Shelby Cobra CSX

Few tales of automotive history loom larger than that of Carroll Shelby and his Cobra. By the time Shelby approached England’s AC Cars in 1961, with the intention of installing a Ford V-8 engine into the beautiful AC Ace Roadster, the concept of stuffing a powerful large-bore motor into a lightweight body was nothing new. But between his marketing savvy engineering vision and fortuitous timing, Shelby became the most successful purveyor of the idea, and the resulting Shelby Cobra became the ultimate execution of this concept. Although Shelby’s original purpose for challenging Ferrari’s racing supremacy wasn’t truly realized until the emergence of the aerodynamic Daytona Coupe and his subsequent participation in Ford’s GT40 program, the original Cobra, nonetheless, quickly became a celebrated workhorse of the SCCA racing circuit, as well as European FIA championships, and the singularly most handsome dual-purpose roadster that remains one of the archetypal legends of American racing and sports car production.

Even among the distinguished ranks of the Shelby Cobra, CSX 2032 holds particular appeal in its ownership provenance and rare and desirable original special order configuration. According to the Cobra Registry, this car was initially billed to Shelby American by AC Cars on October 24, 1962, just 11 days after the Cobra’s milestone first race at Riverside, California, with that car piloted by Bill Krause. Shipped to Shelby’s famous Venice, California shop, CSX 2032 was invoiced for sale to Lance Reventlow, of Beverly Hills, on January 2, 1963, as confirmed by a copy of its original Shelby American invoice.

Vintage racing aficionados will instantly recognize Grand Prix driver Reventlow as the glamorous founder of the Scarab racing concern, as well as a principal designer of the team’s visionary and beautiful cars. The only son of Woolworth heiress Barbara Hutton and a Danish count, Reventlow cut his teeth racing Cooper Formula 2 cars, but he is almost equally renowned for his A-list, jet-setting lifestyle, which included associations with many of Hollywood’s elite. Longtime friend Cary Grant was the second of many stepfathers, while model and actress Jill St. John was courted by and betrothed to Reventlow prior to their divorce in 1963. Indeed, Ms. St. John was married to Reventlow when he took delivery of his Cobra.

Although Reventlow curiously walked away from racing in 1962 (ironically he died in a plane crash 10 years later), his withdrawal from the company of fast machines was gradual, and he still dabbled in the day’s finest sports cars even after his retirement from competition. It is quite fitting that Reventlow chose to purchase a Shelby Cobra: in June 1962, he had rented out his recently shuttered Scarab factory in Venice, California to Shelby American, which prior to then had been located in nearby Santa Fe Springs. Possibly as an attempt to lend support to Shelby’s new company, Reventlow’s purchase of the specially equipped CSX 2032 can be regarded as an intriguing epilogue to his largely unknown role at the birthplace of one of America’s most revered sports cars.

As reflected by the Shelby American invoice copy, Reventlow ordered CSX 2032 with a likely unique configuration of options. Given his background as a racing driver, it is unsurprising that he based his specification on the Cobra competition cars, including aluminum rocker covers, racing tires, a racing oil pan, an aluminum intake manifold, a roll bar and sway bars, and a competition ignition system. As such, CSX 2032 may properly be regarded as a factory competition-specification example, if not an authentic team car.

In addition to these racing aspects, CSX 2032 was ordered with a number of more luxurious road car features, such as a chromed air cleaner, front and rear bumper guards, a sun visor, and wind wings. Thus, Reventlow optioned the ultimate Cobra perfectly for a playboy ex-race car driver, one that offered full competition-capable performance but was still replete with certain comforts, making the car truly tractable around town. Within a few years, Reventlow sold CSX 2032, and before long, it appeared on the showroom floor of SCU Lotus Central Foreign Cars in Michigan.

Part of the RM Auctions event in Arizona in January, 2013.

289 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine with four twin-choke Weber carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, ladder-type steel tubing chassis with independent front and rear suspension with A-arms, transverse leaf springs, and tube shock absorbers, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90 in.

Source: RM Auctions
Photo Credit: Copyright Robb DeCamp

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