There are a great many legends and myths associated with American automobiles, and perhaps the greatest myth-maker of all was one Carroll Shelby.
The man who would go on to become a legend himself also came up with the legendary “Cobra,” a lightweight British sportscar with a powerful V8 under the hood.
The Cobra name itself has become synonymous with the car, but there has always been a question about where the name came from, and whether Shelby had to pay former automaker Crosley $1 to trademark the Cobra name.
The editors at Hemmings Auto Blog looked into this question and came up with some pretty definitive answers.
In 1946 Crosley licensed an engine designed by Lloyd M. Taylor that weighed just 133 pounds with all the accessories, including the flywheel. Built from copper-brazed steel stampings, the water-cooled, overhead camshaft engine was a great generator, but a poor automobile engine. It was officially called the CoBra (which stood for “Copper Brazed”) but by 1949 it was replaced by a cast-iron engine due to rust and overheating issues.
By 1952 Crosley Automobile went out of business, and though the engine patent passed through several other companies, none ever bothered to trademark the CoBra name again. American trademark protection expires after 10 years and 6 month, so when Shelby went ahead with the Cobra name in 1962, he didn’t have to pay anyone a penny, or so Hemmings says.
Does that mean that Shelby’s own legendary account of dreaming of the name “Cobra” is 100% true? Maybe, maybe not, though it is also true that Powell Crosley died just months before Shelby named his creation Cobra. Could this death have awakened memories of the Cobra name? That’s a story none of us will ever really know, but it does add to the Shelby legend, doesn’t it?