Followup: Did Shelby buy the Cobra name/ logo from Crosley?
- View SourceOur Crosleys pioneered many ahead-of-their-time advances.
Overhead cams and envelope bodies by 1946.
The use of the Sports-Utility name in 1947.
Four-wheel disc brakes by 1949.
The use of the Super Sport name long before Chevrolet.
And the Cobra name by 1946, which predated the Shelby Cobra of the 1960s.
Carroll Shelby started racing five years after Crosley Motors introduced its revolutionary overhead-cam Lloyd M. Taylor-designed engine developed during World War II to power generators, made from approximately 125 or so 125 sheet steel stampings copper-brazed into a 14-pound engine in a custom furnace at Crosley's Cincinnati factory. After accessories were bolted on, The CoBra weighed 59 pounds total.
During World War II, Powel Crosley Jr. was aware that the bigger new postwar Crosleys needed more power that the original cars' Waukesha-built Cub 150 Twins were able to produce, and he got wind of the Taylor engine and secured licensing rights to it.
But the CoBra was designed to be a stationary engine, and it developed internal rust and electrolytic damage from the dissimilar copper and steel seam-brazing processes. Worse, just one overheating instance from low coolant or broken hoses would destroy the engine. The military could handle these problems, but too many stranded Crosley customers spread the word, and the cars' early positive reputation was damaged, so much so that by 1949 Crosley reinvented the CoBra in cast iron, and called it the CIBA (for Cast-Iron Block Assembly). But by 1949 it was already too late to save the Crosley automobile. (Some CoBra engines still continue powering Crosleys today.)
When Carroll Shelby was just starting out in racing, Crosley was simultaneously closing up shop, although CIBAs remained in service powering special track cars. And when Shelby's health problems soon compromised his race-driving career, he dreamed of building his own racers.
In the book "The Cobra Story", Shelby told of securing an AC chassis and body from the UK and some Ford V-8s to achieve his car-building dream, and he relates this occurrence: "A strange thing happened. One night I had a dream in which I saw the name `Cobra' on the front of the new car. I woke up and jotted the name down on a pad which I kept by my bedside ... Next morning, when I looked at the name `Cobra,' I knew it was right."
And he went on to write: "We ran into an unexpected problem while getting the paperwork ready to apply for a copyright ... It suddenly turned up that, years before, Crosley had built an engine which they had called a `Cobra,' ... Fortunately, however, it had passed through nine different companies with the engine, rights, and patents, etc., changing hands each time, and not one of those nine successive firms had ever used the name `Cobra.' It therefore turned out that the name Cobra no longer could be considered a valid trade name insofar as Crosley was concerned, and we were able to copyright it." Some inside sources say that Ford lawyers looked into the copyrights and told Shelby there'd be no clearance problems with the name.
The issue of whether the several successors to Crosley Motors, Inc. also got the rights to the CoBra/Cobra name has been lost to history. We do know that General Tire (1952-1955), Fageol (1955-1959), Crofton (1959-1961), Homelite (1961-1966) and Fisher Pierce from 1966 on never used the catchy but unfortunately discredited name of CoBra/Cobra, and the Lanham Act of 1946 specifies that any trademarked name is protected for only ten years, though it can be renewed if the term is still being used, so Carroll Shelby was free to use it when his car production began in 1962, just months after the well-publicized death of Powel Crosley Jr.