In 1991, a
South North Carolina sports car enthusiast parked five cars – including a 19,000-mile 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra and a 13,000-mile 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose alloy-bodied coupe – in his newly constructed garage. Then, he walked away, leaving his cars unattended – and the attached house unoccupied – for the next 26 years. With the property now condemned by the municipality, the Cobra and its stablemate Ferrari are set to cross the auction block on Friday, March 9, part of the Gooding & Company Amelia Island sale.
Purchased by the consignor in 1980 from a dealer in Waynesboro, Virginia, the red Shelby was one of 260 big-block Cobras built in street trim. Though its fender badges read 427, the car is one of roughly 105 examples that left Shelby American with a 428-cu.in. Thunderbird Police Interceptor V-8 between its fenders, instead of the higher-strung (but race-proven) 427.
Why the (unadvertised) substitution? Ford simply could not supply a sufficient quantity of 427-cu.in V-8s to meet Shelby’s demand, as the high-performance engine was always meant to be a low-volume item. The fact that the 427 cost $730 per engine, compared to the 428’s sticker price of $320, likely made the decision to proceed with the Police Interceptor V-8 that much easier for Carroll Shelby. At Ford’s insistence, customers who complained about receiving the “wrong” engine could return their cars to Shelby American, which was obligated to swap the 428 for a 427.
On paper, the 427 looked to be the better engine, making 425 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 480 lb-ft of torque at 3,700 rpm when fed by a pair of Holley 600 carburetors. The 428, fed by a single four-barrel carburetor, made “just” 390 horsepower at 5,200 rpm and 475 lb-ft at 3,700 rpm, but getting that power to the ground proved easier in the hands of non-expert drivers. It isn’t clear how many 427 Cobra owners returned their 428-equipped cars for an engine swap, but chassis CSX3278, the car to be offered at Amelia Island, retains its original, one-cubic-inch-larger, Police Interceptor V-8.
The car’s unaltered state adds greatly to its appeal. Its aluminum body remains undamaged, the paint and interior are both said to be original, and the car is devoid of any post-sale modifications like roll hoops, larger wheels, or the side pipes used on Competition and Semi Competition models. The biggest problem caused by decades of storage seems to be the families of mice that have nested, perhaps for generations, in the glove box and trunk, but such things are easily remedied.
The Cobra in its garage lair. Remaining photos by Ben Woodworth, copyright and courtesy of Hagerty.
Which raises, perhaps, the biggest question of all: Why was the Cobra left forgotten for 26 years, along with the Ferrari, a propane-powered Morgan Plus 8, a Triumph TR6, and an E30 BMW sedan? One reason, which falls short of explaining why the property itself was never occupied, was that the owner’s mechanic — an amateur motorcycle racer — was killed in an accident the year the cars were parked. Without a trusted wrench, and reportedly facing other issues in his life, the cars were left in a state of suspended animation, at least until another mechanic could be found. That day never came.
The 1966 Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose alloy body coupe.
Now, 26 years later, time has run out on the collection’s home. Faced with the demolition of the house and the garage, the consignor has opted to sell the two most valuable cars, while keeping the low-mileage Triumph and lower-mileage Morgan. Since being disinterred, the Cobra and the Ferrari have received a mechanical servicing, though neither has been washed or otherwise cleaned (patina being the hallmark of desirability these days).
The next owners of the Cobra and Ferrari will be facing an interesting choice: Preserve these time-capsule cars and their odd snapshot of history, or drive them the way their manufacturers intended, depreciation be damned. For the privilege of that choice, Gooding & Company predicts a selling price between $1 million and $1.3 million, while for the Ferrari 275 GTB Long Nose, the anticipated selling price is between $2.5 million and $3.25 million.
The Gooding & Company Amelia Island sale takes place at Racquet Park, in the Omni Amelia Island Plantation. For additional details, visit GoodingCo.com.