When regulators eased pandemic restrictions, the Petersen Automotive Museum wasted no time with trotting out a series of exhibitions after reopening last March. Since then, the Los Angeles institution continues to dedicate space and time to classic cars, such as the famed James Bond four-wheelers, a lineup of hyper-expensive hypercars, and even a weird concept vehicle inspired by the Lamborghini Countach.

More recently, the museum assembled an extensive tribute to auto-modifying pioneer Carroll Shelby with an arsenal of his signature works from GT40s to Ford Mustangs. But in a video released Sunday, the Petersen establishment provided additional attention to one particular Shelby automobile: an unrestored Le Mans Cobra.

This Coupe Survived Two Seasons Unscathed

Normally, Petersen staffers tend to tinker with and shine its attractions for posterity, but in this case, they decided to show off how good this Cobra still looks after half a century. One of only five ever built in time for the 1964 racing season, this 289 FIA machine is one rare machine, considering crashes during competitions in Europe wiped out three of these roadsters.

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Of the two that remain, Petersen spokesperson Bob Volk says the one on the museum premises is the more significant model. For openers, it won five FIA races in the 1960s, even contributing a significant number of points for the Shelby team to win the FIA manufacturers competition in 1965, a first for an American automaker. "It survived the 1964 and 1965 season without any mishaps," added Volk about this particular Cobra. "It blew a rear tire at one point and damaged the rear fender, but other than that it got through both seasons unscathed."

V-8 Produced Around 385 HP

Blue 1964 Shelby 289 LeMans Cobra V8 engine
Petersen Automotive Museum

To prove that nobody touched this Shelby creation after winning its last race in 1965, Volk lifted its hood to display a slightly blackened, naturally aspirated 289 V-8 engine, which he believed produced roughly 385 horsepower at the time. Also standing the test of time are chalk marks on the hood's underside mapping the engine's cylindrical firing sequence.

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Then Volk let viewers in on a little secret: a slotted windshield that sidestepped FIA regulations stipulating full screens during competition. After inspection, drivers lowered it to make the Cobra more aerodynamic. Yep, those saucy Shelby dudes cheated.

Cobra Deemed A Time Capsule

Blue 1964 Shelby 289 LeMans Cobra coupe interior
Petersen Automotive Museum

Even after retirement from racing, this Cobra remained a winner, including grabbing top honors at a Pebble Beach auto exhibition in 2012. And while it's not up for any trophies at the Petersen, the museum relishes showing it off to eager patrons. "It is a time capsule," said Volk. "It is an amazing piece and we're very fortunate to have it."

Source: Petersen Automotive Museum

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