This 1964 289 Shelby Cobra, s/n COB 6008, is one of just three right hand drive roadsters with the unique in-period “cutback-door” or “FIA” bodywork and was race-prepped in-period by the legendary Wilkie Wilkinson for contests in England and Africa. A regular entrant in invitation only events like the Le Mans Legends and the Goodwood Revival, COB 6008 has been driven by a veritable who’s who of the racing world, featured in Octane magazine and is scheduled for display in the upcoming Race Retro show. The fully restored Cobra is listed here on the owner’s impressive website where the price will be given to interested parties upon application.
With their rack and pinion steering, fine balance and substantial horsepower, late-production 289 Cobras—both street and competition versions—are widely considered the best of the breed. Better yet are the few competition 289s possessing “cutback-door” bodywork, as the modification allowed the use of much larger rear tires with resulting increases in both handling and acceleration. That this car, COB 6008, raced in-period with this rare modification is incredibly significant. But it’s just the first point in what is a remarkable provenance.
Because most Cobras were destined for sale in the US, Carroll Shelby had AC send the engineless chassis to his California facility for final assembly and, in special cases, race preparation. For the much smaller number of Cobras built for the British market, it wasn’t financially viable to ship cars across the ocean twice, so Shelby sent engines and transmissions to AC for the Cobras to be built in England. But while AC had long been a builder of street cars and was well versed in their complete construction, race preparation was another story. A fact made clear to COB 6008’s first owner, Bruce Ropner, as he marveled on the day of delivery at the small, standard-sized wire wheels swimming in the massive rear fenders. Further work was needed and Ropner, like all competitive British drivers, new just the man to call.
By 1964, Wilkie Wilkinson’s résumé included stints as both a riding and stationary mechanic, running Rolls Royce’s propeller division during World War II, co-founding Ecurie Ecosse and twice leading the team to victory at Le Mans. Now working at famed BRM, he took hold of Ropner’s Cobra and set about making the car as competitive as the cutback-door, Shelby-campaigned Cobras winning championships stateside and threatening Ferrari’s dominance on the world’s stage.
In short order, larger competition brakes replaced the stock components, Weber downdraft carburetors replaced a smaller four barrel, wide cast alloy wheels shod with race rubber replaced narrow wire wheels, and the hood was perforated with a series of louvers to aid cooling. Thus readied for competition, COB 6008 embarked on a race career that would carry the rare car from the finest tracks in England, to Africa and back again with numerous race wins along the way. And while many a Cobra’s racing history is brightest in the 60s, COB 6008’s record continues today at events at Goodwood, Spa, Macau, and Le Mans with drivers such as Jochen Mass, Derek Bell, Jackie Oliver, Richard Attwood, Dan Gurney, John Whitmore, Marc Surer, Jack Sears, Stefan Johansson and Eddie Cheever. Fully restored and supplied with three historically correct cockpit configurations (open with standard windscreen, open with D-type windscreen and hard tonneau over passenger seat, and closed with standard windscreen, Le Mans aerodynamic hard top and split, reverse-hinged trunk opening) COB 6008 stands ready for any vintage race, tour, or guest drives by the worlds most accomplished drivers.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Cobra’s birth and the vintage sports car world is celebrating by featuring Cobras at premier events like the Amelia Island Concours, Pebble Beach Concours and Monterey Motorsports Reunion. Surely there can be no better way to take part in all the festivities than at the wheel of a Cobra as rare or significant as COB 6008.