The Shelby 289 Cobra needs no introduction, having long secured its place in automotive history as well as on the auction circuit as a prized collector car. Preserved, restored (and sometimes overrestored) Shelby Cobras appear at top auctions with enviable frequency, at times creating the impression that there more of them out there than there really are. The number of original Cobras is certainly finite, but not all of them have been out in the open.
In Scottsdale in just a couple of weeks, Gooding & Co. will offer a 1964 Shelby 289 Cobra described as a time capsule that has been kept out of sight, having been stored in barn in Vermont for the last 40 years.
The story of the Shelby 289 Cobra is one familiar to just about every gearhead. Le Mans-winning American racing driver Carroll Shelby dedicated his time to his business ventures after effectively retiring from racing in 1960, at the age of 37. In addition to opening up a racing school in Riverside, Calif., as well as a racing tire distributorship, Shelby kept an eye on low-volume sports car manufacturing. In 1961 Shelby contacted Charles Hurlock of AC Cars to propose the creation of a hybrid -- as European cars with American engines were called at the time -- one that would use the lightweight AC Ace body along with a powerful V8 engine. Shelby soon had an engine lined up, as Ford was just debuting a new lightweight small-block V8 engine.
This Cobra had just four owners since new, and settled n Vermont in the early 1970s where it was locked up in a barn. Photo by Gooding & Co.
After settling on a list of modifications following a period of experimentation, the Ford V8 was adapted for use in the AC Ace, and it wasn't long before engines were on their way to England to AC's workshops. A total of 654 small-block Cobras would end up being produced by Shelby American: 579 289-powered cars and an additional 75 cars equipped with 260 engines.
This particular example, numbered CSX 2436 and documented in the Shelby American World Registry, was originally finished in Rouge Iris over beige upholstery. The car was optioned with the Class A accessory package, which meant a luggage rack, antifreeze, a radio, antenna, and whitewall tires. The car was shipped to Los Angeles in May of 1964 and then made its way to Greenwich, Connecticut’s Town & Country Motors, Inc, in August of 1964 with the window sticker showing $5,812.31 as delivered.
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Gooding & Co. hasn't stated whether the Cobra currently runs, but it will doubtlessly need a thorough recommissioning and a restoration. Photo by Gooding & Co.
The car was purchased in Connecticut by one Timothy Crowley, who would pass it on to James Wallerstein of White Plains, New York. Its second owner did not keep it long, and in 1971 the car was sold to Ed Jurist’s Vintage Car Store of Nyack, New York. In September of that year the car would change hands again, this time for a reported $5,000 and showing 30,000 miles on the odometer. By that time Gooding & Co. reports that the car had been repainted black. A gentleman named Peter DeSilva of Great Barrington, Mass., acquired the car from the Vintage Car Store, and in 1974 he traded it to his friend Sy Allen who later moved to Vermont, taking the car with him. Allen had an oval race track up in Vermont and a workshop as well, where the Cobra would soon be placed on jacks with the top up in heated storage -- that's where it reportedly remained until just recently.
Gooding & Co. estimates this example will fetch between $1 million and $1.4 million on auction day. Barn-find Cobras as a category -- and there is such a category -- come to auction once every few years. An unrestored 1962 Shelby Cobra 260 with chassis number CSX 2040, one of the earliest examples of the model, recently sold for $2,068,000 at the Bonhams Quail Auction in August 2013. That was a very clean car showing just 4,700 miles -- basically in need of a mechanical recommissioning and some minor attention to a few bits -- with a pre-sale estimate of $850,000 to $1.1 million.
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Gooding & Co. estimates that this Cobra will bring between $1 million and $1.4 million on auction day. Photo by Gooding & Co.
Gooding's estimate here seems a reflection of the result achieved back in 2013, and it appears to be a very realistic one. The question here, aside from the sale price, will be whether to preserve or restore. And if to restore, then to what degree? The leather will need serious attention, while the exterior paint may be maintained as-is for a scruffy barn-find look, even though there will probably be some desire to restore it to its original color. Either way, it'll be interesting to see what this example will command on auction day. It'll be a fresh benchmark until the next Cobra emerges from some dusty barn in about a year.
Visit the Gooding & Co. Auctions website for a complete list of lots and auction schedule, and be sure to check out our Scottsdale auction page for complete news on the Arizona auction action.
Jay Ramey - Jay Ramey is an Associate Editor with Autoweek, and has been with the magazine since 2013. Jay also likes to kayak and bike.
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