Shelby Cobra CSX- R4010

Shelby Cobra CSX- R4010

Project commissioned by Carroll Shelby

302cu inch 4.9 litre V8 +060

Listed on the V5C (SEE V5C PHOTO) as the 1970 Shelby Cobra 427 S/C CSX-R4010

Experimental first development car CSX-R4010 commissioned by Carroll Shelby himself in the 1990s. (R for research)

Driven by Carroll Shelby and 1961 World F1 Champion Phil Hill in 1995 at the Goodwood Festival of Speed – Carroll Shelby signed the glove box lid – see photo.

At the time of writing – September 2021 - Adrian Cocking (ex RAM Cobra) has confirmed to the present owner that this car offered for sale -chassis CSX R-4010 - is the actual prototype car built for Carroll Shelby by his company and sent to the USA for evaluation by Shelby American in the early 1990s.

Adrian Cocking was originally with DAX, and founded LR Roadsters (later renamed RAM Automotive) in 1985 to make RAM Cobra replicas. The RAM featured a highly acclaimed space frame chassis designed by Adrian Reynard. Adrian Cocking now runs Realm Engineering in Worcestershire UK and is also the Archivist for LR Roadster.

The current owner started research into this car by contacting Cheng Lin of Thunder Road Cars http://www.thunderroadcars.com/  - who still produces and races the Cobra cars, to see if he could provide any background on CSX R-4010. He kindly forwarded his request to Adrian Cocking who was originally commissioned by Carroll Shelby on this project – who then provided the story of this car…

Adrian began by confirming that chassis CSX R-4010 is the car built for Carroll Shelby and sent to the USA for evaluation by Shelby American. He explained the story as follows:- In the early 1990s, he was contacted by Shelby and asked to provide a RAM Cobra for evaluation and to test a new engine. At this time, Shelby was producing his own 4000 series of Cobras in the US and looked for a manufacturer in the UK. Shelby commissioned this car to be fitted with an Oldsmobile “Northstar” V8 engine, as at this time he was developing plans for a new car to succeed the Cobra. This car was later to go into production as the Shelby Series 1. However, Shelby wanted to prove the engine and the RAM Cobra was chosen as the vehicle to do this. A “Northstar” engine was shipped to the RAM factory and work began on the task of fitting it into the Reynard chassis. The Northstar engine which would later be called the Aurora, was designed to be fitted into front wheel drive vehicles in an East/West configuration. RAM’s challenge was to fit it into the Cobra in a North/South rear wheel drive configuration where this could then be proved as a practical proposition. The engine provided had no flywheel, bell housing or gear box so the first task was to design and provide these. The next challenge was how to fit the larger engine into the chassis. To facilitate this, the chassis brace across the top of the two suspension towers was removable. Carroll Shelby paid for all the development work and the car was eventually finished and shipped to the USA.

In the USA the car was heavily tested to prove the performance and reliability of the “Northstar” engine. As well as being driven by Carroll Shelby himself, the car was taken to various test tracks and drag strips where it amazed everyone with its performance. The engine developed around 400 BHP and the testers would sit on the start line wind it up to 5000 revs and side slip the clutch. At one of the Phoenix drag strips (we think Firebird) it set a new quarter mile record. Adrian Cocking was with the car for much of the time but on some occasions (for industrial secrecy) he was not allowed to watch. An agreement was reached with Carroll Shelby to allow some of the RAM Cobras to be given 4000 series chassis numbers and Carroll Shelby flew to the UK in 1994 to announce this with much razzmatazz. (This is well documented in the Trevor Legate books).

Some time later, and much to Adrian Cocking’s surprise, a container arrived back at the RAM factory containing CSX R-4010 but minus the engine and gearbox. Enter Paul Hadley. Hadley was a local chap who had been working with Carroll Shelby on some of his promotional activities, including the Shelby Heart Foundation charity. He was good at lighting and sound installations and had become involved through these skills. He bought the car from RAM and had them refresh it and install a Ford Small block 302 (bored out to +and T5 gearbox.  Adrian lost contact with Hadley at this point and doesn’t know any later history. Asked about the R in the chassis number, he explained that this was for Research. (Shelby also used an R in some of his 427 series cars, standing for Race, however it was used as a post-script to the number, not as a pre-fix.) As well as his information, Adrian suggests that the car was well known to people in the SAAC.

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The parallel story of Shelby American Cobra CSX - R4010 “The UK Prototype”

A unique car originally fitted with an Oldsmobile “Northstar” V8 engine, evaluated and driven by Carroll Shelby and used to set a new record at the  Phoenix Drag strip driven by Bob Bondurant.

At the end of the 1980s, the Cobra world was full of turmoil. The production of Shelby American Cobras in the USA had ended in 1966 and the run of original Cobras by AC had finished in 1982. AC was bought out by Brian Angliss of Autocraft, who went on to produce the Cobra MkIV. Several companies on both sides of the Atlantic had gone on to produce replica Cobras, some with aluminium bodies and some with GRP. The relationship between the main players...Ford, Carroll Shelby, Derek Hurley and Brian Angliss ...was frayed, with litigation about who owned the rights to the Cobra name, the body shape, and the original bucks.

By the late 80s, Carroll Shelby, who had spent the last decade with little involvement with Cobras, suddenly became involved once more.

First of all he was engaged as a consultant with Chrysler to design and produce a headline grabbing sportscar, with the Cobra as the yardstick.

At about the same time, Shelby decided that if people were still buying replica Cobras, then he wanted a piece of the action. He initiated a project for Shelby American to produce its own run of modern “Cobras” with a new 4000 series of CSX chassis numbers. He looked around the market to find a European based manufacturer to produce cars for markets outside the USA Enter RAM. RAM was a company established by Adrian Cocking, formerly of LR Roadsters (DAX), to produce replica Cobras.

However, by then, technology had moved on and so why stick with the old chassis and suspension of the original Cobras, when a much superior design was possible? Adrian Reynard the well respected Formula 3 and Indy race car designer was engaged to design a new superior chassis and suspension. The RAM 427 S/C was the result. Numerous road tests in the mid 80s rated these cars as superior in performance and road holding to all other Cobras, including the originals. So much so that in the British Inter-Marque Championship, a RAM Replica was added to the AC team (due to lack of originals) and, driven by Tim Sissons, the car helped win the team prize for the year against Porsche, Ferrari and Aston Martin. RAM also became the first company to supply all the cars for a one-make series, the French Bardahl Trophy.

RAM was now commissioned by Shelby to supply a car to Shelby American for evaluation to become his European supplier of 4000 series cars They were asked to fit the Oldsmobile “Northstar” engine which was designed for front wheel drive vehicles and RAM’s engineering expertise, having already produced a four wheel drive Cobra, made them ideal for this task. 

In 1991, work began at RAM’s base in the UK to fit this larger engine into the Adrian Reynard designed chassis. There were many problems to be overcome by the factory but eventually the car was finished and was shipped to the USA for evaluation and testing.

Once in the USA, the car was sent to Shelby American’s proving ground in Texas where it underwent many stringent tests, including timed runs against the clock, reliability tests and driving by Shelby himself. In one test during back to back tests it easily outran a race-prepared Corvette.

The car also went to the Phoenix drag strip where, driven by Bob Bondurant, it set the class record for the 1/4 mile at 11.4 seconds. Afterwards, Bob signed to that effect on the engine bulkhead.

In 1994, with evaluations completed, the car was returned to the UK and the engine was replaced with a small block Ford 302 engine bored to +60 thou giving a capacity of 5.25 litres and was sold to Paul Hadley, a UK photographer who was working with Shelby on promoting his Heart Foundation Charity. The car was re-commissioned in the factory, given its official chassis number CSX-R4010, converted to right hand drive and road registered.

Meanwhile, following Shelby’s evaluation of European Manufacturers, he settled on Adrian Cocking’s RAM to be the official Shelby 427 S/C for the 90s. The official endorsement came in January 1994... the first time any such endorsement had been made by Shelby. To underline his commitment to the RAM product, Carrol Shelby flew to the UK to launch the the American Cobra Replica at the Autosport Race Car Show at the NEC.

Shelby also returned to the UK again in 1995 where he attended the Goodwood Festival of Speed and both he and Phil Hill drove CSX-R4010. Shelby signed the dashboard of the car to mark the occasion.

The car was bought from Paul Hadley by Lisa Reedy in 1999 and she used it as a road and track car for 20 years before it was acquired by its present owner in 2020.

Evidence of its original left hand drive heritage can be seen where the roll hoop was originally positioned and by wear on the chassis where the steering column was positioned. The front chassis brace has been cut and repaired to allow the installation and removal of the larger Oldsmobile engine. The remains of Bob Bondurant’s signature can be seen on the bulkhead and Shelby’s signature is clearly visible on the glove compartment. The car remains an important part of the Cobra/Shelby story.

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