The March 1963 Car and Driver road test, Stan Hallinan Collection
1963 Shelby AC Cobra
Chassis no. CSX2034
260ci OHV V8 Engine
3 Two-Barrel Carburetors
260bhp at 5,800rpm (with single carburetor setup)
4-Speed Manual Transmission
4-Wheel Independent Suspension
4-Wheel Girling Disc Brakes
*Incredible time-warp condition
*Very early example of Shelby's Cobra
*Documented provenance in the Shelby Registry
*Only two owners from new
*Great candidate for Preservation Class Concours showings
The AC/Shelby Cobra
For dedicated enthusiasts of any great, collectible sports car marque, certain purchasing opportunities present themselves perhaps only once in a lifetime. Bonhams is today privileged to be able to make a discerning connoisseur's dream come true with this fantastic time machine of an AC/Shelby American Cobra Roadster.
The extraordinary example offered here is understood to have been the road test AC Cobra featured in Car and Driver magazine in March, 1963. Reading that feature story and examining the associated photographs and data panel must have been many an American enthusiast's introduction to former Le Mans 24 Hours race winner Carroll Shelby's pragmatic and brilliant sports car concept. Frustrated by seeing the great handling capabilities of so many British sports cars going to waste due to prosaic engines which were usually both under-powered and overweight, Carroll Shelby had combined Ford V8 horsepower with the John Tojeiro-conceived twin-tube chassis frame and all-independent suspension of the British AC Ace Roadster.
The Motorcar Offered
As one of the pioneering 260-cubic-inch engined early Cobra roadsters, 'CSX2034' offered here enjoys unique stature as one of the foundation stones of the Shelby American marque's marketing program, and the fact that it can now be offered here in such unspoiled 'time-warp' condition bears silent testimony to the extraordinary love for fine automobiles that was demonstrated throughout his long life by late owner Stan Hallinan of Bow, New Hampshire.
The Shelby Registry tells the story of 'CSX2034' - which Mr Hallinan preserved virtually unused for nearly 50 years - like this: "Invoiced to Shelby American 10/22/62. Shipped to N.Y."- from AC Cars Ltd at Thames Ditton, Surrey, England "...2034 was invoiced on 11/30/62 to Tasca Ford (E. Providence, RI) for $4,995.00, with a heater ($65), for completion and retail sale. It is unclear whether Tasca or a Boston-area dealer originally sold 2034".
This now fantastically-preserved, incredibly low-mileage, time machine of a Cobra Roadster was sold to first private owner James Hall, who then ordered a triple twin-choke carburetion kit for it via Grappone Ford of Concord, New Hampshire, the company for which Stan Hallinan worked. The Shelby Registry entry for 'CSX2034' then tells the coda to this story concerning first owner Mr Hall, who: "...within a matter of months, lost his driving license following a rash of speeding citations".
Unsurprisingly, "Anxious to unload the Cobra, Hall offered the car for sale in the 12/63 issue of Car and Driver: 'AC Cobra 1963 260. 1,000 original miles, never raced. Six Blue Streak tires. Ready to go'." Unfortunately for Mr Hall the car failed to sell, but Stan Hallinan at Grappone Ford had showed consistent interest and one suspects some sympathy for the increasingly unfortunate would-be vendor. Again the Registry tells the story: "When a buyer failed to materialize, Hall asked Stan Hallinan....to do him the immense favor of taking the car at a bargain price. Hallinan, ever the martyr, took the car off Hall's hands, and has preserved (it) in its original condition ever since".
This extraordinary story of motor trading sympathy extending into connoisseurial conservation, continues: "Used only for two summers after its acquisition in 1964, 2034 was placed in storage showing 4,200 miles on its odometer. As of the late '90s, it remained there" in a well-kept and dry barn upon Mr Hallinan's property with 5.5-inch painted wire wheels, a 1965 NH inspection sticker on its windshield, and the Shelby 3x2V carburetor set-up installed in '63..."
This lovely, low-mileage, privileged survivor is believed to be the lowest-mileage and most-original example of its early 260ci type, and when Bonhams' specialists first withdrew it lovingly from its long-term storage what else could they do but stand in silent awe and admiration...for here these immensely experienced classic and collectible car old-hands recognized how privileged they were to be handling such a unique machine.
Shelby Cobra 'CSX2034' as offered here is just so much more than a little-used, slightly time-wearied, 50-year old sports car. It is instead a surviving window into the products and practices of the 1960s an early product of Le Mans-winning racing driver Carroll Shelby's entrepreneurial talents and driving ambition. When it was last used at all extensively on the highway, Lyndon Johnson was still President, Ronald Reagan was thinking of running for the Governorship of California, Simon & Garfunkel were extolling 'The Sound of Silence' and the Beach Boys were experiencing 'Good Vibrations'. The very best of that era has survived in good order, and commands enduring respect... Frozen in time though '2034' might be, it is plainly a car that can so easily be thawed-out...and unlike its human contemporaries it can fully relive its youth.
The road test report which appeared in Car and Driver magazine was headed simply 'AC Cobra The AC chassis gets a 4,261cc does of just exactly what it's always needed'. That pretty much says it all. As did the opening brief paragraph of 'C&D's report: "Very simply stated, the AC Cobra attained higher performance figures than any other production automobile we have tested. And it did it with the 'street' engine."
Still the magazine's journalists described how "Our test car had the lesser state of tune..." confirmed by their data panel which confirms the car was tested with single Holley carburetor in place, as pictured in the road test article. However, the tri-carb setup's installation on 'CSX 2034' in 1963 is documented by the Shelby Registry, which lists the "3 x 2v intake manifold" as a "Racing Option". These are themselves defined as "options which could be installed by the factory by special order or by the dealer after ordering the parts through Shelby American".
Significantly, the Shelby Registry also notes that there were only 75 260 cubic-inch-engined Cobras produced comprising 62 street cars while the balance were a mix of factory team cars, independently prepared race cars, and one Dragonsnake. It is worth noting that many of these Cobras (including all the factory-prepared race cars and the Dragonsnake) were subsequently re-engined with the later 289-cubic-inch Ford V8 power units, so certainly today far fewer than 75 of these very early Shelby Cobras survive as does 'CSX2034' offered here with their original '260s' still installed as the heart of the beast.
The Car and Driver staffers of 1963 found that while the Cobra's torque characteristics were "incompatible with most street driving" they found that "At racing speeds (the independent rear suspension) is highly satisfactory, each wheel staying on the ground and no more than one deflection per bump being permitted by the hard springs and the efficient shock absorbers. This ride gives the driver great confidence and helps improve his feel of the forces acting on the car, with the result that after a few hours at the wheel at high speeds he begins to feel like an integral part of the machine."
These experienced road testers then made this remarkable observation: "Few modern sports car can really give this impression but then the AC Cobra is not so much a modern sports car as a traditional sports car brought up to the minute..." which perhaps is where Carroll Shelby's true genius really manifested itself in the Cobra concept, and in its cooperative trans-Atlantic execution. He tapped into a deep desire amongst motor-minded young men of all ages to provide a road racing sports car with real muscles and real hairs on its manly chest. And this is surely it, manifested in '2034' now offered here, in the purest and most un-alloyed sense untouched, untroubled and unmarked by the passage of time. Here is a fantastic opportunity to acquire a remarkable motor car. It is, in fact, 51 years young.
- Please note that the title for this vehicle is in transit.