Jay Leno Rescues Rare Shelby Cobra From California Fire

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This classic Cobra is worth $2.5 million.

Superformance makes some incredible Shelby Cobra continuation cars as well as replicas of the original Ford Mustang and Ford GT40, but they're no match for the real thing. Unfortunately, tracking down original examples of these classic American sports cars isn't easy, and if you do, they often sell for millions of dollars. This incredibly rare Shelby Cobra Semi Competition, for example, is one of only 23 examples ever made and worth around $2.5 million.

Fearing that this historic car could be destroyed in the devastating California wildfires, its owner asked Jay Leno to shelter it. He was more than happy to give the Cobra a temporary home and also used the opportunity to feature it in an episode of Jay Leno's Garage. This was also the first time Leno had ever driven an original Shelby Cobra.

Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
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Opening the hood, you'll find a 427 cubic-inch V8 generating 620 horsepower with a side oiler that keeps the crankshaft constantly lubricated. Unlike some modern replicas, the engine is period-correct with the exception of a new fan. Technically, this isn't an all-original example as the bodywork has been meticulously restored and the engine block has been replaced. It also has a quieter exhaust to make it easier to live with on the road than the original race car, but it still sounds deafening.

This particular example is number 10 out of the 23 that were built. Originally, the Shelby Cobra Semi Competition was intended for the race track like other 427 Cobras, but Shelby didn't build enough homologation examples for the 1965 race season.

Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube

Consequently, these cars weren't approved by the FIA, so Shelby detuned 23 out of the 56 cars that were built and fitted a windshield to make them street legal. Despite being one of the fastest street cars at the time, the Shelby Cobra Competition wasn't an easy sell back in the 1960s.

Compared to its rivals like the Corvette, the Cobra didn't have luxuries like air conditioning or locking doors, so you had to be a true enthusiast to appreciate it. With its screaming side exhausts, roaring V8, and no side protection, Leno enjoyed the Cobra's unrivalled visceral driving thrills. Replicas simply cannot compare. "I've driven many Cobra replicas. They all feel different," said Leno. "This feels original. It feels exactly what Carroll Shelby intended it to be."

Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube
Jay Leno's Garage/ YouTube

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