HomeFeatured VehiclesShowroom Showcase: 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra

Showroom Showcase: 1965 Shelby 289 Cobra

A documented, no-excuses marriage made in heaven


Is there a more desired car in the collector world than a Shelby Cobra? Sure, you can have your Bow Tie anything and spend $200,000 in a build, but it won’t have the cache of a Shelby Cobra. You could spend a lot more money for some Ferraris, but they aren’t framed in the dreams of enthusiasts the way the Shelby Cobra is. The truth is that Cobras have been desired since new and have been the ultimate sports car for quite some time.

Looking at the Shelby Cobra, it’s difficult to imagine its styling is derived from a British car from the 1950s. British, you say? Huzzah! Yet it’s true – a small company called AC began producing the Ace in 1953 powered by an ancient 2.0-liter OHC straight-six with 100 horsepower. A Bristol-produced, 120-horse 2.0-liter straight-six showed up for 1956, and front disc brakes appearing as an option the following year. For 1961, a facelifted Ace with a modified 2.6-liter (British) Ford straight-six offering 170 horsepower became available; the engine required AC to upgrade the differential, and inboard disc brakes were added. These were fortuitous changes in the AC Ace saga.

During this time, retired American racer Carroll Shelby, who had dreamed of manufacturing his own sports car, approached AC Cars after hearing its Bristol-based engine was being phased out. Would AC custom-build an Ace that would accept an American V8? Shelby went to Dearborn, and Ford’s interest was piqued, so AC managed to secure a 260cid small-block from Ford of Britain. Modifications on the Ace commenced: new motor and transmission  mounts were designed, and the suspension mounting points were strengthened. For meatier rubber, if not from widening the front and rear track, fender flares were specified. Though many modifications were made underneath the aluminum skin, this modified AC Ace appeared quite close to stock.

After the transformation, the engine and transmission were removed, and the Ace was shipped to Shelby in California, who already had two engines from Ford waiting in the wings. Eight hours later, the product of the combined effort was being road-tested and, thus, Cobra CSX2000 was born.

Shelby made a list of additional modifications for the fledgling Cobra, including strengthening the chassis, and communicated them to AC as production of the Cobra was to get under way. Then, Shelby reached out to the automotive press to sample CSX2000. Car Life proclaimed, “When the Cobra is certified for production sports car racing, a dox will have been dropped among the chickens.” In April 1962, the only Cobra in the world (at the time, painted pale yellow) appeared at the New York Coliseum for the New York International Auto Show. In the ensuing months, CSX2000 would be painted in several colors to give the public the illusion of production so dealers would sign up and orders would come in. In mid-May, the first production Shelby Cobra, CSX2001, arrived and was invoiced to a dealership in Pittsburgh.

As Cobras began trickling into the U.S., Shelby was received feedback from dealers, owners, and racers, resulting in running changes to improve the breed, both on AC’s and Shelby’s ends. By the 200th Cobra, give or take, production had been standardized.

The first 75 Cobras were built with the 260 small-block, upon which it was replaced by the 271-horsepower 289 Hi-Performance. Not only was this a new, robust update of the small-block, but it also took the Cobra from an impressive, new-fangled roadster to an outrageous sports car.

At that moment, during the reign of the Pininfarninas and Bertones of the world, the Cobra’s design was already old, yet its looks were able to endure against what would become classics from Italy and the United Kingdom. Looking through the lens of today, the Cobra continues to be a car that has aged gracefully, as evidenced by CSX2337. Originally invoiced on May 21, 1964, to Walter Larson Ford in Murray, Utah, this red and black 289 Cobra roadster was invoiced for $5,195 plus white sidewall tires, antifreeze, and freight for a total of $5,527.15. List price was $6,465. By December, the hybrid roadster had yet to sell, but an Anaheim, California-based aerospace engineer caught wind of it after being entranced by a friend’s Cobra. John Hector saw an opportunity and whittled the price down to $5,299 to become the first owner of CSX2337. This Cobra features Shelby’s Group A equipment, which included chrome air cleaner, aluminum valve covers, chrome front grille and rear bumper guards, chrome exhaust tips, adjustable wind wings, tinted sun visors, heater, competition seat belts, and whitewall tires.

For several years, the Cobra was used often for John’s daily commute. In the 1970s, he had the engine balanced and added some tweaks that included a Holley 725cfm carburetor, aluminum Cobra manifold, Derrington headers, and Harrison oil cooler, plus the heads were ported and polished. A repaint in 1973 happened the same year John moved to Bend, Oregon, where the Cobra led a more leisurely life, becoming a car for local shows in the 1980s.

To this day, every aluminum body panel of CSX2337 is original. The engine, transmission, and rear also are original to the car. Even the spare tire, which has never been used, is the one that came with the car. The engine was rebuilt and balanced about 10 years ago, with 3-4,000 being added to the odometer since then.

The sale of CSX2337 includes the original sales paperwork, manufacturer’s statement of origin, 500-mile service paperwork, original tools and tool bag, AC Cobra chassis instruction book, grease gun, jack, owner’s manual, and period brochures. Also included are the original soft top and bows, tonneau cover, side curtains, and spare key and fob. For $1,250,000, you’ll have a Cobra that’s as honest as they get.

The Shelby Cobra is a story about a marriage made in heaven, an older British roadster that found love with a younger American V8 and managed to be a power couple beyond Carroll Shelby’s imagination. It’s been over 60 years, yet the Shelby Cobra continues to make waves. To learn more about this no-excuses roadster and to set up an appointment, visit

Diego Rosenberg
Diego Rosenberg
Lead Writer Diego Rosenberg is a native of Wilmington, Delaware and Princeton, New Jersey, giving him plenty of exposure to the charms of Carlisle and Englishtown. Though his first love is Citroen, he fell for muscle cars after being seduced by 1950s finned flyers—in fact, he’s written two books on American muscle. But please don’t think there is a strong American bias because foreign weirdness is never far from his heart. With a penchant for underground music from the 1960-70s, Diego and his family reside in metropolitan Phoenix.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Recent Posts