In the late ’60s there just wasn’t anything badder than a 427 Cobra, and the fact that they were rumored to kill an abnormally high percentage of people who dared to drive them only increased the reputation

Although the 289 Cobra was well proven in competition by the mid-1960s, it was becoming clear that something more was needed to stay competitive. Ford’s 289-ci V8 reached its reliability threshold at about 380 or 390 hp, which wasn’t going to be enough power for long.
Although Shelby had been promised a new aluminum-block version of Ford’s 390-ci V8, internal resistance from the NASCAR faction inside Ford forced Shelby to make do with the cast iron 427. Although reliable at 500 hp, the engine was so much heavier that a complete redesign of the Cobra chassis was required to ensure proper handling. Engineered with Ford’s help, the new chassis was five inches wider, with coil springs all around.
One of the most memorable stories about the 427 Cobra surrounds a test that was arranged by Ken Miles for Sports Car Graphic magazine. A few years earlier, Aston Martin had bragged that its racing cars were capable of accelerating from 0 to 100 mph and back to 0 in less than 30 seconds. Miles had the idea to re-stage the test using the new 427 Cobra. The result, according to SCG editor Jerry Titus, was an astounding 13.2 seconds.
As with all his cars, Carroll Shelby intended to see that the 427 Cobra was a winner on the track, so a competition-spec version was developed. Features included a wider body to accommodate wider wheels and tires, an oil cooler, side exhaust, external fuel filler, front jacking points, roll bar, and a special 42-gallon fuel tank.
The 1966 Shelby 427 on offer here was restored for street use in the late 1980s. The vendor has since conducted a thorough mechanical restoration in order to prepare the car for track use. Work included a rebuilt suspension, engine and drivetrain, braking system, exhaust, and safety equipment. Since completion, the Cobra has been driven at the 2003 Monterey Historics and the 2003 Coronado Festival of Speed.
These cars are brutally fast, and driving one is an exhilarating experience. Very few cars like this remain today, and the best ones-like CSX3014-seldom change hands.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Competition
Years Produced:1965-67
Number Produced:348 (21 competition cars)
Original List Price:approx. $7,200 (street); $8,800 (competition)
Tune Up Cost:Cost per hour to race: $1,000
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:plate on top of footwell, passenger-side engine compartment
Engine Number Location:none
Club Info:Shelby American Automobile Club, P.O. Box 788, Sharon CT 06069
Alternatives:427 Corvette, Ferrari Competition Daytona
Investment Grade:A

This 1966 Shelby 427 Competition Cobra sold for $627,000 at the RM Monterey sale held Aug. 13-14, 2004.
Flashback to my senior year at college: A friend had gone home to St. Louis for spring break, and when he returned, he told us that someone he knew had just bought a 427 Cobra. “You know how they advertise that it will go from zero to a hundred to zero in just over 13 seconds?” the friend asked. “Yeah,” I replied. “Well,” he said, “it will.”
In the late ’60s there just wasn’t anything badder than a 427 Cobra, and the fact that they were rumored to kill an abnormally high percentage of people who dared to drive them only increased the reputation. Big-block Cobras came in three versions: One for the street, a full competition car, and the S/C (a model created after Shelby American couldn’t sell the competition cars, and converted them back into streetable vehicles). I’m told there were 21 full competition cars actually sold.
The 427 Competition Cobras pretty much dominated any race they entered. The minimal weight, huge horsepower, and room for equally huge tires made them the right weapon for the battle. With a short wheelbase for the width of the car and all that power to play with, they were twitchy at the limit, but good drivers loved them. Aerodynamics were not their strong suit, but one advantage of the Cobra’s shape was that it kept the car from having high speed lift problems, something the slipperier Corvettes of the era had to fight. Dick Smith was clocked at 198 mph in a Cobra at Daytona in 1967, which was flat hauling in those days.
In vintage racing today, Cobras are the 800-pound gorilla. That said, a fully fettled 427 Corvette with a good driver behind the wheel will give them a serious run for the money. Cobras accelerate better out of the corners but the Corvette can get it back at mid-range and faster speeds, when its smoother shape comes into play. The Cobra has a slight advantage on brakes, while absolute cornering is about the same. The match-up has made for some glorious vintage battles over the years.
I’ve mentioned before that the expensive part of vintage racing is operating and maintenance costs, as most reasonably purchased race cars will, at a minimum, hold their value. The Cobra scores big points here, as its Ford V8 engine and drivetrain are easy and comparatively cheap to run.
That there is an entire industry devoted to creating Cobra replicas is less of a good thing. On one hand, it perpetuates the icon, the thing that all those kit car guys with junkyard Mustang motors wish they could have. On the other hand, you’ll spend your life explaining to people that you actually have an original, which is even more annoying than having to tell people that your Cobra actually came from Poland.
This is less of a problem for the pure competition Cobras, like the one pictured here, as most vintage racing organizations are careful to only allow correct and original cars to participate. If you see one on the track in a sanctioned event, you can usually rest assured it’s legit.
Racing cars are notorious for being used and abused and then discarded, before some collector comes along a decade or two later and resurrects them into the fabulous pieces we all lust after and pay big money for today. Cobras, however, have largely avoided that fate. They’ve always been desirable and have held their value since new.
At about $8,800 for a full competition car when new, 427 Cobras dipped into the $5,000 range in the late ’60s before starting their long, slow climb through the years. By the early 1980s, they were comfortably into six figures and the collecting boom late in the decade got them close to seven. Several owners at the time decided to advertise their cars at a million and had to back down when serious offers came in. The high point came when one of them turned down $1.5 million. Along with everything else, prices dropped off in the early ’90s crash, but have since come back.
Today Cobras are hot, and are now valued at about half of their historical high. I’d say that even at today’s market-correct price of $627k, this one was well bought.
(Historical and descriptive information courtesy of the auction company.)

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