RM Arizona 2016 – 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra DRAGONSNAKE

Quite a few gorgeous classics included in a row.  These are a bit of a niche interest among readers… we know you guys prefer 2016-2020 models far more than these oldie foldies.

Here is one to get you young bucks back onboard: the most successful dragracing Shelby Cobra of all time!

Certainly, the Cobra is best known for its circuit racing and international endurance racing prowess.

But it turns of the delicate-looking original 289 Cobra was also a world-beater on the dragstrips of the USA.

So light, so grippy and so powerful…. literally nothing could keep up with this fuchsia dragonsnake!

1963 Shelby 289 Cobra DRAGONSNAKE

RM Sotheby’s


28-29 January 2016

Lot 251

1963 Shelby 289 Cobra ‘Dragonsnake’

  • Chassis no. CSX 2093

$1,400,000 – $1,600,000

To be auctioned on Friday, January 29, 2016

325 bhp, 289 cu. in. OHV V-8 engine with dual four-barrel Weber carburetors, four-speed manual transmission, independent front and rear suspension with A-arms, transverse leaf springs, and tube shock absorbers, rack-and-pinion steering, and four-wheel hydraulic disc brakes. Wheelbase: 90 in.

  • One of only three Cobras independently prepared to “Dragonsnake” specifications
  • Multiple NHRA National Champion wins and national record holder
  • Unquestionably the most successful drag-racing Cobra
  • Authentically restored to period-correct specifications and livery

Carroll Shelby and his racing team remained a dominant force in motorsport throughout the 1960s. However, a handful of owners believed that they could beat Shelby at his own game, using cars bearing his own name.


In the case of Jim Costilow, Bruce Larson, Ed Hedrick, and CSX 2093, they did just that. Born as a standard 289 Cobra, CSX 2093 was originally finished in Red with a black interior. While its original owner is unknown, it is believed to have been delivered new to Pennsylvania. According to the World Registry of Cobras & GT40s, CSX 2093 was traded into Ladd Motors of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, for a new Jaguar in early 1964. It was purchased shortly thereafter by Jim Costilow of nearby Duncannon, who decided to take the car racing. Not the most experienced racer, Costilow quickly found that he had a difficult time keeping up with the competition in road racing and hill climbs. After a few disappointing races, Costilow decided that it would be best to hire a driver for his car to get the best possible results.

Mr. Costilow approached Bruce Larson, who was working at a local Chevrolet dealer, and asked if the Cobra could be tuned and prepared for competition, specifically for drag racing. Larson, an experienced drag racer, spent a full year preparing the car, a process overviewed in the October 1965 issue of Super Stock magazine. In short order, Costilow quickly spent nearly the purchase price on modifications, including larger rear-wheel flares for the massive 9X15-inch drag-racing slicks, the installation of a chrome roll bar, five-spoke American wheels, and a Sun tachometer. The car also sported side curtains and a hard top from CSX 2019, a factory-prepared Dragonsnake.

For its first season, the Cobra was still finished in its original red but was later painted with 31 coats of a distinctive Fuchsia Metallic, making it instantly recognizable and unforgettable to anyone who saw it race. Now independently prepared to Dragonsnake specifications, chassis number CSX 2093 was ready to bring the fight to Carroll’s finest.

Costilow handed the driving duties off to Larson, and the car quickly accrued wins at strips around the Northeast for the end of the 1964 season, dominating the A, AA, B, and C Sport classes. It even set national records at the 1965 Springnationals in Bristol, Tennessee, the U.S. Indy Nationals, and the Winternationals in Pomona, California, right in Carroll Shelby’s backyard, winning all three events! Larson dominated in the A Sports and AA Sports classes in 1965, handily setting the record in many classes. Most notably, Larson accumulated more points than anyone else competing in any class of the NHRA. At the world finals, he ran quicker than his national record. Larson outpaced the competition but unfortunately disqualified himself in the process by eclipsing his national time by over a tenth of a second!

Following his success in the 1964 and 1965 seasons, Costilow sold the car in 1966, but that would not mark the end of its racing career. The Dragonsnake remained in Pennsylvania and was purchased by Ed Hedrick of Philadelphia, where it continued to compete in the NHRA’s Northeast Division 1. For 1966, Hedrick drove the car in the B Sports class, again winning his class at all the National races he attended, a surprise to no one, as the car already held the record for that class! Chassis CSX 2093 returned with Hedrick to the Springnationals and U.S. National meet, where it once again took home the top prize. Hedrick’s success continued through 1967, and chassis number CSX 2093 chalked up class wins at the 1967 Springnationals, Winternationals, and U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis yet again, finishing the 1967 season with the 1967 World Points Championship.


By 1969, CSX 2093’s days at the drag strip were done, and it had passed to Oklahoma by the mid-1970s and was refinished light green. It would spend the next few decades being used on the street. It was purchased by Fred Freer of Ohio in 1977. He repainted the car dark red, fitted the car with wire wheels, and showed it at SAAC-2 in Hershey, Pennsylvania, in July 1977, where it won the popular ballot 289 class. Shortly thereafter, it was purchased by Larry Megibow, who traded his 427 Cobra (CSX 3153) for the Dragonsnake. By 1985, the car had passed through several owners in the Northeast and was owned by Gene Schiavone of Essex, Connecticut, who brought it to SAAC-10, where it once again won 1st in class, this time in the popular vote 289 Cobra competition class. In 1991, the Dragonsnake came into the ownership of Ed Ulyate, who fully restored it back to its iconic fuchsia livery.


About The Author

Tom Burkart is the founder and managing editor of Car-Revs-Daily.com, an innovative and rapidly expanding automotive news magazine. He holds a Journalism JBA degree from the University of Wisconsin - Madison. Tom currently resides in Charleston, South Carolina with his two amazing dogs, Drake and Tank. Mr. Burkart is available for all questions and concerns by email Tom(at)car-revs-daily.com.