Meet Dragonsnake, the Forgotten Shelby Cobra Dragster

Produced from 1962 to 1967, the original Shelby Cobra was rather short-lived. However, Carroll managed to put together numerous versions of the V8-powered roadster. The Dragonsnake, a drag-prepped Cobra developed for the NHRA series, is arguably the greatest of them all.
1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake 15 photos
Photo: Mecum Auctions
1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Overshadowed by the track-ready 427 Competition and Carroll's personal Super Snake, the Dragonsnake is a Cobra that many enthusiasts tend to ignore. Far from surprising given that they couldn't be driven on public roads, but it's a Cobra that deserves a lot more attention. Fortunately, one of the only five Dragonsnakes ever built has soldiered on for more than 50 years to tell its story.

Meet CSX2427, the Cobra described as "the finest and most correct factory-built Dragonsnake in existence." It's one of only five Cobra Dragonsnakes put together by Carroll Shelby, but it's also the only Stage III customer car ever built. It's as unique as they get, just like the only surviving Super Snake.

The quest for drag strip glory

Carroll was no stranger to racing. Before he was drafted by Ford to develop the iconic GT40, he won the 24 Hours of Le Mans driving an Aston Martin DBR1. So while he envisioned the Cobra as a road-going competitor for the Chevrolet Corvette, he also wanted a track-capable version.

1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Photo: Mecum Auctions
He achieved his goal with the 427 Competition and the Daytona Coupe, but Carroll wanted to go beyond the closed circuit. So he developed two extra packages for the Cobra. One was called Slalom Snake and prepped the roadster for auto-cross events. The other one went by the name Dragonsnake and was essentially a drag package.

The bundle was made available to Cobra owners, but Shelby also put together a handful of Dragonsnakes at the shop. Six of these cars were built, five fitted with the 289-cubic-inch (4.7-liter) V8 and one equipped with the larger, 427-cubic-inch (7.0-liter) mill. Of the five 289 racers, only one ended up in private hands.

The yellow dragster

This specific car, chassis no. CSX2427 was ordered by Don Reimer of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The Cobra left the factory in a bright shade of yellow, a rather unusual color for a Shelby car. The finish was applied on Reimer's request, so the Cobra would match his Ford Thunderbird tow car.

1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Photo: Mecum Auctions
The Dragonsnake was raced extensively and successfully in 1965. The Cobra ran 12-second quarter-mile sprints regularly and beat many Corvettes to the trap. The Weber carburetor setup, the balanced front/rear weight distribution, and the lightweight construction made the Dragonsnake a fierce competitor, despite the somewhat small V8.

Reimer's Cobra wasn't the most successful Dragonsnake. The factory-backed cars had access to better resources and scored far more notable wins. But the yellow, white-striped Dragonsnake became a crowd favorite at local tracks in and around Pennsylvania, especially when it showed up to race against the Corvettes.

Sold, restored, and back on the market

Parked after its intense 1965 season, the Dragonsnake was eventually sold off. The CSX2427 bounced around to several owners before it was purchased by Steven Juliano, who restored it to its original specification. Using original and new-old-stock parts, Juliano returned the yellow Dragonsnake to the state it was when it left the Shelby factory in the 1960s.

1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Photo: Mecum Auctions
Now, more than a decade since it was restored to its original glory, CSX2427 proudly stands as the finest and most correct Dragonsnake in existence. It was featured by Ford during the 50th Anniversary Cobra celebration at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion and won several awards.

57 years old as of 2021, CSX2427 is not only the finest Dragonsnake in existence but also one of the most authentic original Cobras ever built. And it is now ready to find a new owner, having been listed by Mecum Auctions as the main attraction for its Kissimmee 2022 event, scheduled in January.

The dragster will probably change hands for millions of dollars, but the important thing here is that it's finally out of storage to tell the story of the tremendous yet ignored Cobra Dragonsnake.
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About the author: Ciprian Florea
Ciprian Florea profile photo

Ask Ciprian about cars and he'll reveal an obsession with classics and an annoyance with modern design cues. Read his articles and you'll understand why his ideal SUV is the 1969 Chevrolet K5 Blazer.
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