. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Sunday, December 18, 2011

Historic Cobra Series - The "Flip Top" CSX2196

Illustration: This version with the three Ferrari GTO type air intakes was the way it looked when
Miles crashed it into the only tree on the course at Sebring."

One of the most famous Cobras ever built had a really odd career. That’s because it was a “mule” car that was used for development. It has the nickname “flip top” which was given to it because the front hood rose along with the fenders for engine access like the flip top of a cigarette box.

In its first incarnation, in 1963, Shelby asked Ken Miles,m his famous development driver, to see if he could put a 427 in it. Now this was a leaf spring car so it didn’t take to kindly to all the additional power and weight.

Miles must have had a sense of humor as he put three air intake slots above the big Cobra grille cavity the slots copies of those on the Ferrari 250GTO0—the arch enemy of the Cobra.

The car handled squirrely and Miles managed to crash it in practice at Sebring by hitting the only tree on the course!  He then stayed up all night trying to rebuild it for the race. It is reported Miles had two broken or cracked ribs. The next day he started the race, then turned it over to John Morton, who subsequently blew the engine .

The specially built Cobra was the only version with solid front and rear bodywork that could be flipped up for full access to the working parts. (Photo: RM Auctions)

The car was taken back to California and a lighter body developed that was flip top in the front (a la E-type Jaguar) and flip top in the back (a la GT40) , called “clam-shell” style and common on some pure racing cars of the time.

It was fitted with an all aluminum 390 inch Ford for testing but when it went to Nassau some say it was running an iron block 427 again . At Nassau it was hotter than a two dollar pistol at first but it was whomped by the Corvettes in what was a “rigged” race in a way as GM was there backing the Grand Sport Corvettes (tube frame Corvettes) though GM was officially out of racing. Zora Arkus-Duntov, chief Corvette man, had been slapped by GM brass for secretly developing the Grand Sports and told to disband his racing program but since Nassau was not in the U.S. he made one last stab at racng them to humble the Cobras and succeeded at that one event.

The flip top went through several owners and was again fitted with a 427. It was last seen in the RM auction in 2010 where it did not meet the reserve. This writer would like to see it in its regular Cobra body with the 250GTO air intakes—maybe then it could be the most expensive racing Cobra to hit an auction, other than the Cobra Daytona coupes…

 ~Wallace Wyss

image credit: RM Auction Co.

1 comment:

  1. the corvetes didnt whomp on this cobra . this cobra opened up a 1/2 mile lead the first lap . the vets whomped on 289 cobras with there 396 big block race prepped vets . 390 and 427 cobras eat vets up 24/7 365. get your story right . 260 cobras ran and hid from 327 vets thats why they went to hand built big block vets to beat the 289 cobras . chevy and vets suck .