The invoice for the Shelby 427 Cobra (CSX3178) is dated March 3, 1966. The price listed for the car painted Charcoal with a Black interior is $6,273, which includes a $185 freight fee.
Only five 427 Cobras were delivered with Charcoal paint, but much more significant in regard to CSX3178 is that it was owned from brand new until his death by Carroll Shelby his own self.
And now the car, restored to Day One color and configuration — well, except for some engine tweaks done by Shelby — is in Kissimmee, Florida, where it will roll across the block at Mecum Auctions’ huge sale on Friday, January 15.
At various times, the car was painted blue with a gold stripe across its nose. Later, the color was changed to red. At one point it had a roll bar. At some point, it had side pipes.
The original 427cid Ford V8 wasn’t quite enough to satisfy Ol’ Shel, so he installed an aluminum-head 427 side-oiler and — get this — an automatic transmission, presumably making the car easier to enjoy for its aging if seemingly ageless driver. Shelby died in 2012, at age 89 the longest-living heart-transplant recipient.
Shelby received his heart transplant in 1990, and soon thereafter was giving rides at speed in the Dodge Viper pace car around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
In 1972, Shelby had Cobra specialist Mike McCluskey restore the car, a process that included the new blue hue. In 2002, Shelby’s own crew turned the car red.
After Shelby’s death, the car was sold by his family and in 2019 underwent restoration at Legendary Motorcar Company, Peter Klutt’s shop in Halton Hills, Ontario, just west of Toronto.
While the car didn’t necessarily need restoration in the dictionary sense of that word, “what it needed was to be put back in its original colors and state,” Klutt said. “It was painted red, had a goofy roll bar on it. Shelby put an automatic in it. He was getting older and didn’t want to drive a stick anymore, so he changed it.
“So many Cobras were modified over the years,” Klutt added, noting that’s what McCluskey had done for Shelby in the early 1970s.
“But people (who buy them now) want them the way they left the factory,” Klutt continued. “We’ve probably restored 50 Cobras, and done a lot fo restoring back to original.”
Klutt found the car to be what he called “spectacular” as far as “its bones. The chassis didn’t have a ding. The body was beautiful, no prangs. It was a great car.”
What clinched the restoration plan was a photo that Klutt’s crew found of the car with Shelby and Dan Gurney standing next to it in blue blazers with white piping-style trim.
“The car was a beautiful charcoal gray,” Klutt said of the decision to return it to that Day One color and configuration, though retaining Shelby’s side-oiler engine and replacing the automatic with a Toploader 4-speed manual.
Klutt has been restoring cars since he was 15 years old. His shop spans 75,000 square feet. He has two sales showrooms and also storage facilities on his 20-acre lot.
He not only restores Cobras but drives them.
“I usually have a Cobra in the garage,” he said. “I’ve always been a Cobra guy, though I race Corvettes and go back and forth on daily drivers.”
Speaking of driving, Klutt already has done three track days in a 2020 Corvette and also races when he can in NASCAR’s Pinty’s Series, successor to the historic CASCAR Super Series.
As for Shelby’s-own Cobra, Mecum’s online catalog points out, “Carroll Shelby’s lifelong personal 427 Cobra is the big brother of CSX2000, the original small-block Cobra. CSX2000 recently sold for almost $14 million.
“CSX3178 occupies a hallowed place in Cobra history, and it is the only 427 Cobra Carroll Shelby owned from new until his passing.
“Imagine sitting in the seat that Carroll Shelby sat in for all those years and all of the conversations he had with his famous passengers (friends and racers) — if only this car could talk.
“This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime chance to own Carroll Shelby’s lifelong personal 427 Cobra, and CSX3178 occupies a hallowed place in Cobra history as perhaps the most significant of all.”