1967 Shelby 427 Cobra
$1,350,000 - $1,450,000
RM | Sotheby's - ARIZONA 17 - 18 JANUARY 2019 - Offered on Friday
- Formerly of the Otis Chandler Collection
- Fresh, fully documented concours-quality restoration
Widely recognized as one the most significant performance cars ever produced, the muscular, fire-breathing Cobra succeeded in capturing the hearts of enthusiasts like few of its contemporaries. Texan Carroll Shelby had gone racing in Europe in the late 1950s and realized that a combination of a lightweight American V-8 engine and a proven European chassis was a winning combination. He had a Ford V-8 installed in the chassis of an AC Ace, named it the Cobra, and proved his point.
Shelby contracted with AC Cars to ship Cobras (with empty engine bays) from England to be completed at his shop in California. The 260-cu. in. prototype first ran in January 1962, with production commencing later that year. In 1963 the more powerful 289-cu. in. Ford engine was standardized. Rack-and-pinion steering was the major Mk II update; then in 1965 a new, stronger, coil-suspended Mk III chassis was introduced to accommodate Ford’s 427 and later 428-cu. in. V-8s, which in race trim could produce well in excess of 400 bhp. Wider bodywork, extended wheel-arch flares, and a bigger radiator intake combined to create the legendarily aggressive and often mimicked Cobra Mk III persona.
The Cobra raised the bar of performance for road cars and was highly effective in competition. Approximately 1,000 Cobras of all types were built between 1962 and 1967. As with all his cars, Shelby intended to see that they were winners on the track. In order to qualify as a production car under FIA rules for the GT class, manufacturers were required to produce a minimum of 100 cars. With Shelby’s strong relationship with privateer racers, he was confident he could sell that many, and as a result, a competition-spec version of the new 427 was developed. Competition features included a wider body to accommodate wider wheels and tires, an oil cooler, side exhaust, external fuel filler, front jacking points, roll bar, and a special 42-gallon fuel tank.
Regardless of the model – full competition, S/C semi-competition, or regular street specification – Shelby’s big block Cobra was a sports car unlike any that preceded it. Performance was mind-blowing, with the extraordinary power-to-weight ratio allowing for tire-shredding sprints to 60 mph in about four seconds.
The Cobra offered here, CSX 3281, is fully documented in the Shelby American Registry. It left Shelby American painted green with a black interior, powered by a 428-cu. in. V-8. The car was billed to Don Seelye Ford of Kalamazoo, Michigan, in September 1966, with the only added option being a radio. Records show Seelye Ford received a freight credit, and because of this the car was most likely trucked out to the dealership in Michigan. Its first known owner was Timothy H. Parker of Houston, Texas, from whom it was purchased in the early 1970s by Donald Mansker, also of Houston. Thereafter, the car went to Sacramento in 1976, as it was acquired by Rick Reese. Reese, who worked at Cobra Performance in Sacramento, replaced the car’s original 428 engine with a 427-cu. in. big block and modified the car with a full roll cage, rectangular taillights (instead of the original twin round ones), and enlarged rear flares to fit wide Jongbloed wheels. Finished in red, the car also received a hood scoop, S/C dash layout, and side pipes. It was offered for sale in 1977 after an eight-month restoration. It went unsold, however, and was traded back to Mansker in exchange for a 289 Cobra – the same car Reese traded CSX 3281 for in the first place.
In 1979 CSX 3281 was acquired by Don Blenderman and Larry Wheeler of Oklahoma before being advertised for sale with the same S/C upgrades and a 42-gallon fuel tank. Its next owner was another Texan, Sloan Kritser, who sent the car to Bill Murray in Colorado for a full restoration, where the roll cage was removed and replaced with the correct S/C roll bar. Refinished in black, it was fitted with chrome side pipes and quick jacks as well as 7.5/9.5 Halibrands and a competition gas cap. The enlarged rear flares remained in place. Mr. Murray is widely recognized as one of the foremost Cobra experts and restorers in the country. He also has significant racing experience, having driven Cobras, GT40s, and a Cobra Daytona Coupe in historic racing competition.
With the restoration completed in 1984, Kritser never returned to pick up the car, and it was sold to Courtney J. Catron Jr. of Colorado before it was acquired in the fall of 1987 by renowned collector Otis Chandler of Oxnard, California, for his Vintage Museum of Transportation. CSX 3281 was photographed for the cover of the 1990 fall/winter Classic Motorbooks catalogue and was also photographed with Chandler’s other cars in Randy Leffingwell’s American Muscle as well as the Cars & Parts ’93 Collector Car Annual.
After nearly 20 years in Mr. Chandler’s respected collection, it changed hands several times before being purchased by Motorcars International in Illinois who conducted a comprehensive restoration back to its original green and black livery before being acquired by its current owner. Every effort was made to correctly restore CSX 3281 to how it looked when it was delivered new in 1967. The entire restoration was carefully documented with photos and receipts detailing every aspect of this beautiful Cobra’s return to its original glory.
Restored authentically to concours quality, it has been driven only test miles since restoration and has yet to be exhibited, presenting an exciting opportunity for its next owner to display and enjoy this crisp, like-new iconic Shelby Cobra.