A Propane Gas Delivery Man’s Discovery

Barn Find Cobra

Electric company meter-readers, landscapers, and other deliverymen possibly have the best opportunity to discover vehicles “just out of view” from car collectors. After all, they can venture onto properties, look behind bushes, and peer into barns. The story of Cobra CSX2149 begins this way, when a propane gas delivery driver looked into a customer’s remote barn near Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1993.

What the deliveryman saw was a small sports car he believed was a Triumph or an MG. He mentioned the discovery to a friend, who mentioned it to a friend, who then told his young cousin. We’ll call this cousin Johnny.

Well, being an enterprising youth, Johnny knocked on the owner’s door and asked if he could please see the sports car. Opening the barn doors and climbing behind tractors, cultivators, and other farm equipment, Johnny came across an incredible discovery: an authentic A.C. Cobra.

Turns out that the owner, Dr. Bryan Molloy, was a chemist with Lilly Pharmaceuticals and helped develop Prozac. According to his widow, he purchased the Cobra in 1968 or 1969 from an ad in an Indianapolis newspaper. It was already painted brown (over the original white) and he drove it for a couple of years. But his wife eventually convinced him that it was too unsafe to drive, and he parked it in a friend’s garage when he lived in the city. When the couple purchased the farm outside of Indianapolis, they moved it to an unheated barn.

The Shelby American World Registry lists CSX2149 as the 149th 289 Cobra manufactured, and it was shipped to Shelby American in July 1963. CSX2149 was manufactured in off-white with a red leather interior, and was ordered with Class “A” accessories, including luggage rack and whitewall tires, for a total price of $5,415.50. The car was then shipped to Ford’s district office in Davenport, Iowa, for promotional use. Not much more is known of the car until it was purchased by Molloy.

Johnny asked the widow if the car was for sale. He was told that yes it was, but in restored condition it would be worth $80,000 to $90,000. Yet when Johnny offered $30,000, the widow said, “Son, you’ve bought yourself a car!” Not a bad return on a one-time $4,000 investment. The problem was that Johnny didn’t have the money, and he was denied a bank loan, so he borrowed $30,000 from suspicious relatives. He promised to pay them back when he sold the Cobra.

After unloading the accumulated piles of junk that had buried the car for decades, and dragging it out of the barn with a tractor, Johnny discovered that it had been the home of a thirty-pound raccoon who didn’t take very kindly to being displaced once the tonneau cover was removed. It seems that Mr. Raccoon had eaten much of the red leather covering the seats and most of the carpet, but the car was generally in good condition.

CSX2149

The car had been driven only 21,000 miles and still retained much of its original equipment, including its low-rise cast-iron intake manifold, the small Y-type exhaust headers, and spark plug wires. It sported a cheap, metallic bronze paint job over the original off-white.

Johnny brought the car home and word spread quickly that a long-missing Cobra had been discovered. Bids began to come in fast and furiously, from various collectors in the United States and even Canada. Even though the highest bid reached $85,000 (from a Canadian collector), the car was sold to local collector David Doll of Indianapolis for $60,000.

The HiPo 289 engine had not run in twenty-five years, but with a new battery and a splash of fuel, the car was running within fifteen minutes. Doll later installed new Koni shocks and refurbished the car mechanically, but left the exterior and the cosmetics as-found.

Doll had a friend who owned a muscle car museum in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and he put the Cobra on display there for a while before selling it to Greenville, South Carolina, Harley-Davidson dealer Billy Weaver—who then sold it to Greensboro, North Carolina, Cobra enthusiast Jim Maxwell and buying partner Tom Cotter (yes, that Tom Cotter).

Maxwell and Cotter disassembled the car, had it repainted white, and reupholstered the red interior to repair the raccoon’s damage. Instead of restoring the car, they refurbished it, and refreshed as many of the removable parts as possible. After spending many years as an ugly duckling, CSX2149 has been transformed once again into a beautiful swan.

CSX2149 Refurbished

The Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC) says that very few original Cobras are not accounted for, but one wonders how many still reside in barns just beyond view. Fate played a hand in Johnny’s find, as within thirty days of his purchase, the barn that had housed CSX2149 for so many years burned to the ground.

 

cobra-in-the-barn-cover

This story originally appeared in Tom Cotter’s The Cobra in the Barn.

Subscribe to our email list for a chance to win a free copy and be sure to submit your own stories because one is going to make it into Tom’s next book!

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Comments

  1. rancho bella

    They are beautiful cars. Not for me but I do indeed like looking at them. Prefer an AC Ace or Aceca.

    Drive a vert in SoCal on the freeway for ten minutes and you fell like you haven’t showered in a week.

    • GB

      I have owned two Aceca’s and I agree… Still have a zillon dollars worth of AC Aceca parts in search of my 3rd. Enjoy Glenn

  2. Jeff

    Excellent story, this is what its all about. An iconic find by an enthusiast.

  3. Nelson

    I went to serville tenn. To the muscle car museum ..I saw this car took pics of it ..I thought it was a strange color …It is so weird seeing the history with this car now ….Great to see

  4. braktrcr

    Then the barn burned down? shivers Great story

  5. Mike Cardoza

    Year back here in San Diego a friend also found a 289 Cobra that had been sitting in a Garage for many many years!!!!!Car was there in the 70’s , he went back just to see if it was still around?? Got it for $2500.

  6. ClayB

    Drive a “vert” on the 405 for 10 minutes? In the morning do the 15mph thing and inhale the(cough,cough) fumes.

  7. Dolphin Member

    Another great story of curosity, luck, averted disaster….and rodents.

    How many Cobras are left unaccounted for? I don’t have the latest Shelby American Club book to find out, but I’m guessing it’s a very small number, maybe zero.

  8. paul

    Ah 1 that missed the fire, seems all too often the story is reversed!

  9. tim campbell

    Back in the 60s, my uncle worked for a Ford dealer in Conn. They had 3 or 4 cobra 289s in the showroom. He told me that they were slow sellers and were able to get this number for that reason. I believe customers said that they were bad in thr rain!

  10. Peter R

    No mention of the last price paid nor the refurb costs but these are only for the wealthy today. Way beyond my means but wonderful story and great to know another very special car is back from the barn.

  11. jim

    another great story. thanks

  12. scot

    ~ “Son, you’ve bought yourself a car!” sweeter words never heard.

  13. geomechs geomechs Member

    These are the stories I like to read. Especially when the car got (Inadvertently) saved from a sure disaster. This is one of those stories that has a happy ending. Some people chase the owner of a car for years only to one day find that his wife sold it to some butcher (who was also pestering the owners to sell it) and the next thing that happened is the car got chopped to pieces, never to be finished. It always seems to end up in the crusher. I remember reading about a car getting plucked right out from under a guy’s nose. He tracked it down to the west coast, found it ‘customized’ beyond recognition and ended up doing some jail time for assault and battery. The car turned out to be a one-of-a-kind Air Flow and the guy who had been patiently pursuing it for nigh onto 15 years was a passionate collector who knew the entire history of the car. Glad THIS one ended differently.

  14. Trickie Dickie Member

    Remember not all that many years back when it was fairly common to see AC Cobras for sale in various publications, NY Times, LA newspapers, Hemmings, Road and Track and more, listed for a million bucks and more?

  15. ConservativesDefeated

    Down in San Diego I know a fella who has an original Shelby Cobra sitting in his basement. He had originally owned it , if I have the story right…………sold it.and bought it back. Been in his house for at least the last twenty five years I’m guessing. Original as far as I can remember and has never been messed with.

    That said they are a pain in the ass to drive!

  16. Mark Henderson

    In about 1969-70 I lived in Cincinnati and knew a guy that had 2 Cobras. He ran a body shop in Sharonville, on Reading Rd and both cars he purchased as wrecks. His nickname was ‘Emery.’ One was white with red, had wire wheels and WW tires and a 289 that he drag raced. The black car had the front smashed to the windsheild, but he said he had all the parts to rebuild it. He told me a customer and the salesman were testing the car in Dayton and the customer lost control on a curve and crashed the car with about 20 miles on the odometer. Emery bought the cars from the insurance company.
    I was hot to buy the white 289 and he took me for a quick spin. We went from a standing start to 100 MPH, then back to zero… hottest ride I’ve ever had! We settled on a price of $5100, but I got nervous about the aluminum body panels and side curtains, so bought a Corvette instead What a nut case I was. I often wonder what happened to those 2 Cobras. If anyone has any info on Emery or the 2 Cobras I would enjoy talking with you.

  17. Vincent Habel

    I never drove an original but i did not think the replicas drove very good. Just not my kind of car.

  18. Alan

    There was a used car dealer in Dover, Pa. In the 60s . Jay Hughes was his name . He always had a few Cobras, Healys, A Bristol or two, you coulda bought a used Cobra then for $ 3500 – . Back then, it was a ton of money for us teenagers , but we always stopped in to drool and dream. Anybody remember him?

    • Joe C.

      Great story, maybe the deceased Dr. was upset over the sale. As Alan mentioned above about buying used Cobra’s back in the 60’s dirt cheap by todays standards. I remember the same held true for I guess most used cars. There was a used car dealer close to my home in Chicago selling used Corvettes and if I recall correctly they were very reasonable. Like he said back then it still was a lot of money for a kid, but I think some were for sale for under $1,000, like $750.00 for a late 50’s early 60’s Corvette and this was in the mid to late 60’s. Maybe I’m wrong but I think that’s what they were going for and they probably were a little beat by then too.

      • Clay Bryant

        Bought my first Corvette, a 65 Coupe when I came home from Vietnam for $1950……A mint 5 year old car with American Magnesiums on it.Bought my first Camaro in Dec. of 66, window sticker was $2967 for 2550……….

  19. Joe C.

    That was a great price for both, you had some nice cars, maybe you still have them. I guess it’s all relative, that was still quite a bit of money back then. The price of old Vettes and Camaros now are pretty ridiculous I think, but that goes for most older cars and pickups. Thanks for your service and I’m glad you made it back. I turned 18 in 1973 and had my draft card, but fortunately for me the draft was over.

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