One-of-19 original Shelby 427 Competition Cobra heads to auction

By: Alex Affat, Unique Cars magazine

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Shelby Cobra Competition front Shelby Cobra Competition front
Shelby Cobra Competition front square Shelby Cobra Competition front square
Shelby Cobra Competition rear Shelby Cobra Competition rear
Shelby Cobra Competition rear square Shelby Cobra Competition rear square
Shelby Cobra Competition engine Shelby Cobra Competition engine
Shelby Cobra Competition interior Shelby Cobra Competition interior

Available via RM Sothebys, the rare Cobra is one of the few with actual racing provenance

March 9 will see one-of-19 rare original bodied 1965 Shelby 427 Competition Cobras cross the auction block at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale.

It was intended to be a Ferrari-beater on their European home grounds, though complications with FIA Homologation delayed its debut – with just 16 examples (and three more thereafter) being built before Shelby began converting leftover stock into ‘semi-competition’ cars.

While 1964’s 289 Cobras were capable and competitive, Carrol Shelby and Shelby Competition Director Ken Miles knew that they needed even more speed to remain competitive in the 1965 season.

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There was not much more weight to be shed of the car, so the logical next step was so squeeze a bigger engine under the bonnet.

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Shelby’s 427 Cobras never made homologation for the 1965 season; and with regulation changes that would see the car lined up against Ford’s own GT40 in 1966 – Shelby ditched his 427 Cobra factory team endeavours, and instead focused on selling the Competition to privateer owners.

But troubles and delays with the FIA paled in comparison to the 427 Competition’s biggest problem of appeal: its pricetag.

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A 289 Cobra set you back just $5,600 – and so did a Jaguar E-type back then. The sticker price on one of Shelby’s 427 Competition Cobras? $9,600.

While the car was eligible for the 1965 season of SSCA, few could afford to campaign one.

By then, 50 cars had been built originally for FIA Homologation, but just 16 were sold – forcing Shelby American to begin converting the remaining cars into watered-down ‘semi-competition’ variants. Three more Competitions were later built.

One of the few privateer racers who could stump up the cash was one William G. Freeman of Muncie, Indiana.

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The received this car, CSX3006, in January 1965; finished in light metallic blue with gold Le Mans stripes. He raced the car in two SCCA rounds before he unexpectedly received a contract to race in Europe full time.

He listed the car for sale, to no avail, and took the car with him to Europe where it was sold in November to an unnamed Captain of the U.S. Air force.

The Air Force captain sold the car in early 1966 to an English dealership, Chequered Flag.

Chequered Flag converted the car to right-hand drive and refinished the car in white with black bonnet and cowl. It was raced by three F1 drivers – Bob Bondurant, David Piper and Chris Irwin – to the top of the podium at the Ilford 500 at Brands Hatch in May 1966. Making it the only 427 Competition to win a significant race outside of the US.

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Chequered Flag sold the car in 1969 and repurchased the car in 1977. It was then shortly sold to Mike Shoen, an Arizona-based Shelby collector and historian who returned the car to left-hand drive and restored the car.

Throughout the 80s, it passed through the hands of a number of prominent Shelby collectors, before being sold by RM Sothebys at their Amelia Island auction in 2003, for USD$593,600.

The winner of that sale, Larry Bowman, restored the vehicle back to its as-raced state from 1966, including a conversion back to right-hand drive. Two owners later, it ended up under the stewardship of Gary Bartlett, also from Muncie Indiana – who entered the car in the 2012 Bebble Beach Concours d’Elegance, 2013 Concorso Villa D’Este, and the 2015 Goodwood Festival of Speed.

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The car is one of the few boasting genuine racing provenance, numerous Concours appearances – both of which, along with its incredibly rare production pool, lead RM Sotheby’s to estimate an sale of between $3 million and $4 million when CSX3006 goes under the hammer in a matter of weeks.

You can view all cars available at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island sale here.

 

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