SIDESCOOP - COBRA SPEEDLANE
Interview with Lance Coren, performed by Wallace Wyss
© Wolfgang Kohrn, Wallace Wyss - Last updated on January 15th., 2007
The first Cobra Prototype being built at Dean Moons shop
Interview with a Cobra Expert,
LANCE COREN , age 57, is a world class expert on Cobras and Shelbys, among other marques. Once professionally affiliated with the world's premier Cobra restoration shop, he has owned four Cobras, 6 Shelby GT-350's and a Factory Trans-Am Boss 302 Mustang. An IAAA & FIA-registered appraiser, he travels the world from his home in Prather, CA (Central California) inspecting cars and rendering opinions on whether they are "as represented." Author Wallace Wyss caught up with him on the net and asked him some questions.
WW : Considering that Cobras are now pretty much all 40 years old ormore, how can you be sure that they are representative of the way they were built originally?
LC You can't. Many owners of road cars wanted to own Comp cars sothey ordered the Comp equipment and retrofitted their cars. Many of the Cobras today have been modified to some extent. There are very few that are really "all original". The car's history is very important, so that ownership and the extent of work performed on the car can be documented.
WW: So would you say that in the case of 427 Cobras, that thereshould really be only 19 Comp cars & 24 S/C cars but over 2/3rd of all big block Cobras have Comp or S/C style accoutrements?
LC: Yes. The numbers are correct and have been verified. Remember, manyowners modified their cars to look and in some cases, perform like Comp or S/C cars. This in turn enhanced the desirability of the car itself.
WW: I one time knew a man in Encino who showed me a Cobra built by Brian Angliss of Autokraft and he told me that he and a partner ordered five of them and had them switched to look like real 427 Cobras. Are these cars still out there passing as 427 Cobras?
LC: The cars are still out there, but without proper documentation, they cannot be passed off as real CSX or CSB Cobras from 1965-1966.
WW What do you think of the value of the 427 Cobras twin Paxton cars that surfaced? (Auction at Barrett Jackson of Shelby car and auction in August '07 of Cosby car--Ed.) One is supposedly original, having been hidden from the IRS for a decade or two and the other has a new frame and body after having been smashed by the former owner.
LC: They are very desirable, based on the fact that Carroll Shelby was personally involved in commissioning them for production. Remember, there were only two (2) of these type cars with the twin Paxton's and a modified C6 automatic transmission. 1 was for Shelby himself and 1 was for Bill Cosby. These cars were extremely fast & dangerous, which helped with the status and desirability of each car!
WW: As the income of owners of genuine A.C. Cobras continues to climb, do you look at many of them that are now Comp or S/C style going back to their original road car trim?
LC: This is a hard question to answer. Different owners have different feelings. The majority of the ones that are my client's, have chosen to leave their cars as they are. If they have been modified (tastfully) and have a history of being modified, the owners will leave them alone. If the cars were modified incorrectly or looked really bad, the tendency to restore and return the cars to original, as produced condition, is the most logical choice.
WW: What about the value of the Trans-Am notchback Mustangs raced by Shelby Racing and Terlingua Racing Teams?Will they ever have any big value like the R-model Shelbys?
LC: Yes. Each car will stand on it's own historical significance and history. A couple of recent sales have confirmed the fact that these cars are desireable and collectible. At this point in time, the prices are still climbing upwards, as they are for all of the AC Cobras and 1965 -1970 Shelby Mustangs.
WW: What about the extra 427 chassis with part of a coupe body on it that is supposed to be at the Shelby American museum. What's the story on that car? I am not talking about the LeMans car of A.C. Cars Ltd. but a coil spring chassis. Who started that car and when?
LC: Never heard about this one .
WW: The DeTomaso 70P mid-engined car is being shown by the Blackhawk Collection. I think there was the 70P show car and maybe another competition one. In the Olyzyk book he has pictures of one racing a 250LM but it looks like a street match race, not one on a racetrack. Do you think this car will have far greater value as a 'Long Lost Shelby car' rather than a 'Long Lost ' DeTomaso car?
LC:My understanding was that there were 2-3 cars produced. 1 Show Car + 2 Prototypes. These cars have always been aligned with DeTomaso and not Shelby, to my knowledge.
WW: What about the Cobra Lone Star? Mike Schoen is reportedly restoring it. He is the same guy who wrote the Cobra Ferrari Wars and used to own a Daytona coupe so is qualified both as a historian and craftsman. But the car was turned down by Ford so what kind of value can you say it has since it's not just a has-been but maybe a never-was.
LC: The car is real. I have personally inspected the car
and have seen the documented
history on it. The history is unbroken and intact. It is an historically
significant car, but the desireability of it by collectors may be
slightly iffy. The value will only be known at the time of it's marketing
and sale, whenever that occurs.
WW: Usually when there are a lot of copies of a coveted car, it hurts the originals which is why Ferrari jumped with all fours on those making Daytona Ferrari clones, etc. But yet despite more than 50 companies making replica Cobras the values of the originals keeps climbing. Any idea why? (PS my theory is that the Shelby market is constantly expanding; catching newbies who get the fever...)
LC: Correct and the fact that the Cobras are historical high performance cars that having a racing backround. Hard to copy that!
WW; I think you owned some Ferraris and had to pay umpteen thousand for some tiny part. Is it the cost of maintenance that drove many of those who formerly lusted after Ferraris into the Cobra camp?
LC: No. What drove some collectors to the Cobra Camp, was the fact that they wanted something different, that was in limited quantity, was very desirable and they wanted pople to know that they had something that was downright rare. They also wanted to have something that was also fun to drive.
WW: When I think of the people who made Shelby American, guys like Shelby , Remington and Dowd who served in WWII, I get very patriotic--these were guys who, in essence paid their dues. Do you think there's something very American about being a fan of Shelby American? If so, then why are there Shelby clubs in Germany, France,etc?
LC: Shelby and most all of his old employees were and still are extremely patriotic. To be an American creates patriotism. To know that Shelby and most all of his old boys were patriotic, enhances the stature of the American efforts to win automoble races in other countries. The Shelby & Cobra Owners Clubs in Europe and Asia are made up of enthusiasts who enjoy the cars that Shelby produced or had his hand in producing, because of Shelby's history and the desireable history of Carroll Shelby himself.
WW: Because I have lived in Calif. since 1969 I got to meet lots of former Shelby American drivers like Phil Hill, Dan Gurney, John Morton, etc. Do you think the fact that so many former people with the company have been around all these years makes a difference in building loyalty for the marque? In other words, you could like Ferraris but if you never get a chance to meet the coachbuilder or chief engineer, it's always sort of remote....
LC: It does help in keeping enthusiasts "close to the action". Original employees have interesting stories to tell and keep the fire lit. Old employees are part of the history and due to the fact that they are still around and telling stories, the interest is held at a higher level.
WW: There are at least two Cobras in both the small block and big block field that have had new chassis and new bodies and probably new engines. But no one is claiming the chassis number for another car in another place. In your mind, is a car whose chassis number is claimed only by one person holding the car wearing that number to be considered more of a real car?
LC: This would be the obvious conclusion. Depending on the "chemical makeup" of the car (it's chassis/body/powerplant production) the originality issue can be established in this fashion.
WW I admire the workmanship on the Autokraft Mk. IV Cobra but am p___ off that Brian Angliss wimped out by not offeirng the full 427 wide fender body style. Do you think that because they have an aluminum body that they will go higher in price? What are they worth now? Did you ever hear of 351 or 427 powered models?
LC: Brian Angliss had produced wide body Mark III alloy cars. I have been in his facility in Surrey and have personally seen them. Based on the fact that Brian Angliss was in possession of the manufacturer status of AC Cars for a specific point in time, when he produced AC Cobras, they were and still are AC Cobras. This in itself, makes those cars desireable. They most probably will always be desireable. Originality in this spectrum means a great deal.
WW: I have been seaching for pictures of the Ghia bodied Cobra. Not the ex-Willment car with the Fiat Supersonic body on it but the open roadster, dark bllue with detachable hardtop. One thread I saw on Club Cobra said that it had its body removed. Do you know if the body still exists? Was the car ever sent Stateside for Ford to evaluate?
LC: I do not have any information on this one.
WW: Do you think that, considering the lower value of AC428s in the U.S. that any Cobra fans will be buying them and shortening the wheelbase and instaling 427 Cobra bodywork?
LC: I do not think so. The cost factor to perform this task would be too high and the value of the finished piece would not equal the value of an original AC Cobra.
WW: Do you consider the A.C. Mk. V or whatever they are called now, the cars made by Alan Lubinsky, continuing the Cobra tradition or has the chain been broken for you?
LC: My personal opinion is that only the original AC Cobras produced between 1962 and 1968 are of the original production. SOME of the continuation cars produced under license or by AC Cars or Shelby are actually continuation cars of the original series. All of the others are considered by the industry to be clones, reproductions or replicas.
WW; Do you think one of the tragedies of the replica world is that Shelby couldn't kiss and make up with Lubinsky so there could be an AC Shelby Cobra today?
LC: Some people may call this a tragedy, others will call it fate. With Shelby making his own continuation cars, most people feel that this void has been taken care of.
WW: Shelby is a famous ratpacker. Do you think when he passes on that there will be an incredible sale of treasures from the vault?What is rumored to be there?
LC: I believe that when Shelby passes on, some items may be auctioned off by his two sons and daughter. The treasures are most probably so immense, nobody really knows what is there. Carroll once told me personally, that he saved so much stuff in the past 50 years, he did not even remember what all of it was composed of!
WW: Shelby's stock went from over $5 a share down to under 20 cents a share. Do you think that considering he is now tied in with Ford that it will ever pick up?
LC: It is hard to say. Shareholder desireability and stock pricing can be all across the chart. Only one think helps in raising share price-- higher profits and public perceived management improvement.
WW: Having observed Shelby all these years, why do you think he never had either of his two sons involved in the car business? Is it because he saw how pushed around Dino Ferrari was by this father?
LC: Both Michael and Patrick had small interests in their father's business. Both sons had the desire to succeed on their own in a business that they enjoyed being in. Both of them have been successful in their endeavors with oil and business.
WW: You are a real documentarian on the Trans Am cars. Why is it that Shelby could help Ford win LeMans but lose the contract to run Trans-Am eventually? Why did Casey strike out at bat?
LC: Shelby could only manage so many projects at one time. He only had so many trusted employees that could run with a project and make it work. Shelby put more of his own time and had his more trusted employees on the projects that were of utmost interest to him at the time.
WW Ford had a sale a couple of years ago of prototypes. The Focus dream car for instance sold for over a million dollars. I have been to Detroit and had the keys at one time to several garages where they store prototypes. What other prototypes do you think they are still hiding?
LC: There are many, many prototypes stored in many facilities around Detroit. I have also personally seen a number of prototypes from the 60's to the 90's in my visits to various Ford facilities.
WW: I have been doing a story on the Giugiaro Mustang. Not the new one but the one done for Automobile Quarterly. Do you know where that car was last seen?
LC: I do not have any information on where this car is stored.
WW: Now that you are out in the country, what car do you own that's a fun car?
LC: At the present time, I have no collector or exotic cars. All of the Shelbys, Cobras, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and competition cars have been sold off. My everyday driver is a special Japanese produced 2006 Honda Civic "A-Spec" that was manufactured thru the efforts of Mugen Honda (Honda's Formula 1 racing division). They built 40 of them for the world, and I have serial number 28. A kick in the pants would put it lightly!
WW. Thanks, Lance...
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