The iconic Shelby Cobra first hit the road in 1962 and you can still buy a new one today. Sort of.
Several companies build replicas of the open-top sports car that stay true to the style of the original.
However, despite its enduring appeal, there’s never really been a new version of the Cobra. Well, except for one. Literally one.
Ford in 2004 collaborated with Carroll Shelby to design the Shelby Cobra Concept, which blended the spirit of the original with retro-modern styling.
Power for the running prototype came from a monster 6.4-liter V10 engine that delivered 605 hp to the rear wheels via a six-speed transaxle borrowed from the 2004-2006 Ford GT supercar.
Chris Theodore, who was Ford’s vice president of product development at the time, told The Fox Garage that the car was intended for production after the GT’s model run ended, but that the economic downturn that hit soon after killed it along with an entire lineup of high-end sports cars that had been envisioned.
So, as with most prototypes that don’t get sent to the crusher, the Shelby Cobra Concept got put away in the Ford archives. But not forever.
In an unusual move, Ford pulled the car out of storage in 2017 and auctioned it in Greensboro, N.C., to raise money for the restoration of Henry Ford’s historic Fair Lane Estate and the winning bidder was someone very familiar with it: Theodore.
"I actually conned my wife. I said ‘let’s go visit your sister’ and we’ll stop in Greensboro … and I’ll just see what the car goes for," Theodore said.
Ford had disabled the car’s drivetrain for legal reasons and Theodore thought he might be able to "steal it" for a song at the event, but said he ended up taking out two mortgages to cover the $825,000 winning bid it took to get it.
He then worked with members of the team that originally developed it to bring it back to running condition and even got it licensed for street use, but is now putting it up for sale again.
"The big thing for me was that I didn’t want the car collecting dust in some museum being undrivable," he said.
"It’s a lot of responsibility."
The car is scheduled to cross the block at the Mecum Auctions event in Monterey, Calif., on August 14, where it promises to be one of the marquee lots and could turn a tidy profit for Theodore to help soften the blow of letting it go.
The pre-auction estimate for the unique piece of automotive history that features Carroll Shelby's autograph in the engine bay has been set at $1.5 million to $2 million, which Theodore said is still a lot less than Ford spent to build it.