On January 17th, 2015, lightning will strike the same place twice. Carroll Shelby’s personal Cobra will, once again, cross the Barrett-Jackson auction block. The car is defined by its unique combination of ownership history, specification, performance and sheer rarity. Called the Super Snake, CSX3015 boasts two Paxton superchargers feeding a 427 side-oiler big block Ford. The Super Snake is a car worthy of superlatives. Case in point: Carroll Shelby claimed that his 800HP Super Snake would run from 0-60 in around 3.2 seconds. 47 years later, only a handful of modern supercars can achieve that short acceleration time — and today’s cars achieve the goal with the aid of traction control, fuel injection and other electronic aids. In contrast, the Shelby Cobra Super Snake is all about power to weight ratio. Carroll Shelby loved to ask “What if…” and he insisted on pushing the envelope. The Super Snake, therefore, is so much more than just metal and rubber. It’s a peek into Carroll Shelby’s mind. To him, a twin-supercharged 427 cubic inch V8 made perfect sense.
As his personal car, the Super Snake satisfied Shelby’s inherent need for speed. As a businessman, Carroll Shelby routinely employed “over-the-top” performance to make news. Shelby intentionally set out to build the world’s the fastest Cobra, then enjoy and promoted it. At around 500 horsepower, 427 Cobras were already exciting. An 800 horsepower Super Snake would therefore send the automotive press into a tizzy. A unique PR opportunity materialized when a second Cobra Super Snake was built for celebrity comedian Bill Cosby. Though the car differed under the skin, Cosby’s Cobra shared the same twin supercharged power train. Bill Cosby only drove his car one time. So terrified by the Super Snake’s angry demeanor, Cosby returned it to Shelby American. He then used the harrowing experience to create a legendary comedy routine called “200 MPH”. Though not intended, the Super Snake’s reputation was further reinforced by the Cosby experience. Ultimately, the second, “Bill Cosby” Super Snake was destroyed when Tony Maxey, its fateful owner, lost control and drove off a cliff. As such, Carroll Shelby’s personal car, CSX3015, is the one and only Cobra Super Snake in existence.
Though the Cobra Super Snake is considered a street legal “SC” car, it did not start out that way. CSX3015 was originally built to full Competition-specs for PR use in Europe. As such it is quite different from its standard, and Semi-Competition brethren. Underneath the skin, Competition Cobras feature reinforced frames and increased track width as well as oversized fuel tanks and heavy-duty brakes. Voluptuous flares cover the massive Halibrand wheels and Goodyear tires. Further exterior mods include front and rear jacking points, a roll bar, oil coolers, and un-baffled side pipes.
Upon its return from Europe, Shelby American modified CSX3015 just enough to make it street legal. The most obvious addition is its windshield. Imagine being Carroll Shelby at that point in time. He must have proclaimed that he wanted to keep CSX3015 for himself. Likewise, there was shop talk about adding two Paxton superchargers to a 427. That notion must have raised some eyebrows—even amongst the seasoned Shelby American staff. Was the idea sheer madness or genius? What modifications would be required to mount the two superchargers? Fabrication would be required for brackets and belt drives. The dual four barrel intake manifold, Holley carburetors and Paxton air inlets added significant height to the engine package. Hood clearance was addressed by way of a custom fabricated, oversized hood scoop.
Lastly, the Shelby American team would need to consider harnessing all of that power. Clutch technology at the time was limited. If an 800HP-capable clutch assembly existed, it would likely not be suitable for street driving. Reliability would be a concern. The decision was made to adapt an automatic transmission and torque converter. Though some scoff at the thought of an automatic in a Cobra, the drivetrain choice contributes to the Super Snake’s low 0-60 second acceleration times. Additional gauges were added to the dash to keep tabs on the monster lurking under the hood.
The sum total of chassis, engine and parts were dubbed the Super Snake. To the outside world, it’s the baddest Cobra of all time, but to Carroll Shelby it was just his car. He drove it for about three months. Stomping on the throttle at will, Shelby used the Super Snake to blow off steam. He competed in a Nevada open road race called the Turismos Visitadores with his buddies. It was during that event that the Super Snake was radar-clocked in excess of 190 mph. The captain of the Nevada Highway Patrol was riding in the passenger seat. In 1970, Carroll Shelby sold the Super Snake to Jimmy Webb, a celebrity songwriter, who drove and maintained the car for 25 years. A select few enthusiasts have had the Super Snake in their care since 1995. Each collector has driven and maintained CSX3015 for what it is: a fire-breathing legend and a tribute to American ingenuity.
Lightning will indeed strike the same place twice. Come to Scottsdale in January and spend some time studying the Super Snake. Tucked away in the Ron Pratte collection since 2007, this is your chance to glance at its many unique details. Look for original Competition-spec parts such as the Girling brake calipers that just barely peek through the Halibrand wheels. These are the same brake parts used on GT-40’s from that golden era of racing. Study the impossibly large Edelbrock dual quad intake manifold, Holley carbs and complex throttle linkage. A good deal of thought went into engineering that induction system. Externally, the oversized hood scoop distinguishes the Super Snake from any other Cobra. Wherever you look, this baby is special. If the stars are aligned, seize the opportunity to purchase the Super Snake — a one-of-a-kind, fully documented 190 mph Cobra owned by Carroll Shelby, himself.