The Market


Mecum sells Carroll Shelby’s personal big-block Cobra for $5.94m

Mecum sells Carroll Shelby’s personal big-block Cobra for $5.94m 29th January 2021

As part of a declared $141.2m event in Kissimmee, Florida, US muscle car specialist Mecum sold 7.0-litre Cobra CSX3178, Shelby’s own car from new until he died in May 2012, for $5,940,000.

The sell-through at the Florida sale, run ‘live’ and ‘across the block’ in the normal North American fashion from 7-16 January, was 90%. Other significant figures were achieved by the 1967 Chevrolet Corvette L88 Roadster ($2,500,000), 1956 Mercedes-Benz 300 SL Gullwing ($1,567,500) and 1967 Shelby 427 Cobra Roadster ($1,375,000). All figures are gross, including buyer’s premium. The latter was a regular big-block Cobra and sold for market price plus. The key to the big money paid for the grey ex-Shelby car was just that: one of the most iconic figures in American racing had owned it from new.

“But there are so many ‘ex-Shelby’ cars, what’s so special about this one?” we hear you say. A good question. We asked noted US historian Winston Goodfellow for his take on how someone spent an extra $4.3m to buy this particular big-block. It’s a lot of money.

“It is, and isn't hard to explain, though it would not get my $5.94m. Looking at the World Registry of Cobras and GT40s, CSX3178 was altered in 1972 by restorer Mike McCluskey, a well-known name in Cobra circles, when it was fitted with a C-6 automatic transmission, had side-pipes added, repainted a different colour, and more. Plus, it had a softer Police Interceptor 428 (fitted to many 7.0-litre Cobras), rather than the more desirable and powerful 427.

“On the flip side of the coin, it was owned by Carroll Shelby. Period. There were no other owners. Imagine if a 250 Cal' Spider or 250 GTO came to market where there was a documented single owner, and that individual was Enzo Ferrari? Needless to say, for certain people that car would carry a pretty big premium. There are certain names that are just magical. In Europe Ferrari is one, Porsche is another, and in America Shelby may be the biggest of all. Which is why, rightly or wrongly, it brought what it did.”

RM Sotheby's sold the same car for $1.375m gross in August 2016. The Canadian company's catalogue description then stated the cars was delivered in "Grey Primer with a black interior and a 428-cubic inch V-8" and that it was "originally fitted with an automatic transmission".

Photo by Mecum