Are You My Shelby Daytona?

A Superformance replica of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, this one on California plates.
A Superformance replica of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, this one on California plates.
Photo: Superformance

There was a brief moment in my car life when I had read about the great cars, but hadn’t quite gotten to the part about everyone making replicas of them. I once chased some guy in a kit car halfway across my little California downtown because I thought I saw a 1930s Mercedes.

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It was somewhere in these sweet, innocent years that I saw it. A flash of blue, a flash of white. I saw it only for a moment. My head craned to see it as we turned the corner of some shady Sacramento side street. I can’t remember what neighborhood, but if my family’s habits were anything to go by, we were somewhere near the zoo or somewhere near Vic’s. It’s a sweet piece of the world, that part of Sacramento. Land Park. It looks like America looks in the movies. Big houses with bigger trees in front of them. Skinny old driveways, this one with a Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe in it.

Certainly, there’s no way that it was a Shelby Daytona Coupe. Six Daytona Coupes were ever made, though one did get lost in a rather morbid story, as we wrote when we put this car in the Jalopnik Fantasy Garage back in 2007:

While the Daytona went on to dominate the 1964 and 1965 GT racing seasons, the writing was sadly already on the wall. In 1964, the year it won Le Mans, the fastest lap time was actually set by another American driving another Ford product, the all-conquering Ford GT40. Phil Hill averaged a lap at 131 mph until he and his car were sidelined with a busted gearbox. The next year, Henry Ford II scooped up most of Shelby’s best people (Shelby was involved with the GT40 program from the start) and the Cobra racing effort got its corporate funding yanked so as not to steal the GT40's thunder. The six Daytona Coupes were (illegally) flown back to Los Angeles. Shelby couldn’t even sell them as interest had totally dissipated. Shockingly, he finally unloaded the Daytonas for about $5,000 a pop.

There is some comeuppance, though. It is true that all six cars were flown from England back to the States, but until 2001 only five were thought to exist. The sixth car? No one knew. Then a woman named Donna O’Hara lit herself on fire. In her locked storage shed, was the missing sixth car, called CSX2287, that her father had purchased years earlier and left to her. Undoubtedly the greatest barn find in the history of car collecting, its worth is valued at over $4,000,000. Not bad for an initial investment of about five grand.

I only saw the distinctive Kammback tail of that Scaramento car for an instant, but that shape — white on one side, blue on the other — was unmistakable. I knew what I had seen.

At least I thought I did. It wasn’t long after that it dawned on me that people had been building fiberglass replicas of these Daytona Coupes for years, in their garages, in South Africa, everywhere. That never dulled the magic of that encounter, a vision in a young eye never forgotten. I still wonder where that car is now, if only to know I wasn’t dreaming.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

markoff8585
Markoff8585

It seems like the type of people attracted to kit cars aren’t really car people.