Those who worship at the altar of the Snake will kneel and genuflect, but was it ever a real car?
This prototype is the only 427 Cobra Daytona Coupe in existence. Following the successful campaign of the small block Cobra Daytona Coupes in 1964, Shelby's Director of Special Projects Peter Brock penned new aerodynamic coachwork for the larger Mk II chassis. Built for Shelby American's assault on LeMans in the 1965 race season, designer Peter Brock was convinced the Super Coupe would exceed 215 miles per hour on the Mulsanne Straight. This unbelievable automobile is eligible for every vintage competition event on the planet. It is the ultimate "Holy Grail" opportunity for the Shelby American enthusiast.

SCM Analysis


Vehicle:1965 Shelby Daytona 427 coupe
Years Produced:1965
Number Produced:1
Original List Price:Never finished, never sold
SCM Valuation:$1,457,500 established
Tune Up Cost:$1,000
Distributor Caps:$25
Chassis Number Location:Stamped on frame tube.
Engine Number Location:No engine numbers on Fords
Club Info:Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC), PO Box 788, Sharon CT 06069
Alternatives:Ferrari 275 GTB/C, Cobra 289 Coupe, Cheetah
Investment Grade:A

This 1965 427 Cobra Daytona Coupe sold for $1,457,500 at the Russo & Steele Monterey auction, August 20, 2005.
Last month the topic of my musings was a special and important prototype Ford GT40 that had “evolved” into a rather pedestrian and ordinary state after a long life as an active racing car. This month we’re going to look at the other side of the possibilities, a spectacular, heart-pounding, wonderful restoration of a Cobra that never was.
Don’t get me wrong, the 427 Super Coupe is a known entity. You can read chapters about it in virtually every Shelby book and it seems to be generally accepted, but it was never “real.” In its era, no grandstand ever shook from its exhaust roar, no competitor nervously looked over at it wondering what it would take to beat it, no driver ever heroically pushed it too hard through the rain for the glory of winning. It was a dream that came to fruition a full 15 years after the fact. Think of it this way: If in 1960 somebody took the plans and some original parts of a WWII Nazi atomic bomb and created an operating version, would it be real history? The Nazis tried to build it when it mattered and it might have changed history had they succeeded-but they didn’t. So what is real?
Let’s talk about the car and what really happened. In those days the FIA was willing to accept alternate bodies on homologated production car chassis, a rule that gave us Speedwell Sprites and Harrington Le Mans Tigers (they changed the rule and stopped allowing this in 1966). Shelby had a very strong and competitive race car in the 289 Cobra, but it had the aerodynamics of a brick wall, which was a serious problem on the long, fast courses. The solution was to build a limited number of very slippery coupe-bodied cars specifically for this kind of track (thus the name “Daytona Coupe”), and it worked out extremely well. When the decision was made to build the 427 Cobra, building a few coupes specifically for Le Mans seemed the logical approach.
Life is seldom that simple though particularly not for Shelby in those days. The writing was clearly on the wall in the front engine vs. mid-engine debate, and Ford was increasingly committed to the mid-engine GT40. Though they were happy to have Shelby building and selling Cobras and Mustangs, when it came to racing them, he was more and more on his own. Peter Brock had worked out a very pretty design for the 427 coupe and they had organized a chassis from AC, but producing the body was a problem.
Instead of the Italian company that had built the 289 coupes, Shelby was forced to use a London coachbuilder, apparently by Ford politics. They not only failed miserably but used up crucial time in the process. When Brock and Shelby realized that everything was completely wrong, it was late March, and the car was due for Le Mans in June. They shipped the bits back to California to try to complete the car, but by then Ford had handed the GT40 effort to Shelby (see SCM November 2005) and the manpower simply wasn’t available to do the job. Shelby took a deep breath and bowed to reality, the project was abandoned, and the pieces were shoved out back and forgotten.
Fast forward fifteen years. The chassis/body had been sold to a San Francisco car club as part of the Shelby American liquidation. A Midwestern collector managed to buy the bits and gave them to a Denver restoration shop to be turned into the car that never was. It was a huge project, probably the biggest that the shop had ever done, because though the body and frame were there, none of the details had been worked out. Even after it became an operating car, the challenges were intimidating.
The first time the 1965 427 Cobra Daytona Coupe ran seriously, at Road Atlanta, the owner discovered that at speed the car literally flew (all four wheels). When he landed on the pavement, the wheels were in a turned position and he spun for a full quarter mile before stopping. That owner never drove the car again. It was eventually sold to George Stauffer, an extremely competent Cobra guy, so hopefully that and the many other issues have been figured out and the car is as track-ready as it is impressive to look at.
The basic issue remains, though: What is it? The original never ran. It’s not a replica because you can’t replicate something that never was. It’s certainly an icon for many; those who worship at the altar of the Snake will kneel and genuflect, but was it ever a real car?
The catalog asserts that it is eligible for “every vintage competition event anywhere on the planet,” but I think they’re being hopeful. Since the 1965 Daytona Coupe never raced nationally or internationally in period, it does not meet the FIA’s basic requirement for the HTP (Historic Technical Passport). The HTP is required to enter any FIA-sanctioned event, which is to say virtually every serious race outside of the U.S. (where we seldom bother with the FIA). If your car doesn’t have one, you can’t enter. The 427 Cobras never did anything outside the U.S. anyhow, so maybe that doesn’t matter. However, the 427 Coupe remains the quintessential American fantasy race car, and I can’t think of an American venue that wouldn’t love to have it.
From a serious-collector standpoint, though, I think attention has to be paid to the fantasy part of the description. Somebody paid one heck of a lot of money for something that never was.

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