1963 Shelby 289 Cobra
$1,000,000 - $1,200,000
RM | Sotheby's - AMELIA ISLAND 2018 - The Cobra in the Barn
- The cover car from Tom Cotter's The Cobra in the Barn
- Famously owned for 24 years by Prozac developer Dr. Bryan Molloy
- Sympathetic restoration using much of its original parts and hardware
- A pure and correct example; original jack, windows, soft top, and tonneau
- Well known and beautifully presented - with a story that is hard to beat
The Shelby Cobra is on every collector's wish list - and for good reason. The hybrid combination of reliable American muscle mated with a svelte British aluminum body looked just "right" and has excited car guys from the moment it was introduced by Carroll Shelby in 1962. Famed auto tester Tom McCahill wrote in the August 1963 issue of Mechanix Illustrated that, "The hairy-chested rat will take some big ones" to drive, and its Yankee torque and horsepower "would snap Gramp's head right off his shoulders."
It is understandable, then, that many of the Cobras were delivered to interesting, even fascinating people, and went on to lead the kind of true lives that would make good fiction. Few, however, have the tale to tell that can beat CSX 2149.
THE CHEMIST, THE COBRA, AND THE RACCOON
Only the 149th Shelby Cobra produced, chassis no. CSX 2149 was shipped to Shelby American in July 1963 and finished in off-white with a red leather interior and Class "A" accessories, including a luggage rack, for a total price of $5,415.50. It was subsequently shipped to the Ford district sales office in Davenport, Iowa, for promotional use.
Dr. Bryan B. Molloy of Indianapolis, a Scottish-born longtime chemist for Eli Lilly and part of the team that developed Prozac, bought the car through a newspaper advertisement in 1969, and shortly thereafter arranged for a new windshield (from AC Cars) and a repaint in bronze. He enjoyed driving it for several years, before tucking it into a barn at the back of his farm, and there it remained, hidden away and virtually forgotten.
In 1993 a delivery man, visiting the Molloy home, discovered the Cobra in the back of the barn, in altogether well-preserved and solid condition. The delivery man shortly thereafter arranged to purchase it from Dr. Molloy's spouse, and retrieved the car from the barn after fending off the Cobra's longtime co-occupant, a surly 30-lb. raccoon. Soon after the fortunate new owner doubled his money in selling the car to a friend, David Doll, who brought it to SAAC-19 in 1994, attracting remarkable attention in the Survivor class for its state of preservation.
Following brief ownership by well-known Cobra collector Billy Weaver, the car was purchased by noted Shelby expert Tom Cotter, the man who has done more anyone to promote the "barn find" mystique with his popular series of "In the Barn" books. The first, The Cobra in the Barn, featured this car on its cover, as well as in a chapter within, detailing its retrieval from the Molloy property.
Cotter and partner Jim Maxwell together restored the car, fortunately returning it to its original white over red color combination, while retaining as much of its originality as possible. In his book, Cotter notes that "the HiPo 289 engine had not run in twenty-five years, but with a new battery and a splash of fuel, the car was running within fifteen minutes." The car had only 21,000 actual miles and still retained much of its original equipment, including the low-rise cast-iron intake manifold, the small Y-type exhaust headers, and spark plug wires. Every effort was made to preserve as many of the original components as possible, keeping the Cobra as authentic and correct as could be.
After completing the car, Cotter and Maxwell sold it in 2005 to the present owner, in whose care it has now been well maintained for the last 13 years. It is offered today with its original jack, side windows, tonneau, and soft top.
Cotter closes his chapter on CSX 2149 by noting that 30 days after its retrieval, the barn in which the Cobra had spent nearly a quarter of a century burned to the ground. One has to thank the delivery man, then, for spotting and saving a wonderful original Cobra - now resurrected and lovingly presented, to a new great home.
May it never see the inside of an old barn again.