Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe: The autobiography of CSX2300
Most motorsport enthusiasts are agreed on the fact that the 1960s was one of the most innovative and exciting decades of the twentieth century in motor racing. In fact, there was such diversity and innovation amongst the top race car manufacturers during this time, that the sport of motor racing grew in popularity around the globe at a phenomenal rate. This period saw the emergence of the fantastic Ferrari, Aston Martin, Ford and Porsche race cars, with each year writing a new chapter in the sport.
It could be argued that this decade started back in the 1950s when Jaguar produced the race-winning D-type with its aviation inspired construction and aerodynamically designed body. Rivalry between the different race car manufacturers was fierce, and each one would borrow a bit of know-how from the others in order to gain an advantage.
In the 1960s though, Ferrari was riding high, winning almost at will, while Porsche with its smaller capacity sports cars was always ready to pick up the scraps in the overall stakes, should one of the bigger manufacturers falter. Aston Martin too, was a constant threat, but Ford was left frustratingly on the sidelines without a dedicated race winner to speak of.
Texan, Carroll Shelby, having won the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1959 with Aston Martin, found that he was unable to continue as a racing driver for health reasons, and so he set about making his own racing cars. To cut a long story short, the first AC/Shelby Cobra was homologated in October 1962 fitted with Ford power. The Cobra was systematically and continually modified and upgraded until it became a serious contender on the international stage.
While the AC/Shelby Cobra was a good race car, and getting better all the time, it did lack in aerodynamic efficiency. Peter Brock was Director of Special Projects at Shelby American from 1962-1965, and he was charged with the task of rectifying this. The story of how he did this is a fascinating one, and it is a process that is explained in depth by Rinsey Mills in his excellent book, Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe: The autobiography of CSX2300. Brock was at the forefront of the aero revolution in GT race car development, an incredibly exciting and revolutionary period in the sport. There was little research to support Brock’s theory at first, and so it was that manufacturers at this time were almost learning as they went along.
Not only does the author cover the development of Brock’s Cobra Daytona Coupé, but as mentioned, it plays out in the most exciting of times in the sport. The presence of the Cobra Daytona Coupé added to the already heightened level of competition, and it helped Shelby to lift the 1965 GT Manufacturers’ Championship from Ferrari by a wide margin. But this book tells in detail the story of one car primarily, Cobra Daytona CSX2300, one of just six original Coupés produced by Shelby and one of just three to have had its bodywork crafted by Carrozzeria Gransport in Modena, Italy, and not in California.
The author covers the early Cobra development and moves through the 1964 and 1965 race seasons, giving the reader race-by-race detail. Each race is described in great depth, with its own set of results, offering the reader a full account of events. The photographs presented offer a decent mix of B&W and colour, and have been selected from some of the best photographers in their day, including Bernard Cahier and Dave Friedman. The races covered include Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans, Reims, Monza, Spa, Nürburgring, Goodwood, Tour de France and many more.
There is a comprehensive section devoted to some of the big-name drivers of the Cobra Daytona Coupé, and these include: Bob Bondurant, Jochen Neerpasch, Allen Grant, Ed Leslie, Jo Schlesser, André Simon, Jack Sears and John Whitmore. The author then devotes the closing section of the book to CSX2300 in its later life. The book’s Foreword is written by none other than Peter Brock, a most approachable and highly respected engineer.
The fabulous Cobra Daytona Coupé, brutally purposeful in both looks and performance, was created to win the FIA World Sportscar Championship. Importantly, though, the Cobra Daytona Coupé beat Ferrari comprehensively in the large-capacity GT class in 1965 – the category that really counted in the eyes of the public. CSX2300, took part in five championship rounds in its two active seasons in period (one in 1964, four in 1965).
Although Shelby claimed the GT Manufacturers’ title in ’65, Ford was not satisfied with this as they wanted to wrest the Le Mans 24 Hour crown away from Ferrari. After Ford’s attempt to buy the Ferrari company fell through (1963), an enraged Henry Ford II vowed to win the Le Mans 24 Hours, a race in which the Ferraris were hitherto supreme. Although the Cobra Daytona Coupé went some way towards achieving that goal, the GT sports car could not hope to beat the lightweight prototypes from Maranello, and Ford subsequently turned its attention to the development of the GT40. The legend that is the GT40 is a story for another day, but one cannot overestimate the important role that the Cobra Daytona Coupé played in showing Ford that they could do it.
Truly one of the ‘Great Cars’, the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupé is a most worthy title in this acclaimed series of books. The author, Rinsey Mills, is a lifelong enthusiast of the Cobra, having restored and raced the cars. Any enthusiast of motorsport in the 1960s, whether that be Ferrari, Cobra, Aston Martin, Jaguar or Porsche, this book will prove a most valuable addition to your motorsport library.