Marc Christ
Brand Manager, Modified Mustangs & Fords
March 4, 2014
Photos By: Evan J. Smith, Auctions America

Diving the Great Barrier Reef, hiking the Appalachian Trail, visiting Maccu Picchu, climbing Mt. Everest, and driving an original AC Cobra are the top five things on my bucket list. Well, they were until last Friday, when I got to check one off. That’s right, I got behind the wheel (and drove) CSX2023, one of the very first AC “Shelby” Cobras. And just to add an extra thick layer of icing on the cake, I also drove a 1965 Mustang Shelby GT-350 and an original unrestored ’70 Boss 302.

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I certainly don’t want to take anything away from either the GT-350 or the Boss, but when you’re in the company of a real-deal Cobra (especially when you’re a Ford nut), everything else seems a little, well, less amazing. So who in the world gave little old me the keys to such an automobile? Well, that man would be named Donnie Gould. Donnie is the president of Auctions America, the auction company that will be selling the roadster, GT-350, Boss, and about 80 other Ford vehicles in a lineup of over 500 cars to be auctioned off at Auctions America Fort Lauderdale.

Donnie is a Ford guy himself, and isn’t afraid to make it known. “With seat time in as many Cobras as I have had the pleasure of driving, the early cars, such as this example CSX2023, are some of my favorite,” says Donnie. The estimated high bid is somewhere between $750,000-850,000—much more than my other four bucket list items will cost me combined.

And since I don’t have three quarters of a million dollars between my couch cushions, this may have been my only chance—ever—to drive one of these pieces of automotive history. Mr. Shelby is no longer with us, and the value of these originals will just keep going up. Along with a few of my colleagues, I drove to Auctions America’s corporate offices in Stuart, Florida, where the Cobra was being kept safe until the auction. So just what was it like to drive the twenty-third Shelby Cobra ever built, you ask? Well, it was simply the most pleasurable experience I’ve ever had behind the wheel of anything, ever.

A Piece of History

As I climbed into the bucket, I picked my feet up carefully as to not scuff the paint as I swung my feet inside. The door closed easily and precisely—more like a new car than a 51-year-old relic. The black-leather-wrapped seat was much more comfortable than I imagined, the steering wheel right where it should be, and the pedals close together like the Cruisin’ USA arcade game that sat in the lobby of my hometown’s Wal-Mart. Though instead of sitting in a hunk of pressboard, plastic, and paint pumping in quarters, I was behind the wheel of a real Shelby Cobra. This must be a dream.

As I depressed the clutch and turned the key, she came alive. The unmistakable rumble of a small-block Ford V-8 whirring to life consumed first my sense of sound, and then I could feel the rumble beneath my seat. I saw the tach jump to over 2,000 rpm, and then settle at just under 1,000. I could smell the combustion, and the sun was beaming on my face. This absolutely was a dream.

I reached for the shifter, which is engraved with each of the four forward gears and one reverse. As I familiarized myself with the pattern before setting off, I could tell this Cobra meant business. Sure, there was no wide-body kit, no Halibrands, sidepipes, hoodscoop, or even LeMans Stripes. Heck, it wasn’t even red. Or blue. Or black. Or even white. The Silver Moss paint reflected the South Florida sun into my eyes, but I could still see everything inside the cockpit clearly. This car was built to be driven—by Carroll Shelby, by me, and by you.

I tooled around the business park a little, familiarizing myself with the driving character of the Cobra as the wind moved aside for the Cobra and smacked me in the face. As my confidence built, I was rewarded with smooth, crisp acceleration, precise shifts, and the roar of the 289. The real-wood steering wheel filled my hands perfectly, and my feet touched each pedal with machine-like precision. The four-wheel disc brakes brought the spoke wheels and bias-ply tires to a quick and safe halt. No vehicle built in the ’60’s drives like this. Well, maybe a Ferrari or a Porsche. At any rate, I was impressed—and honored.

Number 260

After having my world turned upside down by the Cobra, Auctions America Car Specialist Megan Boyd tossed me the keys to a ’65 Shelby GT-350, and said “Let’s go!” She jumped in the passenger seat, took a photo of me in the driver’s seat with my phone, and we were off. As we cruised over the same pavement that I just pounded with the Cobra, there was no need to remind myself that I was driving an original Shelby GT-350.

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Much less of a sports car, and very much a ponycar, Number 260 was still very much Shelby. It rumbled very much like the Cobra, but drove more like a Mustang. In Wimbledon White with blue LeMans stripes, it kept reminding me of its history and its stature. I could see the hoodscoop and hood pins as I looked ahead, and all was right with the world.

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With the windows down, I could hear the side pipes scream out a glorious tune. As I pressed it harder and harder, I began pushing the old Snake to the edge of traction. It certainly didn’t drive like the Shelby’s of today, especially with the bias-ply rubber; but what it lacked in poise, it more than made up for in character and styling. This was the real deal, and it wasn’t ashamed of it.

Like A Boss

Finally, I slid behind the wheel of an all-original ’70 Boss 302. The Bright Gold hue is original, and is showing its age. The interior remains untouched, as does the engine bay. As I settled into the high-back seat, I noticed the Hurst shifter, original AM radio, and period-correct Sun tach. I felt like a boss just sitting behind the wheel in the parking space.

The engine ran like new, and the odometer registers just over 36,000 miles. As I drove the 3,300-pound beast, I noticed immediately the strides in suspension and chassis technology over the ’65, though the bias-ply’s remained the limiting factor. The Boss is a legendary Mustang, and Auctions America thinks this one will bring between $40,000-$50,000—not bad for a piece of automotive history.

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Hopefully, Auctions American will give us the chance to do this again, but if not, no no will ever take away the experience. The auction will be held at the Broward County Convention Center March 14-16, 2014. For more information, go to www.auctionsamerica.com.