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There Are Cobras, And Then There Are Cobras; This Is The Latter.

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On: Tue, May 17, 2011 at 2:53PM | By: Andrew W Davis

There Are Cobras, And Then There Are Cobras; This Is The Latter.

Known to folks that know these things as the “Shelby Demonstrator,” CSX 2096—a 1963 289 Cobra—was “one of a small handful of cars used for such PR purposes as the September 1963 Motor Trend road test and the August 1963 Playboy cover shoot.”

[It also served for 15 months in a “dealer demo”-style capacity at Shelby American, thus the name.]

Your chance to buy one of the most noteworthy Shelbys comes this Friday, May 20, sometime in the afternoon/evening during Mecum Auctions’ “Original Spring Classic Auction” coming to you live at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, or from there via “HD Theater, a Discovery Network.”

Can Mecum get a million or more for it? Maybe…

Most folks that dream about Cobra ownership go straight for the 427 model. This makes sense, as it’s the one that garners most of the attention, thanks to its WAY-too-much-engine-in-a-tiny-car formula.

But it’s been my experience that people who actually DO own Cobras appreciate the 289s most, thanks to their having just-too-much engine instead. While the 427/428 Cobras do offer more power, they also add significant weight to the Cobra’s nose, making them less-well-balanced and thereby adversely affecting their handling.

So, you’ve decided to leave those brutish beasts behind and go for the connoisseurs’ choice, the 289. But a person as discriminating as you doesn’t want just any 289. No, you want something truly special, something as rare and desirable as possible.

Have I got a car for you!

Here’s how Mecum describes this car (Lot F226):


- The Shelby Demonstrator
- Invoiced from AC to Shelby on Feb. 20, 1963
- Retailed to Jacques Passino of FoMoCo on Sept. 30, 1963
- Retail invoice reversed by Shelby credit memo one month later
- Kept by Shelby as a demo for 15 months
- Finished with Group A accessories
- Chrome knock-off wheels
- Early Flathead Cobra emblems
- Retains early production shifter knob
- Documented in the Shelby Registry
- Copies of AC Invoice to Shelby American and Shelby American Retail Invoices
- Featured on Dennis Gage's My Classic Car as a good example of an early 289 Cobra
- 2nd Place Concours SAAC 10
- 1st Place Concours SAAC 11
- Current owner traded for this car in 1992

“Among Carroll Shelby’s scores of innovations was his pioneering use of product placement to promote the Shelby brand. The introduction of the Shelby Cobra was closely followed by a flood of appearances by the cars in apparently every possible popular medium, from the Rip Chords’ hit record, “Hey Little Cobra” to Elvis Presley’s "Viva Las Vegas" to magazines and newspapers across the country.

“The Cobra’s seeming ubiquity was a bit of an illusion driven by the almost boundless energy Shelby invested in promoting his new creation, employing steady media exposure to establish the car as an American cultural icon. Current research indicates that CSX 2096is one of a small handful of cars used for such PR purposes as the September 1963 Motor Trend road test and the August 1963 Playboy cover shoot that made the Cobra one of the very few cars ever to appear on the cover of Hef’s magazine.

“Known to collectors as the Shelby Demonstrator, this 1963 Cobra was invoiced from AC Cars to Shelby on February 20, 1963, retailed to Ford executive Jacques Passino on August 30, then reverse invoiced to Shelby a month later on September 30. It was used by Shelby as a demonstrator for a total of fifteen months, after which it was sold to Frank and Douglas Loundes of Pasadena, CA on April 15, 1964. Factory equipped with the “Class A” accessory group that included chromed 5.5-inch wire wheels with “AC” knock-offs, a dash-mounted rear-view mirror, wind wings, chromed bumperettes and a quick-fill fuel cap, it also incorporated dual four-barrels, Whitewall tires, a luggage rack and optional seat belts.

“The second owner, also a Californian, sold the car to a British dealer in 1972, but it returned to the U.S. in the winter of 1978 when it was purchased by Art Mohr of Michigan. Mohr had the color changed from Blue back to its original Red while the engine was rebuilt by Total Performance of Mount Clemens, MI. After several years of enjoyment, Mohr put the car on display at the Auburn-Cord-Deusenberg Museum, which sold it to Jerry Miller of Nashville, IN in 1982. The car then appeared at several SAAC events, winning second place in the Cobra Concours division at SAAC 10 and first in SAAC 11. It has also appeared several times in The Shelby American.

“In 1992 owner David Painter of Evansville, IN delivered CSX 2096 to Collector’s Choice of Dane, WI for a complete mechanical restoration. Painter has carefully preserved the car since then and today it remains an excellent example of an early production Cobra with an interesting history.”

Price guides put “regular” 1963-1965 Shelby 289 Cobras—of which 580 were built—in the $500,000 to $650,000 range, but if the economy cooperates, this unique machine should bring more.

I have no idea what its present owner has placed as his or her “reserve”—the bid below which will not buy the car—but the bidding should be entertaining nonetheless.

Oh, and if you have the cash and don’t want to be bothered with the whole auction process just let me know. I’d be more than happy to build you quite the collection of cars with your money, plus I’d even hang onto a few for you, you know, so that your garage isn’t so overloaded.

Takers can reach me at….

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