12-14 August 2010
1967 Shelby American Can-Am Cobra Group 7
Sold for $143,000
- From an important private collection
- An example of the last competition car built by Shelby American with Ford backing
- Chassis no. 02, Jim Hall-built 351 Cleveland V8
- A take-no-prisoners racing car from the glory days of the Can-Am series
The GT category of the U.S. Road Racing Championship was perfect for Shelby to demonstrate the performance of his new Cobras, and they competed in the USRRC from the very beginning. The team from Venice, California also built and raced in the sports-racer category, but by the end of 1964, it was apparent that the lure of the USRRC’s prize money and publicity was attracting the attention of specialists. Cars from Lola, Chaparral, McLaren and others were going to dominate in the future.
Ford and Shelby turned their attention to achieving the long sought goal of defeating Ferrari. After winning the sports car manufacturer’s title in 1965, in 1966 they swept the first three places at both Daytona and the 24 Hours of Le Mans and won at Sebring, achieving the goals of Henry Ford II and Carroll Shelby. It was time for Shelby to take another look at the USRRC and specifically the six-race Fall series known as the Canadian-American Challenge Series, the Can-Am.
Announced in early 1966, the SCCA-sanctioned Can-Am was positioned to catch the attention of European teams and drivers in North America for the two season-ending grands prix, the USGP and the Mexican GP. SCCA put together six tracks, assembled an unprecedented prize fund and announced the rules: FIA Group 7.
They specified two doors of at least a certain size, two seats on each side of the body centerline in a cockpit of set minimum dimensions, envelope bodywork covering the wheels, minimum weight and wheelbase. That was it.
Shelby still had plenty to do in 1967, and they turned to freelance designer Len Terry, who with Frank Nichols of Elva owned Transatlantic Automotive Consultants. Terry seized upon the loose Group 7 rules to create, in only a short period of time, an innovative, aerodynamic design. Based on an aluminum monocoque center structure, Terry’s principal innovation was the suspension.
It used at both front and rear a single transversely mounted coil spring compressed by rocker arms on the upper suspension control arms. Conventional tubular shock absorbers controlled suspension movement and allowed coil springs to be mounted over them in case the radical suspension proved troublesome. The system allowed body roll to be controlled by anti-sway bars independently of the effect of the stiffness of the suspension springs, giving it unusual adaptability and adjustability.
Three tubs were constructed, but the first complete car didn’t arrive in Los Angeles until late, with barely enough time for a shakedown run at Riverside and preparation for round four of the 1967 series, the October 29th race at Riverside. In the hands of Jerry Titus, it managed only three laps before the fuel pump failed. Two weeks later, at the finale in Las Vegas, it crashed. By then Ford had pulled its funding for such ventures, and Shelby turned its attention to more productive, and lucrative, activities. The damaged tub was stripped and the parts used to complete the second Shelby American Can-Am, the car offered here. It and the spare monocoque were then sold to Mike Koslosky.
Koslosky raced it in SCCA A/Sports Racing with some success during 1968 and 1969 and then sold it to Hull Dobbs Ford in Tennessee, where it graced the dealership’s showroom for a decade. At that point, a long-term restoration began, using a Ford Cleveland-based engine (the Can-Am’s original 351-cubic inch Ford was based on a 289 block) built by Jim Hall. Upon completion of the restoration in 1988, it was sold to Ed Cudahy in Denver and vintage race-prepared by Mike Dopudja. It made its debut in the 1989 vintage Group 7 race at Elkhart Lake, competing well against big-block cars. The quality of its restoration and preparation earned it the Concours prize for Sports-Racers.
Since then it has been little used and remains in excellent restored condition. After experimentation at Shelby with coil-overs, its original innovative Len Terry-designed transverse coil spring suspension has been re-installed. The engine is still the Jim Hall-built 351 Cleveland with four downdraft Weber carbs driving through a ZF 5-speed transaxle.
It was acquired by the current collection in 2004 and remains essentially in its as-restored condition. With further refinement and development, it should be an intriguing entrant in historic races. It is an example of the last competition car built for Shelby American with Ford backing and an important addition to any collection of Shelby automobiles or American high performance sports-racers from the epic early years of the Can-Am. As it is a thoroughbred racecar, RM Auctions recommends a thorough service and going-through prior to racing or track use.
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