Spotlight: Shelby Cobra ‘DragonSnake’

Photos: Mecum Auctions

In 1964, while Carroll Shelby’s A.C. Cobras were running away with road racing victories, a few of his employees convinced the man to provide a 289 Cobra to use for drag racing. Chassis number CSX2019 was designated as a Public Relations car and, with that the “DragonSnake” was born.

Finished in light blue metal-flake with the name “Cobra” prominent on it sides, they quickly found that getting even the standard 289’s power to the track was going to require modifications. Equipped with transverse leaf springs, both front and back, they modified the springs to change how the car reacted to sudden acceleration. Changes to the shock absorbers also helped weight transfer on launch.

According to Shelby information, Jere Kirkpatrick was the driver of CSX2019 and also looked after the chassis, while Ralph Falconer, Jr., was tasked with maintaining the engines. The two put together dominating performances with a best quarter mile result of 11.73 seconds at 119.20 mph – an AA/SP class record in AHRA competition. CSX2019 was replaced as a factory competition car early in 1964 with the arrival of the rack and pinion chassis. The first Dragonsnake was sold to a privateer who campaigned it for another three years.

The replacement car, CSX2357, was heavily modified for drag racing and set both AHRA and NHRA records in A/Sports, as well as winning the 1965 Phoenix Winternationals in a duel with a privately owned Dragonsnake (CSX2248).

Of further interest is CSX3198, which was the only Dragonsnake buit with a 505 hp, 427-cid engine. This car was sold to Haar Motor Company in Worcester, MA, for NHRA competition. At the 1966 NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, it set the A/SP national records at 10.86 seconds and 127 mph results.

The example shown here is CSX2093, one of eight cars known to have been modified with the Dragonsnake package post-sale from Shelby. Such examples were known as “independent competition cars,” according to the SAAC Cobra Registrar. This car was purchased by Jim Costilo, who is probably more well known for his Turbo Stang, featured in the July 1966 edition of Super Stock & Drag Illustrated.

Driven by Bruce Larson, who later became the 1989 NHRA Funny Car World Champion, CSX2093 romped through NHRA’s A/SP, AA/SP, B/SP and C/SP classes in 1964. The following year, the team won the NHRA Springnationals, Winternationals and U.S. Indy Nationals.

Subsequent owner Ed Hedrick continued the car’s winning ways, taking the the 1966 Springnationals and U.S. Nationals. Class wins and records continued to be set and reset by CSX2093, so that by the end of 1967, it held national titles in four different classes.

This car is coming to auction at the Mecum Auctions’ event in Kissimmee, FL, at the end of January. This Dragonsnake has undergone a complete, show-quality restoration by Ziegler Coach of Los Angeles. In competition form, the car features a Weber-carbureted 289 Ford V-8 with Ballanger side mount headers and 4-speed manual transmission.

Previous Dragonsnakes have sold for as much as $1.5 million, so it will be interesting to see how this example fares. The Kissimmee auction runs from January 26-30, with CSX2093 scheduled to be on the block on Saturday afternoon. Additional information is available at the event web site.

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