Genuine examples of the Shelby Cobra are extremely sought-after in a sea of replicas built with varying degrees of accuracy. One of the most famous examples, chassis number CSX3178, promises to spark a merciless bidding war when it crosses the auction block in January 2021, because it was owned by the man who created it.
Carroll Shelby’s personal 1965 427 Cobra is well documented. It first appeared in the company’s ordering system on January 7, 1966, and it left the factory for Shelby’s home in Dallas on March 3 of that year. Mecum Auctions pointed out CSX3178 was built with a 427-cubic-inch V8 and a four-speed manual transmission, and it’s one of five units finished in Charcoal Gray. Shelby was more concerned with performance than originality, however.
Well-known Cobra specialist Mike McCluskey repainted CSX3178 in Guardsman Blue with a gold nose and added a custom-designed roll bar at Shelby’s request. Later on, the original engine was removed and replaced with a more powerful V8, and its manual transmission was swapped for an automatic. Finally, in 2002, the firm’s in-house body team gave CSX3178 a coat of red paint as part of an overhaul inside and out.
Shelby kept the car in his personal collection until his death in 2012; it was often displayed at his company’s headquarters in Las Vegas, Nevada. It was sold by auction house RM Sotheby’s in 2016, and its second owner went through the painstakingly long process of making it look like it did on the day it showed up in front of Shelby’s house. It’s now once again painted in Charcoal gray and fitted with an original-style drivetrain.
Mecum hasn’t provided a pre-auction estimate, but keep in mind that this Cobra last traded hands for $1,375,000 in 2016 (including the buyer’s fee), and that was before it received a full restoration. Cobra values haven’t dropped since, so nothing suggests it will sell for less, and we wouldn’t be surprised if it goes over $2 million.
It’s unlikely to become the most expensive Cobra, though. That honor still goes to chassis number CSX2000, which was the very first example built. It traded hands for $13.75 million including the buyer’s fee, in 2016.