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Car and Driver: First-Ever Shelby Cobra Could Bring $10M at Auction

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-Interested in buying a legend? The original Shelby Cobra, the very first car that Carroll Shelby hand-built, the one that kicked off the Shelby legacy that still carries on today, is going up for sale at RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction on August 19. We have a feeling this car is going to generate some intense bidding.

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When we say original, we mean it. This is the very first of the Cobras—created in 1962 when Carroll Shelby shoehorned a 260-cubic-inch Ford V-8 between the wheel wells of a British-made AC Ace roadster. When that engine met that body, a legend was born.

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The car, known as CSX 2000, served as the development prototype for what would become the Shelby empire. And it never left the founder’s hands—Shelby maintained this car as his personal Cobra from day one. It is truly a one-owner car.

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That’s not to say it was pampered, though. In a tale that is now legendary, Shelby pulled a little scam on the car magazines that tested this car. After the Cobra was made public, CSX 2000 was sent out to every major car magazine for testing. But Shelby, wanting it to seem like he’d already built a fleet of Cobras, had the car repainted a different color before each magazine test. The magazines each thought they’d gotten a different car, and Shelby’s legend was sealed.

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“It is the actual pen with which he signed his declaration of war and the idea upon which he built his company and revolutionized American racing—and the greater auto industry as a whole,” RM Sotheby’s writes. “It is, without exception, the single most important and history-rewriting sports car ever offered at auction, after over 50 years of ownership and without ever leaving the care of its founding father.”

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Hyperbole? Maybe not. It’s hard to think of a single automobile that changed the course of sports-car history as definitively as the Cobra. This was the car that sealed Shelby’s career, that led Ford to become a 1960s racing powerhouse, that founded the American tradition of front-engine, rear-drive, hairy-chested roadsters that still beats in our veins today.

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And among all the immensely collectible Shelby products of skyrocketing value, this will assuredly be the most coveted. Dave Kinney, publisher of the Hagerty Price Guide, estimates that this Holy Grail Cobra could bring $10 million—or more. Carroll Shelby had an unerring sense of the value of his cars; no wonder he held onto this one.

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A version of this story originally appeared on Road & Track.

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