Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake

Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake,

The Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake made the scene back in 1963, adding a scintilatting drag racing episode to the Shelby legend. Even as Shelby American entered their little Cobra sports car in FIA racing against Ferrari, some of their employees went drag racing with the Cobra. For drag racing they gave it a more menacing monicker … the Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake. 

Although only four were ever built for sale to private owners, an original 1965 Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake turns up for sale this week in the Shelby Section.  It is a special race edition Dragonsnake which was actually used for SCCA, autocross and hill climbs more than drag racing. Now it stands in beautifully restored condition with its British Racing Green livery.  (Follow this link to see dozens of detailed photos.) It is being offered for sale today by Legendary Motorcar Company, a well known muscle car dealer and a member of the Dealer Network. 

When in 1963, three of Carroll Shelby’s employees at Shelby American came to him with the idea of drag racing a Shelby team car, Carroll Shelby said he would back the effort if they would use the little Shelby Cobra with a Hi-Po 289 engine. The race team was a success, winning many competitions. Shelby soon found that there would be a demaind for drag racing parts and equipment. There was even demand for a few turnkey Cobra drag race cars. 

Debuting in 1963, the Dragonsnake was Shelby’s name for the drag racing program. Two special Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake cars were built for the Shelby American race team while four other cars were built to sell to outsite buyers or race teams. These six cars were: CSX 2019 and 2357 for the Shelby race team, while CSX 2248, 2416, 2427 and 2472 were built for private sale. (One Dragonsnake 427 Cobra was built later, CSX 3198.)

The Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake offered here by Legendary Motorcar Company for sale is CSX 2472, the British Racing Green edition ordered by Ed Hugus of Continental Cars in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His order for a “Stage II Dragonsnake” was for his client, a Russ Freed from Pittsburgh who had very specific build specs for his Cobra. Shelby American sent Hugus one of the early Cobra 289 Dragonsnake bodies with what they referred to as a Stage II Dragonsnake package with upgraded modifications. It was an unfinished race team car which had been stored in the warehouse since the fall of ’64. Hugus was a Lemans Champion racer himself. He was one of those dealers that Shelby would send an unfinished car to and his Continental Cars team would finish building the Cobra to the customer’s request. Here is what the Stage II Dragonsnake package included: 3.77 rear end, Koni Shocks instead of drag type, Stewart Warner tachometer, chrome roll bar, heater, radio, FIA style wheels, shoulder harnesses and stock car tires rather than drag specific tires. Belanger headers were added which connected to a rear exit street exhaust so you could drive it to the track, take off the side exhaust caps and have a full competition exhaust. Also, his modifications included a Berry Hardtop with deluxe side curtains and modified Roll Bar so the top would fit. Exterior modifications included factory flared fenders, a hood scoop, badge delete and the factory paint in British Racing Green had to be redone. Freed’s version of the Dragonsnake wasn’t prepared as a drag car but, rather a road course car that could be driven on the street with a monster built drag engine. 

DragonSnake Built for Street and Race

It sold new at $9,019.47, almost double the price of a regular Shelby Street Cobra. Freed used it mostly as a street driven car until he sold it in 1967 with 5,200 miles on it. The second owner was J.J. Rodman of Glenshaw, Pennsylvania who, with the help of his sister Elaine, raced it extensively and successfully in autocrosses and hill climbs. Because it was a special built Dragonsnake combined with the siblings considerable racing talents, the car took home an unusual number of trophies. They claim to have won 1,200 trophies. Indeed, this may be the winning-est Cobra of all time. In the course of those years until it was sold again in 1986 Rodman put on 10,000 miles. Rodman bought the Cobra Dragonsnake back again, and in 1993 it reportedly had just 17,000 miles. 

When the current owner bought the car in 2006 it underwent a “no-expense spared restoration.” After it’s impressive racing career, having never been damaged in anyway, the car was rewarded with a ground up restoration. It was finished in its factory original British Racing Green to a concourse quality. Today just 19,000 miles show on the odometer. 

After an unbroken chain of four known owners, the Shelby Cobra 289 Dragonsnake still retains all of its original body panels and frame. It is truly a remarkable collector car to find. It even comes with a current SVRA logbook which documents all the car’s racing history back to 1968. 

The car still has a fire breathing 300-horsepower 289 ci  race prepped Ford V8 engine. 


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