A Nose for Cobras

Dirt Bag Cobra CSX2307

We would all love to find a real Cobra stashed away. Well, today’s In the Barn story is about a guy who has unearthed not just one, but many of them over his lifetime. The tale comes from the book, The Cobra in the Barn, which you can purchase though Motorbooks or Amazon. Some guys just have all the luck! Now enjoy the story and keep on dreaming about what you might stumble across one of these days.

Some people are just better at certain tasks than others. Remember those guys in high school who could throw a football in a perfect spiral all the way to the end zone during football season, and then hit home runs in the spring? And no matter how hard you tried or how much you practiced, you couldn’t come close to their performance?

Lynn Park of Pasadena, California, has a talent like that for finding Cobras. While the rest of us dream of stumbling across just one Cobra in a barn during our lifetime, Park has hit home run after home run, finding and purchasing the coveted and rare cars that were produced in Carroll Shelby’s shops.

Park’s love affair with Cobras goes back to his teenage years when he, as a hot-rod crazy youth, had a conversation with his sister’s boyfriend, who loved sports cars. “He showed me the first copy of Road & Track magazine I had ever seen, and it had a Cobra on the cover,” says Park, who has spent the last eight years of his retirement manufacturing and selling replacement Cobra wheels under the name Trigo. “He said this new car was a hot rod and a sports car, and he joked that both of us could be happy with one.”

Park’s fire was lit. He jumped in his car the next day and tore off down the road to Venice, on the other side of Los Angeles, to see one for himself. It was love at first sight, but Park was just a high school teenager, and purchasing a new Cobra for more than $5,000 was out of the question. So he did the next best thing. He purchased an A.C. Aceca coupe and converted it to Cobra Dragon Snake specs. He purchased all the necessary parts directly from Shelby and built himself a hardtop version of the 289 Cobra. “I would talk Cobras all day long, but I couldn’t afford a real one forty years ago,” he says. “I’d spend every spare moment down at Shelby’s shop. I had a friend who worked there, but I lived there!”

That passion became an obsession. Today, Park owns nine Cobras: seven 289 Cobras (CSX2010, 2044, 2176, 2259, 2307, 2364, and 2515) and two 427 Cobras (CSX3156 and 3203). He says he’s on the lookout for one more because he’d like to have an even number of ten in his garage.*

*For a peek inside Park’s garage, look at Ultimate Garages by Phil Berg, page 129.

One of the interesting things about Park is that he’s not restoration-oriented. Sure, a couple of his cars are in pristine condition, but he gets much more satisfaction from owning non-restored “beater” Cobras. He prefers cars that can be driven on real road trips rather than cars that are moved from one garage to another inside enclosed trailers. For instance, every year Park and about a dozen of his friends take aggressive trips of 2,000 miles or more in their original Cobras. Often the owners refuse to erect the top or side curtains on their cars, despite the cold or rain. Clearly, these hearty folks don’t look kindly upon owners who trailer their Cobras.

So even though Park has a couple of pristine show-quality Cobras in his collection, it’s the as-found cars that he has the most interest in driving.

Cobra black plate

One car that Park is particularly fond of is CSX2307, affectionately referred to as “Dirt Bag.” Lots of Cobra enthusiasts knew about the car that was covered with canvas in the Temple City, California, backyard of the Charles Offenhauser family. These were relatives of Fred Offenhauser, who began manufacturing speed equipment for Model T, Model A, and Ford flathead V-8 engines in the 1930s. “It was just sitting there and wasn’t for sale, even though guys with suitcases full of money would show up and attempt to buy the car. If Mrs. Offenhauser didn’t like them, they didn’t have a chance,” Park says. “But a friend of mine finally talked them out of it. He bought it with the intention of converting it into a race car, but I bought it from him before he did anything to it. I convinced him that the car was so original and unmolested that it would be shame to cut it up.”

It’s not known how much the Offenhausers used the Cobra, but at some point, in about 1975, the car was parked in the backyard and covered with a tarp. When Park purchased CSX2307, it had 33,000 miles on the odometer. Since then he’s put more than 2,000 additional miles on the car.

The car required lots of work. The gas tank needed a thorough cleaning, the carburetor needed to be rebuilt, and the fuel pump and water pump were changed. “Initially it smoked real bad, but I’ve run lots of Marvel Mystery Oil through it to loosen the piston rings, so now it doesn’t smoke so badly anymore,” he says. “My friends call it ‘Dirt Bag.’”

The Shelby American World Registry lists CSX2307 as being delivered on March 20, 1964, to Sexton Ford Sales in Moline, Illinois. It was sold in red with black interior and white sidewall tires, radio, and antenna for the total sum of $5,734.55. By 1967, the car had found its way to a Los Angeles used car dealer, where it was purchased by Offenhauser. He had the car painted yellow and had the license plate “OFFIE” installed.

The car has a non-original aluminum high-rise intake manifold and Holley carburetor, which may have been installed at the Ford dealer when new or by one of the subsequent owners. But the original engine No. 4067 remains in the car, and the original Goodyear Power Cushion 7.35-by-15 spare tire still resides in the trunk.

The Cobra’s interior was in terrible condition due to all of the years it was exposed to the elements. “There was lots of trash and mold in the cockpit,” Park says. “I had to throw out the carpet because it was so rotten, and I used other seats because the leather and the seat frames were in awful condition.” Additionally, the pedal assembly was frozen solid and required rebuilding. Despite all the rebuilding work, Park enjoys driving “Dirt Bag” more than any of his other Cobras. “People just go ape over this car,” he says.

Barn Find Cobra

Another of Park’s barn finds is Cobra CSX2044, the 44th Cobra produced by Shelby American. CSX2044 was invoiced to Shelby American on November 11, 1962, and sold to a Mr. Harrison “Hap” Horn of Palo Alto, California. Mr. Horn was eager to take delivery of his car, and he received a letter from Pete Brock of Shelby, updating him on its progress. “The paint looks great,” said Brock of the white with red interior car. “The roll bar will be installed this afternoon, and may I suggest having it chromed instead of painting it, because we feel it just won’t look right.” Horn paid $7,297.33 for the well-optioned car and took delivery of it the following May. Because the car took a relatively long time to deliver, it came with a 289 engine instead of the 260-cubic-inch Ford that was in others with nearby serial numbers.

Horn drove the car just 22,000 miles before parking it in his garage in 1967. “The owner knocked off a muffler driving it into his garage and never drove it again,” says Park, who adds that the car came complete with numerous letters between Horn and the Shelby organization. One letter from Horn asked why Cobras come equipped with generators instead of alternators. “Horn was a real rocket scientist—an aeronautics engineer at Stanford University,” says Park, who purchased the car from Horn in 2001.

“Lots of guys knew about the car, but they all thought he [Horn] was asking too much money for it,” Park adds. “But he was a gentleman and obviously a smart guy, so I bought it.”

“I’m going to leave the original paint and interior, but I’m going to rebuild the mechanics and the engine; it has so much rust in the water jackets. The gas tank had eight or nine gallons of crystallized fuel in it when parked thirty years earlier, so cleaning out the fuel system was the messiest, smelliest job I’ve done on any car .”

According to Park, the engine turned over smoothly by hand, and he believes it would run, but because it sat for so many years with water in the cooling system, he’d rather not take any chances.

Barn Find Cobra rear

“I’m going to buff out the original paint; I think I can make it look pretty good,” he says. “The original red carpets and seats are in incredible condition, so I’ll use those as well.”

Park was also on the trail of perhaps the most-prized Cobra of all time—CSX2287, the first Daytona Coupe—but he narrowly missed it. “I was so close to owning that car every step of the way,” he laments.

Tom Cotter About Tom Cotter

Tom is a certified car nut who has been published in the New York Times and Road & Track. He has also authored many great books including his popular In the Barn series. More posts »

Comments

  1. scot

    ~ i found myself wondering if Lynn held onto his original Dragon Snake A.C. Accea coupe.

    • jim s

      yes i would also like to know more about the dragon snake. i think it would make a great story.

  2. jim s

    i am glad that some of them are be driven. depending how long ago he bought the cars they may have become a nice retirement nest egg. great story. thanks

  3. Robert J

    A magic machine parked on a flying carpet. Oh yes.

  4. Dolphin Dolphin

    Too bad Park just missed getting the first Daytona coupe. That would have truly capped his lifetime achievement in finding Shelbys.

    The Shelby Cobras are certainly special, but the small group of Daytona coupes that were built are mega-special. The story I read about them is that Pete Brock wanted to make a more aero race car out of the Cobra to compete with the 250 GTO, and that meant a coupe that would have a higher top speed. But Shelby was pretty sceptical it was worth the trouble until they tested the first one, CSX2287 mentioned above, and found that Brock’s prediction that it would have a significantly higher top speed than the open Cobras was correct. That car won the GT class at Sebring and was driven by a lot of the great drivers of the day.

    There’s a history of the coupes in the Shelby club magazine I think it was. One of them was found after being locked in a storage unit for 30 years and was the subject of lots of litigation. It was once owned by Phil Spector, who got many tickets because of his driving style on the street.

    I like the brutal look of the Daytona Coupes so much that I have even thought of buying one of the recent clones, the originals being just a bit beyond my price range. Problem is, I can’t get past the fact that they’re fakes, so that plus the $50K price means it will never happen.

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