THIS CAR MATTERS: Shelby Daytona Cobra CSX2287

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.

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