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This 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra Has a Striking Backstory

RM Sotheby's expects to auction the “Cobra in the Barn” for more than $1 million on March 10.

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As anyone who is familiar with the story of Rikki-Tikki-Tavi is aware, the mongoose is the natural enemy of the cobra.

Rudyard Kipling has never written about it, but it seems the cobra has also had a venomous relationship with the raccoon at times – at least if it’s the variety of Cobra that’s packing a 289 HiPo engine under the hood instead of fangs.

The 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra which is up for auction on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller/RM Sotheby’s)

Discovered in an Indiana barn in 1993 by a propane delivery driver with wandering eyes while he was dropping off gas to a customer outside of Indianapolis, this ‘63 Shelby Cobra was home to a 30-pound raccoon when it was found.

The 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra which is up for auction on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller/RM Sotheby’s)

Other than having lost most of its carpet and red leather upholstery to the black-and-white omnivore’s appetite, the car was in fairly good condition, prompting a cousin of a friend of the deliveryman to make an offer on the car. As it turns out, that offer went to the widow of Dr. Bryan Molloy, a chemist who helped develop Prozac while working for the Eli Lilly pharmaceuticals company.

The 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra which is up for auction on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller/RM Sotheby’s)

Since Mrs. Molloy had little use for the Cobra – she’d convinced her husband it was unsafe to drive (possibly giving him a reason to use the Prozac he’d created) – she was happy to let it go for $30,000 even though the model only had 21,000 miles on the odometer and still had many of its original instruments as well as the HiPo engine it left the factory with.

The 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra which is up for auction on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller/RM Sotheby’s)

Despite not turning over in decades, the engine was running within 15 minutes after being given some fresh fuel and the new owner was quickly able to flip the so-called “Cobra in the Barn” to a local collector for $60,000.

The car was eventually purchased by Shelby expert and automotive writer Tom Cotter, an author known for promoting “barn finds” with his popular series of “In the Barn” books. His first book, The Cobra in the Barn: Great Stories of Automotive Archaeology, featured this car on its cover and a chapter detailing the car’s retrieval from the Molloy property.

The 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra which is up for auction on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller/RM Sotheby’s)

It might seem that was somewhat of an unfair deal for the widow, but, when you consider the barn where the car had been stored for nearly 25 years burned down 30 days after the Cobra was rescued, it’s actually not so bad. (It’s unknown what happened to the 30-pound raccoon).

The 1963 Shelby 289 Cobra which is up for auction on March 10. (Photo courtesy of Erik Fuller/RM Sotheby’s)

Now that nearly a quarter of a century has passed since that transaction, the car is up for sale once again and will be crossing the block at RM Sotheby’s Amelia Island event on March 10 where it’s expected to upwards of $1 million.

To find out how to bid, head here, and make sure you save an extra $20 for raccoon repellent.