One year after Ford and Shelby showcased a pearlescent yellow Cobra at the 1962 New York Auto Show, Ford needed demonstrator cars its dealers could use to sell what would become a legendary roadster. The automaker ordered a Guardsman Blue 1963 Cobra 289 with a black interior, chassis #2195, the first year for the 289-cubic-inch Fairlane V8 with 271-horsepower, rack-and-pinion steering, and sturdier suspension. Ford also optioned a factory roll bar, wider rear fenders that could cover wider tires, and the Class A accessories package that added luxury items like a radio, chrome luggage rack, chromed rocker covers, and WSW tires with white sidewalls. After a year of promotional service with a dealer in Virginia, the car was sold in North Carolina and into a life of drag racing in the U.S. and Canada. After a complete, yet “incremental,” 12-year restoration, the roadster’s headed to Mecum Auctions’ Indy 2020 event running from June 23-28.
Tony Fisher, the car’s first owner, painted his new toy gold and put the 289 to test at drag strips across the south, the Cobra kept in shape by Fisher’s all-female pit crew. According to documentation with the car, Fisher won $18,000 between racing prize money and side bets over two years. To put that money in perspective the U.S. Census Bureau reveals the median family income in 1965 was about $6,900. Apparently bored of winning in the same car, though, Fisher sold the Cobra to Canadian Jim Walker, who plied drag strips here and north of the border into the 1970s, winning the NASCAR Gold Cup Championship under the pseudonym Jay Walker. Then he tired of his winning Cobra, too, selling it to another drag-racing Canadian who held onto the car until 1985. That year, a car collecting Oregonian added the Cobra to his collection. In 2006, the collector’s family began a restoration that saw “every component and element replaced, renewed, rebuilt, or upgraded” and that lasted until 2018.
The same Cobra was put up for auction in January 2019 at RM Sotheby’s Arizona event, but failed to sell. Given a pre-sale estimate of $725,000 to $900,000, bidders didn’t hit the reserve when the hammer fell at $675,000. Auction watcher Rick Carey blamed a stingy crowd, writing that the Cobra is “Restored to ‘correct’ appearance but in the process losing some of the early features of its racing career as well as its appearance when exhibited by Ford. That should have had little effect on its value, however, and the amount offered for it here is truly parsimonious.” The Cobra will be one of the auction’s main attractions alongside the 1965 Pontiac Hurst GeeTo Tiger.