Tom Benjamin’s 427 Roadster “Coming Full Circle”
Once you drive a 427 Cobra, you’ll never forget it. And once you sell one, you’ll always regret it. That’s the case here, as this one is back in the hands of its original owner. Besides the 31 early 427 S/C models and 19 competition cars, 260 427 Cobras were built as street models, powered by either a 425-hp 427 V8 or a 360-hp 428 Police Interceptor unit. Introduced in 1963 for NASCAR and drag-racing competition, the FE series solid-lifter 427 was used for the first batch of about 100 cars. Then, in early 1966, because Ford found the race-based 427 inconvenient to build in small quantities, and because it cost twice as much as a production-based 428, the latter was specified for the second 100-car batch of 427s. Still, the name remained “427 Cobra,” and CSX3269 is among the last of such to originally have had a 428. In early 1967, based on the recommendation of Fred Goodell, a Ford engineer who had joined Shelby American, the 427 went back in for about the last four dozen cars. The last 427, CSX3360, left the Shelby American plant in October 1967.
A good 427 could go from zero to 60 mph in about 4.3 seconds, and to 100 mph in 8.8. Ken Miles once performed an amazing trick with one, going from zero to 100 and back to zero in under 13 seconds. On the other hand, the car had a reputation for swapping ends quickly, especially under power or in the wet. Shelby American’s own Al Dowd had a frightening experience when the 427 he was driving spun unexpectedly while passing another car on a dry freeway. Another 427 malady was fuel starvation under hard cornering, thanks to the Autolite carburetor; the cure was to switch to a 4-barrel Holley.
None of this deterred a 21-year-old college student named Tom Benjamin. On vacation from New Mexico State in July 1967, he visited his parents in Florida and bought this 427 Cobra at J.D. Ball Ford in Miami. The car was in stock and finished in British Racing Green with a black interior and Goodyear Blue Dot tires on sunburst wheels (designed by Pete Brock when Halibrands were in short supply) and had the then-usual 428 engine. Period options included a hood scoop, a roll bar, magnesium wheels, and a radio, plus front and rear anti-sway bars; Tom’s car had only the wheels and the radio (since removed). Rather than the earlier rectangular taillights, this car has the later round taillights augmented by a red reflector on each side.
In the summer of 1967, Tom drove CSX3269 extensively, including a trip to Montreal and Los Angeles then back to New Mexico. After it got hit in the rear while stopped at a traffic light in El Paso, he had the car repainted in 12 coats of black lacquer by a Porsche specialist there. Then, in 1968, at about 7,500 miles, the engine threw a rod out in the desert. Tom bought a lightweight competition 427 from the Ford dealer in Las Cruces, N.M., and had it installed.
In 1970 the car was trucked to the noted NASCAR and GT40 experts Holman-Moody in Charlotte, N.C., for a general going-over. Because the aluminum 427 heads had corroded internally while being stored with old antifreeze, the engine was replaced with another 427, this one having cast-iron heads. H-M also formed and installed a competition exhaust system, with headers exiting below the body rather than through the rocker panels. The suspension and Ford “top-loader” transmission were overhauled, and repairs were made to the seats, gauges, wiring, battery box, lights, interior panels, gearshift, wheel wells, radiator, cooling system, clutch and more. A padded roll bar was fitted, and for security Tom had a storage box added under the hood, which was secured by locking latches. All of this work cost about $5,200. Having been drafted, Tom left the car at the Holman-Moody shop and sold it in 1973, while it was still there. Then, in 1994, Tom saw an auction ad for the car, and although he missed the event, he was later able to buy it back from the high bidder. By this time, Tom lived in Boulder, Colo., so the car was serviced by Bill Murray and has been part of the Collection since it opened.
Tom has given the car to his wife, Karen, who he was dating in 1966. They have enjoyed various rallies around the West, including The Roadrunner 1000 back in New Mexico. “Coming Full Circle.”
Text excerpted from “Shelby Cars in Detail, Cars of the Shelby American Collection” by Frank Barrett with photography by Boyd Jaynes. Find out how to obtain your own copy of this magnificent book at www.bullpublishing.com
Chassis Number: CSX3269
Horsepower: 410 hp
Displacement: 8-cylinder, 427 ci (7 L)