What may be the most valuable
of all American racing cars almost didn't get built.
"It looks fairly contemporary now," said
Peter Brock, who designed the Shelby Cobra Daytona
Coupe for the 1964 racing season. "But when
I first showed my sketches [to the Shelby American
racing team], they thought it was so ugly they refused
to work on it."
Fortunately for Brock, for Shelby American, and
for American racing period, the team's newest crew
member, John Ohlsen, a New Zealander who had only
recently arrived in southern California, joined Brock
and driver and early-believer Ken Miles in working
on the car, a car would make its maiden run by setting
a track record at Riverside, a car that finished
fourth overall - and ahead of all the Ferraris GTOs
- in the 1964 24-hour race at Le Mans, a car that
in 1965 would bring the world sports car racing championship
to the United States.
The car that won that championship - a championship
clinched on the Fourth of July in Reims, France -
was 1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe (serial number
CSX2601), which will be offered for sale in mid-May
at the 22nd annual Dana Mecum Original Spring Classic
Auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. In March,
the car began something of a victory lap when it
was reunited with driver Bob Bondurant, who drove
or co-drove the car to all five of its GT-class victories
during the 1965 season.
From its laps around the track at Bondurant's School
of High-Performance driving just south of Phoenix,
the car headed to the concours d'elegance at Amelia
Island, Florida, and then on to Sebring for 12-hour
While Brock designed the car with its remarkable
0.29 coefficient of drag -- such slick aerodynamics
that Bondurant and co-driver Dan Gurney could reach
197 miles per hour on the Mulsanne Straight at Le
Mans -- he said at the reunion that he'd actually
appropriated the car's shape from designs done by
a German teenager in the late 1930s.
Brock, himself just a few years beyond his teens,
had seen drawings done in Germany in 1938 and 1939
by Baron Reinhold Koenig-Faschenfeld, who was studying
under famed aerodynamicist Wunibald Kamm. Kamm got
credit for the cropped "Kammback" tail
because, said Brock, Koenig-Faschenfeld's name was
so long and Kamm's was nice and short, plus Kamm
was the professor and Koenig-Faschenfeld was still
Amazingly, Brock added, Koenig-Faschenfeld was working
on designs not for cars at all, but for buses and
trucks that would travel on Germany's then-new autobahns.
Shelby team chief engineer Phil Remington eventually
devised the rear lip spoiler that helped stabilize
the car and the rest, as they say, is history.
Well, not quite. Brock and Bondurant told how the
Daytona Coupes -- there were six of them -- had become
obsolete as racers at the end of the 1965 season
and were being housed at a race shop in England when
British tax officials came to collect duties. To
the racers, said Brock, "the cars had no value,"
and neither Shelby American nor British racer Alan
Mann wanted to pay taxes or pay to have the cars
shipped back to the United States. Mann finally found
someone with a barge who was willing to take a British
tax official aboard to verify the cars had been dumped
in the sea.
Rather than left the cars that had done so much
for American racing go to such a fate, the Shelby
team finally paid to have them shipped back to the
United States, where they were sold for as little
as $800 each. While they no longer were eligible
for any racing classes, they could be licensed and
driven on the street.
After returning to the U.S. CSX2601 appeared in
the movie Red Line 7000. Early in 1968, Bondurant
bought CSX2601 for $4,000. He sold it later that
year for $10,000 - "I thought I'd made a killing,"
he said - using the money to start his school of
Bondurant sold the car to a man from North Dakota
who owned six gas stations spread over 300 miles.
"He used the car to pick up the gas receipts
every day," Dana Mecum noted.
And now, Mecum added, a car so little valued that
it nearly was dumped into the sea, a car that at
one time was bought and sold for a few thousand dollars,
a car that was used to fetch gas station receipts,
is expected to bring bids in May in excess of $10