Auctions and Brokerage
Formerly the Property of Nicolas Cage
The 427 Cobra
“The new Cobra is a reality and only approximately $7,000 cash and the insatiable desire to own the fastest car in four counties stands between you and owning one. If you can scrape up the dough, we recommend that you take the plunge. Like they say, it’ll never hurt you. Or at least it shouldn’t.” – Car and Driver, November 1965
There is little doubt that the Shelby 427 Cobra is among the most recognizable, beloved, and imitated sports cars of all time. While the origins of the legendary model have been well established and the entire production run carefully documented by devoted historians, the big-block Cobra has always maintained a special mystique.
The road-going 427 Cobra was a natural evolution of the original 289, with its idealized sports car proportions, sculpted rear haunches, and high-performance Ford V-8. Not only was the big-block Cobra one of the most aggressivelooking sports cars of its day, the 2,350 lb., 425 hp tube-frame Cobra offered unforgettable performance and demanded the respect of accomplished professional drivers.
The fact that the 427 Cobra could be used as a practical road car was often overlooked in favor of its ability to spin its rear wheels at 100 mph and achieve awe-inspiring performance figures. Ken Miles’ famed 13.8-second 0-100-0 run in a production 427 Cobra remained the ultimate performance benchmark for more than two decades.
In total, just 260 examples of the road-going 427 were ever built, less than half the total production of the original 289.
The Cobra presented here, CSX3166, represents an ideally specified and unusually authentic example of the definitive roadgoing 427.
According to the World Registry of Cobras & GT40s, the history of this significant 427 Cobra begins in September 1965, when AC Cars Ltd. of England prepared CSX3166 for delivery to Shelby American Inc. in Los Angeles. The official Shelby work order for CSX3166 opened on December 4, 1965, and closed when the completed Cobra received its finishing touches on January 11, 1966.
Consistent with its build date, this Cobra was originally equipped with several noteworthy, early-production features such as a 427 low-rise engine, twin Holley four-barrel carburetors, chrome pent-proof valve covers, and a rear-exit exhaust system. Outwardly, the new 427 Cobra featured standard “wide-hip” rear fender flares, small rectangular AC taillights, an oil-cooler intake, and the Pete Brock-designed 7 1/2" Kelsey-Hayes Sunburst aluminum wheels. Finished in brilliant silver paintwork with black leather upholstery, CSX3166 carries the distinction of being one of only 26 big-block Cobras delivered in this attractive livery.
On January 11, 1966, CSX3166 was invoiced to Milo Brooke Inc. in Chicago, at a cost of $6,343.00. Four days later, the new Shelby Cobra was sold to its first owner, James A. Taylor, a college student living in Cleveland, Ohio.
During Mr. Taylor’s first year of ownership, CSX3166 was regularly driven and serviced by Marshall Motor Co. in Mayfield Heights, Ohio, who performed several minor repairs under warranty. The following year, Mr. Taylor moved to Colorado and entered the potent 427 Cobra in several “low-key” competitive events, such as rallies and hill climbs.
By late 1968, Mr. Taylor had settled in the Milwaukee area and registered the Cobra in Wisconsin with the personalized plate, “HSSS.” Between 1981 and 1982, the Cobra was treated to a general refurbishment, including a respray in the correct silver; however, it remained in largely original condition, with its factorydelivered Sunburst wheels and two fourbarrel carburetors intact.
In early 1989, after enjoying CSX3166 for more than two decades, Mr. Taylor offered his prized sports car for sale. The one-owner, 20,000-mile Cobra soon attracted the attention of Dr. Frederick H. Reeser of Hartland, Wisconsin, who acquired it for his personal collection. In 1995, Dr. Reeser sold CSX3166 in a package deal and, soon after, Schley Motorcars advertised it for sale stating, “AC Cobra 427, silver/black, unbelievable, 20,000 miles, original, unmolested, two owners.”
In the late 1990s, famed actor and classic car collector Nicolas Cage purchased CSX3166. At its height, Mr. Cage’s personal collection included some of the most important post-war sports cars, ranging from a Jaguar D-Type to a Porsche Carrera 2.7 RS and a Lamborghini Miura SVJ. The 427 Cobra remained in Mr. Cage’s care until 2001, when it was sold to David McCrae of Sarasota, Florida.
In spring 2004, CSX3166 passed into the hands of the current caretaker, a New York enthusiast who has always maintained an affinity for big-block Cobras. At the time of his acquisition, the current owner relied on the assistance of respected specialists Ned Scudder and Billy Andrews of HRE Motorcars and purchased the car only after he was completely satisfied with its provenance and authentic character.
Over the past nine years, the Cobra has been retained for occasional weekend outings and participated in several Shelby events throughout the New York area. Although the consignor states that CSX3166 is “not a trailer queen,” this Cobra has been shown with success, as evidenced by a Best in Class Award at the Sunday Show of Shelbys at the 2004 Lime Rock Park Vintage Fall Festival.
Today, this impressively presented Cobra retains its correct Shelby American Inc. engraved data plate, and chassis number stampings can be found on the shock tower, door, and deck panels. At the time of cataloguing, the odometer displayed just over 24,000 miles, a figure that is believed to be correct. It should also be noted that the sale of CSX3166 includes a top, tonneau cover, and a set of Kelsey-Hayes Sunburst wheels wearing period-correct Goodyear Blue Dot tires.
A truly outstanding example of a rare breed, CSX3166 presents an exciting opportunity for collectors in search of a top-tier 427 Cobra. Beautifully finished in its original, as-delivered color scheme, this car possesses all the qualities one looks for in a Shelby Cobra: a documented, no-stories history; a limited number of appreciative caretakers; a proper 427 with dual quads under the hood; and a faithful, factory-correct presentation that sets it apart from the multitude of Cobras festooned with roll bars, side pipes, hood scoops, and racing stripes.
Undoubtedly the most attractive and authentically presented 427 Cobra to appear at auction in many years, this exceedingly rare and important Shelby deserves serious consideration.