As part of our trip to Monterey Classic Car Week and Pebble Beach, we were given the opportunity to experience one of the most sentimental gatherings in American motorsports history, the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra. While we’ve all seen or heard about this classic car at some point in our lives, it isn’t until you hear the unmistakable roar of not one or two but a full-fledged fleet of Shelby Cobras that you can truly appreciate the sight of $75 million of combined automotive legacy taking to the track well past their designated prime.
This event at Laguna Seca brought the spectators in town for the Concours and the gorgeous classic automobiles on display a short distance away; the mood at the race track could only be described as part celebratory, part memorial, as the forefather and creator of the storied AC Cobra, Carroll Shelby, had passed on May 10th.
To honor the spirit of the man who had bestowed America with one of its first true competition cars to take on the Europeans, including five Daytona Coupes blowing the world away at the fabled Le Mans, Ford Motor Company set up a captivating Heritage Display that brought together a literal rolling timeline of some of the most well known and important Cobras ever to exist. Among the ranks included the first Cobra, a CSX2000 personally owned by Shelby himself from its manufacture to his passing, which still contains the same parts and interior as it did at its debut at the 1962 New York Auto Show.
Other notables included the first production Cobra (CSX2001) and the first “big block” Cobra, known as the “Fliptop,” which was born when a 427 engine was stuffed into a 289 chassis in order to best competitor Chevy’s Corvette Grand Sport. The CSX2002 original factory race car — a Cobra Roadster — made an appearance as the first Cobra to take gold at the podium. Of course, when it comes to racing, the famous USRRC Roadster No. 98 that Ken Miles drove in the '60s was easily the most popular in the room judging by crowds alone.
While 289s and Daytona Coupes played hooky with each other out on the track, the most shocking moment of the day came from the untimely crash of Daytona chassis #2286, one of the five to race in Le Mans, which was estimated to be worth around $4 million. However, as a fellow reporter pointed out, at least this vintage beast was scraped up doing what it was meant to do. Besides, they will rebuild it whether or not they are racing it at this value. A memorable day, of which Shelby would have been proud regardless.
Check out the gallery for some of the highlights and the video below compiled by Road & Track as they painstakingly arranged the 45 authentic track Bunnies (plus Cobra #1) into their 50th anniversary portrait.