12 November 2010

Canadian is crazy for Cobras

Real Shelby Cobras are such icons in North America that they are usually only seen at shows, for sale at auction, or being vintage raced. The “big block” 427 (make that 7-litre) cars are also deafeningly loud, blindingly fast and do not suffer fools gladly. Minimal weather equipment and nearly no creature comforts limit their daily usefulness.

Which makes it all the more unusual that CSX3282 - which has its own web page - leads a normal street-driven life, albeit in the middle of nowhere, a village of 1,029 people in Western Canada.

Despite its “427” badge CSX3282 actually has a 428 cubic-inch V9 – less sophisticated than the racing “side-oiler” 427. Shelby sneaked 428s into about 100 of the last big block Cobras, in order to save money.

CSX3282 belongs to Earl Pfeifer, who lives in Kaslo, British Columbia, about 200 miles east of Vancouver. Pfeifer’s been in love with Cobras since his teenage years, when his father was the sales manager in Calgary, Alberta. The dealership ordered a red 1966 Shelby Mustang GT350 – which his father drove as a company demonstrator – a blue GT350 and a 427 Cobra.

Later on, Pfeifer fulfilled a childhood dream when he bought CSX2100, which was the 100th 289 (4.7 litre) “small-block” Cobra built. He sold the car when he moved to New Zealand to run a chain of 140 Subway sandwich shops.

In 2004, Pfeifer sold his company and returned to Canada, in search of a big block Cobra. His brother knew about CSX3282, because of its website, and sent off an e-mail asking if it was for sale. Surprisingly, the owner said he had decided to sell the car that same day. Pfeifer bought the car over the phone 10 minutes later, usually a very risky proposition.

Pfeifer drives his car even in the winter when temperatures can dip below zero. With sidecurtains in place, the heat from the engine finally serves a purpose other than melting one’s shoes. He isn’t scared to let others have a turn either. His niece regularly drives the Cobra.

The odds of finding another of the 348 Big Block Cobras in the same town are slight, so Pfeifer was surprised when a passerby asked him about overheating problems he was having. The car turned out to be a Factory Five Replica, apparently accurate to a fault.

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