First ever Shelby Cobra heading for auction

Published: 30 June 2016

► Original AC Cobra for sale for the first time
► American V8 power, British chassis
► The legend starts here: this is Cobra Genesis

Auction houses aren’t exactly unknown for talking up their forthcoming lots, but RM Sotherby’s description of this car as ‘the most important American sports car ever to be offered for sale’ isn’t just water-tight, it’s practically hydrophobic. ‘CSX 2000’ is the original Shelby Cobra, and it remained in Carroll Shelby’s possession right through from its inception in 1962 until his death in 2012, when it was transferred to the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust.

Why is the original Shelby Cobra CSX 2000 so important?

The big deal about the Cobra is that it combined a lightweight British sports car – the AC Ace – with a whacking great Ford V8, and the big deal about CSX 2000 is that it is the very first example of this idea. In fact, for the first seven months of the Cobra’s life it was the /only/ example, a reality Shelby masterfully sought to conceal by repeatedly repainting the car between motor show and press appearances, suggesting there were several and that production was already in full swing.

RM Sotherby’s supposition is that without CSX 2000 there would not only have been no Cobra, but no Shelby American and consequently no Ford GT40 – and perhaps none of the cars that followed. It’s probably over-egging the pudding to suggest no-one else would have ever thought to combine brute-force American iron with a lightweight chassis, but Shelby got there first.

Tell me more about CSX 2000…

The first Cobra looks a little anaemic by bedroom poster standards, with no sign of the bulbous arches that grace later 427 models. It’s powered by a smaller engine than those 7.0-litre beauties, too: a high-revving, lightweight 260 cubic inch (that’s 4.3-litres…) Ford V8 – still enough to see off 0-60mph in just 4.2sec in a period Road & Track test. It also killed the quarter mile in 13.8sec at 112mph, and hit 153mph flat out. In 1962.

As the first –­ and for a good while only – Cobra, CSX 2000 has appeared in huge numbers of books and magazines, acted as company demonstrator and was even used by employees at the Carroll Shelby School of High Performance Driving for a time. Most recently it’s been on display at the Shelby Heritage Center in Las Vegas, where CAR caught up with it during a road trip in 2014. As you can see from the pics, it’s in unrestored condition, including chips in the paint that allow you to count the legendary layers.

A binding ‘no restoration’ clause should be a condition of the sale. The originality and provenance of this car is key to its value, historical importance and appeal.

How much is the first Shelby Cobra worth?

That’s one of those ‘how long is a piece of string’ kind of questions – and even RM Sotherby’s hasn’t put an estimate on it yet. We’ll all know for sure when the hammer drops at the end of bidding, which will take place during the auctioneer’s annual Monterey sale on 19-20 August 2016 during the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance week.

Other lots in the sale include another Carroll Shelby single-owner Cobra – CSX 3178, a 1965 427 model fitted with an automatic transmission – and a 1999 Shelby Series I Roadster. Just in case you’ve got any spare change left over…

In the Moment: pushing a Cobra way beyond its limits, CAR+ November 2015

By CJ Hubbard

Former CAR magazine associate editor, road tester, organiser, extremely variable average wheel count