. Cobra Ranch Historical Automotive Blog: Featuring Wally Wyss

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Friday, September 7, 2012

Dukes up, MSN! We Take Your Writer To Task On His List of the 10 Most Significant Cobras

By Wallace Wyss

James Tate, a writer for MSN Autos, started a firestorm in late August, 2012  when he authored an article on his employer's website declaring his opinion on the Ten Most Significant Cobras Ever Built.

We quote his entire list, exactly as we found it:

Monterey Motorsports Reunion
CSX 2345 FIA Cobra Roadster
Starting off the list, this roadster, serial number CSX 2345, earned five Federation Internationale de L'Automobile wins as part of the first American team to take home the prestigious FIA World Manufacturers Championship. It was driven by Phil Hill, Bob Bondurant, Roy Salvadori, and Sir John Whitmore, among others. It was one of the five Roadsters built for FIA competition with a 289 cubic-inch engine, only two of which remain around today.

Monterey Motorsports Reunion
CSX 2431 USRRC Cobra Roadster
Sporting the now iconic color combination of white stripes on blue, this is probably the most recognizable Cobra in history. CSX2431 is the 1964 289 Cobra Roadster that Ken Miles raced exclusively — barring one event — in the USRRC series. It is cited as the chassis that helped Shelby America develop most of the components it would later use to win a variety of domestic and international championships, like sway bars, springs, and the Weber manifold setup.

Monterey Motorsports Reunion
CSX 2128 Sebring Cobra Roadster
Driven by Dan Gurney and Ken Miles, this badass snake appeared on the cover of the album "Hey Little Cobra" in 1964, which was recorded by legendary surf-sound pioneers, The Rip Chords. Two were built for the 1963 12 Hours of Sebring, and they were among the first Cobras to carry rack-and-pinion steering along with the now famous 289 cubic-inch motor.

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CSX 2427 Cobra 289 Dragonsnake
Dragonsnakes are among the rarest competition Cobras ever produced. Built exclusively for drag racing, only six were ever assembled with Ford's 289-cu-in V8 engine. Of these, only two left the factory with the Stage III-D competition engines. Even more importantly, this is the only one still left in existence. Not only that, but this is one of only two yellow and Weber-carburetor inducted Cobras ever sold.

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CSX 2299 Daytona Coupe
In 1963, Shelby American realized the need for a more aerodynamic version of the 289 Cobra Roadster to keep up with the sleek Ferrari 250 GTO. The end result was the first and only American built FIA GT World Champion. The CSX 2299 was the second coupe built, the first completed at Carrozzeria Gransport in Modena, Italy, and has the best race pedigree of the group, winning the 24 Hours of LeMans, 12 Hours of Sebring, the Daytona Continental 24 Hours, and the 1965 FIA GT World Championship.

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CSX 2026 Cobra Roadster
No Cobra better illustrates the changes that transformed the outdated Ace roadster into a Cobra capable of winning races against the best sports cars in the world than CSX 2026, the very first Cobra to win a race (Riverside in February, 1963) as well as a national championship. It is powered by a 260 cu-in 300 horsepower engine fitted with four Weber carburetors. Plus, it sports a myriad of rare and competition features including the Nassau-style headers, competition windshield kit, alloy brake calipers, and more.

Monterey Motorsports Reunion
CSX 2002 Cobra Roadster
The first Shelby factory racer and the third Cobra ever built, this snake, serial number CSX 2002, went through an exhaustive 2,800-hour restoration in 1977. The 2002 emerged with an estimated 95 percent of its original frame and around 85 percent of its original body along with a slew of original equipment like the "Flamethrower" ignition, roll bar, and instruments. Even the gas cap is original.

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CSX 3017 Cobra
This is one of only 16 full-competition 427 Supersnake Cobras sold to the public. Fitted with a NASCAR-spec V8 engine, the 427 puts out an absurd 550 horsepower. The CSX 3017 (when the larger 427 cu-in engine was used, chassis numbers jumped from 2000 to 3000) was raced by Ford Canada team driver George Eaton in the '60s, and survives today with its original body intact.

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CSX 4000 Cobra
The first reproduction of the Shelby Cobra, CSX 4000 gave birth to the kit-car legions of Cobras all over the U.S. and has become the most replicated car in history. Offering the everyman a chance to drive his own legend, CSX 4000 brought the horsepower to the people in a big way and stands as a testament to the difference between "fashion" and "style." Just about every Cobra you've ever seen (unless you're very lucky) is a copy of this "original clone".

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Cobra #1: The Daddy
The first production Shelby Cobra, which debuted at the 1962 New York Auto Show, Cobra #1 raced through Europe during the mid-'60s, leading a charge of American power into international auto racing while cutting a swath through dejected Corvette drivers from coast to coast back home in the States. Carroll Shelby set out to combine overwhelming American horsepower with the handling and braking prowess of the British sports cars of the era. Shelby Cobra #1 is a timeless distillation of one man's dream."

Regarding Mr. Tate’s choices, I got a few bones to pick. Maybe he meant to write the title as “Ten Most Significant Cobras at Monterey,”  but the title says in plain words "ever built," and in the second paragraph he says  "Here we bring you the 10 most significant Shelby cars ever to roll off an assembly line."

CSX2196, the Flip Top Cobra
Well, Mr. Tate, I expect you expected some criticism of your choices and here's mine. First,  I would have had more 427s. While it’s true that the  289 cars won more races; however, the 427, for some years, was the ultimate American-engined road car.  The MSN author left off CSX2196 aka "Flip Top" which that was the start of the 427 Cobra. It would be a more interesting car to me if it had kept the bodywork it had when crashed at Sebring by Miles.
Regarding CSX3017 I doubt 550 hp. Maybe that could be accomplished today with more modern parts but I've seen factory spec sheets that quote a hp. figure of 485 hp.
for the Full Comp car.
Supercharged 1966 Shelby Twin Paxton
And why didn't Tate include the twin Paxton car, the one that Shelby owned himself and built for himself; later owned by Jimmy Webb the songwriter. What made that car significant was that it was a case of the originator of the Cobra building a hell-for-leather kick-ass Cobra just for himself, so I think that should be included, regardless of how little development the package  had (the owner of a duplicate car managed to let his get away from him and died at the wheel as a result).
Ken Miles in CSX 3002 at Lakeside 1965
I would have replaced 3017 on his list with 3002  which had a  more significant race history than 3017.   I would have left out any of the 4000 series cars on the grounds that they were not built “in the original era.” I would have put in at least one of the ’63 LeMans cars, the first that finished because it is significant for a brand new marque to be able to finish the famous LeMans 24 hour.
Finally to say that the Daytona coupe "won LeMans" is mis-leading to those who don't realize that there are class winners and overall race winners. At first glance you're making it sound like Daytonas won LeMans, Sebring and Daytona when you may be referring to a win in class, which is a long ways from winning the race (like winning one battle in a war but that still doesn't mean you won the war). Also I would have listed the first Daytona Cobra made only because--when it  proved to be faster than the roadsters in testing--Shelby made the decision based on that lap time to build more. If it would have been a dog, one car would have been all she wrote. In car collecting the very first and very last are usually worth more than a car made in the middle of a particular model run. The key word is "significance," and when the first of something works, that first one becomes more significant if said device goes into production.
Our conclusion: it's great that you are a Cobra enthusiast but research trumps (if you need a bibliography, I'll be glad to send one...)
WALLACE WYSS is the author of SHELBY: The Man, the Cars, The Legend
now in its second edition (Iconografix, Hudson, WI)

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