Shelby American started racing in earnest in 1963 with the upgrade of the engine to the Ford 289 cid V-8 and full Weber carburetion. They also scrapped the wire wheels they used on the earlier 260 cid race cars, as they were not up to the increased lateral loads that the more powerful engine and better rubber created, and replaced them with Halibrand magnesium wheels. This wheel / tire upgrade required modifications to the street car bodywork. There were numerous other detail changes from the large air intake scoop on the hood to the “quick jack” bumpers that separated the 1963 cars from earlier versions and gave the cars a “no frills – all business” look.
This model is of chassis #CSX-2129 as it appeared at the Road America race in September of 1963. CSX-2129 was almost exclusively driven by Ken Miles and if you found yourself in a race in 1963 with this car in the field and your name wasn’t Dan Gurney or Bob Holbert chances are you were running behind it.
The SA cars shuttled from race to race in an open car transporter with its drivers and mechanics living more like gypsies than a professional team. Indeed this car was in no fewer than four races in September including stops at Road America, Bridgehampton, Mid Ohio and Mosport, all very far away from their Venice California home base. There were no custom trucks and motor homes for these guys yet they were somehow able to garner three firsts and a second in the GT class of the four races!
Ken Miles cut his teeth in small displacement MG Specials and Porsches and was a magician at beating more powerful cars into and out of corners. The Cobra was a more powerful car and if he was hard to beat in 1963 he would become virtually impossible to beat in 1964 and 1965. No other driver was as dominant in Cobra roadsters as Ken Miles so it is fitting his cars are getting preferred treatment.
Exoto has done a fabulous job at making the changes required to bring this car to life. Building off of their excellent 1962 “First Race” and “First Victory” models and their earlier 1963 releases including their previous model of car CSX-2129. The fender flares, skirts behind the front wheels, roll bar and all the pieces that distinguish the racing Cobras from the road cars are done present.
The interior is expertly done and adds a touch missing from the earlier models – mismatched seats. Most racing Cobras – and all Cobras that Ken Miles drove - ran with the stock seat on the passenger side and a proper racing “bucket” for the driver. The dash and pedals, complete with photo-etched “AC” logo, are nicely done.
Happily Exoto has ended its practice of equipping these race cars with shoulder harnesses, which look cool, but were never actually installed in the 1962 - 1963 cars. Ken Miles, in particular, was “old school” and this addition by subtraction is a welcome change.
The fit and finish are up to Exoto’s best standards which is to say as good as you will find just about anywhere. The hold down buttons, rivets, opening gas cap, Cobra badges even the bungee cord holding down the trunk are all well executed.
These kinds of details really stand out on cars, like this one, that ran in the era before advertizing was splashed all over racing cars. The high end manufacturers understand this and the results, like they are on this car, can be a pleasure to behold.
The under carriage is nicely executed with only the small philips head screws disrupting the illusion. The finish is highly refined though was lucky to get washed between races, let alone polished to a mirror finish.<
p>The funky roundels and numerals on the sides of the car are a mismatch for the nose and tail. They are not some subtle advertizing but rather a result of rushing to get livery on a car and being short on numerals. The answer was to do a little “paper doll” work on the roundels and create the white 98s. This oddity is a reminder that Shelby American, like most US racing teams, was really very much a “shoe string” operation in 1963.
Perhaps the two best standout details on this car are the very well executed Halibrand “kidney bean” magnesium wheels and the excellent engine compartment with its 289 Ford engine. “Fully Plumbed and Wired” is a term that gets tossed about a lot but this is a car that can back up the statement. All the important bits are there and the color and finishes have banished that “plastic” look that so many cars are cursed with. The wheels especially have the look of metal and are really set off by the knock-off hubs. And chrome wheel trim. Even the trunk is nicely detailed.
I do have minor criticisms of the car. I wish Exoto would install real metal wipers on their carslike CMC puts on it’s SWB Ferrari. Secondly this car uses dogleg door hinges - a glaring shortcoming for a car that is otherwise at such a high standard.
Additionally, this car has the same dash layout as the 1962 cars yet Ken Miles always had Cobras custom fitted with larger Jaeger tachometers that required a modified dashboard. The headlight masking is too neat, the Shelby pit crew was much more slipshod with their tape job on the real car than the Exoto is on this jewel of a model. This is my way of saying that this car is good enough to nitpick details at the extreme “Tifosi” level.
I have to rate this car – or one of its “coming soon” siblings as a “must have” for any serious Cobra collector and the best model of this car yet produced. If you are a Cobra fan you need to find a way to get your hands on this car or one of its siblings, they are that good.