Beautifully presented in its period colour scheme of green with a black interior, this Shelby Cobra 289 is an extremely original example of this landmark sports car.
Chassis number CSX2311 was billed to Shelby American on 24 January 1964 and shipped from to Los Angeles on 5 February aboard the SS Diemardyk. Although the car was sold via Warner Wooten Ford Inc in Cocoa, Florida, it’s thought that its first owner – John Norris of Eau Gallie – travelled to California to collect it in person.
The list price was quoted as being $5195 but the list of ‘Class A’ accessories included a luggage rack, radio, twin four-barrel carburettors and Blue Streak tyres, all of which meant that the final cost to Mr Norris was $5866.25.
It seems that he didn’t keep his new Cobra 289 for very long because it was advertised for sale in the October 1964 issue of Road & Track magazine with the following text: ‘1964 Cobra, 2×4-barrel engine, Blue Streaks, British Green, Sun tach, 12,000 miles, no races, sell for $5500.’
It was bought by Robert L Eaton, who was also based in Florida and ended up keeping CSX2311 for 15 years. While the car was in Eaton’s ownership, Bill Turner – who lived in nearby Fort Myers – would often see it being driven around. Turner got his Cobra fix by buying a new 427 model in 1966 but always coveted CSX2311 and – ‘after years of trying’, as he later put it – he finally persuaded Eaton to sell him the 289 in August 1978.
It’s thought that the Cobra had covered 27,000 miles by that time, and Turner kept his cherished car for more than 30 years. In 1987, he had a cosmetic restoration carried out by Gary Hunt, a process that included retrimming the interior. That effort was rewarded with a third-place prize in the Cobra class at the SAAC-15 concours in Dearborn in July 1990.
The Cobra covered only about 1000 miles during Turner’s long ownership and in 2009 it was sold to Jerry Chandler in California. When Mr Chandler died three years later, it was sold via auction to a new owner in Europe and was kept in The Netherlands. While there, it received work including a differential and suspension rebuild, before being sold to its most recent owner in 2017 at the RM Sotheby’s Battersea auction.
This Cobra 289 is now being offered for sale with a continuous known history from new. It benefits from the upgrades that were made during the model’s production run, such as rack-and-pinion steering, as well as being specified with factory options such as twin four-barrel carburettors. It still has its original radio and antenna, as well as the jack and hammer, and it’s thought that it has covered just over 30,000 miles since being delivered to the US in 1964.
The story of the Cobra has long since passed into automotive legend. Former racer Carroll Shelby – winner of the 1959 Le Mans 24 Hours in a works Aston Martin – approached AC with the idea of dropping Ford’s latest V8 engine into the British marque’s venerable Ace chassis, which could trace its roots back to the early 1950s. It was a simple but extremely effective idea, and the Cobra became a performance icon.
After a short run of cars fitted with 260 cubic-inch engines, the definitive 289 model was introduced. The V8 produced 270bhp and 312 lb/ft of torque when running on a single four-barrel Holley carburettor, and drove through a Borg-Warner T10 manual gearbox and a limited-slip Salisbury differential.
The tubular chassis featured independent suspension all round with lower wishbones and upper transverse leaf springs, while the aluminium bodywork gave the Cobra a superb power-to-weight ratio. Road & Track magazine achieved a quarter-mile time of 13.8 seconds at 113mph when it tested a 289 model.
Sports Car Graphic described it as being ‘perhaps the last of the breed of big, hairy, fast, wind-in-the-race roadsters… In short, the Cobra is a sports car, one of the best in the world, and doesn’t pretend to be anything else.’
Developments such as all-round disc brakes and rack-and-pinion steering came thick and fast, and the Cobra was immediately successful in domestic US racing. In 1965, Shelby achieved his ultimate goal when his Anglo-American hybrid – in Peter Brock-designed Daytona Coupe form – beat Ferrari in the International Championship for GT Manufacturers.
A 427 cubic-inch model with redesigned chassis was developed and offered truly breath-taking performance, but Shelby had grown ever closer to Ford and was increasingly busy with other projects. The final batch of cars was invoiced by AC in December 1966, after production of the 289 model had totalled less than 600.