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La Grande Observer Daily Paper 07/21/14

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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow SHELBY CARS OFFER BLAST FROM PAST


CRUISIN' COBRA: Marty and Patty Langsam of Larkspur, Calif., were among the Cobra owners who cruised through Enterprise in their Shelby Cobra. "It's beautiful and gorgeous up here,'' Marty Langsam said. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).
CRUISIN' COBRA: Marty and Patty Langsam of Larkspur, Calif., were among the Cobra owners who cruised through Enterprise in their Shelby Cobra. "It's beautiful and gorgeous up here,'' Marty Langsam said. (The Observer/GARY FLETCHER).

By Gary Fletcher

Observer Staff Writer

ENTERPRISE — The deep powerful rumble that accompanied Tuesday's rain along Forest Road 39 was not thunder. It was a couple million dollars worth of rare automotive history driving the back door route to Wallowa Lake Lodge, after crossing the Snake River from McCall, Idaho.

Drivers and passengers were bundled up in 14 original aluminum-bodied, high-powered, open cockpit Shelby Cobra street legal race cars.

Halfway through their annual four-day driving tour, the Cobras planned to be in four states by Wednesday, ending up at Lolo Hot Springs, Mont. They were on their way back to Sun Valley, Idaho, to where the owners had trailered their Cobras from California, Arizona and Utah.

"It's beautiful, gorgeous up here; a beautiful little town," said Marty Langsam of Larkspur, Calif.. "It reminds me of our little town before we were discovered."

Randy and Pam Slinker of Enterprise came out to meet the group and admire the cars and the people who actually drive their collector cars that are rarely seen on the road.

Usually they are seen at vintage sports car events and shows, said Randy Slinker, owner of a Cobra replica. He estimated the value of those with 289-cubic-inch engines at $100,000 to $150,000. At least three had 427-inch engines, and were probably worth $300,000 to $450,000 each.

Fewer than 2,000 of those models were made between 1962 and 1967 and sold as street cars through Ford dealerships.

Prior to that, race car driver Carol Shelby had gone to Ford with the idea of that company winning the Manufacturer's World Champion Sports Car Racing Title. Shelby linked up with a sports car company in England and replaced the typical four-cylinder engine, initially with a 260-inch Ford V-8. Ford won the championship.

Ford's race car may not have handled in corners as well as Ferraris and the like, but it beat them on the straightaways.

However, it proved to be too much of a car for the American public. Overpowered and ill-handling, it was a "scary outfit," Slinker said.

Nonetheless he saw it as his dream car. As a collector's item, though, its value continued to climb out of reach.

A decade ago, Slinker's solution was to buy a fiberglass replica body and build his car by installing his own engine, transmission and suspension.

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