Exclusive interview with
Ned Scudder SAAC-Cobra Registrar
about the new SAAC Cobra bible
Interview with the Registrar
by Wallace Wyss
started keeping notes on Cobras over 30 years ago,
and have been the club’s registrar since ’78. I am a detail-oriented
type of person. "
Ned Scudder tells us about
his life of being a registrar, the new Cobra bible and some rare Cobra
Wyss: Ned, what is the story?
How's the update coming?
Scudder: I am about 90% done. There ARE still a
few CSX numbers I am chasing.
Wyss: Which is harder to
document, the CSX2000 small block cars or the
Scudder: It’s a toss-up. A missing car is a
missing car. I try to find them no
matter if they are a 289 or 427.
Shelby closed his factory was there a document that had all the
SN and what color
and configuration the cars came in, saying for instance if
a car was a Comp or
S/C rather than a 427 road car?
Scudder: Not so much one document, by many,
including maybe 95% of the original
invoices from Shelby-American to the respective dealers. Sometimes
they spell out “Com[p” or S/C”
and sometimes they don’t, so you have to take your
best guess based on the price charged the dealer. It’s the same with
the small block cars, we know which
ones had comp options right from the beginning
and which had to have them added later.
Wyss: Now what about a
customer buying a road car and going back and getting
the S/C mods like through the body
side exhausts, Comp gas cap etc. Did that happen
while Shelby still had his factory?
Scudder: No, Shelby learned early on that it was
counterproductive to ask his
shop to customize a car for an owner, so they pretty much left that to
the dealers or their independent
contractors, only one or two cars had roll bars
or wider wheels installed at Shelby-American ; for some others, they
packed the equipment in the trunk and
asked the owner to take care of installation
once the car was purchased. I suspect this was because of one
instance where they added race wheels
and the customer balked at the additional
price, and never did by the car, so , no ore of that.
Wyss: We all know now about the
famous twin Paxton Cobras, now that one sold for
$5.5 million. but my question is do you consider the second one, the
ex-Cosby car, to be
a real Cobra now that the frame and body have been replaced?
Scudder: I consider it a “reconstruction”
which of course differentiates it from
a substantially original car, both in terms of desirability and, as a
result, value. For instance, the
ex-Cosby car, #3303 does at least have its original
engine block once again, but having been rebuilt back in the ‘70s
in right and drive form with numerous
custom touches definitely removed it from
the lists of a number of serious collectors . Now that it ahs been
returned to left-hand drive and given
proper upholstery, etc. it is more valuable
to a collector but will always be a ‘reconstruction’ rather than
the original Thames-Ditton/Shelby-American/ex-Bill
Cosby Cobra it once was.That will never change.
Wyss: I have been to Ford
Dearborn and been loaned a ring of keys to several
buildings where there are old Concept
cars in storage. Do you think Ford still
has one or two Cobra chassis around?
Scudder: Yes, we know they still have the Cougar
II ()CSX2008) and the Bordinat
Cobra (CSX3001) .They ;might have more, but no one there seems to
Wyss: One car I have been
trying to find a picture of is the Ghia Cobra 427
, dark blue, white wheels, ‘goosebeak’
tan leather interior, liftoff hardtop.
I heard the body was taken off in Belgium and it was rebodied as a
regular 427. But I also heard it was
6" longer so do you think it was rebodied?
Scudder:I suspect you are referring to CSX3063.
There remains some intrigue about
that chassis, and the evidence that the show car chassis is actually
the one using the 3063 VIN today is
slightly muddy. We’ll list it unless new evidence
comes along to clarify the situation.
Wyss: Why hasn't anybody put a
Cobra body back on the Comp 427 chassis that
Willment Racing bodied with a '53 Ghia-built
fiat body (style called Supersonic)?
Scudder: Probably because the car was somewhat
iconic and well known in the U.K.
and to change it at this date would be to strip it of the identity it
gained back in the ‘60s and turn it
into another look alike with an altered history.
Better to leave it as it has always has been.
Wyss: What's the average number
of owners a real Cobra has been
Scudder: It all depends, we still list a half
dozen Cobras that remain with their
original owners, while some cars have changed hands almost 20 times in
the past 40-plus years.
Wyss: Lynn Park, Cobra
collector extraordinaire, told me that many Cobras
started out as road cars, then were
fixed up as Comp cars and now are being changed
back? Do you find often that someone with a comp car still believes it
was a Comp car.
Scudder: If a car has documented race history from
the ‘60s, we consider it to
have been some type of period comp car. If the changes were made later,
it is simply a modified Cobra. Buyers
tend to decide how much value to place on
modified cars, not us. The market seems to favor cars with a documented
provenance, meaning that some cars
with Comp features added later might not bring
as much as if they had been left stock. That’s why you see some owners
changing their quasi-Comp cars back to
Wyss: I once saw a
picture of a early Cobra at Ford Dearborn(I recognize the
curvy wall, having climbed over it
once to take a spy picture) and it had no windshield
frame but the window was full width and heighth with rounded
corners. Do you
remember this car? Was this the first Cobra Ford ever got to
Scudder: We believe they were just experimenting
with different approaches to
the look of the windscreen, but we do not know which car they were
Wyss: Are you familiar with the
Ed Freutel Cobras prepared by Frank Monise? Were
they both 427s? Did they come back from Europe or stay there?Did they
fail in their European campaign?
Scudder: Freutel owned 3019, his Comp car and
3617, which he called his ‘practice
car.’ Both were placed on the market after a difficult 1966 racing
season and both remained there (in
Wyss: In the Register, how many
Cobras will have pictures?
Scudder: As many as we have recent photographs for.
information do you want on cars, and do you only want it from the
Scudder: We welcome info from any source. It can
be the owner who owned a given
car five owners ago. I will e-mail a form to anybody who emails me
saying they know the history of a
specific CSX2000 series or CSX3000 series Cobra.
Wyss: So what you're looking
for, is basically a certain point of time when
was a specific color exterior and interior, etc.?
Scudder: Yes, say a guy writes and says "When I was in high school
in Royal Oak, Michigan
in 1962 I used to see a white Cobra, black interior, chrome
wire wheels, the sn was blah blah."
I compare it with my data base to see if it
fits with what we know now.
Wyss: Were the Cobra 289s made
in England for sale in the UK and on the
sold as Cobras or as AC 289s?
Scudder: A.C. advertised the leaf-spring cars in
Europe as Cobras. It was advantageous
to do so, since the Cobras had achieved an enviable competition
record at events in Europe as well as
Wyss: Where the AC 289 , coil
spring, 427 body cars, sold as Cobras or only
Scudder: When they were building the coil spring
cars using the 427 chassis and
bodywork in conjunction with the 2890 engine, they advertised them as
the “289 Sports.” I believe they
wanted to differentiate between the cars that
Shelby was building in the U.S. with the 427 engine, which were
available through Ford Advanced
Vehicles (the shop in the UK building Ford’s GT40s—Ed.)
and the cars AC was making for the European market with the
smaller engine. There was also an
issue of price—A.C.’s name was essentially forgotten
withen the 427 cars were introduced as the “Shelby Cobra 427” .
So, having their own car available in
Europe, badged as an “:AC” rather than a
Cobra, kept their name in front of the sports-car-buying public. “
Wyss: What's your best estimate
on how many of the 26 AC 289s have been
to 427 Cobras so far?
Scudder: One was sold to the U.S., less an engine,
when new and was immediately
given a 427 engine. Since then, an additional seven that we know
of have been so modified, usually
accompanied by wider, wheels, side pipes, roll
bar and other Comp options.
Wyss: What is the deadline?
Scudder: Right now we are looking at 6/07. That
month I will have to come to my
Wyss: What e-mail should they
write you at?
Wyss: Is there any other
documentation you would like?
Scudder: So long as you asked, I'd love to have a
copy of the original purchase
agreement with the car's serial number and license plate, copy of
bill of sale, anything with the engine
number recorded, a
picture of the car when you were familiar with it --please send any
pictures on a disc rather than send
any valuable original picture which I don't
want to be responsible for.
Wyss: What will the book with
the CSX2000 and CSX3000 cars sell for?
Wyss: This is a silly question,
but why are you doing this?
Scudder (deep sigh) Well, I started keeping notes
on Cobras over 30 years ago,
and have been the club’s registrar since ’78. I am a detail-oriented
type of person. Now it’s a point of
pride to keep up the Register. There's 998
cars to keep track of and as they get more and more valuable, and as
more replicas enter the market, it is
more important than ever to accurately record
the facts on each and every historic Cobra.
Wyss: We thank you for your
efforts. If it was me living in LaJolla, I'd
more time down at LaJolla cove....
Scudder: Fortunately, I am not married to my
computer. I do have a life beyond
the Cobra fascination and get to spend plenty of time enjoying this
beautiful part of the world…
The Author: Wallace Wyss is the author of
SHELBY The Man The Cars The Legend