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The world’s first Shelby Cobra is up for sale

Those who love the Shelby Cobra and have a great deal of disposable income will be pleased to know a very special example is going under the hammer.

RM Sotheby’s is auctioning a Shelby Cobra that it calls “the most important modern American automobile,” which is a fair description. It is, in fact, the first ever example of the famous sports car and was owned by Shelby founder Carroll Shelby between 1962 and 2012.

It went into the hands of the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust after 2012 before going up for auction, giving classic car fans a chance to own the 1962 Shelby 260 Cobra CSX 2000, complete with its 260bhp V8 mated to a four-speed manual gearbox.

Besides being the only Shelby Cobra on the planet for seven months, it became a very important car because it married the brute force approach of an American V8 Ford engine to the precision of a lightweight British chassis borrowed from the AC Ace.

You would be forgiven for thinking 260bhp is a little on the low side for a sports car, but the Shelby Cobra was years ahead of the competition. Its 4.3-litre engine and low kerb weight meant it could hit 0-60mph in 4.2 seconds (making it noticeably quicker than a modern-day Ford Focus RS) and had a 153mph top speed.

Not only that, it could manage a quarter-mile in 13.8 seconds ─ incredible for a car more than 50 years old and one built in the relatively unknown village of Thames Ditton in Surrey.

Such was its pace, it is commonly blamed for the introduction of the 70mph speed limit on motorways in Britain. In its later 427 form, Carroll Shelby used to place a US$100 dollar bill in the glovebox, which would be yours if you could grab it under full acceleration. No one did, of course.

It was also remarkably pretty (although the later models got the lovely bulbous arches) and still is, which is why original cars routinely sell for big bucks. Even replicas can fetch a pretty penny.

The car has spent most of its life in the Shelby Heritage Center in Las Vegas and is in the original condition, meaning stone chips, a worn interior and various other blemishes that ultimately add to the character in this case.

Wannabe owners will be able to bid on the car at RM Sotheby’s annual auction in Monterey in California between the 19th and 20th of August. Given the importance of this particular Shelby Cobra and the lack of an estimate, expect a huge sale price. If only we had the cash…

Video: Shelby Cobra CSX 2000


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