1964 Shelby 289 Cobra

Lot 836 | Passion for the Drive: The Cars of Jim Taylor | Estimate: $950,000 - $1,200,000


1964 Shelby 289 Cobra

Lot 836 | Passion for the Drive: The Cars of Jim Taylor | Estimate: $950,000 - $1,200,000


  • “The Cobra in the Closet,” one of the all-time best Shelby stories
  • Featured in Tom Cotter's The Corvette in the Barn
  • Only three private owners since new
  • Cosmetically very original; carefully and thoroughly mechanically sorted
  • Remarkable level of originality throughout, with everything the Cobra connoisseur seeks
  • Regularly exercised by Mr. Taylor as its builder intended


Chassis No. CSX 2171

Like Duesenbergs and 250 GTOs and others of their ilk, Shelby Cobras were interesting cars that attracted interesting people – after all, it required a certain personality to climb into a featherweight British shell with a honking American V-8 bolted into it. Accordingly, many Cobras have wonderful tales to tell, of colorful owners and adventures, and, frequently, eventual rediscovery. As recorded in Tom Cotter's book, The Corvette in the Barn, Jim Taylor's Cobra claims all of the above.

The Shelby American World Registry describes chassis no. CSX 2171, an early rack-and-pinion model finished in white with red interior, as being shipped stateside from AC Cars on September 12, 1963. That November it was invoiced to the original selling dealer, Marion Willey & Son of Bountiful, Utah, equipped with Class A accessories, including a luggage rack and whitewall tires, radio, aluminum rocker covers, and a removable hardtop. Marion Willey subsequently sold the car to its first owner, E.U. Jacobs, for whom they ordered a dashboard plaque in June 1964.

In August 1969, Jacobs sold the car to Dr. Brent Christiansen of Salt Lake City. Dr. Christiansen drove the Cobra for nearly a decade. He would mow his own grass, which necessitated opening the garage door; of course, anyone who walked or drove by would see the exciting car and want to stop and poke around. Eventually the owner tired of this, and so created a rather ingenious solution: he built an extension into the back of the garage, rolled the Cobra back into it, and then built a pair of hinged Dutch doors in front of it, meeting a curtain that rolled down from the ceiling and buttoned to the doors. Invisible behind this clever 'false wall,' “the Cobra in the closet” remained tucked away and undriven after 1978.

Dr. Christiansen continued with his career in medicine until 2007, when, after he and his wife retired, they decided to open a picture framing outlet – and required start-up cash. Their nephew was tasked with selling the car, and, as so often happens with Shelby Cobras, within two phone calls he had found Donnie Gould. The following morning Donnie was on a plane to Utah, and soon thereafter was standing in front of the open 'closet' beholding what was, essentially, a completely original and well-preserved 289 Cobra. It was added to the Taylor Collection more or less within days.

Joe Rainalli began a program of thoroughly preparing the Cobra for touring, while preserving its original charm. Every mechanical component was rebuilt to function perfectly but still have its original external finishes, down to the exterior of the brake calipers. The original engine with its cast-iron intake manifold, Autolite carburetor, hollow-letter valve covers, and exhaust manifolds is in place, as is the original transmission and rear axle. Still mounted is the two-bladed electric 'break-in' fan, intended to be removed after 500 miles.

The car remains a feast of details for the Cobra connoisseur. The chassis number is stamped on the frame itself, not on a chassis plate, which was not fitted until CSX 2200. Naturally the serial number is still marked on all latches, exactly where one would hope to find it. The original front license plate bracket is in place, as are the unique front marker lights, which are actually the housings from 1954 Ford taillights and are fitted with amber Cobra-embossed Plexiglas lenses. Opening the trunk lid reveals the original paint within, as well as pencil markings of '2171' on both the lid and latches; Shelby would pull the lid off to mount the luggage rack, then mark it appropriately to ensure each lid went back on the right car. The Cobra emblems on the front fenders and the external hood latches are especially unusual, and provoked much head-scratching about Shelby enthusiasts until, at the SAAC Convention, Donnie ran into a former Shelby employee, Jerry Grant, who recalled making up two or three sets of these emblems and latches!

Inside remains the original seat upholstery, door panels, and even the three-inch Impact seatbelts, as well as the original steering wheel, shift lever and knob, and dashboard with all its original gauges, including a Rotunda tachometer – as Smiths could not yet produce one to handle a V-8. Both the original soft top and hardtops are present, complete with their individual sets of side curtains and all of the very rare mounting hardware. The car still has its original windshield wipers!

In fact, as acquired the Cobra was missing only two of its original features, a Cobra radio – although the 1964 antenna was and remains in place – and the carpets. Somewhat serendipitously, Donnie soon found a correct radio sitting on a shelf at his radio rebuilder's shop, while Wilton carpeting was sourced and, following proper 'aging' with 40-grit sandpaper, fitted to the floors. The level of detail extended to sourcing whitewall tires for one side of the car and redline tires for the other. This recreates the fitment of the car as-purchased; the last time that Dr. Christiansen had shoed the car's Dunlop knock-off wheels, in 1978, he had been unable to find four matching tires, and so made-do.

The Cobra showed 54,517 well-enjoyed miles at the time of cataloging. Accompanying the car is a spare set of original wheels and a fascinating picture board showing the car in its 'closet' at the Christiansen home, as well as vintage receipts for parts from Autosport Products, tags from the spare set of wheels labeled “From Carroll Shelby Enterprises, Inc.,” a 500-mile service checklist, and the original Cobra Chassis Instruction Book, as well as a file containing receipts and invoices for all of the work done for the current owner.

While the car has been to concours all over the U.S. with Mr. Taylor, it is very proudly no showpiece but rather a regularly exercised machine that has often been seen hurtling down the lakeside roads of Gloversville. It has also completed the Colorado Grand, in the year Cobras were specially invited, and the Copperstate 1000. One of the best trauma-free examples extant, it is a usable, robustly running-and-breathing thing, as suitable for cars-and-coffee as for the Preservation Class – and a stand-out in either.


Donnie Gould
Senior Car Specialist

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