In October 1964, the penultimate Shelby 289 Cobra — and the last example sold to the public — was shipped to Shelby American aboard the SS Pacific Fortune. Five-plus decades later, the Rouge Iris Mk II roadster remains remarkably well-preserved, having been repainted and mechanically sorted, but never fully restored. This 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra, chassis CSX2588, heads to auction as a Main Attraction at Mecum’s 2019 Kissimmee, Florida, sale January 3-13.
By late 1964, Carroll Shelby was stretched thin. His Cobras — now in Mk II form with rack-and-pinion steering and Ford’s high-performance 289-cu.in. V-8 — were soon to be replaced by the Cobra Mk III, a major revision that featured a stouter frame, coil springs instead of leaf springs, and a more powerful 427-cu.in. (and later, 428-cu.in.) Ford V-8. The Daytona Cobra Coupe was being raced in the U.S. and abroad, and Shelby was about to inherit the Ford GT40 program after John Wyer failed to produce results during the 1964 season.
Something had to give, and based upon the limited overall demand for Cobras (655 leaf spring examples were built in total, including all variants), it made no financial sense for Shelby American to continue selling both 289s and 427s. Chassis CSX2588 was joined on the SS Pacific Fortune by chassis CSX2589 — the last 289 Cobra shipped to Shelby American, also finished in Rouge Iris and equipped with an automatic transmission instead of 2588’s manual. Shelby American retained CSX2589, first as a demonstrator and later as part of Carroll’s personal collection, while CSX2588 was invoiced to Vel’s Ford Sales in Torrance, California, on January 21, 1965, becoming the last 289 Cobra sold.
As delivered to Vel Miletich’s dealership, CSX2588 came equipped with a luggage rack, chrome wire wheels (a $105 option, since the standard wire wheels were painted silver), an outside rearview mirror, an AM/FM radio, and antifreeze, for a total invoice price of $5,645.75. Two days later, the Cobra sold to its first owner, A.L. Gassaway of Long Beach, California. Gassaway suffered a dead battery and short circuit shortly after, and the warranty repair was carried out by his local Ford dealer, Hale Young Ford.
Gassaway kept the Cobra until roughly 1975, when he sold it to Barry Hauge, who owned the car until 1981, when it was purchased by Peter Sidlow. Under Sidlow’s care, the roadster was repainted black and reupholstered, and a dual four-barrel-carburetor setup was added for increased performance. It’s not clear if Sidlow sold the car, which next appeared at an FDIC-ordered liquidation auction of a private car collection.
The buyer remained anonymous, and the car under the radar, until February 2006, when it appeared at auction in Boca Raton, Florida, showing just 53,400 miles on the odometer. This time it was purchased by noted Shelby expert Colin Comer, who returned the Cobra to its original color, replaced the carpeting, and sorted the mechanicals. Under his ownership, the car was confirmed as retaining its original 289 V-8 block and cylinder heads, as well as its as-built Borg-Warner T-10 transmission.
Comer sold the car to the consignor, and it has appeared at a trio of other Mecum auctions in recent years, including Monterey 2017, Kissimmee 2018, and Monterey 2018. In all instances, bids came close to pre-auction estimates, but failed to meet the established reserve. Mecum has yet to publish a pre-auction estimate for this offering, but at its Kissimmee sale in 2018, the range was $1.25 million to $1.5 million, with an announced reserve of $1.1 million. At Monterey in 2018, the pre-auction estimate was $1.1 million to $1.3 million, though with a high bid of $1.1 million we’re wondering why the lot was a no-sale.
Billed as the world’s largest collector-car auction, with roughly 3,500 lots on offer, the Kissimmee sale will take place from January 3-13, 2019, at the Osceola Heritage Park in Kissimmee, Florida. For additional information, visit Mecum.com.