lost Daytona Coupe

The very first prototype Cobra Daytona Coupe. The only coupe that was built entirely at the Shelby American race shop in Venice, California. It has an extensive race history, competing at Daytona, Sebring, Reims, Spa Francorchamps, Oulton Park TT, and Tour de France.  It was driven by Dave MacDonald, Bob Holbert, Jo Schlesser, Phil Hill, Jochen Neerpasch, Innes Ireland, Andre Simon, Maurice Dupeyron, Bob Johnson, Tom Payne. 

Chassis CSX 2287 won the GT race at the 12 Hours of Sebring in March 1964 with Dave MacDonald and Bob Holbert behind the wheel. The race at Sebring was the first time that a Cobra Daytona Coupe won the GT III category in an FIA race! 

At Le Mans in June 1964, the car was finished in Viking Blue metallic very distinctive white  painted front fenders. The drivers were Chris Amon and Jochen Neerpasch. They led the GT class until the car was disqualified in the 10th hour for an illegal jump start due to battery and alternator failure.

This coupe ended its racing career by setting 25 USAC/FIA world records at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, in November 1965. It was driven by Craig Breedlove, Bobby Tatroe and Tom Greatorex.

This particular Daytona Coupe has been missing for over 30 years. Recently, it was "found" again. The story reads as another unique chapter in the Shelby cars history. Be sure to read more about this rare and long missing coupe.

Chassis # CSX2299

#5 Daytona Coupe  This was the second Coupe built and the first completed at Carrozzeria Gransport (Italian for "Grand Sport Coachbuilders") in Modena, Italy. It competed in nine FIA races (LeMans, Reims, Goodwood Tourist Trophy, Tour de France, Sebring, Oulton Park TT, LeMans, Enna, Daytona), won four times (LeMans '64, Tourist Trophy '64, Daytona '65, Sebring '65), and driven by Dan Gurney, Bob Bondurant, Maurice Trintignant, Bernard de St. Auban, Jo Schlesser, Hal Keck, Jack Sears and Dick Thompson. At LeMans in 1964, drivers Gurney & Bondurant, took First Place in the GT III Class. It was painted Viking Blue.

Dan Gurney in 1965 driving this Cobra Daytona Coupe took the World Manufacturers Championship from Ferrari. 

Chassis # CSX 2300

This was the only time that a Cobra Daytona Coupes was painted with a white body finish with blue and red stripes. Chassis CSX 2300 was leased from Alan Mann by Ford of France for this race only. It competed in the national “Tri-Colore” of France. Well known French drivers Andre Simon and Jo Schlesser drove this coupe at the very tough Nurburgring course. The car finished 3rd in the GT III category, and 12th overall. After the race, this white coupe was returned to Alan Mann Racing in England where it was repainted in the official Guardsman Blue metallic and white stripe of the 1965 Shelby American team.

Chassis # CSX2601

This was the fourth Coupe built and the third completed at Carrozzeria Gransport. It competed in eight FIA races in 1965 (Daytona, Sebring, Monza, Spa, Nürburgring, LeMans, Reims, Enna), won four times in GT III class, at Monza, Nürburgring, Reims, Enna), and driven by Bob Johnson, Tom Payne, Bob Bondurant, Allen Grant, (German) Jochen Neerpasch and Jo Schlesser (an outstanding French driver who was killed in an accident at the French Grand Prix in 1968). 

At Reims, 3-4 July 1965, drivers were Bondurant & Schlesser. It was painted Guardsman Blue. They won the GT III Class. It was at Reims on July 4th that this car earned the points needed to secure the 1965 World Manufacturers Championship. 

Chassis # CSX2602

This was the fifth Coupe built and the fourth completed at Carrozzeria Gransport. It competed in six 1965 races (Daytona, Sebring, Monza, Spa, Nürburgring and LeMans) and was driven by Rick Muther, John Timanus, Lew Spencer, Jim Adams, Phil Hill, Jack Sears, John Whitmore, Peter Sutcliffe and Peter Harper. The #59 Swiss Red Coupe was campaigned in 1965 by Scuderia Filipinetti. Prior to the Le Mans race, chassis CSX 2602 was also raced at Daytona (driven by Rick Muther and John Timanus) in 1965, Sebring (driven by Lew Spencer, Jim Adams, and Phil Hill) in 1965, Monza (driven by Jack Sears and Sir John Whitmore) in 1965, and Nurburgring (driven by Jack Sears and Frank Gardner) also in 1965. 

The #59 Daytona Coupe with British drivers Sutcliffe & Harper, ran in the distinctive Red & White Swiss colors only for the '65 LeMans event June 19-20, 1965. 

This interesting color combination was the well known colors of the famous Swiss racing team, the “Scuderia Filipinetti”. The latter had already earned a reputation for themselves racing Ferraris. When Ford used up their allotment of entries for the 1965 Le Mans race, they asked Georges Filipinetti (owner of the team), to buy a Coupe and enter it as his annual entries. Thus the unusual color scheme. Peter Sutcliffe and Peter Harper (well known Ferrari drivers) were the team’s drivers at Le Mans. They vigorously raced the red and white Cobra Daytona Coupe until the 10th hour when a blown engine put them out of the race. After Le Mans, chassis CSX 2602 was returned to Alan Mann Racing. It was repainted in the Shelby American team colors and never raced again.

The original prototype Cobra Daytona Coupe that has been missing for 30 years, was recently sold for over $3 million dollars. As one of six closed Coupe Cobras, the prototype had a interesting racing career, but that is where the story starts.

After winning the Manufacturer's trophy for Shelby American in 1965, the six Coupes were retired. Ford brought the GT 40 project to Shelby to take over. The instructions were simple enough, retire the Cobras and race & win with the GT 40's. 

Daytona Coupe CXS2287 returned to Shelby American to be reconditioned. It joined the public relations Cobra Caravan touring the country. Later Craig Breedlove and Bobby Tatroe took it to the Bonneville Salt Flats and set 23 international and national speed records. 

Shelby wanted to sell the cars, but no one wanted the spent racing Coupes. They sat around Shelby American for a couple of years. The engine and transmissions were taken out. Interest finally awoke for the cars and they were sold, some for less than $4,000.

CSX2287 was sold to Jim Russell, owner of Russkit Models for $4,500. Russkit made slot-cars and model car kits. Russell converted the car for street use and kept it for about a year. He then sold the Coupe to Phil Spector, music producer. Russell had advertised the car for $12,500.

Spector drove the Coupe on the streets of Los Angeles. But retired racing cars do not make good street cars. Designed for high speed race tracks, the Coupe was uncomfortable and hot. The story has it that Spector got so many tickets his lawyer advised him to get rid of the Coupe before he had to give up his driver's license. Spector took it to a mechanic to see about making it more streetable. They said conversion was going to cost a lot of money. The shop suggested "scrapping it" and offered him $800 for it as a parts car. Spector didn't scrap the Coupe but he was ready to get rid of it.  George Brand, Spector's body guard, offered him $1,000 for the Coupe in 1971. Brand later gave the car to his daughter, Donna O'Hara. (Read below for an update on this part of the story.)

O'Hara and her husband, John, were approached numerous times about selling the car. The offers, according to the SAAC registry, were under market value and were repeatedly turned down. O'Hara finally did put a price on it equal to a piece of property they wanted to buy, but offered that kind of money for it. In 1982 the O'Hara's were divorced and Donna took the Coupe with her. She went into obscurity and hid the car. Potential buyers who found her were told to go away and she wouldn't confirm she even had the car. Rumors floated around that the Coupe set in a garage in Southern California unrestored. Actually as it turned out it was wasting away in storage. The legendary lost Daytona Cobra Coupe...

An article in the LA Times reported that Robert Lavoie, an attorney representing Kurt Goss, said she was approached at least two times in the last couple of years. She was offered about a half-million dollars but wouldn't sell it. She told friends she was going to hold on to it to pay for her retirement. During the 70's she let Goss drive it once in awhile. He was a childhood friend of Donna's.

The ownership of the car is now a court issue. On October 22, 2000, Donna O'Hara went under a bridge, her rabbits in hand, on a horse trail in Fullerton, poured gasoline on herself and lit it. It took her 15 hours to die. She was found before she died but refused to even give her name to the police or the hospital. A month later she was identified when some friends reported her missing.

Goss said she called him on October 17 and asked that he come to her La Habra house. There she asked Goss should something happen to her, if he would take care of her personal effects. Goss says she also said she wanted him to have the Coupe and three other cars she owned. When he heard that she died, he contacted her mother, Dorothy. He also paid the back rent for the storage garage where the Coupe was parked. However, the manager of the rental storage place would not let Goss move the car without proper legal authority. By the way, Donna died without a will.

In the meantime a rare car dealer from Montecito, Martin Eyears, contacted Donna's boss at Sears, trying to get in touch with her. He had tried to buy the car from her earlier and wanted to make another offer. He was told that she had died. Donna's boss agreed to pass Eyear's interest in the car to her mother. Dorothy Brand called Eyears on December 16 and agreed to sell him the Coupe for $3,000,000 and  reassured him that she and Donna's father were sole heirs to Donna's estate.

Apparently Eyears had an arrangement with Steve Volk, president of the Shelby American Collection in Boulder, CO, to sell the Coupe to the museum for $3,750,000. But he did not sell it to Volk, instead he sold it to a private collector on the East coast, Fredrick Simone, a Philadelphia neurosurgeon.

A legal fight over ownership of the car has broken out. When Goss learned of the sale, he went to the garage and to find that the car was gone. He retained an attorney to stop the sale of the car, and prove Donna gave him the Coupe. Goss has the title and the keys to the storage garage, the car is with the collector. Goss is being accused of taking the title illegally. Mrs. Brand has already given some the sale money to charities and other family members. Probate court has not settled Donna's estate yet so there are questions at to whether Mrs. Brand legally owned the car to be able to sell it to Eyears. Judge James Gray was quoted by the LA Times, "I'm going to challenge all of you and ask if you are not making this up. This smells from many standpoints." on March 6.  Gray ordered the remaining $2,000,000 be held until ownership can be resolved. The hearing is set for April 17, 2001.

Additional Information: Wallace Wyss, author of Shelby's Wildlife, sent me an email regarding the 4-17-01 hearing. Nothing was settled. Judge Gray was not happy that Mrs. Brand has not revealed where the $1,000,000 is that see reportedly gave away. Gray was also annoyed that Dr. Simone has not responded to any inquiries. And Gray set a date in October to reach a settlement if one is not reached prior.

To add to the confusion, Phil Spector now says he never sold the car to Brand. That in fact he only gave it to Brand to store. Store it for 30 years? Maybe Shelby never sold it to Russell, either.

Come back for further details!

(The sources for this article are: The SAAC Registry, The LA Times and The Orange County Register, 2001 and Wallace Wyss who was at the hearing.)

© Carmemories