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  AC Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
 

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Country of origin:United States
Produced from:1964 - 1965
Numbers built:6
Designed by:Pete Brock for Shelby American
Predecessor:AC Shelby Cobra Le Mans
Author:Wouter Melissen
Last updated:September 10, 2012
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Click here to download printer friendly versionDuring much of his active racing career Carroll Shelby raced against Ferrari(s). That did not change when he turned to building his own racing car, the Cobra. This well-honed machine was more than a match for Italy's finest on the tight American tracks, winning the USRRC Championship in 1963. However on the high-speed tracks that hosted the FIA GT World Championship rounds the Shelby Cobra was let down by its poor (brick-like) aerodynamics. The 'FIA specification' Cobras were fitted with special hard-tops but these did not lower the drag sufficiently to keep up with the less powerful Ferraris on the straights. Shelby realized that far more drastic measures were needed and he asked his head of special projects Pete Brock to pen a low drag coupe body.

A former stylist at General Motors, Brock was no stranger to design work but this was quite a challenge. He was not restricted by homologation requirements as the rules allowed for a completely new body as long as the mechanicals were not modified. Amazingly Brock did all the design work by eye and used no aides like a wind-tunnel. The final result was far from conventional combining an elegant round nose with a steeply raked windshield and a 'cut-off' rear end. As had been established by German engineer Wunibald Kamm many years earlier, a cut-off tail offered almost identical drag figures as the much less practical long tail. A wooden body-buck was created over which the new panels for the first Cobra Coupe were formed at California Metal Shaping before being assembled at Shelby American's Venice, California workshop.

British engineer and racing driver Ken Miles was also deeply involved in the development of the Cobra Coupe. He had actually been involved with the Cobra project from the beginning and served as Shelby's official test driver. His work focused around the AC sourced ladder frame chassis and Ford's small-block V8. There was far less room for modifications here and Miles only made subtle changes. Among them was a revised driving position to allow for the very low roofline of Brock's coupe design. He also strengthened the chassis to further improve the handling characteristics. The rolling chassis nevertheless retained many of the elements that were part of the original AC Ace designed over a decade earlier. Benefitting from the latest updates, the Ford V8 engine produced nearly 400 bhp.

The first Cobra Coupe was completed early in 1964 and extensively tested at the nearby Riverside track. The testing revealed that although somewhat unusual, Brock's design worked remarkably well. Miles clocked a 183 mph top speeds, beating the original Cobra Roadster by 20 mph. On February 16th, the prototype Coupe made its racing debut at the Daytona 2000 km race. Piloted by Dave MacDonald and Bob Holbert, the Cobra saw a debut victory denied by a pit fire. From then on the car was referred to as the Cobra Daytona Coupe. A month later, during the Sebring 12 Hours, MacDonald and Holbert were more fortunate. They finished an impressive 4th overall and clinched the all important win in the GT class, a full eight laps ahead of the best placed Ferrari. In April, the Cobra Daytona impressed once more by setting the fastest time in the GT class during the official Le Mans tests.

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  Article Image gallery (81) Chassis (6) Specifications User Comments (2)