In the absolute truest sense of the word, Carroll Shelby was a legend. Sure, toward the end, some of the cars carrying his name were little more than appearance packages with a shouty exhaust, but in the 1960s, he was a performance powerhouse. Of course, we can’t talk about the glory days of Shelby without first paying reverence to the immortal Shelby AC Cobra. Many of these original roadster commanded top-dollar at auctions in the past few years, with prices reaching well into to the seven-figure range. Now, for the first time in history, the original Shelby Cobra heads to auction, and there is a very strong chance Cobra CSX2000 will breach the eight-figure mark.
RM Sotheby’s, the auction house overseeing this sale, bills this as the “most important American sports car to ever be offered for sale.” That very well might not be an overstatement, as this car represents a catalyst that sent shockwaves through not only the American performance car market, but the world of motorsports as a whole.
Cobra CSX2000 was created in 1962 by Carroll Shelby and a “handful of hot-rodders.” With backing from AC themselves, Shelby shoehorned a 4.2-liter (260 ci) Ford V-8 under the hood of the voluptuous roadster, mated to a rough-and-tumble Borg-Warner T-10 transmission. The Cobra was a revelation; its extremely low-weight construction and the American-bred horsepower rampaging under the hood created something of a giant-slayer. Contemporary road tests pegged a 0-60 time of 4.2 seconds, with a quarter-mile time of 13.8 seconds, and given enough room, the little Cobra would rush up to a top speed of 153 mph. The production-spec Cobra thundered onto the sports car market later that same year, butting heads with the Chevrolet Corvette, Ford Thunderbird, and the Jaguar E-Type.
While Cobras were dominant during competition, the CSX2000 abstained from the motorsports circuit. Don’t think it lived a charmed and pampered life, however, as the CSX2000 remained active and regularly-driven up to Carroll Shelby’s death in 2012. Initially, the Cobra was used on the show circuit, stirring up interest around the country. Each time the Cobra appeared at a show, Shelby had it repainted to create the illusion of multiple Cobras, despite only one in existence at that time. The car eventually settled down, and was prominently displayed at Shelby Heritage Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Finally, after 54 years, the car will arrive in a new garage. If this has you digging for change in your couch, you’d better be prepared to write quite the hefty check. No sale estimate is provided, but it won’t come cheap. Typically, a run-of-the-mill early 1960s Cobra will see a hammer fall of right around $850,000-$1,000,000, according to Hagerty. Of course, this isn’t a regular Cobra, and taking into account the incredible history and significance, it wouldn’t surprise us in the least if it took home $15-$20 million.
Look for our report on the Monterey auction later on this summer after the sale occurs mid-August.