Carroll Shelby may have created the Shelby Cobra, but there’s only one Cobra that belonged to Shelby, it’s this one.
The Shelby Cobra has been a long sought after collector car, considering there were only 343 cars built between 1965 and 1967. If you see a Cobra out and about, 9 times out of 10 it’s actually just a replica.
But when this Cobra crosses the block this coming January at Mecum’s Kissimmee auction, there will be no doubt about its authenticity. That’s because chassis number CSX3178 was Carroll’s personal Cobra.
As you would expect, this 1965 427 Cobra is extremely well documented, first appearing in Shelby American’s ordering system on January 7, 1966. It left the company’s California production facility for Shelby’s home in Dallas on March 3 of the same year. CSX3178 was built with a 427-cubic-inch V8, a four-speed manual transmission, and finished in Charcoal Gray paint. It does lack some uniqueness as it’s actually one of five Cobras finished in the same shade of gray.
Caroll Shelby owned the car until his death in 2012, and over the years there were many modifications made to CSX3178. Cobra specialist Mike McCluskey repainted the car in Guardsman Blue, with a gold nose and a custom-designed roll bar as requested by the former chicken farmer.
Following those changes, the original engine was yanked and replaced with an even more powerful V8. The 4-speed manual transmission was also swapped for an automatic at some point. Lastly, in 2002, Shelby American’s in-house team gave CSX3178 a coat of red paint as part of an overhaul.
In 2016 the car was resold for the first time through RM Sotheby’s. Its second owner decided to undertake the painful process of undoing all the modifications that Caroll Shelby himself requested in order to restore the car to factory fresh status, making it look exactly like it did the day it showed up at Shelby’s home.
Mecum isn’t saying how much cash the storied Cobra is expected to capture, but keep in mind that when CSX3178 was sold in 2016 the transaction totaled $1,375,000. Considering the full restoration the car has received and the relative strength of Cobra values it wouldn’t be surprising to see Carroll’s car trade for something north of $2 million.
Even at that price it would be a far cry from the most expensive Cobra ever sold. That honor goes to chassis number CSX2000–the first one ever built–which traded hands for a petite $13.75 million.
– By Michael Accardi