The first Shelby Cobra (above) has become the most expensive American car sold at auction, fetching US$13.75 million (NZ$18.8m) at the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’ Elegance.
But the undoubted star of the auction scene was the 1956 Le Mans winner, a 1955 Jaguar D-Type which fetched US$21.780,000 (NZ$29.8m).
Jaguar magazine said chassis number XKD501 was the first production D-Type and the first D-Type supplied by Jaguar to a privateer team.
It became the most expensive British car to ever be sold at auction, dethroning the US$14.3m paid for a 1962 Aston Martin DB4 GT Zagato in December last year at auction in New York.
The Shelby Cobra, known as CSX 2000, is the original prototype, built in 1962 when Carroll Shelby shoehorned a 4.3-litre (260 cubic-inch) Ford V8 into the engine bay of a British-made AC Ace. (See video on this page).
It never left Shelby’s hands – it was his personal Cobra from day one until he died in 2012. He kept it in the brilliant shade of blue shown here and it’s never been restored.
The tale of how Shelby used it to create an empire of sorts is the stuff of industry legend. Once the Cobra broke cover Shelby had to somehow convince the motoring public that his production line was up and running. So for the first year of its life he sent it to every US car magazine for testing.
But each time he repainted it a different colour. The magazines fell for it – believing they each had a different car on the cover. America’s Road&Track admitted it had been fooled and the ruse helped seal Shelby’s career.
Auction house RM Sotheby was guilty of hyperbole when it said of CSX 2000: “It is the actual pen with which he (Shelby) signed his declaration of war and the idea upon which he built his company and revolutionised American racing—and the greater auto industry as a whole.
“It is, without exception, the single most important and history-rewriting sports car ever offered at auction, after over 50 years of ownership and without ever leaving the care of its founding father.”
• The picture at right is of the Ford GT40 in which New Zealanders Bruce McLaren and Chris Amon won the 1966 Le Mans 24-hour race. It had been restored in the US and was shipped to Pebble Beach last week for a special 50th birthday celebration. Here is the famous car No. 2 making its way into Pebble Beach. Amon had been invited as Ford’s guest of honour but bad health felled him and he died a week before the event.