Prototype Project: Vehicle History

The documentation for each vehicle on the Register will include a narrative of the vehicle's background. The following text is a brief overview of the Shelby Daytona Coupe's history.

CSX2287

Photo: Craig Breedlove awaits refueling of CSX2287 during his record-breaking run at the Bonneville Salt Flats in November 1965.

The Shelby program that eventually birthed the Daytona Coupe began in 1962 when Carroll Shelby, winner as co-driver of the 1959 24 Hours of LeMans and former chicken farmer, walked into the Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn offices requesting several of their new small-block V-8 engines to create a sports car designed to defeat rival Chevrolet’s Corvettes. With his request honored and body and chassis provided by AC Cars in England, Shelby began work on crafting the perfect sports car. By 1963, the Shelby Cobra was dominating and transforming American road racing.

While a hit on the American scene, the car’s shape and aerodynamics prevented it from being a real contender on the international scene. At the time, the Italians, specifically Ferrari, were dominating international races. Shelby would not be outdone by Ferrari, given his history of having won previously with the automaker , and was determined to create a vehicle considerably faster. With backing from Ford and the talents of a young designer named Peter Brock (who had, notably, worked on the original Corvette Stingray prototype and was the youngest designer ever hired by GM), Shelby set out to create a coupe that could take on and defeat Ferrari.

Peter Brock, who had previously been hired to run the High Performance Driving School at Shelby American, began design work on CSX2287, the first of six Shelby Daytona Coupes, in October of 1963. Using German aerodynamics theorist Wunibald Kamm’s radical design principle, Brock, with the support of Shelby driver Ken Miles and fabricator John Ohlsen, created a revolutionary body style that eventually helped push Shelby just that much farther ahead of the competition.

While met with initial resistance, Brock’s design garnered the full support of Shelby American when, on February 11, 1964, Ken Miles used the car to break previously held team records at Riverside. Within a week the car made its debut at the Daytona Continental. Leading (and lapping the competition), CSX2287’s auspicious debut came to a less than glamorous end when a fire on the rear differential during a fueling stop forced Carroll Shelby to make the decision to pull the car.

Following repairs, CSX2287 made its return the following month at Sebring, where, driven by Bob Holbert and Dave MacDonald, it finished first in class and fourth overall. At the LeMans Test event in April, this time driven by Jo Schlesser and Phil Hill, the car again finished first in class and fifth overall.

Prior to the running of the 500km Spa on May 17, 1964, a rear wing was added to provide for greater stability. This was the first true test of the vehicle’s stability at high speeds on long, open straightaways and confirmed initial assumptions that a wing would be required. Previous domestic races had been contested on banked tracks that created the necessary down force to keep the car from becoming unmanageable.

In June, CSX2287 returned to LeMans for the 24 Hours of LeMans racing under B.S. Cunningham (previous events had been raced under Shelby American Inc.). Due to a pit violation in the tenth hour in which a new battery was installed in the car, it was pulled from the race. July saw the car contesting at Reims where it was again forced to retire, this time due to an issue with the gearbox.

With Phil Hill driving, CSX2287 completed its last event in August of 1964, finishing eleventh overall at the Goodwood Tourist Trophy. September’s Tour de France was the final event of the 1964 season for the car, however, after experiencing mechanical issues, it was forced to withdraw.

That fall, CSX2287, along with its fellow Daytona Coupes, returned to the United States where it would remain until the following year’s 24 Hours of LeMans. This proved to be CSX2287’s final race and again saw the car having to withdraw, this time due to an issue with the head gasket.

With the Shelby Daytona Coupes having helped capture the 1965 World Manufacturer’s Championship for Ford, CSX2287 was returned to the U.S., where it was cleaned up, repainted and, with its fellow Daytona Coupes, place in the Cobra Caravan, touring the country and making appearances at car shows.

That November, CSX2287 was enlisted by Craig Breedlove and Bobby Tratroe to help retain control of the Bonneville Salt Flats while their respective vehicles underwent repairs. During the short time the car was in their possession, they set twenty-three national and international records.

Following its record-breaking run at Bonneville, CSX2287 was offered for sale along with the other Daytona Coupes. The car was purchased in December of 1965 by American Russkit owner Jim Russell. Russell had the car repainted its 1965 team colors, Royal Guardsman Blue with white racing stripes. By the next December, CSX2287 was again for sale.

In 1966, the car was purchased by music producer Phil Spector. Spector used the vehicle for daily transportation until he accumulated a few too many parking tickets, at which time he allegedly sold the car to his bodyguard, George Brand.

By 1971, the car was in the hands of Brand’s daughter Donna (O’Hara) who, with her husband John O’Hara, drove the car for a short time before placing it into storage. CSX2287 remained in storage and elusive for the next several decades. Following her divorce and years of refusals to let anyone see the car, O’Hara committed suicide in 2000, dousing herself and two pet rabbits in gasoline under a bridge outside Los Angeles.

Following a rather lengthy legal battle, the car was purchased by Dr. Frederick Simeone of Philadelphia. Dr. Simeone had the car thoroughly inspected and, with the help of Robert Ash, conducted preservation work on the vehicle. Today CSX2287 resides in Dr. Simeone’s museum.