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Shelby Cobra Car of the Week

CarsGuide team

15 May 2009 • 3 min read

The Daytona Cobra will always be remembered here as the car Peter Brock was driving in his fatal accident in the Targa West rally. That particular car was a purpose-built handcrafted replica.

This weekend will see the legendary 1965 Daytona Cobra CSX2601 – see below for its potted history – go under the hammer with US auction house Mecum, with the potential for a new record price for American muscle cars.

While the Global Financial Crisis seems to dominate auto industry news with bankruptcies and sales slumps, some cars have a level of significance that is somewhat immune from the economic downturn. This month sees a number of those truly exceptional cars go to auction at two high profile sales. (see related stories)

Expectation is that Cobra CSX2601 will break the $10 million point usually reserved for significant examples of the Ferrari and other exotic marques.

The Daytona Cobra has an illustrious race history. It was the result of Shelby requiring more top end speed from the standard Cobra during the height of the Ferrari vs Ford war of the early 1960's. During this period Henry Ford 11 was negotiating with Enzo Ferrari for the purchase of the Ferrari marque. After Enzo rejected Fords offer of 18 million dollars Ford was determined to beat Ferrari at his own game. History has shown that Enzo never intended to let ownership of the Ferrari marque leave Italy, let alone go to America. He was simply using Ford to push the price up with his intended suitor, FIAT, to which he ultimately sold 50%.

Six examples of the the Daytona Cobra where built and a breakdown of the history of each example and specifications can be found in part two of this article - here. Built to compete in the GT class for the World Manufacturers Championship specifically against the Ferrari 250 GT.. The standard Cobra, had proven very successful winning the 1963 USRRC Championship where top speed was not a major requirement, the Cobra could not compete with Ferrari on the faster circuits however.

Initially Shelby trialled a hardtop roof on the standard Cobra, without success. Engineer Peter Brock (no relation), a former designer with General Motors, was commissioned to design a new streamlined body for the Cobra chassis. The resulting aerodynamic improvement which featured a Kamm tail added more than 40 kph to the top speed.

Shelby had great success through 1964 and 65 with the Daytonas culminating with winning the 1965 World Manufacturers Championship, albiet without any factory Ferrari racing that season. The race that clinched the tittle was Reims where Bob Bondurant won in CSX2601, the exact car to be auctioned this weekend.

Development of the Daytona Cobra ceased after that success as both Ford and Shelby moved onto the GT40 project to meet the new world championship regulations. With the GT40, Henry Ford II had his revenge on Enzo Ferrari.