1966 Shelby 427 CobraSOLD
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Estimate: $725,000-$825,000 US

AUCTION RESULTS: Lot was Sold at a price of $682,000

485bhp 427 cu. in. overhead valve V8 engine with four-speed manual transmission, four-wheel coil spring independent suspension, rack and pinion steering and four-wheel disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90"

Although the 289 Cobra was well proven in competition, by the mid-sixties it was becoming clear that something was lacking. Every year, more power was needed to stay competitive and Ford ’ s 289 had reached its reliability limit at around 380 or 390hp.

One of the great minds behind the mighty 427 Cobra was racing driver Ken Miles, who had designed, built and raced many lightweight “ specials ” – one-off cars – usually with powerful engines. Miles thought the idea of a racing special with an even bigger engine might work with the Cobra. If there was any doubt about the need, it was eliminated when the Shelby team went to Nassau for Speed Week in 1963 where they were confronted with Chevrolet ’ s new Corvette Grand Sports, which were faster by more than nine seconds per lap than the Cobras!

Although Shelby had been promised a new aluminum block version of Ford ’ s 390 engine, internal resistance developed from the NASCAR faction inside Ford and Shelby was forced to make do with the cast iron 427. Although reliable at 500hp, the engine was so much heavier that a complete redesign of the chassis was required to ensure that the car would handle properly. The result was a new chassis with bigger main frame tubes, five inches wider and with coil springs all around. With the help of Ford ’ s engineering department, the necessary work was done and the 427 Cobra was introduced.

As with all his cars, Shelby intended to see that they were winners on the track. In order to qualify as a production car under FIA rules for the GT class, manufacturers were required to produce a minimum of 100 examples. Competition features included an extended body to accommodate wider wheels and tires, an oil cooler, side exhaust, external fuel filler, front jacking points, roll bar, and a special 42-gallon fuel tank.

Anticipating FIA approval, Shelby placed an order with AC for 100 of these competition 427 Cobras. Each was finished in primer, with a black interior, and air shipped to Shelby ’ s facilities upon completion. Unfortunately, on April 29, 1965, when FIA inspectors arrived they found just 51 cars completed, and denied Shelby the homologation he needed. Once Shelby knew that the FIA was not going to allow the new 427 Cobra to compete in the International GT class, he cancelled his order for the remaining competition cars, and AC began production of street cars immediately.

Racing in the USA was a different story however, since the big block Cobras were eligible for Production Competition in SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) Regional and National Racing.

By 1964, the SCCA had evolved a method of selecting their national champions. The winner in each geographic division was pitted against all of the other division winners for a final shoot-out at the end of each season. This was called ARRC or American Road Race of Champions. “ 427 ” powered Cobras raced in SCCA ’ s top class called AP (A-Production) and Shelby ’ s powerful snakes totally vanquished the opposition, mostly big block Corvettes, for several years beginning in 1964. Usually taking all three podium spots, drivers like Ed Lowther, Sam Feinstein and Hal Keck always figured prominently in the standings, but it was a young and unassuming, but quick Fresno California driver named Dick Smith who impressed the media by winning three back-to-back A-Production ARRC ’ s (1965, 1966, 1967) in his No. 7 427 Cobra.

The following history of CSX 3181 is compiled from information found in the Shelby American World Registry (1997) and as related by well-known Ford enthusiast, author and vintage racer George Stauffer, who has owned this Cobra twice in the past 16 years.

CSX 3181 was invoiced to Shelby American on 11/18/65 and shipped to Los Angeles. Work Order No. 18088; “ Build 427 Street Cobra ” was opened 1/12/66 and closed on 3/4/66.

After completion, it went to Archway Motors Inc. in Baltimore, Maryland as Shelby invoice no. A2532 dated 3/8/66; “ CSX 3181, 1966 Cobra; $6,088 plus freight $310; Total = $6,398 ” . Archway Motors expected a direct shipment but instead it was routed via New York, receiving some body damage along the way. Archway repaired the car: “ Straighten grille panel, left quarter panel, left front fender, right front fender, right quarter panel, replace fender emblem, rear bumper, parking light, taillight and refinish car ” – all of which totalled a reasonable amount by today ’ s standards of $492.94. (A perusal of the repair invoice suggests that this Cobra had been improperly tied down since light damage occurred on its front, back and both sides.)

Now repainted and resprayed, Archway sold the 427 to David Pyles of Marlow Heights, Maryland on March 29, 1966, but poor Pyles returned it a mere 200 miles later for major engine repairs. It seems that the oil passageways for the cam bearings were improperly drilled and resulted in a scored crankshaft and bearings. Archway Motors rebuilt the engine under warranty for Mr. Pyles and it is not known how long he kept the car, but around 1970, John Levy of Washington, D.C. was offering it for sale.

Sam Amato of Gauthersburg, Maryland was the purchaser and by 1972 he had repainted the originally white Cobra to blue before selling it to Bill Coleman in March of 1975. Richard Dwyer (Vienna, Virginia) bought it but had it for sale again by the end of the year; “ AC COBRA, CSX 3181.

Completely mechanically restored, medium riser 427, roller bearing A-arms, S/C type exhaust, Konis, Aeroquip, new blue paint: $17,800 firm or mint 289 plus cash! ” The car was purchased by an unknown buyer, who subsequently crashed CSX 3181, throwing him out and into a lake, from which witnesses to the accident reportedly fished him out.

The damaged Cobra was acquired by Andre Fiejo of Michigan in 1978 after which he passed it to Gregory Lonberger of Lombard, Illinois, a Ford fan who had a performance shop and was able to do out his own work, carried out to a very exacting standard.

The poor traumatized 427, traded since new by a series of owners, most of whom bought and resold the car for a quick profit, had finally gone to a caring enthusiast who would restore it properly and keep it for the next 11 years.

According to Stauffer, Lonberger bought some new body panels from AC UK to assist him with the restoration, which was to span almost a decade. After fitting these to the car, Lonberger installed a rebuilt medium-riser 427 and some competition oriented extras – a hood scoop, oil cooler, side pipes and an S/C gas tank and filler cap. He brought the car unfinished and unpainted to display at SAAC-4 in Downingtown in July 1979. Driveable by 1983, but still in bare, polished aluminium, it received second place in the popular 427 Cobra class at SAAC-8 in Dearborn, Michigan and three years later in 1986, again at Dearborn for SAAC-11, by now nicely painted in Guardsman Blue.

At the end of 1989, when values began to skyrocket, Greg Lonberger offered No. 3181 for sale at $425,000 as a fresh restoration. Ford man George Stauffer of Stauffer Classics (Blue Mounds, Wisconsin) purchased it and later resold it to David Livingston of Seattle, Washington who displayed this blue beauty at SAAC-17 in Portland, Oregon in July, 1992. Stauffer always liked this car and was able to reacquire it a decade later from the previous owner ’ s wife. Since then it has changed ownership two more times and is now offered here in Monterey.

Notably, CSX 3181 has been pictured in Shelby American # 54 p. 35 and in B. Adams ’ Cobra book on page 48. It is important to report that during an inspection of the normal vehicle identification number locations CSX 3181 ’ s numbers were found in all of the original places – the right side shock tower on the chassis near the horn bracket, on the hood latch, on the left and right door hinges and on the top of the trunk latch. This is an important disclosure since, while the car may have been partially rebodied as previously related, the chassis, sub-frames and its closure parts are most certainly original to this car.

Today CSX 3181 has been returned to its former glory and has recently benefited from a thorough mechanical and cosmetic service and is understood to be in very good overall order. Thoroughly ready to drive and enjoy, CSX 3181 offers the astute collector the opportunity to acquire an excellent example of Shelby's finest – the 427 Cobra.

Reference Number 11653

as of 7/25/2007

Car 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra
VIN CSX3181 
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