Classic Classified: 1964 Shelby Cobra 289

Classic Classified 289 Cobra

From: Cars & Parts, June 1979

Price then: $38,500 ($131,400 adjusted for inflation)

Price now: $835,000–$1,250,000

Approximate dollar difference: $1,118,600 (assuming No. 1 condition)

Annual rate of return: 6.1%

Cobra 289: We’re now restoring 3 cars similar to the above. Very extensive restoration with new 30 coat lacquer – fantastic collector cars $38,500. Financing available.

When Carroll Shelby dropped a big American V-8 in a light, nimble British sports car, he created a formidable track weapon capable of making Ferrari owners nervous. Ever since, the Cobra has been one of the most collectible classic cars of them all, and the first Cobra ever built sold at the RM Sotheby’s Monterey Auction last year for a massive $13.75 million, making a Cobra the most expensive American car to sell at auction.

For those with more modest means, the Cobra is also one of the most popular replica automobiles out there. Those replicas have also boosted the Cobra’s popularity, and in turn the values for genuine period-built Shelbys have soared. Looking back at a $38,500 Cobra back in 1979 seems like a great deal, right? Well, it was still a pretty hefty price, even then. That’s about the cost of three new Corvettes, all heavy with options. So even though this was “just” a used sports car, it wasn’t one that just anybody could afford. For someone with deep enough pockets, however, it could have turned out to be a great investment.

1965 Shelby Cobra 289
RM Sotheby's
1965 Shelby Cobra 289