Sports Car Modification

Why The Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake Is The Most Dangerous American Sports Car

One of a kind. This often overused phrase is the only accurate description of the classic Shelby Cobra Super Snake. The reason is obvious. There is only one genuine, original 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake left in the world. It is the CSX 3015, recently auctioned for a whopping $5.5 million at the Barrett-Jackson event in Scottsdale in 2021.


This snarling fire-breather is the brainchild of the iconic American automotive designer and racing driver Carroll Shelby. He described this mean machine as ‘the Cobra to end all Cobras’. And it must be acknowledged that the 427 Super Snake is capable of terrifying even the most seasoned racers. As much as this classic is a jewel of automotive history, it is a dangerous sports car to own — if one has the bank balance for it.

Related: Here’s What Everyone Forgot About The 1966 Shelby Cobra Super Snake


Two 427 Super Snakes Were Made, But Only One Remains

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake front third quarter view
Barrett-Jackson

The life of the only surviving CSX 3015 Super Snake began as one of 23 Cobra 427 competition roadsters. It was part of the fleet that toured Europe as well. But on its return to the US in around the mid-1967s, the CSX 3015 was transformed into the Super Snake and reclassified as 427 Cobra Semi-Competition (SC).

It was then that this Cobra graduated from a race car to a street-legal car and was titled the Super Snake. Thus, one of the craziest sports cars of the 60s was born. This transformation gave it new mufflers, a windshield, and bumpers, among other modifications. But, the race-bred tail, headers, and brakes remained unchanged, which now helps in verifying its authenticity.

And history has it that the CSX 3015 is one of the two Super Snake Cobras built. The other was the CSX 3303, which was the 1967 street car retained by Shelby American as a PR car. Later it was gifted to Shelby’s friend and comedian Bill Cosby, who drove the car once and became so unnerved that he immediately sold it. The comedian used this experience as material on his “200 MPH” album released in 1968, which featured a blurb about the Cobra Super Snake.

A company in San Francisco got its hands on the CSX 3303 and sold it to its customer, Tony Maxey. This Super Snake met a grievous fate along with its owner, who drove it off a cliff into the Pacific Ocean. Thus, the CSX 3015 remains the sole surviving 427 Super Snake.

The Shelby Cobra 427 Has An Aluminum Body

The blue 1967 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake
Barrett-Jackson Via YouTube

The Shelby Cobra 427 featured on Donut Media’s list of cool supercars that are a nightmare to own. One of the major reasons for its addition to the list was its body. Built in the 60s, the Super Snake was one of the few supercars to feature an aluminum body, which was usually seen in luxury vehicles.

Using aluminum instead of other metals like steel reduces the curb weight of the vehicle, providing a better power-to-weight ratio. In fact, the Super Snake, standing at 2,550 pounds, boasts a power-to-weight ratio that is greater than that of a Bugatti Veyron, which has 1,184 horsepower. This made The Cobra 427 a truly special car of its era but not without a fair amount of danger.

The concern over aluminum is that over time the aluminum body can get fatigued, and that is why a lot of original Cobras have stress tears. When aluminum is exposed to high temperatures, particularly the heat from the engine, the metal expands, leading to thermal expansion. On cooling, the contraction may leave stress tears. This reduces the durability of the vehicle and makes it dangerous, particularly when it is the sole surviving classic supercar that boasts terrifying power!

Related: Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake: Costs, Facts, And Figures

The 427 Cobra Super Snake’s Power Is Terrifying

shelby cobra super snake engine double superchargers
Barrett-Jackson Via YouTube

The 1966 Shelby Cobra 427, one of the most macho classic cars, was based on the British roadster AC Ace Bristol Roadster. But Carroll Shelby thought the Cobra deserved more power. So he collaborated with Ford to develop this iconic car. The Super Snake used a 7-liter V-8 engine. But the Cobra 427 got meatier as Carroll added a pair of superchargers. This modification increased the output to a terrifying 800 horsepower.

It is vital to keep in mind we are talking about the 1960s when cars didn’t even have seatbelts! It was in this era that the standard Cobra 427 boasted a top speed of 164 mph. With the transformation to the Semi-Competition model, the engines were tuned up, making the Super Snake go from 0 to 60 mph in over three seconds! Its top speed was never unveiled, but it’s believed the Super Snake could hit close to 200 mph. This made handling the Super Snake even more dangerous at the time.

“When I built this dual supercharged 427 Cobra in 1966, I wanted it to be the fastest, meanest car on the road,” Shelby told Barrett-Jackson in 2007. “Forty years later, it will still kick the tail of just about anything in the world. It’s the fastest street-legal Cobra I’ve ever owned.”

And that is the legacy of Carroll Shelby and his only surviving mean machine, the Cobra 427 Super Snake.

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