1964 Shelby Daytona Coupe

It was Ferrari’s own fault. By squeezing its svelte GTO through a tiny ‘body option’ loophole in the GT regs, it made room for this, the fastest Cobra of all. With Target One, the Corvette, comprehensively licked in 1963, Shelby’s sights switched to the FIA GT title. But for the faster European circuits the roadster’s draggy shape chewed up horsepower until Pete Brock shaped the streamlined blue beauty dubbed Daytona, which posted an impressive 186mph, a match for the all-conquering GTO.

Best of the GTs at Le Mans, and fourth overall behind three Ferrari prototypes, the Daytona coupes nevertheless couldn’t topple the Ferrari hordes in ’64’s production class, but a year on, after the FIA refused to homologate Ferrari’s midengined 250LM ‘variant’ and Enzo stopped his factory GT efforts to concentrate on his prototypes, the Daytonas finally won the FIA GT title that Shelby craved. At that point the GT40 programme sidelined the Daytonas, and Shelby agreed with Ford not to race them again.

The only one built entirely in Shelby’s California shop (later cars went to Gran Sport in Italy to be clothed), prototype 2287 raced everywhere from Sebring to Spa, OuIton to Le Mans, piloted by Bob Holbert, Dave MacDonald, Phil Hill, lnnes Ireland and Chris Amon and even [SR hero Craig Breedlove, who set records with it at Bonneville. Apart from its rarity and racing importance, 2287’s history teems with colour it appeared in an episode of The Monkees, was used as a road car by infamous music producer Phil Spector and then vanished for 30 years. When it reappeared it was the subject of a major legal baffle for ownership, but now resides in the spectacular Simeone Museum in Philadelphia, in astonishing original condition.

Gordon Cruickshank