Racecar Of The Month
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
You've heard of Carroll Shelby. Now here's the car that made Shelby someone worth hearing about.
As great as Shelby's Cobra roadster was in competition, it was aerodynamically atrocious, and there was no way it could be competitive against Ferrari in international sports car competition-and Ferrari was the only competition that mattered. So in the spring of 1963, the Shelby brain trust started scheming to make the Cobra a car that could dominate the world.
This called for an all-new aerodynamic body for the otherwise stellar Cobra chassis, and It was designed by Pete Brock using instinct and eyeballs instead of a wind tunnel. The Cobra Daytona Coupe was significantly slicker than the roadster thanks to a shape that started with a shark-like front prow that melded into slick flanks and abruptly ended with a large Plexiglass-covered fastback. It would gain the name "Daytona" because the first race it entered was the Daytona Continental in February, 1964.
The first 289-powered Daytona Coupe was built at Shelby's California facility and trucked to Riverside Raceway, where it was instantly 20-mph faster on the long straight than the Cobra roadster. More importantly, with it's strong Ford V-8 doing the pulling out of corners, it was potentially quicker than the Ferrari GTOs, even though the Ferraris had a higher top speed.
Shelby built a total of six Daytona Coupes (with much of the construction subcontracted), and they were intimidating enough during the '64 racing season that Enzo Ferrari decided that his championship-winning factory team didn't need to participate in the '65 season.
During 1965, the Daytona Coupes thoroughly dominated the GT class, winning their class in six of the eight major races and challenging the more exotic prototype racers (where Ford's own GT40 was running) on occasion. However, it didn't win at Le Mans, with four of the five entered Daytonas dropping out and the fifth finishing eighth overall and second in GT. The 1965 FIA World GT Championship was Shelby's.
The Daytona Coupe project was abruptly dropped when Ford asked Shelby to take over much of its floundering GT40 program, but the six Daytona Coupes are still clearly the greatest Shelby products of all time.
Taste O' Trivia
* The Corvette's first appearance in competition with factory backing was at Daytona Speedweeks in February 1956. Among those hired to drive the Corvettes was Betty Skelton who piloted her '56 Corvette to a 137.773 mph trap speed.
* This '55 Lincoln Futura concept vehicle would be rebuilt as TV's Batmobile in 1966.
* On September 3, 2003, Zippo made its 400 millionth lighter since starting production in 1933.
* Chevrolet first used its famed "SS" model designation with this '57 Corvette SS concept car. However, there has never been a Corvette SS production vehicle.
* The '76 Thunderbird, at 225.7 inches, is tied with the '78 LTD station wagon as the longest car ever sold by the Ford Motor Division.
* 2004 is the 20th anniversary of the Chrysler minivan. Celebrate accordingly.
* There's no good piece of trivia to go with this, but this photo of the legendary Jim Clark skipping a Lotus Cortina around a racetrack in the early '60s is just wicked sick.