Icons like this don’t come often.
There are few cars in the world like the Shelby Cobra. It’s a car that defined an era of performance and continues to be just as loved today, if not even more than it was in its youth. It has great performance, even by today’s standards, stunningly beautiful classic looks, and most importantly, the Shelby Cobra appeals to a pure, visceral sense of driving pleasure that will always be timeless.
For a car that so perfectly embodies the definition of a driver’s car, it’s almost a shame that the Shelby Cobra car is as rare as it is. However, its rarity makes it a beautiful and exclusive piece that is all the more collectible and desirable. With a 0-60 time of fewer than 4 seconds, and a top speed of 160 mph that would be able to keep up with many modern performance cars, rarity and collectibility are far from the only reason people love the Shelby Cobra. It’s one of the greatest performance cars of its day, and the innovations and dedication that went behind making that car as dynamic and powerful as it is are ones that helped the entire industry and world of cars, and especially performance cars go to new heights and dive head first into the future.
The Shelby Cobra has a look that is recognizable just about anywhere. It has classic sports car appeal, and it’s a roadster with timeless proportions that are hard not to love. One great aspect of Shelby Cobra ownership is that the car’s iconic shape is something that even people who have never heard of the Cobra Shelby would recognize and appreciate as a beautiful classic sports car. If you’re looking for an iconic, classic, and legendary car that’s a great investment, a thrill to drive, and has the potential to be the star of a car collection, the Shelby Cobra is hard to beat.
Shelby 427 Cobra Price
If you want a car that is capable of winning the world’s toughest races, the Shelby 427 Cobra price is one of the most affordable. When new in 1966 it was priced well above any other American car. This served to cover the intense engineering costs and keep it away from inexperienced drivers. Today, an unrestored original Shelby 427 Cobra for sale will start at over one million dollars.
A question we often hear is: “How much is a Shelby Cobra, and why?” The biggest determinant is supply versus demand. As these cars get older, inevitably a few will be lost from theft and forces of nature. Because there were only 998 Cobras built by Shelby American, to call them scarce is an understatement.
For a long time, the AC Cobra was priced proportionally to their Big Block brothers. The team delivered 655 AC Cobras riding on leaf springs with Small Block power. At the time of press, the 289 Shelby Cobra price is just shy of one million dollars. AC Cobra prices have stayed under seven figures because of continuation cars, so they will remain in the shadow of the 427.
When you consider that $7,500 was the car’s price when it was first released, they are a great investment. Most recently, a 1966 Shebly 427 Cobra was sold through Gooding & Company for $1,050,000. That example was chassis CSX 3192 and was auctioned off at their 2022 Amelia Island Auction. This price is a sign of the increasing value that is being found for the rare Shelby Cobra, solidifying its spot as an investment vehicle.
So to answer the aforementioned question, Shelby Cobra original prices were expensive and that limited the supply. Six decades later the Shelby Cobra 427 price represents a car and an automaker that tugs at the heartstrings of all automotive enthusiasts.
Shelby 427 Cobra Review
The 427 Cobra began life in England as the AC Ace in 1953. It was initially offered with leaf spring suspension and an anemic straight-six. Carroll Shelby was a racer who was looking to take on the world. Ford supplied their 289 V8 and the combination was christened the 1965 Cobra.
Small block Cobras are fun, but there was a limit to their power. So after a few experiments with the 390 Big Block, Ford realized the potential of the 427 Shelby Cobra horsepower. Starting from scratch, the chassis was made of 4″ steel tubing instead of 3″. Coil springs replaced the leaves and a massive radiator was used to keep the beast cool.
For a proper Shelby 427 Cobra review, imagine incredible power, sound, heat, and vibration in one package. It turns well for an old car, but you really feel the 600-lb engine as the center of gravity. Being so nose-heavy, plan your maneuvers well in advance, and be ready for adversity. A 5-point harness and a helmet are recommended. Considering the original AC Cobra prices reflect their leaf-spring chassis, the coil-spring design that underpins every 427 Cobra makes it much more confident over broken pavement.
Shelby 427 Cobra Specs
Nothing beats the feeling of a 427 Shelby Cobra specs. That is because it has a massive engine while only weighing 2,355 lbs. Depending on differential ratios, the nominal Shelby 427 Cobra top speed is 160 mph. Surprisingly quick for the era, most Shelby 427 Cobra 0-60 is 3.4 seconds.
- Price: $1,500,000
- Engine: Ford 427 (7-Liter) V8
- Transmission: 4-speed Manual
- Horsepower: 360hp
- Torque: 419 lb-ft
- 0-60: 3.4 seconds
- 1/4 Mile: 12.2 seconds @ 118 mph
- Top Speed: 160 mph
Shelby 427 Cobra Engine
When purchasing a Shelby Cobra for sale, you receive a capable chassis wrapped around a monster engine. The Shelby 427 Cobra engine was designed for racing and heavy-duty environments. Known as the “Side Oiler” Ford added an oil gallery on the driver’s side to feed the crank bearings first and cam bearings second.
Known as priority oiling, it kept the bottom end cooler than competitors. While the Shelby 427 Cobra competition models used aggressive camshafts, the showroom model was very conservative. It is a hydraulic flat tappet with a 500 lift and only 78 degrees of overlap. This allowed the 427 Cobra mpg to be on-par with other exotics of the era. The engine and its condition can make or break the 427 Shelby Cobra. So make sure the numbers match those stored in the Shelby Cobra CSX registry.
Perhaps the rarest aspect of the Shelby Cobra 427 engine is that some of them were larger than reported. Considering Ford was supplying the side-oiler 427 to many teams, Shelby American was forced to deliver cars with the larger 428 Cobra Jet V8. Nevertheless, it received Shelby’s custom camshaft along with a carburetor, intake, and a tuned distributor. Considering it is only 1 cubic inch larger, it hasn’t caused much division among those looking for a Shelby 427 Cobra engine.
Shelby 427 Cobra Transmission
Much like most performance cars of the era, the 427 was only available with a manual transmission. Ford’s Top Loader 4-speed is nearly indestructible, and the hydraulic clutch linkage was easy to modulate. Beefy synchros can be felt through the shifter, and the close ratios make it easy to drive without using the clutch. Why can’t cars be this good again? It is doubtful that a modern manual gearbox could withstand the 427 Shelby Cobra horsepower.
Late-model Ford transmissions offer five and six speeds for those who desire closer ratios. Adding one or two overdrive gears to your Shelby 427 Cobra transmission is a stealthy way to make the car more livable on the highway and more fun when driving deep into triple-digit speeds.
Shelby 427 Cobra Interior
Aside from adding carpet, the original Cobra interior was carried over from the AC Ace. It offers two leather seats without headrests, a massive wood steering wheel, all necessary gauges, and an ignition switch. A rollover hoop was optional for the driver. Designed for the average Englishman in the early ’50s, it is a tight squeeze for many. An offset pedal box and lack of a roof are common grievances.
Shelby 427 Cobra Brakes
Prototypes of the AC all had inboard brakes. This offered the lowest unsprung weight possible. It was a costly system, so Carroll chose traditional disc brakes by Girling. Much lighter than drums of the day, it allowed the Ford Shelby Cobra weight to be under 2,400 lbs. Given the Shelby Cobra top speed of 160 mph, it was nice to know you had world-famous brakes at each corner.
Given the size of the original Cobra brakes, they tend to fade in hot weather. Shelby and his team solved this by changing the entire spindle in the pit lane. Modern metallurgy has improved the original design to the point it is no longer an issue. However, should you wish to add safety, larger disc brakes can be made to fit under the original wheels of your Shelby Cobra.
Shelby 427 Cobra Standout Features
There are many standout features on the Shelby 427 Cobra that make it such a unique sports car. Upfront is the round headlights that are separated by a massive grille. When you see this front end from a distance, you can easily tell that it’s a Cobra. Along the sides are exhaust pipes that the Cobra is known for. When getting out of the car, however, you just have to be careful not to burn yourself on these after a spirited drive. Another standout feature is the muscular arches found over the wheels that give the Cobra a very pronounced silhouette.
Perhaps the most copied car of all time, there are a dozen companies that offer reproductions of the Shelby 427. One reason is that the price of an authentic Shelby AC Cobra is unreachable by the average enthusiast. Every original Cobra has a unique 4-digit code.
Starting with the first production car “CSX 2000”, every authentic car is known as a CSX Cobra. Carroll Shelby and his team kept incredible records of each car, so validating a Shelby Cobra CSX number is as easy as a phone call. A real Shelby Cobra is worth a fortune in any condition, while Cobra car replicas rise and fall with the market.
Superformance 289 Slabside Cobra
The first — and arguably prettiest — of the Cobras is known as the Slabside. The slabside Cobra gets its unusual appellation from its lack of fender flares. This is arguably the purest version of the Cobra formula of big American engine in a tiny British sports car. The slabside is easy to spot thanks to its lack of a hood scoop and a rear exit, undercar exhaust. Also notable is the fact that the slabside has both bumpers and bumperettes. It’s a low, elegant car and thanks to its more balanced attitude due to its smaller engine, it’s a pleasure to drive. That fun and easygoing demeanor makes the slabside a favorite for those owners who plan to do a great deal of touring or other extended drives. It’s a relatively comfortable car and thanks to its solid little engine, a dead reliable one as well.
Shelby Cobra 289 FIA
When Carroll Shelby decided to take the Cobra racing in Europe, specifically at Le Mans, he ran into a few snags with the legendarily persnickety FIA or Federation Internationale de l’Automobile. Their rules at the time mandated that all cars competing at Le Mans be equipped with a speedometer, something that was (and remains) typically omitted in race cars. Shelby protested but when he found the FIA unwilling to budge on the subject, he installed a speedo way over on the passenger side of the dash where it would be nearly unreadable to the driver.
The FIA also mandated that the trunk be able to hold a suitcase which the Cobra was unable to do. Shelby’s solution to this was to put a suitcase into the trunk and smash the lid down so the corners would dent out the soft aluminum decklid. He then has his team bang out what would become known as the car’s dimples so the suitcase would just barely fit. There were other practical concerns too such as adding a roll hoop and wider tires. Of course, wider tires necessitated fender flares and fender flares are universally cool. The FIA Cobra also features an undercar exhaust but this time it exits to the side directly in front of the rear wheels. Wider tires came with bigger wheels and thus better brakes. Better brakes demand more cooling and so they added ducting. The FIA Cobra with its screaming 289 and race car looks remains an incredibly popular choice for Superformance buyers who are looking for the ultimate driving experience.
Shelby Cobra 427 Roadster
Eventually though, Carroll Shelby got the idea that what the Cobra needed was more power, so he somehow managed to shoehorn a 427 cubic inch Ford V8 into the Cobra body. The fenders swelled and the proportions grew in order to wrap around that massive engine. The first 427 that came along was the Roadster. These cars lacked the 289 FIA car’s race car touches, so gone was the hood scoop and roll bar. The 427 Roadster added creature comforts like an ashtray and a glove box. It still had an undercar exhaust and like the original slabside, it exited at the rear of the car. It also retained the slab-side’s rear bumper.
The Cobra that most people think of when they think of Cobras is the outrageously muscular and intense looking 427 S/C. This car with its exaggerated curves, big side pipes, and hood scoop leaves no mystery as to what its ultimate purpose is. The 427 S/C comes equipped with coilover suspension to help manage the added weight that came with the move to the larger engine and tame some of the cars wayward handling characteristics. The S/C also loses the Roadster’s ashtray and rear bumper. It comes with a roll hoop for safety and not much else. This is the ultimate expression of the Cobra formula and there is nothing on the road that comes even close to driving one of these quickly on a race track or in a canyon.
Original Cobras of any type are rare and essentially priceless now. The fact is that Carroll Shelby simply didn’t build that many in the grand scheme of things. The great thing about a company like Superformance is that they’ve made the cars accessible and they’ve done it in a way that doesn’t compromise quality or the driving experience. The Superformance continuation cars are so close to the originals that Mr. Shelby himself even gave them his seal of approval. Even if you don’t want to stick exactly to the original specs, Superformance is happy to help you modify your Cobra to be the car of your dreams and registering the cars is easier now than ever before thanks to the Superformance-backed Low Volume Manufacturers Bill which makes getting a title and registration simple no matter what state you’re in.
The Shelby Cobra is an essential piece of Americana. It represents one man’s quest to build the best with the least and it changed the course of automotive history forever. Seeing one on the road is always special but seeing one in your garage is better still. Give Superformance a call and make your Cobra dreams come true.
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