Home » This $2.4 Million Concept Is The Last True Shelby Cobra

This $2.4 Million Concept Is The Last True Shelby Cobra

Shelby Cobra 2004 La Showts
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Carroll Shelby, the legendary racer and builder, had many things he wanted to do before he died, and, as he told people at the time, “building a new Cobra is No. 1.” The legend got his wish in the form a fully-functioning Cobra concept, codenamed ‘Daisy’ and built by Ford as a feasibility study in 2004. Only one copy was ever built and when it debuted it set hearts–including mine–on fire.

Ford never built it, but the man partially behind the car saved it and it’s now in Beau’s hands, which means you’ll be able to see Daisy at the LA Auto Show near The Autopian section at the entrance to the Galpin Hall of Customs. Let’s look at how incredible this car is, why don’t we?

Vidframe Min Top
Vidframe Min Bottom

The first thing you notice when you see the design, led by Richard Hutting under the guidance of J. Mays, is how far the wheels are stretched to the corners. This is in homage to the original Shelby Cobra, which itself was based on the tiny AC Ace roadster.

Shelby Cobra Concept
Ford

“What we’re trying to do is not just take the audience somewhere they haven’t been in a very long time, but take them somewhere they’ve never been – and there’s a lot of magic in trying to do that,” Mays said in the original design brochure for the car.

The whole car is shorter than a contemporary Mazda Miata and, yet, Ford managed to squeeze a custom-built, all-aluminum 6.4-liter V10 that produces a remarkable 605 horsepower. As production was a real possibility for this car, the engine itself is based on Ford’s 32-valve V8 out of the 2004 Mustang Mach 1. Only four of these motors were built and this is one of only two believed to still exist.

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Shelby Cobra Concept
Shelby Cobra Concept.

In spite of being drivable, the car lacks a roof, any glass outside of the front windshield, and even a radio.

“That’s the formula,” said Shelby at the time. “It’s a massive motor in a tiny, lightweight car.”

And lightweight it was. The car is approximately one Torchinsky over 3,000 pounds (unless Jason is in it, and then it’s 2x Torchinskys) and is flush with Y2K-era design, from the smooth sides to the extremely Michael Graves-ish gauges. It’s extremely clean on the outside and inside, with very little extraneous design.

Shelby Cobra Concept
Ford

“We let the powertrain, the space frame and the suspension dictate the architecture for the body,” said Richard Hutting, chief designer. “And the result was a very modern and desirable shape that doesn’t share a single dimension or proportion with the original Shelby Cobra.”

The whole concept was built in just five months with a team of enthusiasts inside Ford, led by longtime team leader Chris Theodore. Just as the Ford GT concept was named ‘Petunia’ the Cobra concept team decided to stick with the concept and named it ‘Daisy’ internally.

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“It’s just so freakin’ cool,” Beau exclaims when I ask him about the car. “I’d just joined the Ford Product Committee when it debuted and I was hoping and praying they’d build it.”

Shelby Cobra Concept
Ford

One of the ways the vehicle was put together so quickly was the use of a lot of modified Ford GT parts. From the original brochure:

The bulk rear structure of the Shelby Cobra concept is made from slightly modified Ford GT components, including the massive cast-aluminum suspension nodes, the rear rails and bumper beam, a major cross member and the brackets used to mount the transmission to the car.

The center portion of the space frame also has a high level of commonality with the Ford GT, as its major aluminum extrusions are based heavily on existing pieces.

“We were planning to use the Ford GT suspension systems, and we asked ourselves how much more of the Ford GT could we borrow,” says Manfred Rumpel, manager, advanced product development.

When the car was finished it went straight to the 2004 Detroit Auto Show, where it was named “Best in Show.” As more proof that this was a real running vehicle, MotorTrend’s Matt Stone even got to ride in it with Carroll Shelby:

My pilot for a few laps around Irwindale Speedway’s half-mile oval was Shelby himself. It’s of little concern to him that he’s driving a multimillion-dollar handbuilt prototype, as he stabs the gas and takes the racer’s low line through a long, sweeping corner. “It needs a lot of shakin’ down, but it’s fun already. You can make it understeer or oversteer with the throttle.”

The suspension feels compliant enough for a road car, yet there’s a bit of body roll. The V-10’s guttural rumble reverberates in the racetrack’s banked bowl. Shelby isn’t shy with the brakes, bringing the car to a relatively nosedive-free halt.

Will Ford bring Daisy to market? Shelby pauses thoughtfully, then says: “I sure as hell hope so.” So do we.

Having Shelby a part of the development was important and Carroll had become more associated with Chrysler products at the time. Ford wanted to bring the Shelby name back to the Mustang and this car, in a way, acted as bait.

Shelby Cobra Concept
Ford

The future looked bright for the Cobra, but the impending Great Recession interfered with these plans. Unfortunately, the then head of product was “the worst guy Ford ever hired” as Beau puts it, and he decided to kill it.

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Eventually, retired Ford project lead Chris Theodore was able to get the concept when it was auctioned by Ford as part of a charity project to restore the Fair Lane mansion, the home of Henry and Clara Ford. For liability reasons, Ford disabled the car, but Theodore was still friendly with the folks at Technosports who helped build it and they were able to return it to running condition. Theodore even wrote a book about his experience with the car.

Here’s Theodore talking with Jay Leno in 2020:

“I’ve never driven a concept car that was this good from the get-go,” said Leno.

At the time, the vehicle was estimated to be worth $1.5 million, though likely more if registered for the street (which it eventually was). In 2021 it went up for sale at Mecum Monterey and you can see what happened next:

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It sold for $2.4 million and the stunning last Shelby Cobra ever built became part of the Galpin collection. Beau usually doesn’t go into details publicly about the cars he buys, but it’s hard to get him to stop talking about this particular one.

“To me, it’s one of the holy grails of holy grails, and we got it from Chris Theodore, who built it and was a friend of mine, and he could make sure it was properly maintained,” says Beau. “To have a one-off, incredibly historic supercar with that kind of performance and for basically less than the price of a modern-day supercar, for me it all kind of fell in there.”

Would Beau ever sell the car? “I mean, I am a car dealer,” he admits.

“It’s history with history,” he told me. “There’s a first Cobra and there’s a last Cobra.”

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Unlike so many concept cars that just disappear, this running and driving version will be on display at the Galpin Hall of Customs during the 2003 Los Angeles Auto Show. Get your tickets here and look forward to more exciting news from us regarding the show.

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The World of Vee
The World of Vee
8 months ago

I have extreme nostalgia for Slab Sided designs of the 00s and I’m fiending for this guy, but also I must be honest with myself and say it did not age well. Still so cool though, shame if they made another it’d have to be an EV or something because V10 plus stick plus RWD sounds like heaven. I’d still insist they squeeze a radio into though and maybe we get rid of the pimp-my-rideesque dashboard.

davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
8 months ago

Great story, but…

Sad car is sad.

https://opposite-lock.com/post/164881

Wish the GR-1 had come to market!

Last edited 8 months ago by davesaddiction - Long Live OPPO!
Lokki
Lokki
8 months ago

This is way too cool a story on many levels.

Gerontius Garland
Gerontius Garland
8 months ago

I like the Cobra fine, but I’ve always loved the Daytona Coupe. Where’s the GR-1 these days?

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago

I am glad Beau is the current custodian. So many collectors, even Jay Leno just park and hide it. Although surprised Jay didn’t just dig into his couch and pull out $3 million just falling into it to buy this wonderful vehicle.

Andrew M
Andrew M
8 months ago

That thing is giving off serious Chrysler Crossfire vibes.

The World of Vee
The World of Vee
8 months ago
Reply to  Andrew M

slab sided was certainly one hell of a fad in the 00s

Ricki
Ricki
8 months ago

I appreciate the Michael Graves shout-out.

AlfaWhiz
AlfaWhiz
8 months ago

I’m glad it’s at the right place, with Beau and Galpin. I personally was never sold on the V10 idea, but I now find the design very nostalgic for some reason. Has strong 2000’s vibes.

Mr Sarcastic
Mr Sarcastic
8 months ago
Reply to  AlfaWhiz

As it is Miata sized I wonder why Ford is great miniturizing a mustang and yet Chevy and Mazda don’t make a similar vehicle where parts are already right sized?

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
8 months ago

There are some guys on Youtube who cut up two pairs of 4v heads to put on a v10, and are trying to put it in a RWD swapped Continental. It’s a similar engine to this.

Citrus
Citrus
8 months ago

It was in XXX 2: The One Without Vin Diesel. Since they couldn’t use it for the car chase it was replaced by a PS3 quality CGI one.

Vee
Vee
8 months ago
Reply to  Citrus

And speaking of PS3s, it was one of the DLC cars for Midnight Club: Los Angeles. Of which they scaled it up to 150% of it’s actual size for some reason.

Inthemikelane
Inthemikelane
8 months ago

That’s just beautiful. Vaguely remember when this came out, but was too busy with family to pay attention, thanks for the article!

Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
8 months ago

“this running and driving version will be on display at the Galpin Hall of Customs during the 2003 Los Angeles Auto Show.”

The only auto show coming to you from the past, showing off a car before it was built!

Data
Data
8 months ago

They’re using that Tesla build in the other article.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
8 months ago

2003? You mean I get to be 18 again?

Data
Data
8 months ago

So when did Torchinsky become a unit of measurement?
I thought the VW beetle was the official unit of measurement in Autopia.

Canopysaurus
Canopysaurus
8 months ago

It is appealing, but 3000 lbs is not exactly lightweight for an open roadster. The original Cobra came in around 2400 lbs, comparable to a Miata today. No problem with power-to-weight, though, obviously.

JDE
JDE
8 months ago
Reply to  Canopysaurus

I would bet it would have to be about 700 lbs heavier if it made it to production. That much HP would need a lot of strengthening of the chassis to survive through warranty and safety testing, then their is a lot of the stuff noted as missing and of course NHTSA like things to be safety and that tends to come with weight penalty.

Wolfpack57
Wolfpack57
8 months ago
Reply to  JDE

The 03 Viper was 3400 lbs, so probably not quite 700 pounds added.

JDE
JDE
8 months ago
Reply to  Wolfpack57

Vipers are famously built without many of the safety features most vehicles have. This is why so many who buy one look like fools on the track.

Vee
Vee
8 months ago
Reply to  JDE

There was a lot that went into the car that made it heavier than it had to be. Every component on the dashboard being stainless steel and billet aluminum is a good example, along with the stupidly thick frame, and the big clamshell front end that needed to be thicker so it wouldn’t buckle when tilted forward. Use some plastic on the inside, cut out some of the overkill firewall, and replace the thickness of the clamshell with some ribbed bracing and that would already cut off a few hundred pounds.

Sid Bridge
Sid Bridge
8 months ago

David: I found a holy grail! It’s a Jeep ZJ that has a manual transmission but no plastic side-cladding, but get this – it has power locks but no power windows!

Beau: Holy grail? I just bought the only new Shelby Cobra ever, a concept car with custom adapted Ford GT components. Carroll Shelby himself drove it. It was impossibly returned to driving condition and registered for the streets. It’s a literal piece of history.

David: Look at this tachometer blanking plate!

Data
Data
8 months ago
Reply to  Sid Bridge

Don’t forget the OEM external tire carrier.

V10omous
V10omous
8 months ago

As always, we need more V10 powered sports cars.

Jack Trade
Jack Trade
8 months ago

Great piece, and b/c Mattel seems to have some designers who love really vehicular deep cuts, there’s a mainline (i.e., not some collector special) Hot Wheels version of it, correct down to the coloring.

It sits next to the 2005 Ford GTX1 in my collection.

Last edited 8 months ago by Jack Trade
Miles Long
Miles Long
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

I’m sure you’ll find the Matchbox diecast 2004 Cobra far superior to the one from Hot Wheels. In addition to mainline-quality editions, Matchbox also issued a high quality “Superfast” edition in the correct original Tungsten Silver colourway as seen on Beau’s car.

Last edited 8 months ago by Miles Long
Glutton for Piëch
Glutton for Piëch
8 months ago
Reply to  Jack Trade

At the 2016 (’17?) Daytona Rolex 24, there was a lineup of at least 25 or so GTs in one of the front lots.. and there were not one, but two GTX1s in the mix. I was stunned. They are so fkn cool (aside from the wheels). Weirdly, I’ve been every year since, minus 2020, and I haven’t seen a single Ford GT there since. 🙁

Elons Backdoor Musk
Elons Backdoor Musk
8 months ago

Always loved this concept. Good to hear it’s still going.

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