In 1964 Shelby needed an answer to the upcoming Corvette threat and specifically the Corvette Grand Sport built by Zora Duntov. As a response, Ken Miles helped prepare the ‘Flip-Top’ Prototype. Much like the Corvette, it was stripped out and became one of the most radical versions of its type.
Used to test a variety of engines, CSX2196 was outfitted with a forward-flipping front end. This allowed for increased accessibility to the many experimental engines that were fitted, but before the car got a nose job, it was used to test the big-block 427 in³ engine.
Ken Sutton was hired to strip down CSX2196 and fit a the NASCAR 427. Of course he strengthened the chassis, but also did numerous changes to make the larger engine fit. Modifications to the body included relocating the foot boxes for exhaust clearance and pushing the bell housing back in the interior. Chassis upgrades included upgrading the brakes, adding anti-roll bars and host of competition features like a large fuel tank, Koni shock absorbers, an oil cooler and racing windshield.
Sutton recalls the car “Making a big snake out of a little one wasn’t the ideal way to go racing. But the concept needed a beginning and you had to start somewhere”. He was right because at the car’s Sebring debut, it suffered from numerous problems. A leaking brake line, blocked fuel line and heavy vibration eventually led to a complete engine failure. Over the remaining months Ken Miles reincarnated the car into the ‘Flip-Top’ Cobra.
Affixed to CSX2196 was new thin-gauge aluminum body with a flip-forward front end and a rear-hinged section. Also fitted was an experimental NASCAR engine measuring 390 in³ and built completely from aluminum. With all these weight saving measures, the car weighed 1600 lbs, some 500 less than a standard 289 in³ car. In this configuration, Dave Friedman said the car was referenced as ‘The Turd’ for its ugly shape by the mechanics but was publically called the ‘Flip-Top’.
After initial tests at Riverside in September 1964, the ‘Flip-Top’ was sent to the Nassau Speed Weeks where it would go face to face with two Corvette Grand Sports. During the Tourist Trophy Race, Ken Miles led during the opening laps but experienced engine failure. The experimental unit was replaced, but again failed during the Governor’s Trophy.
Afterward, CSX2196 was sent back to Shelby American and used to test the potent 427 in³ engine. Later, the lessons learned with CSX2196 were extended to an official 427 model. CSX2196 kept its 427 in³ engine until it was sold by the company.