The end of 1962 brought major revisions which rendered the Cobra into its third — and most illustrious — form to which the model owes its revered status. Now utilizing rack-and-pinion steering and Ford’s new 289-cubic-inch V8, the 289 Cobra harnessed the perfect balance of handling and raw power for the lightweight chassis.
Two of these first rack-and-pinion 289 Cobras produced in early 1963 were designated as “Sebring”-specification Works chassis for the Shelby factory racing team (CSX2128 and CSX2129). This duo joined a non-rack-and-pinion “Sebring” car, CSX2127, and immediately proved worthwhile exhibitors for the model’s superior tractability.
CSX2129, offered here, is the second of those two rack-and-pinion “Sebring”-specification Cobras, and is arguably one of the most important and well-documented extant Shelby examples available. In March 1963, it was invoiced to Shelby American by AC Cars and delivered to Shelby’s Venice, CA, location shortly thereafter. By late May, the car had been completed to “Sebring” specifications, which included a 289 engine with Weber carburetors and 4-speed manual transmission, auxiliary instrumentation, black roll bar, hood scoop, flared fenders, Halibrand magnesium wheels, Raydot mirrors, side-exit exhaust, auxiliary oil coolers, competition brakes, improved suspension components, quick-jack pads, and a riveted hood. The car was notably finished in a bright red exterior and black interior without the prominent “elbow cut” doors found on the other Works chassis.
In what would become an unprecedented year for Shelby, CSX2129 competed through the 1963 USSRC season at the hand of Bob Bondurant and, predominantly, Ken Miles. Perhaps its most notable entry came on July 7 at Kansas’ Lake Garnett Raceway, a day which featured the car’s first podium and first victory.
Numerous class victories and pole positions marked CSX2129’s successful 1963 season, playing a major role in Shelby America’s win of the USRRC Manufacturer’s Championship, USRRC Driver’s Championship and an SCCA Championship. From its 1963 debut at Pensacola on May 26, to Mosport on September 28, CSX2129 earned nine podiums (all with Ken Miles) across 15 races, five of which came while racing under the Shelby livery as a factory entry.
After passing through the hands of several Southern California SCCA members between late 1964 and 1966, in early 1967 this desirable Works Cobra was acquired by Bruce Goldsmith of Beverly Hills. Goldsmith fitted a new interior and replacement HiPo short block, reportedly salvaging all of the usable, original Shelby components for the engine rebuild. In 1968, Goldsmith sold this now-restored Cobra to Thomas Long of Hemet, CA, with whom it would remain until 2011.
For many years, Long used CSX2129 as his daily transportation, until late 1984, when the body was stripped to its bare aluminum. Earlier fiberglass amendments to its front bodywork — undoubtedly provided during its racing career — were excised and replaced with aluminum, where required. Now covered in a dark blue exterior, CSX2129 was lightly used and exhibited for the next decade. In 1995 — realizing its tremendously increased value and historical importance — Long commissioned a complete and meticulous restoration of CSX2129 from noted Cobra authority Mike McCluskey of Torrance, CA.
This unique 1963 Shelby 289 Works Cobra is now accompanied by an extensive history file, binder of historic imagery, service invoices, racing windshield, Shelby literature and multiple exhibition awards.
|Vehicle:||1963 Shelby Cobra 289|
|Number Produced:||45 factory competition cars (including 260s and 289s)|
|SCM Valuation:||$962,500 (non-competition models)|
|Tune Up Cost:||$400|
|Chassis Number Location:||Stamped on frame. Tag in engine compartment after CSX2200|
|Engine Number Location:||Stamped on left side of engine block|
|Club Info:||Shelby American Automobile Club|
|Alternatives:||1957–62 Porsche 718, 1963 Chaparral 2A, 1963 Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport|
This car, Lot 245, sold for $4,130,000, including buyer’s premium, at RM Sotheby’s Monterey, CA, sale, on August 13, 2021.
Ken Miles’ accomplishments have become more widely known since the release of “Ford v Ferrari” in 2019, in which Miles is portrayed by Christian Bale. Miles’ role at Shelby American was shown in the film to be more than that of a driver — rather, he was an instrumental part of the organization. His work was key in developing the Cobras, as well as the GT350s and GT40s, into race-winning machines. Miles knew what a car needed to be successful on the track and poured his knowledge into the Shelby American racing program.
After Miles’ successful 1963 season, the car was sold to privateer Graham Shaw, who ran it in SCCA competition in 1964. After taking its final podium, the car went back to Shelby American, which promptly displayed it at the World’s Fair in New York City.
A good steward
CSX2129 subsequently spent 45 years in the collection of Thomas Long, a man who cared more about the car than its potential value, restoring it twice during his stewardship. He received plenty of offers over the years, but only when he felt it would be in the right hands moving forward did he sell the car. Long parted with CSX2129 on his own terms, not just because someone offered him an exorbitant amount of money.
He had the privilege of using CSX2129 as a daily driver until 1984, when the car underwent its first restoration. It was likely during this first restoration that the chassis plate was added to the car. By then, most were unaware that it came from the factory without one, simply having the VIN stamped into the chassis itself. This is the case for all Cobras before CSX2200.
As the significance of the car became clearer, it was driven sparingly and displayed at various shows for the next 10 years. In 1995, seeing the ever-increasing value and historical significance of this Works Cobra, a second restoration was commissioned. This time the work was done by Mike McCluskey, returning the car to its original 1963 Ken Miles/Shelby Works livery. It has subsequently been exhibited at numerous events, receiving many awards that include a Gold Award in the concours class at an SAAC event in Fontana, CA.
Contrary to some reports, 2129 never included fiberglass bodywork, a claim that can be backed up by photos taken throughout both restorations, as well as invoices and receipts that show what was purchased to bring the car to the state it is in today. In addition to most of its original body panels, CSX2129 also has its original gas tank, making this competition car unique among its peers.
Beyond the quality of its restoration — clearly evident to anyone who lays eyes on it — CSX2129 is only the second of the Shelby American factory racing Cobras equipped with rack-and-pinion steering. Carroll Shelby is known to have said, “I didn’t start winning races until I put rack-and-pinion steering in those cars!”
A winning provenance
Ken Miles’ son Peter drove this Cobra onto the block at RM Sotheby’s Monterey auction to cheering and applause. The crowd was excited to see the son of the man who won races in the 1963 season behind the wheel of his father’s former car. The bidders were excited as well, with the final selling price coming in at $4,130,000 — a large number, but well within the pre-auction estimate.
The most significant selling point here is the history the car has with Ken Miles. RM Sotheby’s previously sold a competition-spec 1962 Cobra, CSX2011, in 2015 for just under $2m. This was the first competition-spec Cobra sold to the public. Considering CSX2011 was a worm-and-sector car and not a factory race car, it’s easy to see a $1m bump for the factory provenance and another $1m for the Ken Miles connection.
In assessing the market, we must also consider CSX3178, Carroll Shelby’s personal 427 Cobra, hammered in 2016 at $1,250,000. This past January it sold for $5,940,000 (see American Profile, April 2021). That’s a remarkable return on investment. This trend of Cobras with direct connections to Shelby American selling at big premiums shows no sign of stopping. As such, CSX2129 should be considered well bought. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.)