|Vehicle:||1967 Shelby 427 Cobra Barn Find|
|Original List Price:||$6,145|
|Tune Up Cost:||$500|
|Chassis Number Location:||Tags riveted to passenger’s foot box, engine compartment; also is stamped on the right front frame rail near the upper control arm|
|Engine Number Location:||Casting number and date code on lower front of block|
|Club Info:||Shelby American Automobile Club|
|Alternatives:||1963–65 Shelby 289 Cobra, 1972–73 Ferrari Daytona Spyder, 1957–63 Mercedes-Benz 300SL Roadster|
This car, Lot 16, sold for $1,045,000, including buyer’s premium, at Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island sale, at Amelia Island, FL, on March 9, 2018.
This is the kind of story that keeps car hunters awake at night and fuels their passion to peruse car shows, troll Craigslist and track down that off-hand comment about some sort of special car tucked away in a barn or rickety old garage.
While that “maybe it’s true” rumor usually turns out to be a large, steaming pile of cow manure, every now and then — as with our subject car — that story ends up being true.
This car was owned for 38 years. It was tucked away for nearly 30 of them.
Our subject car is the sort of car that all of us old-car dudes can generally only dream of. As the story goes, CSX3278 was parked in a garage after the owner’s mechanic passed away.
By the owner’s logic, he didn’t have a mechanic for the old Cobra. Nobody stepped up to buy it, so that meant that it should be packed away until further notice.
In any event, the ownership trail on CSX3278 is well documented, from the very first day it sold in 1966 all the way to the March 9, 2018, auction under Gooding & Company’s Amelia Island tent.
This 427 Cobra — in red — was invoiced and delivered new to Tasca Ford in Rhode Island for the frothy price of $6,145. Soon after, the buyer who had ordered the car decided he’d rather own a green one.
Cobras weren’t exactly easy to sell back when they were new, as the car was impractical and stunningly expensive. As such, most Cobras were ordered by their initial buyers. Given that, Tasca Ford got a credit for the car and shipped it to Ron’s Ford Sales in Bristol, TN, to get the Cobra off their books.
In 1980, CSX3278 was advertised for sale with 13,000 miles on it for $55,000. From there, the Cobra passed to a new owner, who then sold it to the consignor. All of this happened in 1980.
Advertised for sale in 1991
CSX3278 was advertised for sale in 1991 by the consignor after his mechanic passed away. “Fresh, original engine, drivetrain with scattershield; wheels beaded; nice Wingfoots; original paint, leather, top, side curtains, tonneau; 17k miles; $425,000.”
While I don’t have a personal time machine, our trusty SCM Platinum Auction Database does. I found two sales to use as a general benchmark of values back in the early 1990s.
A 427 Cobra sold for $201,000 (SCM# 11646) and a 289 example sold for $225,500 (SCM# 3059). So, we can determine that the owner wanted way too much for the car in 1991. Therefore, it didn’t sell — and it went into suspended animation for the next 27 years.
I can only imagine how many times the owner was contacted over those 27 years via snail mail, old-school landline phone calls and knocks on his door. I bet a lot of people wanted to buy CSX3278.
The one-cubic-inch difference
Shelby production records show that 260 427 “street” Cobras were built and sold.
Of those, about 100 were reported to have been built with the 345-hp 428-ci Police Interceptor engine rather than the earth-shaking 425-hp 427. These are commonly known as the 3200 series wide-hip Cobras.
While it seems, at least on the surface, that there’s only a one-cubic-inch difference — it makes a lot of difference in value today. The hand-built 427-ci engine cost Ford a lot of money to build. So, Shelby dropped the 427-ci in favor of the more pedestrian (and cheaper) 428-ci engine — an engine that was used in all sorts of Ford production cars.
Our subject car left the Shelby assembly line with the 428-ci engine rather than the 427-ci engine. The entire batch was labeled with the 427 badge. A car with the 427 badge — but with a 428 engine under the hood — is still great, but it is worth about 20% less than a genuine 427-ci car.
The deep sleep
Our subject car was parked and put into an owner-initiated coma — in a drafty old garage — and left to sit with little to no attention or basic care.
Mice infiltrated the interior and trunk space. Dust, combined with humidity, took a heavy toll on the brightwork, and the interior deteriorated.
On the plus side — and this most certainly outweighs the negative side — no one messed with the car. Based on the information gathered and the Gooding & Company catalog description, CSX3278 still wears its original, factory-applied red paint, and it still has all those pesky stamped numbers and codes that differentiate a great car from a dubious one.
It’s been said about a million times (one million and one now) that they’re only original once, and this car is as original as you will find.
It is airtight and untampered with. It was largely original from end to end, other than a few items here and there, but nothing was done to harm the investment-grade value of the machine. The miles are reported to be original, as they should be, and the original paint might even be in very nice condition under all the layers of dust and dirt.
As presented at the Gooding sale, our subject car was left in the condition in which it was found: dusty, dirty, disheveled and neglected. The nagging presumption that it should be cleaned up fell on deaf ears. That’s good.
With a car like this, the auction house wants to sell the story — especially for a Rip Van Winkle Cobra. In today’s market, wiping away the dust and dirt has the potential to wipe away some of the value.
The real deal versus Memorex
The beauty of our subject car is simple. As prices for genuine Cobras ascended to the stratosphere during the past decade, more and more less-than-reputable Cobras appeared.
These cars were not really fakes, but they carried bad stories. We’re talking about cars with plenty of MIA factory stamping and marks. Cars arrived on the market with bodies that had been facsimiled, restamped chassis or engines — and carrying pieces and parts from one or more wrecked cars.
Chassis CSX3278 may be a bit unkempt, but there are no bad stories. This car just may be that last Cobra the world will ever find that’s been hibernating for decades. I never want to say never, as that could cause TV shows to be cancelled.
Running the numbers
Our SCM Pocket Price Guide shows the median value for a 1965–67 Cobra firing in at $1,292,500. This price is for genuine, 427-powered Cobras. It is not for Shelbys with the Police Interceptor 428 — as found in our subject car. Given that, we can subtract about 20% from the median value, driving down CSX3278’s value to a cool $1 million and change.
Our comps are all genuine 427 examples, and they all sold around the $1.3 million range, which corresponds nicely to our price guide.
The reality is that some collectors love shiny, restored cars. They want them to not only be real-deal, airtight examples — they want them to look good under the garage or warehouse lights.
Our subject doesn’t fall into that Beauty Queen category.
However, there are those collectors who simply love a car like CSX3278. This car is untouched, with no rats in the cellar (mice yes, rats no). These cars become artifacts. They really are no longer cars by the simple definition of the word. They are beautiful because they are so genuine and evocative at the same time. This is like finding a real Van Gogh in the attic. It’s dusty, faded and disheveled — and worth millions.
This car is for the buyer — like myself — who loves an original, untouched, dusty, dirty, musty, mice-infested opportunity. I’d call this one fairly bought and sold. ♦
(Introductory description courtesy of Gooding & Company.)