One of the great strengths of Carroll Shelby’s organization, Shelby American, was its flexibility and responsiveness in serving his goals. It was in the very nature of the people he hired, talents such as Pete Brock, Phil Remington and Ken Miles, to accept his challenges and go straight to work. So when Shelby saw that USRRC competition was moving away from cars like his Cobra and toward rear-engined sports racers, he marshaled those talents to create the Cooper-Monaco King Cobra.
A direct descendant of John Cooper’s rear-engine Formula One cars, the Monaco was essentially a tube-framed F1 Cooper widened to accommodate two seats and covered with a full-fendered aluminum skin. Like many Cooper chassis it was made to accept a number of different engines; the King Cobras received full-race Cobra 289 engines putting out 370 horsepower. The 289′s reliability combined with the car’s curb weight of 1,300 pounds gave it tremendous potential, and after some teething problems early in 1963, Dave MacDonald won the L.A. Times Grand Prix at Riverside, with three other King Cobras finishing 4th, 5th and 7th. “Cobra Dave” then repeated at the Pacific Grand Prix at Laguna Seca in overwhelming fashion, lapping everyone but second-place A.J. Foyt.
The first of three ultimately fatal blows to the King Cobra’s racing career came in the spring of 1964. Dave MacDonald’s tragic death at the Indianapolis 500 prompted his teammate Bob Holbert’s immediate retirement, leaving the cars without their team drivers. Subsequently, the competition’s rapid development combined with Shelby’s commitments to Ford and the FIA Championship to finish the King Cobras, but not before Parnelli Jones took a new car, chassis number CM 6/64, to a high-profile victory at the L.A. Grand Prix held at Riverside in October. The same car was then driven to 5th and 6th overall at Mt. Tremblant and Mosport, respectively, by Lothar Motschenbacher.
Such was the pace of change that derivatives like the King Cobra were fast becoming obsolete even as they were being built; the revolutionary developments of that golden era of American road racing only hurried their demise.
After Jones’ win at Riverside, Shelby sold chassis number CM 6/64 to Californian Bill Lowell, who hired Lothar Motschenbacher to drive it for the rest of the season. When Lowell defaulted on payment, Shelby reacquired the car, and then sold it along with CM 5/64 to Oscar Kovaleski as part of Shelby’s famous 1965 garage sale. CM 6/64 is now owned by Larry Bowman of Bowman Motors, LLC in Redwood City, California and has been accurately restored to its 1964 Shelby specification. It was entered in the 2006 Monterey Historic Races, and featured in the “Cars of Parnelli Jones” display at the 2008 Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance, winning First in Class.
CM 6/64 is fully documented, including HMSA Log Book, ACCUS and FIA passports, Shelby American invoices and letters of confirmation from Phil Remington, Charles Agipiou and Carroll Shelby.
Riverside L.A. Times Grand Prix – October 1964
1st Overall, Parnelli Jones #94, King Cobra CM/6/64 Shelby American
Mt. Tremblant – Fall 1964
5th Overall, Lothar Motschenbacher, King Cobra CM/6/64 Customer
Mosport Players 200 – June 1965
6th Overall, Lothar Motschenbacher, King Cobra CM/6/64 Customer
1964 Cooper Monaco King Cobra Highlights
- 1964 Cooper Monaco/King Cobra CM 6/64
- Built by Carroll Shelby
- Winner, L.A Times Grand Prix at Riverside
- Driven by Parnelli Jones
- 289/370hp Cobra by Ford V-8
- McKee transaxle
- Accurately restored
- Competition prepared
- Guardsman Blue with White stripes
- Monterey Historic Races 2006
- Featured in the “Cars of Parnelli Jones” display, Amelia Island Concours d’Elegance 2008
- Winner, “Best in Class”, Amelia Island 2008
Mecum Auction will offer the Cooper Monaco King Cobra on live national TV on Friday, May 15, 2009. The event, held at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, is open to the general public and tickets are available at the door for $10.
For more information, visit www.mecum.com.
[Source: Mecum Auction]