The first Cobra built by Carroll Shelby is among RM Sotheby’s auction cars | Bob Golfen photos
Among RM Sotheby’s fantastic array of collector cars are some real stars. First off, there’s the 1955 Jaguar D-type that was the overall victor in the 1956 24 Hours of Le Mans, and which remains intact and original after its busy racing career, raising its value to the stratosphere.
The curvaceous race car with its famous asymmetrical tailfin — the auction house calls the most important Jaguar in the known universe — is valued at $20 million to $25 million.
Then there is Shelby Cobra No. 1, the very first melding of a British AC sports car and a Ford V8 that Carroll Shelby rolled out into the world to monumental success. The Cobra is a historic artifact of immeasurable value and RM Sotheby’s has not made public its estimate. Should be interesting.
But aside from those, there is any number of fascinating vehicles coming up for sale today and Saturday at the Monterey, California, auction. Among those, and speaking of Carroll Shelby, a turbocharged 1986 Dodge Shelby Omni GLHS that belonged to the man himself and shows just 7,733 miles. Not super valuable, but cool in an oddball sort of way, the car is being sold to benefit the Carroll Shelby Foundation.
After prowling around RM Sotheby’s cars in the auction preview, here’s what I came up with as my favorites, though certainly not all the cars that I would be happy to drive away.
1964 Shelby 289 Cobra Known as “the winningest Cobra” because of its remarkable record of SCCA racing success driven by the legendary Don Roberts, this awesome car comes from the collection of Tucson, Arizona, Ford dealer Jim Click, who also has four other great competition Fords in the auction. I’d take this one over the first Cobra; it undoubtedly will go for a lot less if it sells.
1954 Talbot-Lago T26 GLS This gets my vote as most beautiful car at the auction, from its shapely slotted grille to its pert tailfins. The coupe’s factory body was created by French designer Carlo Delaisse. Beneath is a powerful twin-cam straight-6 engine. Only a small number of this model Talbot were produced, and about a dozen still exist. I want this one.
1931 Duesenberg Model J Tourster For fans of the classics, there’s nothing like a Duesenberg, and I thought this one with a body by Derham of Rosemont, Pennsylvania, had great presence. Gorgeously restored with pale green paint and a tan top, this Duesy looks like a concours winner.
1957 BMW 507 Series 1 These roadsters always look like sharks to me, and like most sports car drivers, I think the 507 reigns as one of the coolest cars ever. This one has been nicely restored with an interesting repaint of sea green with color-matched Rudge knockoff wheels, and its original red interior. A very striking car, though maybe not for everybody.
1956 Ferrari 250 GT Berlinetta Competizione This is another one of the stars of auction, and with good reason. It has a spectacular body by Scaglietti as well as impressive racing history, competing in the Mille Miglia and the Tour de France, among others. From the Sam and Emily Mann collection, this Ferrari has a pedigree a mile long, and it would be so much fun to flog on a race track, if you didn’t mind risking your $5 million to $7 million investment.
1962 Ghia L 6.4 coupe Here’s another rare beauty, an Italian-American hybrid that appealed to the Frank Sinatra-Dean Martin Rat Pack crowd in the ’60s. Powered by a Chrysler 383 cid “Wedge” V8 that cranked out 335 horsepower, the body is by Ghia designers and Chrysler’s famed Virgil Exner, which gives the car a definite mid-century “Mad Man” vibe.
1959 Bocar XP-5 “Meister Brauser” III The aggressive countenance of the XP-5 is mitigated somewhat by the Meister Brauser cartoon German on its flanks. This is a dedicated track weapon that would be a fierce competitor in vintage racing, though you might not want to risk its award-winning restoration.
1958 AC Aceca-Bristol The Aceca is the attractive coupe version of the Ace sports car that Shelby turned into the Cobra. This one is powered by a 2.0-liter, 128-horsepower Bristol six-cylinder engine, not quite a Ford V8 but powerful enough to motivate this lightweight car.
1932 Ford High-Boy Roadster A classic handmade hot rod, this funky machine has loads of eyeball (just look at Salvadore Dali checking it out). It was not built back in the day but constructed by rodding experts from all pre-1950 parts in the style of an amateur-build dry lakes roadster, according to the auction catalog. It looks pretty great, whatever the back story.
Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.