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1966 Shelby 427 S/C Cobra

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Chassis No. CSX 3040
Never one to rest on his laurels, and despite winning the 1964 International Championship for GT Manufacturers, Carroll Shelby opted to develop a new, even more potent Cobra for the 1965 race season. Broadly similar in appearance to its predecessors, the car was in fact substantially altered beneath; its revised chassis–designated Mk III and developed in conjunction with Ford engineers in Detroit–featuring four-inch rather than three-inch diameter tubes, with commensurately enhanced rigidity. Its bodywork was widened by some five inches to accommodate its revised track, while crucially the antiquated leaf-spring spring suspension arrangement of the earlier cars was replaced with a more contemporary system of wishbones and combined coil spring and damper units.
However, it was in their motive power that the Shelby-developed cars (their rolling chassis still produced in England by AC Cars) afforded their biggest surprise. A NASCAR-sourced 427 cu-in Ford V8 engine would provide around 485 horsepower in competition trim; a figure, Shelby believed, more than adequate to maintain supremacy over arch-rivals Ferrari. Yet for once, the wily Texan had misjudged the situation, for when the FIA delegates arrived at Shelby American's LAX facility to inspect the 100 cars required to attain homologation for international racing, they were bemused to find barely half that number completed. Unsurprisingly, approval was not forthcoming.
Suitably crestfallen, and with his 1965 racing plans for the Cobra in tatters, Shelby had to improvise to avoid commercial disaster. Some 16 Competition-specification cars had already been completed to fulfil orders from predominantly SCCA-focused customers, with a further single-digit number earmarked for ongoing prototyping and development work–yet still Shelby American were saddled with 31 completed chassis for which no immediate prospects of sale existed.
It was at this point that Charles Biedler, Shelby's East Coast Sales Representative, stepped in with an idea which would unwittingly change the course of American–if not global–automotive history. If the 427's future in international competition was doomed, he reasoned, then why not offer a mildly de-tuned version to produce perhaps the most potent road car ever? As an exercise in damage limitation, it was a masterstroke. Shelby subsequently cancelled any outstanding orders for Mk III chassis from AC cars, and hastily re-purposed the remaining unsold Competition chassis into new Semi-Competition–or S/C–form.
Duly fitted with lower compression cylinder heads which reduced power to a slightly more manageable, if still utterly brutal, 425 horsepower, other faint concessions to road use on the S/C largely centered around the fitment of a full width windscreen. Features such as the outrageous side exhausts, oil cooler, rollover bar, external filler cap, and even quick-lift jacking points were all carried over from its Competition counterpart, while the car's prodigious thirst was sated by the retention of the same specification 42-gallon fuel tank.
Predictably, performance was near-ballistic, with 60 mph achieved in barely four seconds–albeit hampered by severe wheelspin–and a top speed well in excess of 165 mph. As if further confirmation of the 427's staggering capability were needed, legendary Shelby American test and race driver Ken Miles reputedly achieved a zero-to-100 mph-to-zero time of just 13.2 seconds at the wheel of one, although whether this was a lower-specification “standard” 427–a relative term–or an S/C remains unclear.
As one of the hallowed 31 S/C chassis, CSX 3040 was supplied to Hi-Performance Motors of El Segundo, California on 24 August 1966 and was subsequently sold to Dr. Robert Degnan of Hacienda Heights, California. By 1973 it was in the care of a second known owner, Steven Harlock. Later that same year, Harlock expressed a desire to sell, and it was recorded in a SAAC Cobra Registry entry that CSX 3040 had covered just 8,900 miles; a remarkably low figure for such an exhilarating road car, by now seven years old. Furthermore, the entry also recorded that the car was notable for still retaining its side exhausts, long-range fuel tank, rollover bar, and oil cooler.
By 1979, CSX 3040 had relocated to England, entering the ownership of Michael Haywood of Birmingham. Evidently Mr. Haywood continued the car's theme of sympathetic and modest use, for he added only an additional 3,100 miles during his tenure before selling it to prominent Australian businessman and car collector Peter Briggs in 1980.
Mr. Briggs had established the York Motor Museum near Perth, Western Australia in 1979; his rich and varied collection including the likes of a Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII, the 1933 Mille Miglia-winning MG K3, a Ferrari 166MM, and a Williams FW07 Formula One car. Appropriately, the arrival of CSX 3040 at the museum coincided with his acquisition of another titan of the 1960s GT and Competition scene, a Jaguar Lightweight E-Type; the pair subsequently competing on occasion in events such as the Targa Tasmania, in which the Cobra competed in 1992.
After more than 20 years of ownership, Mr. Briggs reluctantly sold CSX 3040 in 2001 to esteemed Hong Kong-based collector Chip Connor, whose remarkable collection included both the 1960 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and a Ferrari 250 GTO. Thereafter Mr. Connor entrusted CSX 3040 to world-renowned Cobra authority Mike McCluskey of Torrance, California for a comprehensive technical evaluation and restoration.
As a former Shelby contractor and arguably the pre-eminent Cobra restorer, McCluskey was uniquely placed to perform the sympathetic rebuild which CSX 3040 so richly deserved. Once dismantled at his shop–located barely ten miles from the factory in which it had originally been completed–it became apparent as to the car's remarkably preserved state. Indeed, Mr. McCluskey identified at this stage that all major areas of the car–bodywork, engine, drivetrain, and interior–remained original, additionally confirming that no notable crash damage was evident.
In close consultation with Mr. Connor, the restoration was embarked upon in earnest; its primary goal being to preserve such priceless originality wherever possible. The engine was entirely rebuilt and bench-tested, with any original accessories removed for safekeeping and replaced with like-for-like items. Furthermore, the car's original dash panel, instruments, and seats were restored and retained, while its aluminum inner panels were refurbished and reused wherever possible. However, arguably the most delicate part of the entire process was the restoration of the original body; all panels being painstakingly metal finished prior to being primed and readied for painting.
Employing highly durable acrylic urethane paint, CSX 3040 was duly configured in the stunning color scheme of silver with white competition stripes and white number “meatballs”; its appearance further enhanced by its gloss black rollover hoop and satin black side exhausts. The addition of two yellow flashes on the driver's side front fender also provided an appropriately “period” touch; their presence redolent of the color-coded nosebands employed by Shelby American throughout their 1964 International GT campaign. Upon completion, the car was enjoyed by Mr. Connor for several years prior to its sale to the consignor in 2018. In their custody, CSX 3040 has been used only very occasionally and its preparation and presentation maintained to the customarily high standards of its previous owner.
Supported by a copy of the original Shelby American sales invoice, its SAAC Cobra Registry entry and a detailed dossier of the exacting restoration performed by Mike McCluskey, CSX 3040 undoubtedly remains one of the most original and exquisitely presented 427 S/Cs extant. Furthermore, as one of just 31 S/C chassis constructed–and one of only 316 big-block cars constructed in total–it is notable for its incredible rarity and, consequently, remains truly the holy grail of all street-legal Cobras.

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Chassis No. CSX 3040
Never one to rest on his laurels, and despite winning the 1964 International Championship for GT Manufacturers, Carroll Shelby opted to develop a new, even more potent Cobra for the 1965 race season. Broadly similar in appearance to its predecessors, the car was in fact substantially altered beneath; its revised chassis–designated Mk III and developed in conjunction with Ford engineers in Detroit–featuring four-inch rather than three-inch diameter tubes, with commensurately enhanced rigidity. Its bodywork was widened by some five inches to accommodate its revised track, while crucially the antiquated leaf-spring spring suspension arrangement of the earlier cars was replaced with a more contemporary system of wishbones and combined coil spring and damper units.
However, it was in their motive power that the Shelby-developed cars (their rolling chassis still produced in England by AC Cars) afforded their biggest surprise. A NASCAR-sourced 427 cu-in Ford V8 engine would provide around 485 horsepower in competition trim; a figure, Shelby believed, more than adequate to maintain supremacy over arch-rivals Ferrari. Yet for once, the wily Texan had misjudged the situation, for when the FIA delegates arrived at Shelby American's LAX facility to inspect the 100 cars required to attain homologation for international racing, they were bemused to find barely half that number completed. Unsurprisingly, approval was not forthcoming.
Suitably crestfallen, and with his 1965 racing plans for the Cobra in tatters, Shelby had to improvise to avoid commercial disaster. Some 16 Competition-specification cars had already been completed to fulfil orders from predominantly SCCA-focused customers, with a further single-digit number earmarked for ongoing prototyping and development work–yet still Shelby American were saddled with 31 completed chassis for which no immediate prospects of sale existed.
It was at this point that Charles Biedler, Shelby's East Coast Sales Representative, stepped in with an idea which would unwittingly change the course of American–if not global–automotive history. If the 427's future in international competition was doomed, he reasoned, then why not offer a mildly de-tuned version to produce perhaps the most potent road car ever? As an exercise in damage limitation, it was a masterstroke. Shelby subsequently cancelled any outstanding orders for Mk III chassis from AC cars, and hastily re-purposed the remaining unsold Competition chassis into new Semi-Competition–or S/C–form.
Duly fitted with lower compression cylinder heads which reduced power to a slightly more manageable, if still utterly brutal, 425 horsepower, other faint concessions to road use on the S/C largely centered around the fitment of a full width windscreen. Features such as the outrageous side exhausts, oil cooler, rollover bar, external filler cap, and even quick-lift jacking points were all carried over from its Competition counterpart, while the car's prodigious thirst was sated by the retention of the same specification 42-gallon fuel tank.
Predictably, performance was near-ballistic, with 60 mph achieved in barely four seconds–albeit hampered by severe wheelspin–and a top speed well in excess of 165 mph. As if further confirmation of the 427's staggering capability were needed, legendary Shelby American test and race driver Ken Miles reputedly achieved a zero-to-100 mph-to-zero time of just 13.2 seconds at the wheel of one, although whether this was a lower-specification “standard” 427–a relative term–or an S/C remains unclear.
As one of the hallowed 31 S/C chassis, CSX 3040 was supplied to Hi-Performance Motors of El Segundo, California on 24 August 1966 and was subsequently sold to Dr. Robert Degnan of Hacienda Heights, California. By 1973 it was in the care of a second known owner, Steven Harlock. Later that same year, Harlock expressed a desire to sell, and it was recorded in a SAAC Cobra Registry entry that CSX 3040 had covered just 8,900 miles; a remarkably low figure for such an exhilarating road car, by now seven years old. Furthermore, the entry also recorded that the car was notable for still retaining its side exhausts, long-range fuel tank, rollover bar, and oil cooler.
By 1979, CSX 3040 had relocated to England, entering the ownership of Michael Haywood of Birmingham. Evidently Mr. Haywood continued the car's theme of sympathetic and modest use, for he added only an additional 3,100 miles during his tenure before selling it to prominent Australian businessman and car collector Peter Briggs in 1980.
Mr. Briggs had established the York Motor Museum near Perth, Western Australia in 1979; his rich and varied collection including the likes of a Hispano-Suiza Alfonso XIII, the 1933 Mille Miglia-winning MG K3, a Ferrari 166MM, and a Williams FW07 Formula One car. Appropriately, the arrival of CSX 3040 at the museum coincided with his acquisition of another titan of the 1960s GT and Competition scene, a Jaguar Lightweight E-Type; the pair subsequently competing on occasion in events such as the Targa Tasmania, in which the Cobra competed in 1992.
After more than 20 years of ownership, Mr. Briggs reluctantly sold CSX 3040 in 2001 to esteemed Hong Kong-based collector Chip Connor, whose remarkable collection included both the 1960 Le Mans-winning Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa and a Ferrari 250 GTO. Thereafter Mr. Connor entrusted CSX 3040 to world-renowned Cobra authority Mike McCluskey of Torrance, California for a comprehensive technical evaluation and restoration.
As a former Shelby contractor and arguably the pre-eminent Cobra restorer, McCluskey was uniquely placed to perform the sympathetic rebuild which CSX 3040 so richly deserved. Once dismantled at his shop–located barely ten miles from the factory in which it had originally been completed–it became apparent as to the car's remarkably preserved state. Indeed, Mr. McCluskey identified at this stage that all major areas of the car–bodywork, engine, drivetrain, and interior–remained original, additionally confirming that no notable crash damage was evident.
In close consultation with Mr. Connor, the restoration was embarked upon in earnest; its primary goal being to preserve such priceless originality wherever possible. The engine was entirely rebuilt and bench-tested, with any original accessories removed for safekeeping and replaced with like-for-like items. Furthermore, the car's original dash panel, instruments, and seats were restored and retained, while its aluminum inner panels were refurbished and reused wherever possible. However, arguably the most delicate part of the entire process was the restoration of the original body; all panels being painstakingly metal finished prior to being primed and readied for painting.
Employing highly durable acrylic urethane paint, CSX 3040 was duly configured in the stunning color scheme of silver with white competition stripes and white number “meatballs”; its appearance further enhanced by its gloss black rollover hoop and satin black side exhausts. The addition of two yellow flashes on the driver's side front fender also provided an appropriately “period” touch; their presence redolent of the color-coded nosebands employed by Shelby American throughout their 1964 International GT campaign. Upon completion, the car was enjoyed by Mr. Connor for several years prior to its sale to the consignor in 2018. In their custody, CSX 3040 has been used only very occasionally and its preparation and presentation maintained to the customarily high standards of its previous owner.
Supported by a copy of the original Shelby American sales invoice, its SAAC Cobra Registry entry and a detailed dossier of the exacting restoration performed by Mike McCluskey, CSX 3040 undoubtedly remains one of the most original and exquisitely presented 427 S/Cs extant. Furthermore, as one of just 31 S/C chassis constructed–and one of only 316 big-block cars constructed in total–it is notable for its incredible rarity and, consequently, remains truly the holy grail of all street-legal Cobras.

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01 Mar 2024
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