There are cars and then there are cars. In this second category, you will find unique, unique, fire-breathing motorized vehicles that are hard to believe were ever legal to drive on the street.
The 1966 Shelby 427 Cobra Super Snake, the popular CSX 3015 Featured in our February 1968 issue, the popular Road & Track called “The Cobra To End All Cobras.” pedigree? It was built for the man whose name was at the factory, Carroll Shelby himself. He ordered its creation to give himself a Cobra with an unparalleled performance, and he certainly did. He personally drove to 190 mph at Turismos Visitadores, an open road event in Nevada, an unforgettable experience even for the former winner of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “It’s a private car,” Shelby told Barrett-Jackson’s crowded audience when it premiered across the Scottsdale theater in 2007, there was nothing else built like it.
What would it take to propel 427 cobras to such heights? In this case, a pair of Paxton superchargers are feeding a dual Holley four-cylinder carburetor that sits atop a cross-intake manifold. Adding dual superchargers to a roadster with an aluminum body that runs so powerfully seems like—and is—an outrageous exaggeration, but it kind of made sense of the American Shelby trend of the time. In the mid-1960s, Carroll Shelby struck up a relationship with Joe Granatelli of the Paxton Company, which led to the addition of Paxton superchargers to the Shelby catalog as a factory option and over-the-counter accessory for the Shelby Mustang.
Mounting the supercharger on the 427 Cobra wasn’t just a bolt-on affair, requiring the fabrication of the supercharger’s mounting brackets and belt drives. Not only was the eye-catching hood with a large scoop for show, it was essential for cleaning the supercharger, dual carburetors and plumbing from the blowers to the four double barrels.
The 427 V8 sports headers feeding into sidepipes that announce every bit of the estimated 800 horsepower. The Super Snake was fitted with a rugged C6 automatic transmission, as that was the best option at the time to actually contain the power.
Those twin Paxton superchargers helped appease Shelby’s competitive nature, too. As the story goes, he wanted a 427 Cobra that would keep up with his friend and former lawyer Stan Mullin, who drove a Ferrari, on their weekend trips up to Lake Tahoe. After the high-performance modifications were added to the Cobra, Shelby tipped Mullin off that he was in for a surprise on their next Tahoe run. As Mullin remembered, “The darn thing nearly exploded past 140 mph, and actually accelerated faster at that speed than from a standstill. It ate my Ferrari alive.”
The history behind the car is as singular as the performance of the Super Snake itself. (Not to be confused with the other Super Snake, the 427-powered 1967 GT500 that was built for speed runs and to test the concept of a 427 Shelby Mustang.) Originally one of the handful of Competition Cobra Roadsters built, this car was initially shipped to Europe and invoiced to Ford Advanced Vehicles for a promotional tour. In late 1966 it was sent back stateside, after which it was given the twin Paxton surgery and reclassified as a Semi Competition Cobra, making it technically legal for street use.
The bodywork is a combination of Competition and Semi Competition Cobra features. It has the full windshield as used on SC Cobras, although it still has the enlarged nose and flared fenders of a full Competition model and the three-point chrome roll bar, among other race-oriented hardware. Extra instrumentation on the dash allows the driver to monitor boost.
Besides being Carroll Shelby’s personal car, the Super Snake ownership chain is unbroken and includes other heavy hitters. The car was purchased from Shelby in 1970 by songwriter Jimmy Webb, best known for “By the Time I get to Phoenix,” “Up, Up and Away” and “MacArthur Park.” He owned it for more than two decades until an unfortunate reckoning with the IRS, in which the car was seized and auctioned. The Super Snake then passed through the hands of a variety of serious collectors, most notably becoming part of the renowned Ron Pratte Collection, which sold over the Barrett-Jackson auction block in 2015.
The previous owners of CSX 3015 have known not to mess with success. The car still has its original 1965 date-coded engine block, original Competition brake calipers, original Competition rear end with oil cooler and pumps, and original headers and sidepipes.
It is one of only two such twin-supercharged Cobras ever built, the other (CSX 3303) being owned by an infamous person for the length of one terrifying test drive before returning it to Shelby. That car was sold and later destroyed in a wreck that took the life of its owner. Parts from it were salvaged and circulated through the hobby, adding to the legend.