It's been 50 years since Carroll Shelby stitched together the first Cobra. In the intervening half-century, the little British car with a big American engine established itself as an icon of the automotive industry. To celebrate the car's golden anniversary, Shelby American and Ford assembled a collection of some of the most historically significant Cobra models in existence at Laguna Seca as part of this year's Monterey festivities.

In addition to CSX2000, the first Cobra built, visitors to the track have a chance to get within whiffing distance of cars like CSX2002. The little red roadster was the third Cobra to roll out of Shelby's workshop and served as the first factory Cobra race car. Peter Brock, Ken Miles and Dave MacDonald all had a stint behind the wheel, and the car functioned as a competition test mule that would help shape future Cobra models for years to come.

A total of 12 cars make up the collection, including the very first big-block car, CSX2196. Miles plopped a 427 into a 289 chassis for the very first time in an effort to best the Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport racers competing with Shelby at the time. The trick worked, and Miles set a precedent for a long line of 427-powered snakes. Even with its big engine, CSX2196 is said to weigh in at just 1,800 lbs thanks to its light-weight "fliptop" body. Both the front and back-sections can flip up to reveal the chassis and suspension underneath. Check out the gallery for a full look at all the cars on hand. You may also take a look at the complete press release below.
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Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion to Celebrate the Life of Carroll Shelby through the 50th Anniversary of Shelby Cobra

Shelby's Last Professional Race was in Monterey

MONTEREY, Calif., May 17, 2012 - A war veteran who flew B-29s, an oil roughneck, a chicken farmer...Carroll Shelby was a man of diverse talents. But he will forever be remembered as an automotive icon who transformed sports car racing and brought American pride to the international motorsports stage.

This year's Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, August 17-19, celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Shelby Cobra. But the featured marque honor becomes more poignant with the recent passing of the man who was simply known to friends as "Shel."

The connection between Shelby and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca has long been intertwined. Shelby was a frequent participant in the formative years of the raceway, then named Laguna Seca. It was here, on October 20, 1960, that Shelby drove the No. 98 Tipo 61 Maserati "Birdcage" in the final race of his legendary driving career. Despite taking nitroglycerin pills to ease chest pains, he finished second after leading much of the race. That position, however, earned enough points for Shelby to clinch the 1960 USAC Sports Car Championship.

While his professional driving days were over, Shelby was just getting started. He rarely looked in his rear view mirror, preferring to always look ahead at his next great adventure. "Yesterday is history. Tomorrow a mystery. Live today," he remarked in a 2009 interview.

Shelby adamantly said he was attending the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion, an event that was always marked on his calendar, and was looking forward to reconnecting with former Shelby American engineers, drivers and employees.

Additional plans are underway to unite the Shelby legacy and spirit with the anniversary of one of the most iconic cars of all time, and certainly the most replicated. Among the highlights will be:

· Dedicated race of 45 authentic CSX 2000/3000 competition cars

· Shelby Cobra Heritage Display, presented by Ford Motor Company

· Cobra Car Show on Pit Lane (Saturday for all authentic street and race Cobras)

· Cobra Car Corral with hundreds of authentic, continuation and replica cars

· Carroll Shelby special tribute laps

· Picnic Q&A with a Shelby American team member

· 350 GT Mustangs racing and in a dedicated car corral

"Carroll Shelby and his Cobras have been integral to our facility's development. For a man who had his last professional race here and returned year after year for our historic car races, it is a privilege to host and present a public celebration of his life, his cars and his deep passion," said Gill Campbell, CEO/general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. "He will be missed roaming the paddock, but his spirit will forever live on."

Advance general admission tickets start at $50 with a three day pass for only $130 that includes a complimentary souvenir magazine. Children 12 and under are free with a paying adult. Hospitality options begin at $200 per person.

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