Back where it all began: Shelby's original Cobra, the CSX 2000, goes to auction

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The CSX 2000 was the original Shelby Cobra prototype(Credit: Darin Schnabel/RM Sotheby's)

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Few models of car are as iconic as the Shelby Cobra and its story can be traced all the way back to one single vehicle: the CSX 2000. The prototype was built by Carroll Shelby himself in 1962 and is credited as sparking a revolution in sports car design. It is now set to go to auction.

The CSX 2000 is described by RM Sotheby's, which is handling the sale on behalf on the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust, as "the most important modern American car — period." The auctioneer's appropriately named car specialist Shelby Myers says the historical significance and impact on the global sports car scene cannot be overstated.

"In the automotive world, CSX 2000 was the shot heard around the world; it revolutionized not only American racing, but the greater auto industry as a whole," says Myers in a press release. "Had Carroll Shelby never decided to squeeze that high performance V8 into its engine bay, there would be no Cobra and certainly no Shelby American, nor GT40, nor the others that followed."

The V8 engine in question was a 260-cu in (4,260-cu cm) Ford small-block that was new at the time. It was dropped into the chassis of an AC Ace roadster in an attempt to take on the Corvette and the result was a voraciously high-performance two-seater wrapped up in body that is at once neat, tidy, elegant, smooth and flowing. Its 0-60 mph (0-97 km/h) time was reputedly 4.2 seconds and its top speed 153 mph (246 km/h).

Once built, the CSX 2000 served a number of purposes, including as a development car, test car, press car and show car. It is said that, in order to convince the public that full production was underway, the prototype was repainted a different color for different appearances and press drives. This gave the impression that there was more than one of the models in circulation, when, in reality, it was the only one for seven months.

Despite never leaving Shelby's ownership during his lifetime, the CSX 2000 continued to appear in media features and tour shows. In 2012, to celebrate 50 years of the Shelby Cobra, along with the launch of the Cobra 289 FIA and 427 Cobra limited editions, it made a number of high-profile appearances, including at the likes of the Pebble Beach Concours d'Elegance and the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Since then, it has been on display at the Shelby Heritage Center in the US city of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Interestingly, it was Shelby's wish that the CSX 2000 be left in its original state and, according to Shelby American company historian Jim King, Shelby went so far as threatening to fire anyone who dared upgrade the upholstery. As such, many of its gauges don't work and its upholstery is in tatters. "In fifty-four years no-one has dared touch it — it is the way it was," says King in an interview with RM Sotheby's. "That is really part of the aura of CSX 2000. It is as original as you can get it."

The CSX 2000 is being offered for auction by by the Carroll Hall Shelby Trust, along with a number of the company's other notable models including a 1965 Shelby Cobra 427 and a CSX 3178. The auction will take place at RM Sotheby's in Monterey, California, from August 19th-20th.

In the video below, King talks about the history of the CSX 2000.

Source: RM Sotheby's

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