Courtesy of Mecum Auctions
One of the crown jewels of Carroll Shelby’s personal collection, this 1965 Shelby Cobra 427, CSX3178, was owned by him from the day it was assembled in March 1966 until his passing in May 2012. One of just five 427 Cobras finished in gorgeous Charcoal Gray, the car arrived at Shelby’s LAX facility with a black interior and without an engine and transmission, like all Cobras did. The Shelby American work order specifying “Build 427 Street Cobra CSX3178” was opened on January 7, 1966, and closed on March 3, when the car was shipped to Carroll Shelby’s Dallas home, sporting a 427 with dual quads and a 4-speed Toploader transmission. In 1972, Carroll Shelby’s friend and renowned Cobra specialist Mike McCluskey restored CSX3178, repainting it in Guardsman Blue with a gold nose. At some point in CSX3178’s life, Shelby felt he needed more horsepower and installed an aluminum-head 427 side-oiler engine with an automatic transmission. In 2002, the home crew at Shelby American in Las Vegas, NV, repainted Carroll Shelby’s famous Cobra in red. In 2016, the car was purchased from Shelby’s estate by the consignor, at which time it became the subject of a complete concours restoration by renowned Cobra restorers Legendary Motorcar Company, which returned it to its original Charcoal paint color and its original 427 configuration with a 4-speed. Carroll Shelby’s lifelong personal 427 Cobra is the big brother of CSX2000, the original small-block Cobra. CSX2000 recently sold for almost $14 million. CSX3178 occupies a hallowed place in Cobra history, and it is the only 427 Cobra Shelby owned from new until his passing.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Shelby Cobra 427
Years Produced:1965–67
Number Produced:260 street cars
SCM Valuation:$1,586,500
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Chassis Number Location:Attached to passenger’s side footbox visible under the hood
Engine Number Location:No stamping on the 427 blocks
Club Info:Shelby American Automobile Club
Alternatives:1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 convertible, 1966–68 Ferrari 275 GTB/4, 1971–72 Lamborghini Miura P400 SV
Investment Grade:A

This car, Lot F145, sold for $5,940,000, including buyer’s premium, at Mecum’s Kissimmee, FL, sale held January 7–16, 2021.

In 2016, RM Sotheby’s sold Carroll Shelby’s very own Cobra — in fact, it sold two of them on the same day. Most readers are probably familiar with the story: CSX2000 sold for an astronomical price of $13,750,000, almost 20 times the value of an early 260 Cobra. It was a lot of money, but there’s only one “first Cobra,” and it was one of only two Cobras owned by Carroll Shelby from new.

Also offered on that same August day was Shelby’s other Cobra. That car, CSX3178, saw the hammer fall at $1.25m when it crossed the block in Monterey. After the buyer’s commission was added, its sales price of $1,375,000 was fairly reasonable for a 427 Cobra. It was still below the auction estimate of $1.5m to $2m, and a relative bargain compared to its stablemate. It’s almost as if people forgot that CSX3178 lived alongside CSX2000 in Carroll’s personal collection.

Changed from stock

CSX3178 was “well bought,” as we say, although it wasn’t a stock Cobra. Carroll liked to go fast, as evidenced by the cars that carry his name, and in 1972 he recruited the well-known Cobra expert Mike McCluskey to make some modifications to 3178. McCluskey repainted it Guardsman Blue, added an automatic transmission and gave it S/C styling with sidepipes and a custom roll bar, giving 3178 its trademark style.

Around 30 years later, the car was restored by Shelby American, rebuilding the automatic transmission, refreshing the interior and painting the car a bright red while retaining as many original components as possible. The unusual roll bar, however, remained.

And then it sat, on display at Shelby’s headquarters while being maintained by the expert Shelby personnel, a testament to all that Carroll did to build the legendary cars we know and love.

And back again

After Shelby’s death in 2012, the car remained with the Carroll Shelby Foundation until that Friday in August 2016.

Perhaps the new owner lucked out, but regardless, it was a special car and demanded one of the best Cobra experts. Peter Klutt’s Legendary Motorcar Company was engaged to turn back the hands of time.

One of the first orders of business was to restore the Cobra to its original Charcoal Gray, a finish it shared with only four other 427 Cobras. The roll bar and sidepipes were removed, along with everything else needed to bring the car back to stock condition, exactly as it was in March 1966. Legendary Motorcar also replaced the automatic transmission with a correct 4-speed.

Shelbiest of all Shelbys

It’s not uncommon to hear that a car was owned by Carroll Shelby. He traded cars a lot in the latter years of his life, so while many were owned by him, only two Cobras can truthfully claim ownership from new. And one of those two will most likely never be available again; CSX 2000 was purchased by Greg Miller on behalf of the Larry H. Miller Total Performance Museum, formerly located at the Miller Motorsports Park.

So it was a big deal when Mecum announced that CSX3178 would be crossing the block. Not only was this the sole 427 Cobra owned from new by Shelby himself, but also likely the last time anyone would have the opportunity to purchase either of his personal Cobras. Not to mention that this one now looked like it had just left the factory in 1966.

Twice as nice

This time CSX3178 got the attention it deserved. Bidding started strong and ended stronger. Rumor has it that two new-to-the-hobby bidders looking to start serious collections pushed the price to $5,940,000, more than twice the going rate for a well-restored example. Of course, this was no typical car, offering, as it did, the privilege to experience exactly what Carroll Shelby experienced when he first got behind the wheel.

If we look back to 2016, it’s difficult to know how much impact Shelby’s ownership had on the price of CSX2000. After all, it is one-of-one, the prototype Cobra. But when we see what it cost to buy CSX3178 compared to the price of any other well-restored 427 Cobra, it’s clear that the Shelby name and Cobras in general have enough clout to be multigenerational cars.

While this might seem like an extraordinary price to pay for a Cobra, consider this. When Mecum sold a Cobra Daytona coupe for $7.25m several years ago, most observers thought it was all the money. However, it would take $25m or more to buy the same car today. We can expect the same type of appreciation for this one-of-one Shelby-owned 427. ♦

(Introductory description courtesy of Mecum Auctions.)

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