Historic Dream Cars: The Shelby Daytona Coupe

October 28, 2009

In 1963, Carroll Shelby's Cobra racecars had dominated almost every race on United States tarmac. This included overtaking the Ferrari GTO racecars at the 12 Hours of Sebring. However, the Cobra roadster could not compete with the mighty GTO when the races moved into the European battlegrounds.

You see, Mr. Shelby figured he could bolt a few ragtop covers atop the Cobras roof rails and then takeover the GT class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. His strongest finish was seventh place (Ferrari finished in the top six).

Enter the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona: a sleek two-door coupe with a Cobra motor, reworked suspension and a swooping-controversial tail design. 23-year-old designer Peter Brock (a future legend and current automotive journalist) was given the task of designing the body and working out the aerodynamics. These tweaks would hopefully allow the Shelby team to compete with Ferrari.

With a completely new look and added suspension work, the Cobra Coupe was tested, tuned and sent back out to the racetracks.

The Daytona would go on to win the GT class at the 12 Hours of Sebring and more importantly, the 24 Hour of Le Mans in 1964where it even managed to lap a Ferrari GTO. It continued GT class domination into 1965 with seven wins, including the illustrious World Manufacturers Championship.

Only six of these unmistakable Daytona racecars were ever built between 1964 and 1965.

Carroll Shelby returned to the United States with an airplane full of used but legendary Daytona race mules. He managed to unload them in Los Angeles, where they were sold to the public for $5,000 per car.

Today, the Shelby Daytona Coupes are passed around from auction to auction between classic car collectors (and drivers). They generally sell in the measly $4,000,000-$6,000,000 range.

In August 2009, the Daytona car that clinched the 1965 Manufactures Championship for Shelby was brought to the inaugural Mecum Auction in Monterey.

It sold for $7.25 million, the record auction price for any American car in history.

These days, the term Ferrari-killer is too often thrown around the industry when a new supercar hits the scene. The Daytona Coupe is the originator of this title. Its iconic styling and story will forever be told to underdog racecar drivers and racing teams.

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