1965 Shelby Cobra ERA FIA 289 - $64,900
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The 427s might be legendary, but this car is a WEAPON!

A good part of why the Shelby Cobra is the most replicated car in history is that it’s flat-out gorgeous. Part of it is that it’s still a fantastic car to drive, even today. And part is surely due to history, where it was a dominant force on tracks around the world in the mid-1960s. Despite what you might believe just by the sheer number of 427SC replicas running around, the car that actually collected most of the checkered flags for Shelby was not the big block 427, but rather the svelte and nimble FIA 289. Almost as fast in a straight line and notably faster in the corners, THESE were the Cobras that built the legend. For the Cobra fan with a bit of interest in history as it actually was, this gorgeous ERA Cobra delivers an authentic experience that’s just a little different than the usual run-of-the-mill Cobra replica.

The ERA Cobras are near the top of the list when it comes to quality Cobra replicas, and the factory-built cars are some of the best of all. This nasty black Cobra was under construction at ERA when the owner stopped paying the bills. A new buyer who was not willing to wait the two years for one called to see if any finished cars were available, and the old owner, the new owner, and ERA all came together to get the project finished. If the proportions look a little different than the usual Cobra, that’s because of the narrower 289 FIA bodywork that shares exactly zero parts with the 427 cars. ERA has a fairly comprehensive list of differences on their website, but it includes the shape of the grille opening, the shape of both the front and rear fenders, the hood scoop design, and the location of the fuel filler cap. You can see just how beautifully finished this car is by looking at the reflections in the glossy black paint, a combination of excellent workmanship on the fiberglass both before and after it was molded. Panel gaps are excellent, there’s fantastic prep work on the show-quality paint, and all the trim bits are beautifully finished. With the charcoal gray stripes, this is fairly subtle as far as Cobras go, but somehow it looks infinitely more menacing and purposeful than the 427 cars, which look almost cartoonish in comparison. The 427s might be legendary, but this car is a WEAPON!

The interiors also differed between the two cars, owing to the fact that the 289 FIA was exclusively a race car, while the 427SC was built in both race and street versions. This one certainly looks to have been built for combat, with that chrome 3-point roll hoop and 4-point harnesses, but it’s also fairly civilized. Check out the beautiful wood-rimmed steering wheel, the plush black carpets with plenty of insulation underneath, and door panels with useful map pockets built right in. Only the 427 cars got the forward-canted shifter, so the standard stubby lever on this one is quite correct (and now manages five gears instead of four). And yes, even those mirrors are correct, including the one in the middle, so don’t E-mail to tell us how someone made a mistake—they didn’t. Handsome Stewart-Warner gauges were used in the 289 cars (the Smiths only came along when the 427 was introduced) so that’s what went in here, with all the dials faithfully reproducing the period look. Yeah, that’s the speedometer way over there in front of the passenger, but since these were race cars, they didn’t have speedometers and that’s the only reasonable place to put one today. With only 92 miles on the build, everything is in virtually new condition, including the black leather buckets that are likewise unique to the 289 cars. The attention to detail in the ERA cars, and this Cobra in particular, is very impressive. The trunk is fully trimmed in gray mouse fur and includes a built-in storage pouch for the cockpit tonneau, which is a great addition.

Obviously the FIA cars ran—what else?—289 cubic inch Ford V8s. Fortunately, the commonality of the Windsor family of V8s means that the 331 cubic inch stroker motor in the car now looks virtually identical to a vintage 289. It’s a Keith Craft long block, built at a cost of nearly $10,000 and delivered to ERA for installation in this car. The list of goodies includes a fresh Ford block, Eagle crank, Mahle pistons, a hydraulic roller cam with roller rockers, aluminum AFR 185 heads, Ford Racing distributor, and an aluminum flywheel that helps it rev. Up top it has that gorgeous Weber setup from Jim Inglese which was another $5000, as well as a set of authentic-looking finned Cobra valve covers. ERA finished the engine compartment to an extremely high standard, complete with aluminum inner panels, a correct expansion tank, and a giant aluminum radiator with electric fan to keep the hot small block nice and cool. You’ll note the alternator got an oversized pulley for high-RPM track work and the wiring harness looks exactly like what Shelby might have used in 1964. If you crave authenticity, this car nails it. Oh, and it also packs 480 horsepower inside that small block, so you can bet there will be plenty of 427 owners who will be looking over their shoulders.

The options list also specifies a Tremec T600 5-speed manual transmission, a pricey addition all by itself but one that almost guarantees breakage is a thing of the past. It’s hooked to ERA’s custom independent rear end by a driveshaft that’s the shortest we’ve ever seen, and that rear end is packed with 3.73 gears that make acceleration explosive, to say the least. ERA’s custom rectangular steel tube chassis is far stronger than the original round tube ladder frame, and incorporates transmission mounts, suspension mounts, and a custom independent A-arm front suspension with coil-over shocks and rack-and-pinion steering. This ERA also features upgraded 12.4-inch disc brakes with 4-piston calipers (the largest that will fit in the stock-style 15-inch wheels) and yes, the side pipes are correct; on 289 cars they were tucked under the body rather than next to it. You can see that there are virtually zero signs of use on the undercarriage and it is very highly detailed and extremely well finished. The six-spoke pin-drive aluminum wheels are a faithful replication of the originals and the knock-off centers are safety wired in place, as they should be. Fresh 235/60/15 front and 295/50/15 BFGoodrich T/A radials give it the right broad-shouldered look.

Documentation is extensive and includes all the receipts from ERA, Keith Kraft, and more, totaling a number that’s considerably bigger than the asking price. It is properly registered with a clean Ohio title, so you will have no problems registering it in your home state.

There are a lot of Cobra manufacturers and a lot of variety out there, but if you seek one of the best-built Cobras we’ve ever seen and one that nails the vintage look and feel, this one has few equals. Exceptional craftsmanship and attention to detail combine with the quality of the ERA product to make a car that will stand out at any Cobra show—not by being the loudest and nastiest, but by being the most correct. If that matters to you, then this is your car. Call today!

Vehicle: 1965 Shelby Cobra ERA FIA 289
Price: $64,900
Stock Number: 115188
Mileage: 92 (since built)
VIN: DPS16ASVE18350716
Engine: 331 cubic inch V8
Transmission: 5-speed manual
Gear Ratio: 3.73
Wheelbase: 92 inches
Wheels: 15-inch Halibrand knock-offs
Tires: Front: 235/60/15,Rear: 295/50/15 BFGoodrich radials
Exterior Color: Black
Interior Color: Black leather
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