Date Published: 2023/11/22
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While the Shelby name is oft associated with performance vehicles, the master of sports car design in the 20th century only built a select few of his Shelby Cobra 427. What made this classic car one of the rarest and most valuable rides to roll across the auction block? Let's take a peek under the hood and at its origins.
After automotive guru Carroll Shelby hung up his racing helmet in 1960, he focused on building limited-edition performance roadsters for the American market. He combined the British AC Ace chassis and engines by Ford to produce a two-seater worthy of road racing on the local and international scene. However, the small body and compact engine of his early AC Cobra design lacked a certain something.
In 1966, he took the new Mark III chassis and added the 510-horsepower 427 V8 engine to create a vehicle able to make headlines. The unique iteration stole the hearts of driving enthusiasts due to its confident performance, wider stance, and sleek lines. Tweaks to the suspension and adding a rack and pinion steering box turned its determined and often bumpy ride into one that hugged the turns.
He only built 260 to be sold on the streetcar market, 31 S/C models, and 19 competition cars--which made this a rare beast even as it rolled off the showroom floor.
Over the years, the classic car remained in the minds and hearts of collectors, and in the 1980s, gearheads began building replicas. While it appeared that there were quite a few Shelby Super Snakes still on the road, in actuality, the originals became even more valuable and desirable as the lookalikes drove up demand.
Its lightweight build paired with horsepower numbers that impress even in the 21st century translated into a sports car that drivers desired then and now.
Was the 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra worthy of its modern million-dollar price tag?
Chassis CSX3016 took the checkers at the 1966 12 Hours of Sebring. The same vehicle also made some noise that year with appearances at Lime Rock, Watkins Glen, and Bridgehampton. Two years later, CSX3010 was piloted to the 1968 SCCA A Production Championship.
Meanwhile, the other 17 competition cars raced at hundreds of events around the globe, including Le Mans, Daytona, Nassau, and Silverstone, garnering attention wherever they appeared. The world simply fell in love with this ride.
Since each Shelby Cobra featured thorough documentation and badging from the factory, you can expect to spend a pretty penny when buying a 1966 Cobra 427. The average price paid for an authenticated ride runs around $1.35 million.
CSX3015--the one built for Shelby's personal use--sold for a cool $5.5 million in 2021. The highest ever paid for one of these was $13,750,000.
However, if somebody puts up their replica on the block and can offer no provenance for its authenticity, you can pick up a chassis in fair condition for under a grand.
No matter if you trailer a 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 to the British Columbia Custom & Classic Car Show or drive a much beloved 1987 Ford Thunderbird to your weekly meet, you want to protect it and your wallet in case of an accident. Find the support and coverage your special vehicle deserves with a collector car insurance policy from Orbit Insurance Services.