World's Only 1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake Factory Stage III Gunning for $1.7M at Auction

1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake 15 photos
Photo: Mecum
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
Car auctions are events so common on the American automotive scene that the world at large rarely pays them a lot of attention. Yet from time to time a vehicle so special shows up that it makes such events the talk of the day in the industry. And this 1965 Shelby Cobra, "perhaps the finest, rarest Cobra in the world," has everything it takes to do just that.
Cobras are to many the pinnacle of Shelby American's work. Derived from the British-born AC Cobra, the cars have put the name Carroll Shelby on the map and have become, at first, the go-to cars for racers and later a must-have for collectors.

Cobras were made by Shelby either for road use or for drag (and other types of) racing. In the latter configuration, the metal beasts offered back in the 1960s were known as Dragonsnakes, and were so appreciated by racers that they became for a while the undisputed kings of the strips.

This here Cobra is not only a Shelby true and true, but also a 289 Dragonsnake. And not just any 289 Dragonsnake, but one of only five built by the factory that year. On top of it all, it is also the world's only factory Stage III Shelby put together for a customer racer.

The car had a rather short career on the drag race strip, being initially raced only in the summer of 1965. Its initial owners took it out for runs at the York U.S. 30 Drag-O-Way for races in the A/Modified and AA/Modified production racing classes, and it was even seen on the tarmac of the Indianapolis Nationals.

The car was retired and parked after that initial season, and this is where a long list of people started taking ownership of the Cobra at various points in time. It's a journey that this year brought the racer on the lot of cars auction house Mecum is selling starting May 10 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis.

1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Photo: Mecum
The Cobra presents itself in its original condition, down to the yellow color it sports on its bodywork. That was not always the case, as the many owners who had it painted it repeatedly over time: the Shelby was Candy Apple red, silver, and various other shades of yellow.

Its configuration also changed repeatedly over time, being specced either for track or road use, depending on the needs of the moment of its owners. But overall the general specifications of the Cobra were kept, and it now presents itself in restored condition, a process that was performed using solely "NOS and original parts throughout down to tires and service items."

That means the car packs Shelby's 289ci engine that runs a four-speed manual transmission. The Stage III setup added a quadruple-Weber carburetion system on top of it all, and that gives it an incredible punch.

In its current configuration, the racer packs a racing suspension system (including drag shocks and upgraded springs), tuned headers, and a chrome roll bar. Mag wheels shod in Racemaster slicks are what puts the engine's power to the ground.

Since ending its racing career, the Cobra, wearing the official CSX2427 moniker, fulfilled various roles. It was a show car, including during Ford's 50th Anniversary Cobra event held at the Monterey Motorsports Reunion in 2012, it was a museum piece, it appeared in countless books and magazines, and even won its share of awards, including from the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC). The last time it snatched a SAAC title, in 2009, the Cobra did so with the highest points score in the organization's history to that point.

With such a pedigree one can only expect the Cobra not to come cheap. But before getting into how much its current owner expects to fetch for it, it's best to understand where the car has been, price-wise, over the years.

1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake
Photo: Mecum
Back when it was originally made the Cobra came with a sticker reading $9,000, freight charge included. That's a little over $90k in today's money.

It's unclear for how much it directly changed hands (all the past owners are listed in a very documented ownership history), but we do know it first sold at auction in 2001, going for $190,000 ($339,000 today).

The Cobra popped up on the auction block several times since, on some occasions failing to sell. The last time it went this way was in 2022, when it sold for $1,375,000.

This year the 1965 Shelby Cobra Dragonsnake Stage III is gunning for no less than $1,500,000, with the highest estimate being no less than $1.7 million.

The hammer falls on this fine example of American motoring history, the "most accurately restored factory-built Dragonsnakes in existence" on May 18th. We'll keep an eye out for it to see if it succeeds in selling, and we will naturally report back with details on the sale price.
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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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