Carroll Shelby’s 1964 ‘Secret Weapon’
September 6, 2017
*See images in the photo gallery below
Shelby American will finish the secret weapon program that Carroll Shelby envisioned for the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans with a limited production series of big block Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes. Six aluminum cars will be built to Shelby’s specifications for the original race car.
“We’re taking care of some ‘unfinished business’ for Carroll Shelby,” said Joe Conway, co-CEO of Carroll Shelby International and CEO of Shelby American. “It was sometimes called the ‘car that never was’ because a lone big block Daytona prototype was built but never raced. We plan to complete this amazing program by offering six turn-key 427 powered Daytona Coupe race cars, which is the same number as the small block versions built in the 1960s.”
Carroll Shelby in 1964 asked renowned fabricator John Ohlsen to lengthen the chassis of one of the six Daytona Coupes (CSX2286) to replace the 289 c.i.d. Ford engine with a NASCAR inspired big block. The experimental race car was supposed to be Shelby’s “secret weapon” for the 1964 Le Mans race.
One of the development drivers for the big block car was Bob Bondurant. He stated that the Cobra’s tremendous torque allowed him to burn rubber and get sideways in any gear. He noted that the Shelby “went like stink” and speculated that it could have topped 200 mph at Le Mans. Weighing about 2,200 pounds with world class aerodynamics and the power of a big block, the car had tremendous performance potential, according to Shelby American.
However, destiny intervened. The truck carrying CSX2286 to Le Mans was involved in an accident that damaged the Shelby too much to be repaired in time for the race. It never ran a lap with the 427 and was returned to small block configuration by Shelby American. Dan Gurney and Allen Grant drove CSX2286 at Le Mans with the 289 engine the next year, but the Cobra did not finish the race.
The continuation big block Daytona Coupes follow the same specs as the Ohlsen modified race car. All Daytona Coupes will feature an aluminum body that can be painted in any race livery. Each continuation Coupe will feature a 3-inch lengthened chassis and hood to accept a powerful aluminum 427 medium-riser big block motor, which will be supplied by the Shelby Engine Co.. The powerful 550-plus horsepower engine will be mated to a period-correct four-speed manual transmission. Each will be assigned a Shelby CSX2000 series serial number for documentation in the official Shelby Registry.
“This is an incredible opportunity to own a very rare collectible Shelby heritage race car,” said Gary Patterson, president of Shelby American. “Like the six small block cars built in the 1960s, these 427 powered Daytona Coupes will be a lasting tribute to another innovative Shelby race car that would have caught the racing world off guard. These coupes will be every bit as much a ‘secret weapon’ as Carroll had hoped for in 1964.”
CSX2603 will debut in polished aluminum bearing the No. 4 and sporting a pair of white stripes with a single blue between them. This is the number and stripe scheme that CSX2286 would have worn for the 1964 Le Mans.
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