1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster
Editor’s Note: Fast is as fast does. I don’t really know what that means, but if this ’66 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster could talk, we’d have the answer. Cobras, you see, know all about fast. This original example crossed the block at RM Auctions’ January 2012 Arizona sale. Thanks RM for the words and photos. Thanks to companies like Factory Five Racing, Superformance, Unique Motorcars and Kirkham, we regular Joes know about fast, too.
Photo Credit: Tim Scott ©2011 Courtesy of RM Auctions
1966 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster
Sold for $880,000
Chassis no. CSX3228
Photo Credit: Tim Scott ©2011 Courtesy of RM Auctions
427 cu. in. Ford V-8 engine with dual four-barrel carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel coil spring independent suspension, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90″
• A highly original example with three owners from new
• Single ownership for three decades
• Carefully maintained with fewer than 11,000 original miles
• Documented in Shelby American World Registry; copy of original invoice
The thundering Shelby Cobra is unquestionably one of the most important American performance icons of the 20th century. Rooted in the brilliant racing career and boundless grit of its creator Carroll Shelby, the Cobra singlehandedly vaulted Ford Motor Company’s “Total Performance” corporate racing program onto the international stage and marked a crucial step in Ford’s eventual dominance over archrival Ferrari at Le Mans during the 1960s.
With Shelby’s leadership, the era’s top drivers and a “dream team” including Ken Miles, Phil Remington, Pete Brock and many other racing luminaries in the background, the Ford-powered, AC Ace-derived Cobra was brutally quick and dead reliable, quickly earning its stripes and winning virtually everywhere it appeared. The Cobra won the U.S. Manufacturer’s Championship three years running in 1963, 1964 and 1965, and with sleek Pete Brock-designed Daytona Coupe bodywork, Shelby American Inc. won the hotly contested 1965 FIA World Manufacturer’s Championship.
Although the 289 Cobra was proven and immensely successful, more power was needed to stay competitive. Since Ford’s 289 V-8 reached its reliability limit at 385 hp, Shelby’s stalwart driver and engineer, Ken Miles, surmised an even bigger engine might work within the trim confines of the Cobra. If there was any doubt about the need, it evaporated when the Shelby team went to Nassau for the 1963 Speed Week, where Chevrolet’s new Corvette Grand Sports were lapping more than nine seconds quicker than the small-block Cobras!
However, while Shelby was initially promised a new aluminum-block version of Ford’s 390 FE engine, internal resistance from the NASCAR faction within Ford forced a switch to the heavier cast-iron 427. Although powerful, proven and reliable at 500 bhp and beyond, it was heavier and therefore necessitated a complete redesign of the Cobra’s chassis to ensure proper handling. The new chassis measured five inches wider, with coil springs all around, and with development help from Ford’s engineering department, the 427 Cobra was born.
The cars were brutally fast. Driving one continues to be a mind-bending experience. One of the most memorable stories about the 427 Cobra involves a test arranged for Sports Car Graphic magazine by Shelby’s Ken Miles. A few years earlier, Aston Martin claimed that their DB4 was capable of accelerating from zero to 100 mph and back down to zero in less than 30 seconds. Miles had the idea to restage the test using the new 427 Cobra. The result, according to SCG editor Jerry Titus, was an astounding 13.2 seconds!
Shelby’s big-block cars were never mass-produced, with just over 300 built, including 260 street cars, 23 full-competition cars and 27 S/C (semi-competition) Cobras. In all forms, the 427 Cobra was a mighty racing car and virtually unbeatable on the road.
Today, it is exceedingly difficult to find a good original and unrestored car like CSX3228, the Cobra offered here. It is documented in the Shelby American World Register, and according to the invoice from AC Cars to Shelby American dated March 10, 1966, CSX3228 was originally finished in red acrylic paint with black upholstery, the color scheme it retains today, and powered by a 428 V-8, as per its 3200-series CSX number. Once complete, it was shipped to Henderson Ford Sales of Ann Arbor, Michigan, from where it was eventually shipped to Jack Loftus Ford of Hinsdale, Illinois.
The first known owner of CSX3228 was John Kaufman of Canton, Ohio, who retained it until it was sold to James Weigle of Parkersburg, West Virginia during the summer of 1976, with the car having accumulated just 9,300 miles by then. According to the Shelby Registry, CSX3228 was described by Mr. Weigle as having been somewhat dismantled with two engines near the car, one being a proper cross-bolted 427, which is the engine he took with the car. Mr. Weigle reassembled the Cobra and retained it for the next 30 years until mid-2006, adding only about 1,100 miles and rejecting repeated offers to sell the car. Remarkably, while the original paintwork was selectively repaired, the Cobra remained unrestored and retained the original interior upholstery, while the excellent soft-top dated at least to Mr. Weigle’s purchase of CSX3228 in 1976.
In 2006, the current owner acquired CSX3228 from Mr. Weigle, and it was exported to Austria, where it is currently registered. Upon its arrival, the car was tucked away within the owner’s private automobile collection and, in 2007, received a bare-metal repaint, as very little of the factory-original finish remained on the car due to the paintwork performed over the years. The Cobra has been serviced annually, with the current owner logging only about 300 additional miles, most of them accumulated on return trips from the aforementioned regular service appointments. Most recently, the brake fluid was changed, and the carburetors, starter and motor oil were checked prior to the car’s shipment for sale.
It is a truly rare occasion to find a correct, highly original and unrestored 427 Cobra with no known accident history and only three owners from new. In particular, CSX3228 is well known to Shelby aficionados, highly documented within the Shelby American World Registry and complete with a copy of the original invoice from A.C. Cars to Shelby American. Furthermore, with just three owners and fewer than 11,000 original miles from new, CSX3228 “ticks all the boxes” for desirability and enduring value in today’s market and is offered complete with its original factory soft-top and side curtains. Its recent exterior refinish is excellent, the interior remains original and highly attractive, and the car is simply an excellent, “no stories” example of this legendary breed. Representing both the ultimate American sports car and the eventual victor in the epic “Cobra vs. Ferrari” wars of the 1960s, CSX3228 is supremely desirable, combining both investment potential and, of course, enormous levels of race-bred performance.