10 March 2007
1963 Shelby King Cobra Cooper Type 61M Monaco-Ford
- Chassis no. CM/3/63
Sold for $935,000
circa 400hp Ford 289 cu. in. V8 engine, five-speed transaxle, four-wheel independent suspension with coil springs over tubular shock absorbers, four-wheel disc brakes.
The Ex-Shelby American Team Car and Only Genuine Surviving Example
In the early Sixties the state of sports car racing was in flux. Mid-engine cars were supplanting the front engined Birdcages, Scarabs, Chaparral Is and Listers. Professionalism, as practiced by the factories and major private teams in Europe and England, was beginning to make itself felt in the United States. Championships were organized, promoted and publicized. It was becoming apparent, even to the pure amateurs of the Sports Car Club of America, that racing was a business. Practiced by the most aggressive, talented and persistent rather than by the wealthiest amateurs determined to make a small fortune in racing by starting out with a large one, the confluence of time, talent and opportunity created a challenging, vibrant culture in which innovation and creativity were tempered by practical constraints of available resources and opportunities.
As he has demonstrated for the past forty years, one of the most talented opportunists in racing was Carroll Shelby. His Cobras were trouncing the opposition in the United States and Europe, to the point where in 1963 they won the both the SCCA A/Sports Racing National Championship and the professional US Road Racing Championship, the latter in competition with some of the world’s top sports-racing cars. Based on street-driven production cars, the Cobras were no competition for the competition arrayed in the fall USAC-sanctioned “Fall Series” on the West Coast which would soon bloom into the glory of the SCCA Canadian-American Challenge Series, the Can-Am. For these races, against the best international and USAC Indy car drivers in powerful mid-engined sports racers campaigning for prize money that was enough to make the difference between a driver’s yearly financial success and failure with a single race win. Shelby had the team and the drivers to compete in the Fall Series. He needed only a car, and he didn’t have time or resources to build one. Using his connections in England and knowledge from years competing in the UK and on the Continent he approached John Cooper for cars that would accept the 289 Ford V8 and be competitive. Cooper – both the man and the company – was known for simple, robust, practical design and construction, attributes that had already proved successful in the Cobra’s development. After several years of success with a mid-engined Coventry Climax-powered sports car Cooper had recently updated the design with creation of the Monaco. It proved to be adaptable to several more powerful engines including Maserati, Chevrolet V8 and even the GM B-O-P aluminum V8.
Shelby bought two of them, CM/1/63 and this car, CM/3/63, in early 1963 specifically to extend his team’s racing season into the Fall Series with the expectation it would pay for itself and raise the public’s awareness of the Shelby brand and of the small Ford V8’s competitiveness.
The Cooper Monaco was, typically of all John Cooper’s racing cars, simplicity itself. That created some disadvantage when racing against Colin Chapman’s innovative and lightweight Lotus 19s, but in a series that employed gutsy, heavy American cast iron V8s on road race circuits that were not necessarily the smoothest, the Coopers’ robust construction was a definite advantage. Cooper modified them during construction specifically to accept the heavier and wider Ford V8. Although they were delivered in early 1963, Shelby concentrated on the success of the Cobras in the USRRC and SCCA A/Production competition and the Cooper Monaco Fords, as Shelby called them, were not completed until nearly the end of the USRRC season.
In addition to the full-race Ford 289 V8 with four dual choke downdraft Weber carburetors Shelby American fitted the Cooper Monacos with a BMC/Huffaker four-speed transaxle, soon replaced by a stronger but still troublesome Colotti four-speed. The space frame was constructed of 11/2” 18 gauge tubing and carried full independent suspension with concentric coil spring/shock absorbers. The aluminum bodywork was distinctively rounded and fitted tightly to the underlying frame that in turn sparingly packaged the driver and necessary mechanical components. Even with their sizable Ford V8 engines the Cooper Monaco Fords weighed well under a ton and promised to be serious competition in the Fall Series.
When news of the coming Shelby sports-racers reached the motorsports media creative writers sought an appropriate name that was both more imaginative and more evocative than the “Cooper Ford” that Shelby called them. The prize went to Steve Smith of Car & Driver who came up with “King Cobra” and the emotion-charged moniker proved to be completely appropriate for Shelby’s sports-racers.
The first two cars were campaigned by Shelby American in the 1963 Fall Series. CM/1/63 was driven by Dave MacDonald. CM/3/63, the King Cobra offered here, was driven by Bob Holbert. It has been authenticated on several occasions and in writing by Carroll Shelby and has a known, continuous history since Shelby American’s ownership.
It was driven by Holbert in the 1963 Fall Series and the 1964 USRRC until his retirement during the season. Thereafter it was driven by Dave MacDonald, Ken Miles, Augie Pabst, Skip Scott, Ed Leslie and Ronnie Bucknum. In 1966 it was sold by Shelby to Alex A. Budurin in Tucson, Arizona with the current ZF 5-speed transaxle as used in the 1964 King Cobra raced by Parnelli Jones. Budurin passed away before the car could be readied for racing and his widow sold it in 1967 to Dwayne Zinola in Sunnyvale, California who completed the reassembly and won an SCCA National Championship with it. The next owner, Don Ivy, sold it to Robert N. Green of Santa Cruz, California in 1970.
Green thoroughly researched the King Cobra’s history and took it to Shelby’s shop where Carroll Shelby authenticated it. He restored it in 1991, carefully preserving its originality and retaining even such consumable items as the Plexiglas windshields and two body side panels and some inner panels that had to be remade. The engine had been replaced after it was blown by Don Ivy but the four-Weber intake, oil pan, valve covers and other external pieces are the original Shelby King Cobra competition engine parts. Green chose to retain the ZF transaxle as it was part of the King Cobra’s configuration when it left Shelby American for the last time. Only two subsequent owners, both with outstanding collections of the finest American and European sports-racing cars, have owned this Shelby King Cobra since Mr. Green sold it in 1996.
Sympathetically restored in the original Viking Blue livery with double white stripes, this is one of the most important of all American sports-racers. It was the subject of a feature article in the January 2007 issue of American Driver magazine and has recently been cosmetically freshened with, once again, careful attention to preserving its important original character. Presented as it would have been on the starting line at Riverside, Mosport, Mid-Ohio or Laguna Seca, this is the only surviving King Cobra from the first, 1963, season and one of few King Cobras to be campaigned by Shelby American over more than one season.
This is a singularly important opportunity to acquire one of the rarest and most significant automobiles ever built and raced by Carroll Shelby and the Shelby American team. It has been driven by some of America’s best drivers – Holbert, Miles, Leslie, Pabst, Scott and Bucknum – in the USRRC, the racing series which set the stage for the most famous of all American road race series, the Can-Am. It has an impeccable history and provenance, including authentication by Carroll Shelby.
As recent events indicate, interest in the cars of Carroll Shelby has never been higher and among them this King Cobra stands alone by virtue of its rarity, history, configuration and provenance. Widely considered the most rare of all Shelby built race cars, it is indeed one of the most significant post war Shelby constructed race cars.
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