1967 Shelby 427 Cobra, CSX3295. Photos courtesy of Mecum Auctions.
Carroll Shelby’s 427 Cobra is the stuff enthusiast dreams are made of. Iconic in both appearance and sound, many of us have dreamed of owning such a magnificent beast, issuing false reassurances, to ourselves and perhaps our significant others, that we’d regularly stretch such a car’s legs on road and track. CSX3295, a 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra bound for auction in Indianapolis later this month, proves that sometimes the dream of owning such a high-performance automobile doesn’t match the reality.
Sold new to Howard Rothberg of Coconut Grove, Florida, in January of 1967, CSX3295 was delivered in the same white over black livery that the car wears today. The black leather upholstery is said to be original to the car, though a few other changes have been made over the years. As delivered new, the Cobra lacked a hood scoop, and driver’s roll hoop, and wore side pipes of a different color, likely chrome. Sunburst wheels were initially supplied on the car from the factory, but these were replaced by offset Halibrands sometime prior to 1985.
Though the fender badges and car’s official name identify it as a 427 Cobra, technically speaking it’s a 428 Special Police Interceptor Cobra. As the World Registry of Cobras & GT40s, 4th Edition explains, Ford had a difficult time supplying the lightweight 427 V-8 engines to Shelby American, leaving the company with two choices: restrict 427 Cobra production significantly, or substitute the readily available 428 Special Police Interceptor V-8. It chose the latter, which both cut costs and delivered an engine better suited to converting torque into forward motion instead of tire smoke.
Shelby 427 Cobras from CSX3201-CSX3305 received this engine swap, though this is something of a rough estimate since precise record-keeping was not Carroll Shelby’s forte. It’s not clear if customers were told of the change, but with 390 horsepower and 475 pound-feet of torque on tap (compared to 425 horsepower and 480 pound feet of torque with the 427 V-8), it isn’t likely too many street car buyers noticed a difference in performance.
Rothberg’s ownership of CSX3295 was hardly trouble-free. Service records show the car was sent back to the dealership the day after purchase for “poor performance and erratic throttle response.” The culprit was found to be metal shavings throughout the fuel system, requiring the dealership to rebuild the carburetor, flush the tank, flush the fuel lines and replace the fuel filter.
Less than a week later, Rothberg was back, this time to have a balky synchronizer in the Ford Top-Loader transmission replaced and to have a short in turn signal addressed. The dealership also noticed that a right side differential mounting bracket had come loose, which required the shop to drop the differential and re-weld the bracket. A month later, the car was at the dealer again, this time to have defective instruments replaced, a broken cylinder head bolt replaced, and sound deadening missing from the factory installed.
Despite the issues, Rothberg kept the Cobra until 1969, when it was sold to a dealer in Nyack, New York. The next owner, also in New York, purchased the car shortly after, and retained possession until 1980, when it was sold to a buyer in Little Rock, Arkansas. He kept the car for five years, and when it was offered for sale in 1985, was advertised as having just 19,000 miles on the odometer.
The Cobra’s next owner, Gene Chaney, rebuilt the mechanicals, added the Halibrand wheels and the black side pipes, and installed a set of quick-jack racing bumpers. Chaney kept the car for the next 22 years, but apparently never drove it; when offered for sale in 2007, it was advertised as having roughly the same mileage as in 1985. It passed though RM Classic Cars briefly before landing with the consignor, Shelby collector Joe McMurrey.
When McMurrey acquired the car, it reportedly still wore its original paint. Stripped to bare aluminum, the car was refinished in the original Wimbledon White, but disassembly revealed that a surprising number of factory-installed parts remained. The focus of the restoration then shifted to maintaining the car’s originality, which seemed to verify the mileage reported on the odometer (and on the car’s paperwork).
As offered in Indianapolis, the car shows just over 20,000 miles, proving that McMurrey has enjoyed the Cobra on the road, albeit sparingly. And that gets us back to our original point about the dream versus the reality: At auction, Mecum expects the car to bring between $1.1 and $1.3 million, largely due to its condition. Difficulties of driving a 427 Cobra in the modern world aside, the next owner will need to choose between preserving the car and its value, and exercising it the way that Carroll Shelby intended.
The 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra will cross the auction block on Friday, May 20. For more information on the Indianapolis sale, visit Mecum.com.