When it comes to American sports cars, few — if any — are as iconic as the Shelby Cobra. And, if you were to ask anyone with even a faint interest in cars, you can guarantee it’d be one of the first listed in their dream garage.
You don’t have to search far for why, either — just looking at one is enough, really. But, beyond the astonishingly good looks, it was almost. Really almost. So much so even that it was the quickest accelerating road car at its time of production. Legend has it that Shelby founder, Carroll Shelbyused to tape $100 bills to the dash during test drives, and if the passenger could get a hold of it during accelerating, they could keep it. Nobody did, though, and Carroll Shelby was confident they wouldn’t, knowing just how quick the Cobra was.
As you can probably expect, though, a car so iconic comes at quite the price. Especially if it’s an original, none-replica version, you’re looking for. You can, however, pick up remakes — and outstanding ones, too — for way, way less.
Anyway, on that note, let’s take a detailed look at what a 1960s Shelby Cobra costs in 2021.
A Detailed Look At The History Behind The Shelby Cobra
By the time the 1960s came around, Carroll Shelby had already built a serious reputation in racing — securing a win at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, no less — but, due to a hereditary heart condition, was forced to quit at the beginning of the decade.
According to Hemmings, though, Shelby had always dreamed of building a sports car under his own name and decided to focus all of his efforts on making this a reality. In 1961, British sports car manufacturer, AC, had recently ceased its Ace from production, and Shelby pounced on the opportunity.
And it all made perfect sense, really. Here you had a car that was lightweight, small, and exceptionally good-looking. The perfect platform for adding some American muscle into the equation, then. So, really, the Shelby Cobra was, in fact, a British-American sports car.
Here’s Why The Shelba Cobra Can Do 0-60 In 4 Seconds
So, in the early sixties, AC had sent across a shell for Shelby to begin working on. The initial engine used would be Ford’s 260 unit, which was a V8 that developed 260 bhp, meaning the initial cars were wickedly fast. We’re talking 0-60 in 5.6 seconds and a top speed of over 150 mph. That, in 1962, was serious.
It didn’t just stop there, though, with a larger V8 — 289 cubic inches over 260 — developing 306 bhp arriving that same year. But, in 1964, Carroll Shelby really took things to the next level, teaming the Cobra’s super-lightweight shell with Ford’s big block7-liter engine.
It was named the 427 — due to the engine’s size in cubic inches — and developed a monstrous 410 bhp in road-going form and closer to 500 in competition spec. Putting that sort of power in anything is going to make it quick, but in something as light and as small as the Cobra, well, it was a recipe for insane performance. And insane it was, really, given it could hit sixty in marginally over 4 seconds.
In case this wasn’t enough, though — it really was, let’s be honest — then there was the “Cobra to end all Cobras” that came in 1966, named the Super Snake. The Super Snake was essentially a competition-spec Cobra which was tweaked to make it road legal, as well as having two Paxton superchargers fitted. The result? Try 800 bhp.
Now you can imagine just how fast it was. According to Motor Biscuit, testers clocked the Super Snake at hitting sixty in under 3 seconds, as well as maxing out at over 200 mph. They’re figures that would impress today, never mind in the mid-’60s — which is testimony to just how far ahead of its time the Shelby Cobra was.
How Much A Classic Shelby Cobra Costs In 2021
Given the Shelby Cobra is such an icon, prices are now extremely high if you’re looking for an original one. Luckily for those who can’t quite stretch their budget this far, there are options out there, with replica models — like the ones developed by Superformance, the only firm licensed by Carroll Shelby to do so — and electric versions of the Cobra available.
Getting your hands on an original, though, won’t be so easy, given that there were a total of only 998 developed during its 6-year production run. As such, they’re now as rare as hen’s teeth, and finding one for sale isn’t the easiest task, either. The cheapest one currently on sale, a black 427, is priced at $423,000. Looking at recent sales figures, we’re talking anywhere between that and $3,000,000 for an original, depending on condition and what variant it is.
And, if it’s rarer examples like the Super Snake you’re after, then figures are even higher, with the last one selling at $5,500,000 at auction just a couple of months ago. Crazier still, though, is just how much the first-ever model sold for at auction in 2016. Try $13.75 million. That made it the most expensive car ever sold at an American auction. There was also a collection of Cobras that sold in 2019, where prices ranged from $1,750,000 for a 289 right the way to $2,860,000 for a 427.
What’s clear, then, is getting your hands on one certainly isn’t easy. The Shelby Cobra is, however, about as iconic as sports cars get, and the crazy prices and rarity are only going to increase further as the years go by.
Featured Image: JacoTen, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons
NEXT: Ford Releases Carbon Fiber Aftermarket Parts For Mustang Shelby GT500