A Tale of Two Cobras

John Hollansworth Jr., courtesy of Mecum Auctions
John Hollansworth Jr., courtesy of Mecum Auctions

Recently we witnessed the sale of two unique 289 Cobras — at two different auctions, within two months of each other. One was a modified street-specification car that has lived a quiet life in the United States.

The other was a factory-prepared Competition car that has lived a much more public life in France, including an 18th-place finish in the 1964 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Interestingly, the two cars realized prices within 15% of each other. At first glance, any Cobra enthusiast would tell you it is preposterous that a street Cobra should bring anywhere near what a factory Comp Cobra would. But, as we all know, there are more to books than just covers. Let’s dissect the two cars and their respective sales:

Exhibit A: 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra Chassis CSX2135

From the Mecum Auctions description:

CSX2135 is one of the first Cobras to employ rack-and-pinion steering. Originally finished in white with a red interior, it arrived in New York on June 27, 1963, aboard the SS American Commander. It was consigned on August 24 to W.J. Janner of Ford Motor Company Car Sales Promotion, Dearborn, MI, and shipped via Shelby American transporter to the FoMoCo district office in Kansas City, MO. On September 16, it was invoiced to Ford executive and future Ford Racing director Jacques Passino, listing the “Class A” accessory group that included chromed 5.5-inch wire wheels with “AC” knockoffs, a dash-mounted rear-view mirror, wind wings, chromed bumperettes and a quick-fill fuel cap, a luggage rack and whitewall tires. Including freight and the Ford discount of $300, the car listed at $5,387.

After a busy year of various demonstrator duties in the Kansas City area, the car was returned to Shelby with an odometer reading of 5,300 miles and Ford work order number 1077, which authorized Shelby to recondition it for resale. Shelby completely repainted the car in White Lucite, installed five new six-inch painted wire wheels, new carpets, soft top, side curtains and seat belts, a new windshield, rear bumper overriders and mufflers, all at an estimated cost of $1,125.

The completed Cobra was then sold to Beverly Hills Sports Cars on March 31, 1965, at a cost of $4,250 — plus a $10 delivery charge. While its first owner is unknown, it was registered with the California black plate RFG 836. In 1967, it appeared for sale in Walnut Creek, CA, on the Brant Motors used-car lot, where it was purchased by California resident Tom Ellis. In the mid-1970s, Ellis sold the car to Alan T. Lloyd of El Cajon, CA. Lloyd brought 2135 to SAAC 3 in Pasadena in August 1978, by which time it had been repainted in 1966 Ford Emberglo (essentially a metallic Copper color) with twin black stripes and black upholstery. The car’s wheelwell flares, unfortunately finished in brown primer, had been widened from the early version to the later type, designed to accommodate the new wider six-inch wheels installed beginning with CSX2160; front fender side vents had also been installed.

After being advertised for sale in 1983 and 1984, the car appeared with Lloyd in the same condition at SAAC 9 at Anaheim in August of 1984. Three months later, Lloyd reported the car stolen. In 1989, CSX2135 reappeared and was purchased by Milton Janzen of San Francisco, who soon realized he had bought a stolen car. He immediately contacted title holders State Farm Insurance, who demanded the car’s immediate return. Instead, Janzen convinced State Farm to sell him the title, which he then registered with plate number 2ZSL192.

Janzen then commenced a restoration that included refinishing the Cobra in dark blue paint with a contrasting Saddle leather interior, fitting Weber carburetors and reproduction Halibrand six-spoke knockoff wheels. In June 1993, the car was purchased by John Duffield of Bakersfield, who changed the upholstery to black.

The Cobra was advertised for sale and described thus: “CSX2135, 289 hi-po. This car is an original and is beautiful; no-expense-spared restoration completed 4/99. Color is Mercedes Midnight Blue with black leather; rack-and-pinion car with roll bar, sidepipes, Webers and Halibrands. $167,500.” After 35 years in California, CSX2135 found a new home in the hands of Jim Carrolo of Steamboat Springs, CO, who bought it as a regular driver. In 2006, the original 289 HiPo engine was replaced by a 347-ci “fun motor,” and the 289 was placed in storage.

Today, CSX2135 presents in beautifully pristine condition, needing nothing to make it completely ready for its new home with a committed Shelby Cobra enthusiast. The original 289-ci engine as well as a set of 5.5-inch Shelby knockoff wire wheels are included with this exceptional and rare early rack-and-pinion demonstration Cobra.

Colin Comer

Colin Comer - Editor at Large

Colin is the founder of Colin’s Classic Automobiles in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, as well as SCM’s resident American car expert. His fascination with cars began at an early age, and according to him, he never grew out of it—nor does he wish to. Colin regularly appears on television, and he is the author of the books: “Million-Dollar Muscle Cars” and the “Complete Book of Shelby Automobiles.” A hands-on guy, Comer maintains an impressive collection of his own and is an avid vintage racer. He is a regular contributor to both Sports Car Market and American Car Collector magazines.

Posted in American