The Real Deal – 1962 Shelby ‘Factory Competition-Specification’ Cobra
Photo Credit: Robb DeCamp ©2012 Courtesy of RM Auctions
289 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine with four twin-choke Weber carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, ladder-type steel tubing chassis with independent front and rear suspension with A-arms, transverse leaf springs, and tube shock absorbers, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90 in.
• Originally owned by Grand Prix driver and Scarab founder Lance Reventlow
• Built to factory competition specification with unusual options
• Known ownership history from new
• Superb, concours quality presentation with numerous purposeful upgrades
Few tales of automotive history loom larger than that of Carroll Shelby and his Cobra. By the time Shelby approached England’s AC Cars in 1961, with the intention of installing a Ford V-8 engine into the beautiful AC Ace Roadster, the concept of stuffing a powerful large-bore motor into a lightweight body was nothing new. But between his marketing savvy engineering vision and fortuitous timing, Shelby became the most successful purveyor of the idea, and the resulting Shelby Cobra became the ultimate execution of this concept. Although Shelby’s original purpose for challenging Ferrari’s racing supremacy wasn’t truly realized until the emergence of the aerodynamic Daytona Coupe and his subsequent participation in Ford’s GT40 program, the original Cobra, nonetheless, quickly became a celebrated workhorse of the SCCA racing circuit, as well as European FIA championships, and the singularly most handsome dual-purpose roadster that remains one of the archetypal legends of American racing and sports car production.
Even among the distinguished ranks of the Shelby Cobra, CSX 2032 holds particular appeal in its ownership provenance and rare and desirable original special order configuration. According to the Cobra Registry, this car was initially billed to Shelby American by AC Cars on October 24, 1962, just 11 days after the Cobra’s milestone first race at Riverside, California, with that car piloted by Bill Krause. Shipped to Shelby’s famous Venice, California shop, CSX 2032 was invoiced for sale to Lance Reventlow, of Beverly Hills, on January 2, 1963, as confirmed by a copy of its original Shelby American invoice.
Vintage racing aficionados will instantly recognize Grand Prix driver Reventlow as the glamorous founder of the Scarab racing concern, as well as a principal designer of the team’s visionary and beautiful cars. The only son of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton and a Danish count, Reventlow cut his teeth racing Cooper Formula 2 cars, but he is almost equally renowned for his A-list, jet-setting lifestyle, which included associations with many of Hollywood’s elite. Longtime friend Cary Grant was the second of many stepfathers, while model and actress Jill St. John was courted by and betrothed to Reventlow prior to their divorce in 1963. Indeed, Ms. St. John was married to Reventlow when he took delivery of his Cobra.
Although Reventlow curiously walked away from racing in 1962 (ironically he died in a plane crash 10 years later), his withdrawal from the company of fast machines was gradual, and he still dabbled in the day’s finest sports cars even after his retirement from competition. It is quite fitting that Reventlow chose to purchase a Shelby Cobra: in June 1962, he had rented out his recently shuttered Scarab factory in Venice, California to Shelby American, which prior to then had been located in nearby Santa Fe Springs. Possibly as an attempt to lend support to Shelby’s new company, Reventlow’s purchase of the specially equipped CSX 2032 can be regarded as an intriguing epilogue to his largely unknown role at the birthplace of one of America’s most revered sports cars.
As reflected by the Shelby American invoice copy, Reventlow ordered CSX 2032 with a likely unique configuration of options. Given his background as a racing driver, it is unsurprising that he based his specification on the Cobra competition cars, including aluminum rocker covers, racing tires, a racing oil pan, an aluminum intake manifold, a roll bar and sway bars, and a competition ignition system. As such, CSX 2032 may properly be regarded as a factory competition-specification example, if not an authentic team car.
In addition to these racing aspects, CSX 2032 was ordered with a number of more luxurious road car features, such as a chromed air cleaner, front and rear bumper guards, a sun visor, and wind wings. Thus, Reventlow optioned the ultimate Cobra perfectly for a playboy ex-race car driver, one that offered full competition-capable performance but was still replete with certain comforts, making the car truly tractable around town. Within a few years, Reventlow sold CSX 2032, and before long, it appeared on the showroom floor of SCU Lotus Central Foreign Cars in Michigan.
By the early-1970s, this Cobra came into the possession of Don Burgess, of Cedar Falls, Iowa, who, in August 1974, sold it to Bill Kemper, of Barrington, Illinois. When Mr. Kemper sold the car a year later, it featured a number of authentic upgrades, including a proper 289-cubic inch Ford “Hi-Po” engine. Purchased then by Ron Ressman, of Waukesha, Wisconsin, this Shelby was treated to its first restoration in 1978, which was performed by top Cobra expert Bill Murray, of Longmont, Colorado. In addition to completely refurbishing the Cobra’s mechanicals, Mr. Murray installed six-inch painted wire wheels, side pipe exhausts, and side vents, all common modifications consistent with later competition Cobra examples. Mr. Murray also repainted the car in black, an undeniably elegant color livery that graces the car to this day.
Passing through the care of Bill Hansen, of Florida, in 1979, CSX 2032 was subsequently acquired by well-known Cobra collector Joe Rodman Jr., of Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, before being sold in the mid-1980s to John Prokell, of Bentleyville, Pennsylvania. In late-1993, this Cobra was offered for sale in Princeton, New Jersey, where it was acquired by Herm Rosenman, of nearby Cherry Hill. Mr. Rosenman supplemented the car’s tasteful evolution by installing four twin-choke Weber carburetors, adding another shot of adrenaline to the engine’s already considerable power.
In early-1997, George Sicz, of Winnipeg, Canada, purchased CSX 2032 with an eye for vintage racing, and he quickly retained Peter Klutt’s Legendary Motorcars, in Milton, Ontario, to conduct some minor work as needed. Not long after, Mr. Sicz arranged to sell the car to Mr. Klutt following a back injury that forced him to abstain from further racing activities. Discovering the Cobra’s unusual competition specifications and former Reventlow ownership, Mr. Klutt invested in a more serious overhaul, which included fitting the car with authentic Halibrand alloy racing wheels, as well as the addition of a competition-style fuel filler with a rear-cowl splash-shield, front fender spats, and Raydyot competition mirrors. Its black finish was also supplemented with yellow racing stripes, in homage to the team competition Cobra (CSX 2128) driven by Dan Gurney at the 1963 12-Hours of Sebring. CSX 2032 was soon acquired by Richard Cohen, of Delray Beach, Florida, in June 2005.
Acquired in mid-2006 by the consignor, a hard-core Shelby aficionado residing in West Virginia, this breathtaking Cobra has been lovingly preserved in careful storage ever since, accruing no more than a handful of miles. This most recent obsessive owner has undertaken a few minor measures to perfect the car, including cleaning and refinishing the frame, equipping the brakes with competition-style rotors, and reinstalling the car’s original sway-bars, which he acquired from former owner Bill Kemper.
Currently in a highly impressive state of cosmetic presentation, CSX 2032 could easily be prepared for a fearsome run at vintage race events or as a spectacular concours entrant at SAAC National meets, or one could expect a star turn at virtually any regional show. It is a very well documented car with a track record of ownership by true Cobra enthusiasts who have dutifully upgraded the car with a thoughtful assemblage of authentic, proper Shelby components. Beyond its prodigious mechanical specifications and desirable, individualized original option combination, CSX 2032 is notable for its bona fide associations with one of American post-war racing’s most influential figures, the charismatic Lance Reventlow. Breathtaking in its awesome power and timeless beauty, CSX 2032 would crown the finest of collections, and it is a captivating testament to the legendary genius of the late Carroll Shelby.