front.

        Like 4
    • Darrun

      The brass tag in the CL photo says it’s a 1994.

      Like 5
  2. greg v.

    wow, never heard of these before! Looks like some Cougar II DNA in that body to me for sure:

    cool car, love the Lotus involvement too.

    greg v.

    Like 12
    • PHJ

      So what car is in the link? Not the same as being sold. That silver car looks great. Way better than the black one. Better interior, etc.

      Like 1
      • scott m

        I really like them both, but that silver one is beautiful!

        Like 1
  3. Jaydawg7 Jaydawg7 Member

    Obviously Thunderbird taillights, circa 1981-ish. But that dash is definitely 87-90(?) Mustang

    Like 8
    • Ten50boy

      87-93 dash

      Like 5
      • Tom McGuinness

        Likely a ‘90 to ‘93 Mustang platform. It has an air bag in the steering wheel. First year for that was 1990. The seats, dash, shifter and what can be seen of the door panels are all OEM Mustang of that era.

        Like 3
    • James Demestihas

      and seats

      Like 2
  4. Big Len

    A few decent pictures on CL would have been helpful.

    Like 6
  5. bobhess bobhess Member

    One half good picture of the car and two good shots of a trailer.

    Like 6
    • Patrick Farmer

      What trailer? Since when does a trailer have a concrete floor?

  6. Ike Onick

    Monty Python.

    Like 4
    • Mitchell Gildea Member

      But if I buy it, will it help me look on the bright side of life?

      Like 2
  7. chrlsful

    24 pic & not one to show the car, thank you greg.
    Yeah ! Too bad only 7 made? Can that B true? The
    real age of the glass body makers 60s & 70s had doz
    of companies come (well, not really) and go. One site I
    visit has this to say:

    Like 3
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      Thanks, chrlsful! The red Python in the link you give looks a helluva lot better. Better leather seats for sure, and the brass tag on the dash has Carroll Shelby’s signature on it. Funny, though, the red Python kept the Thunderbirds in the center of those awful way-too-square tail lights.

      Like 2
    • scott m

      This picture ties in the feature car and the link by greg v. Lots to like!

  8. Martin Horrocks

    AC Ace production stopped in 1963. The Ace was the complete basis of the Cobra, chassis, supension steering etc, not just the aluminium body as the write up suggests.The Cobra stopped in 1967 not so much because they couldn´t build any more body/chassis units, but because nobody was buying what was a crude machine up against late 60s competitors.

    I´m afraid that getting the known knowns wrong doesn´t help the credibility of the rest of the story. 10 years down the road from the last Cobras, I don´t see even a remote connection between this Fox Mustang derivative and AC/ Shelby. Try turning up at a Cobra owners meeting and shooting that line…..Given the funds and numbers invoilved, I doubt the Lotus connection too, but happy to be wrong on all counts.

    Like 5
    • Josh Josh Staff

      The year was a typo, I meant ’67, but must have hit 8 by accident. And I didn’t mean to suggest that AC only provided the body, as they did in fact provide the entire vehicle to Shelby. Sorry for the mistakes, both of those issues have been corrected.

      Like 3
    • Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

      Here is one next to some famous Cobras. We had a white Python last on Barn Finds in the fall of 2019. “One of 7.” It even wore standard Ford Fox body Mustang wheels! What’s more, every one I’ve seen in photos retains the Ford factory mirrors which are hideous and too dang 1980s.

      Like 4
      • Phil

        Mirrors and dash were probably used since they were and are highly-regulated in new cars.

        Stopping the Cobra in 1967 was probably for the same reason as stopping the Big Healey in 1967: The USA instituted lots of rules on January 1 1968.

        Like 1
  9. Keith

    Looks like an amalgamation of several kit cars. Is that a Fiero gauge cluster?
    After this Barn Find, they dropped a few notches in my book.

    Like 1
  10. Jasper

    Need something to park next to your Tasmin?

    Like 1
  11. TimM

    Cool but it’s hard to believe that a 5 liter is the replacement for the Cobra!! Yes the Cobra started as a five liter but moved into big block status and never looked back!!

    Like 1
    • John

      Cobra started as a 260. Not 5 liters.

      Like 4
      • Ten50boy

        Plus the AC Ace prior to the cobra…. used a Bristol I6, a Ford I6, I believe another….I6 made by AC themselves. I think they even mixed in a few with small displacement Chrysler engines. The AC started with the 260, quickly followed by 289’s before the bad boy big blocks. AC did it right with the Cobra. Unfortunately, they completely missed the mark with this slapped together mess. What a waste of a Fox body…… which is only going up in value based upon desire….. not like this car….. that’s only going to have any value only based on rarity. Fugly. Couldn’t even decide on what it wanted to be…..a sports car? Pony car? Mustang? T-bird? Just fugly……

  12. Little_Cars Little_Cars Member

    Actually has more stylistic elements of the Cougar II showcar from the 1960s in the front. Shame the photos suck so bad, for close to $40k you can’t really make out what this looks like from any dimensional standpoint. Boring Mustang dash and rear end treatment.

    Like 3
  13. Alexandre

    I think is simply fox gt convertible with body modification.

    Like 5
  14. Steve S

    If I had this I would get rid of the 302 for a 351 Windsor or 427 or 428 or any 429 or the boss 9 with a 4 speed manual transmission.

    • BONE

      If I had this I would get rid of it .

      Like 5
  15. scott m

    Just when I think I’ve seen it all! Well, haven’t believed that for 20 years or so, and it is always nice to see a fresh face. I could live with the dash, parts availability is a nice plus. Price for a rarity like this is ok, and what a great view from the rear!

    Like 2
  16. Ray L.

    If found in a storage unit, is there a clear title? Also, why would anyone abandon this in a storage unit? I thought those stupid storage realty shows were all fake, like Pawn Stars.

    Like 1
  17. Patrick Farmer

    Ford missed the boat on this one! All those design by committee sessions didn’t really work out for them. They always produce a design that is hobbled by the lowest common denominator. The most stupidest, inept, incompetent, uneducated, unqualified, most likely sleazy, intrusive, overbearing, prescriptive, arrogant, horses patootie that ever walked off the used car lot. This car after it was made a real car, it would have been a design game changer. They could have called it the Boss, Cobra, Mach 2, Mercury Cougar, Lincoln Mark VIII. They could have named it the Ford Turd and it would have sold big time.
    A “What do drive?” B ” I drive a Turd.” A “It’s that bad?” B “Naw it’s a great car.”

    • Phil Ethier

      Reminds me of the Mad Magazine parody ad on the Furd Foulcar.

  18. Chris Sawyer

    I can almost guarantee — even without asking former co-workers in England — that Lotus had absolutely nothing to do with this car, other than supply the badge taken from an Isuzu Impulse.

    As for the original from which this car is drawn, here’s the story that appeared on the Ford Performance website in 2018:

    Like 1

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