Cobra vs. Saleen in Scottsdale

Starbucks and Saleen — a perfect way to start the day

Who wouldn’t like driving a Saleen S7 or a 289 Cobra?

I had the chance to get behind the wheel of 15 top-flight collector cars during the last two weeks while I evaluated them for “What’s My Car Worth?” on Velocity.

Normally during Arizona Car Week, I spend as much time wandering from auction to auction as I do working on the television show. But this year we had to look at 30 cars from Barrett-Jackson and 15 from RM Sotheby’s. Consequently, I spent more time behind the wheel than I did in front of the auction block. As there were SCM reporters and staff at every auction, my absence had no impact on our reporting.

I put a few miles on some cars that I wouldn’t normally get to experience. Here are my thoughts on two of them:

The 2003 Saleen S7 reminded me of the McLaren 650S I drove last summer. It was light, fast and extremely responsive. For a hand-built car, it felt surprisingly solid — although I was a little concerned about the way the scissor-style door hinges flexed while opening.

The example I drove was one of four non-turbocharged cars built with the Competition Package. I didn’t find its ride overly harsh, and it was not difficult to drive. The Saleen shifted easily, and there was plenty of power at all rpm ranges.

It sold at Barrett-Jackson for $451,000, less than we thought it would bring. I think at that price it represented a solid value for the new owner.

The second car I enjoyed the most was a 1965 Shelby Cobra 289 roadster. It had a lot of eyeball, with attractive (although incorrect) silver stripes down the center of the dark-blue car. Its sidepipe exhaust (also not correct) provided a high entertainment factor as you went down the road.

Fitted with four Webers instead of a single 4-barrel carburetor, the Cobra had more than enough power to spin the wheels on demand. I’ve driven quite a few Cobras, and this was a good one. It had the feel of a car that had been loved and enjoyed, rather than a trailer queen with suspect handling and braking. It tracked straight and stopped quickly without drama. It pulled hard with no muss or fuss.

There’s nothing like sitting behind the gauge-bedecked dashboard in a Cobra and imagining what it was like when they were driven in anger, beating all of their European and American competitors to the checkered flag, race after race after race.

If I had to choose between the Saleen and the Cobra, I’d take the Cobra. It’s not as “good” a car as the Saleen, as automotive technology has come a long way in nearly half a century. Certainly the Saleen is faster, corners better and stops more quickly.

But for a Saturday afternoon blast on a back road, the perfect cacophony from the Cobra’s open exhaust and four Webers would be very hard to top.

Keith Martin

Keith Martin has been involved with the collector car hobby for more than 30 years. As a writer, publisher, television commentator and enthusiast, he is constantly on the go, meeting collectors and getting involved in their activities throughout the world. He is the founder and publisher of the monthly Sports Car Market and bi-monthly American Car Collector magazines, has written for the New York Times, Automobile, AutoWeek, Road & Track and other publications, is an emcee for numerous concours, and has his own show, “What’s My Car Worth,” shown on Velocity.

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  1. I realize you are not involved, but if you could suggest to your advertiser that the ad by Greystone Manor would be more effective if would have mentioned the location of the Manor in a prominent place. I had to dig to learn the location. A lot of local event such as this omit the location.

  2. Keith, Why would call Barrett the greatest collector car show on earth. Aren’t you suppose be unbiased? How about “one of the greatest collector car shows on earth?” It may alienate less of your potential or current advertisers.

    1. I understand your point but I also understand what I believe was Keith’s point. The Barrett-Jackson auction is a very effective auction within a “show” that is very hard to beat in the same manner that Barnum and Bailey was the greatest show on earth.