Carroll Shelby says this of the 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake that he created: "I wanted it to be the fastest, meanest car on the road."

©2007 Barrett-Jackson

1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake Specifications

With nearly 500 horsepower for just 2,500 pounds, the Cobra 427 was "awesome, spellbinding," said Car and Driver. "Snapping the throttle open at any speed jams the low setback into the small of your back. The car lunges, jostles, and belches thunder from the side pipes just below your ear."

Although the car was surprisingly docile in traffic, Car and Driver, like so many, found it "neither reassuring nor especially comfortable. It rode as if there were cement in the shocks. The steering was indecisive, the handling twitchy and abrupt." Creature comforts? Not here.

Changing times ended this fun in 1968 after only 356 cars, but others soon offered replica 427s ranging in quality from ghastly to grand. A revived A.C. Cars produced its own fine specimen starting in the late 1980s. But Shelby struck back at his imitators by having 43 brand-new "1965" Cobras built from leftover parts in the mid-1990s.

More "snake oil?" Maybe, but the Cobras were also the stuff of living legend and immortal performance. The 1966 Shelby Cobra 427 Super Snake -- and its $5.5 million auction price -- is proof of that.