Ford was determined to beat Ferrari in the World Sports Car Championship and supported Shelby in 1963. Two Cobras were build up for that year’s Le Mans race including an aluminum alloy hardtop to for increased speed down the Mulsanne Straight. One of these managed to finish 7th overall but behind three Ferrari 250 GTOs in the GT class
Chassis & Sales
CSX2142-Offered at RM Auction’s Automobiles of Amelia Island Sale, but did not sell at a high bid of $790,000 USD. Described as “one of the most important Cobras ever to make its way onto a racetrack. It was one of two AC Cobra Roadsters to be entered by the factory at the 1963 Le Mans race, the other one being a right-hand drive example. Both cars competed with the stunning and aerodynamic semi-fastback alloy hardtop. This was the first car that was fitted with the hardtop, which improved its aerodynamics and thereby increased top speed on the Le Mans circuit. The two cars were also equipped with oversize 30.8-gallon fuel tanks, hood scoops, side cooling vents and light alloy Dunlop wheels. All the modifications were specifically made with the Le Mans victory in mind.
Carrying Surrey registration 645 CGT, CSX 2142 was entered by Ed Hugus, Shelby’s East Coast representative, who shared the wheel of the white and blue Cobra with Peter Jopp. They chose Stirling Moss to manage the American Ford entry but engine trouble in the tenth hour of the grueling race meant that the car had to retire early. This was indeed the first attempt by Carroll Shelby and Henry Ford II to defeat the Ferraris at Le Mans and, as such, was responsible for sparking the famous Cobra-Ferrari wars.
Following its participation at Le Mans, CSX 2142 and its sister car were acquired, without engines, by John Willment, a well-known Ford dealer with a racing shop. After being fitted with new engines and undergoing testing at Brands Hatch, both cars were entered in the 1963 RAC Tourist Trophy at Goodwood. Both cars had to be withdrawn, however, as the modified wheels and suspension parts were not acceptable. CSX 2142 competed the following month in the Autosport 3 Hours at Snetterton, with Bob Olthoff behind the wheel. Thereafter, it was shipped to South Africa where it raced in late 1963.
Ford of France subsequently purchased the car, which was driven by the successful French racing driver Jo Schlesser at the Rallye de Picardie (May 1964). Schlesser was also a noted Formula 1 driver, who was later killed in the 1968 French Grand Prix. Still registered as 645 CGT, the white Cobra had since been re-finished in darker livery. Schlesser would finish second overall in that race before entering the Rallye de La Baule the following month, in which he finished third overall. Schlesser then raced in the Mont Ventoux Hill Climb one week later, finishing first in his class. He competed in the Mont Dore Hill Climb in August (first in GT class) but, due to damage sustained by his Cobra, had to start the Tour de Corse in November with a Ferrari 250 GT.
Schlesser continued racing the CSX 2142 in 1965. While he finished third and first overall in the Rallye du Limousin and Rallye de Lorraine, respectively, he did not finish the Rallye Routes du Nord nor Rallye de la Baule. Finally, in June 1965, Schlesser did not start the Mont Venoux race due to fire damage sustained during practice.
CSX 2142 was subsequently sold the same summer in its damaged state to Jean Marie Vincent, without registration documents and with its original English registration number (645 CGT), as it was never custom declared in France. That same year Vincent also acquired another Cobra, chassis COX 6010, which was raced by Jean de Mortemart at Le Mans in 1964. Finished in light blue with a standard hardtop, this car had sustained frontal damage.
Utilizing parts from both CSX 2142 and COX 6010, Vincent was able to assemble his AC Cobra. According to conversations with Vincent, the resulting car effectively had the rear end, two-thirds of the bodywork and the interior from the Mortemart car and the front end and transmission from CSX 2142. The bodywork from 2142 could not be salvaged due to the aforementioned fire damage.
Following completion, the car was sold to Michel Gaudard in late 1965, or early 1966, who damaged the engine while driving back to Paris from Cabourg. After leaving the Cobra with Garage Intersport in Paris, the car was ultimately parked in an underground garage in a Parisian suburb. It remained there for some three years, until it was briefly sent to a scrap yard in Clamart, from where it was purchased by Bernard Maître in 1969. Maître sold the car to Bernard Alter, who delivered it to Bernard Afchain. Afchain brought the car to proper 1963 Le Mans specifications, utilizing original aluminum Cobra body panels as well as new brakes and suspension components acquired in the UK.
Completed in 1983/1984, Afchain obtained a “Carte grise de collection”, stating chassis number CSX 2142, in May 1989. The following year, CSX 2142 was sold to Bernard Mérian, who retained ownership for a mere three months. In fact, the car was returned to Afchain, who ultimately sold it in 1997 to Yvan Mahé. Mahé used the car both on the road and at such events as the Grand Prix de l’Age d’Or Montlhéry and Le Mans Legends, campaigned as chassis CSX 2142 and reunited with its 645 CGT registration.
After 37 years of private French ownership, it was finally returned to the UK in 2003 to be fully restored and prepared by Simon Hadfield with meticulous attention to originality and detail. Since then, it has been a front-running car at the Goodwood Revival where it has been seen battling with Ferrari 250 GTOs, Ferrari 330LMBs and Lightweight E-Types. CSX 2142 has been a regular contender at other international events (including prestigious FIA historic races) and the Tour Auto, having led the field on many tracks and special stages. Recently 100-percent authenticated by the Cobra Registrar and perfectly sorted, it is well-suited for further competitive historic racing and would make a fantastic addition to any important collection.”
After 37 years of private French ownership, it was finally returned to the UK in 2003 to be fully restored and prepared by Simon Hadfield with meticulous attention to originality and detail. Since then, it has been a front-running car at the Goodwood Revival where it has been seen battling with Ferrari 250 GTOs, Ferrari 330LMBs and Lightweight E-Types. CSX 2142 has been a regular contender at other international events (including prestigious FIA historic races) and the Tour Auto, having led the field on many tracks and special stages. Recently 100-percent authenticated by the Cobra Registrar and perfectly sorted, it is well-suited for further competitive historic racing and would make a fantastic addition to any important collection. As the first American Ford entry at Le Mans, it effectively represents the beginning of the famous Ford vs. Ferrari war – a remarkable piece of both Shelby American and Le Mans 24 Hour history.