Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe - Success made from scratch
Built over just a few weeks, tested and raced by a bunch of outlaws, the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe stands as a true example of a car that was built from scratch but with fantastic success and an everlasting legacy.
The origin of Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
In late 1962 and early 1963, the Shelby Cobra 289 roadster had already started to dominate in SCCA championship events and a few selected European races. It was clear that the little roadster with Ford power had enormous potential and was ready to take on some of the best European teams. However, the Shelby Cobra was best on shorter tracks without long straights since it lacked the aerodynamics for top speed. The car certainly wasn’t slow but it needed just a little more for dominating on Le Mans, Monza, and similar tracks.
Shelby Daytona Coupe was built from scratch
Carroll Shelby soon realized that he needed a new sleeker and more aerodynamic body on Cobra chassis and a running gear in order to compete with coupe cars from other manufacturers. But there was a problem: Shelby American was a small racing outfit with no resources for building a new shell and with no real knowledge about aerodynamics. Ford, as its partner, was not interested in investing in a new model since it had the GT40 project already started, so Shelby was on its own.
Surrounding the chassis with advanced aerodynamics
The chassis and running gear weren’t the problems but the design and body were, so Shelby gave the task to a young designer by the name of Pete Brock: to design and build a totally new body on the Cobra chassis. In just two weeks, Brock had designed and built a prototype in Shelby’s facility in California. The new car was longer, lower, and had more aerodynamics than the regular Cobra. At first, Carroll was very skeptical about this model but after the first testing and achieving 30 km/h more than the roadster, he was convinced and started preparing it for racing. The production of aluminium bodies was split between America and Carrozzeria Grandsport in Italy.
Shelby’s racing success on par with Ferrari
The racing career of Shelby Daytona Coupes started in 1964 and the cars proved to be very fast. In the hands of selected Shelby American drivers, such as Ken Miles, Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant, it started winning in all major European GT events and seriously started threatening Ferrari. It was so successful that Enzo Ferrari used all of his influence to cancel the last race of the season in Monza so his 250 GTO could win the GT championship and Shelby Daytona was second with just 6 points behind.
Amazing display during 1965
Carroll Shelby was furious but there was nothing that he could do so Shelby American team came back in 1965 with a better prepared Cobra Daytona and won almost all relevant events and rightfully won the 1965 World Sportscar Championship with 15 points lead in the overall standings. The Shelby Daytona Coupe was also a record holder in 1965 when it achieved 25 land speed records at Bonneville.
The racing legacy
However, after the great success in 1964 and 1965, Shelby Daytona Coupe was no longer competitive since the front-engined cars started to get replaced by mid-engined machines. Ford wanted Shelby to concentrate on production of GT350 Mustangs and developing Ford GT40 race car, so Daytona Coupe’s career was over. During the short but fantastic career, Shelby made only 6 examples, each with a great racing history and wins, all of which are saved today and represent a very important part of racing history as a whole.
Video : Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe engine sounds and track fly by’s