This Car Matters: Shelby Daytona Cobra CSX2287

by: John R. Paul

June 11, 2012

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the legendary Shelby Cobra. An automotive and cultural icon, just six original Daytona coupes were built between 1964 and 1965. Of these, none hold the mystery, intrigue, and racing pedigree of the infamous CSX2287.     

Stories recorded and preserved in the Historic Vehicle Association’s This Car Matters project will highlight vehicles that strike a chord in both our personal and national consciousness. Our first installment in this regular eNews and Hagerty magazine series—a companion article to a feature that appeared in the spring 2012 issue of Hagerty—spotlights a vehicle that can certainly be classified as the latter.   

When planning the launch of This Car Matters back in March, the Cobra seemed like the perfect American car to kick off the campaign. The Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe has one of the greatest back stories of any car in the world.

Sadly, the Cobra’s creator, Carroll Shelby, died last month at the age of 89. The man who returned American racing to the forefront in the 1950s, Shelby took on Enzo Ferrari and the Italians with his now legendary Shelby Daytona Cobra coupes.

Serial number CSX2287 was the first coupe built and only Daytona constructed in the US. It won races, set records, and went on to lead perhaps one of the more bizarre post-racing existences of any car ever.

The Phil Factor

Initially designed and built as a way for American motorsports to better compete in the European arena—which it did to great effect in 1964, winning a number of significant races—CSX2287 was later used by Craig Breedlove on the Bonneville Salt Flats to set a number of land speed and endurance records. By the end of 1965, 23 international records had been set, including a staggering 150 mph average over a 24-hour stretch.

Following its time with Shelby and company racing around the world and setting land speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats, CSX2287 found its way into the hands of famed Wall-of-Sound producer and all-around weirdo Phil Spector. It was here, as the vehicle came into Spector’s possession, that things started to get a little strange.

Slowly realizing it was probably not the best car for daily driving, Spector allegedly unloaded the car onto his bodyguard, George Brand, for $1,000. From there, the car was passed on to Brand’s daughter, Donna O’Hara, with whom the car would ultimately reside for nearly 30 years, spending most of the time completely untouched in a southern California storage unit.

The Plot Thickens

Years passed and, as rumors began to spread of the car’s existence, collectors and motorsports enthusiasts began making their way to southern California in hopes of laying eyes on the car. By all accounts, O’Hara was not willing to so much as discuss the car, let alone allow anyone to actually see it or make an offer; even Carroll Shelby was turned away.

In 2000, O’Hara committed suicide by dosing herself with gasoline and setting herself on fire in public park near Fullerton, California. Upon identification of her remains and the discovery of her storage unit containing the car, CSX2287 was once again thrust into the public eye, this time through a drawn-out legal battle over the car’s true owner and who had the rights to sell, and subsequently purchase, the vehicle.

Simeone Steps In

Given CSX2287’s multi-million dollar price tag, a number of people who came forward claiming ownership—including Phil Spector—leading to a protracted court case and questions regarding who actually had the rights to sell the vehicle.

In the midst of all of this, CSX2287 made its way into the hands of HVA member Fred Simeone. It is now on display at the Simeone Automotive Museum as part of his collection chronicling the history of American motorsports. A true American icon, CSX2287 still sits much in its original, unrestored condition, allowing visitors to see the car as it was when Carroll Shelby and company were taking Europe by storm and when Craig Breedlove was laying waste to a number of records in the Bonneville Salt Flats. 

 

Comments

  1. A Sirtori Albany, NY

    Awesome story. I heard it for the first time from Carrol Shelby himself, when he spoke at the Saratoga Auto Museum in Upstate NY a few years ago. What an experience hearing him tell the story.

  2. Russ Keller K.C. MO

    Not sure if this is the same car Ken Miles drove but, if it is, I also drove it. I worked for Trans Wold Airlines in the 60's in Los Angeles in the cargo building. We were located directly across LAX from Shelby American and shipped many of the Shelby (and others) production cars and race cars. The production cars were usually DRIVEN on the airport service roads from Shelby to the TWA cargo building and the race cars were delivered by car hauler. Either way they all showed up with a small amount of gas in the tanks which had to be removed before being loaded on an airplane. We didn't have any other way available to us to remove the gas other than to run them--that's what we said anyway. I worked on the graveyard shift and it was not unusual for several of us to "drive the gas out of the Cobras". This "driving the gas out" included the race cars (that would run) and I was lucky enough to be there the night the Cobra had arrived. I don't remember much about the drive other than it was LOUD and hard to keep running. Incredibly we drove these cars up and down the service roads and around the cargojets that might be parked on the tarmac. We even had a call from the control tower one night asking if they could come down and look at the Cobras we had on hand--we told them to "stay there we would bring a couple of them up". Also incredible was that usually the cars were loaded in position 13 on the 707 C-jet and the easiest way to do that was to load the pallet in the position and then bring the car up on the loader to the airplane door and then drive the car back to position 13 to be tied down. We moved many of the last of the 427 Cobras and they were quite spectacular--it also was the last of "driving the gas out" as one of the employees got a little carried away with the throttle in a 427 Cobra and spun it into the landing gear of a 707 C-jet From then on we could only accept cars for shipping that already had the gas and battery removed.

  3. dave home

    cobra

  4. dave home

    cobra

  5. dave home

    cobra

  6. charles maryland

    Wonderful story! It caught my eye because I was recently at the All-Ford Nationals at Carlisle which was celebrating the 50th Anniv of Shelby. They claim to have the worlds largest gathering ever of Shelby autos (a good portion are the modern variety). But there were a good number of originals in Building T including three Cobras (one a 427) and a Daytona Coupe as well. I have never laid my eyes on an in the flesh Daytona. Could this have been another one of the six reported in this story? Does anyone know the history of this car?

  7. charles maryland

    Wonderful story! It caught my eye because I was recently at the All-Ford Nationals at Carlisle which was celebrating the 50th Anniv of Shelby. They claim to have the worlds largest gathering ever of Shelby autos (a good portion are the modern variety). But there were a good number of originals in Building T including three Cobras (one a 427) and a Daytona Coupe as well. I have never laid my eyes on an in the flesh Daytona. Could this have been another one of the six reported in this story? Does anyone know the history of this car?

  8. Todd Manville Bainbridge Island, WA

    Like the story about LAX.

  9. Stella The History

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