Many car enthusiasts know what the Shelby logo symbolizes when placed on a car. Traditionally it means that the branded vehicle is capable of producing extreme and unusual performance numbers that crush a lot of what the competition is offering.
Very few cars have a monumental place in history and the Shelby Daytona just happens to be one of them. With the Daytona recently being chosen for historic preservation for its significant contributions to the auto racing industry, let’s take a look at what makes this car so special.
It all started with Carroll Shelby’s desire to return to Europe’s Le Mans race and beat Enzo Ferrari with a car of his own design. Having learned quite a lot from the previous race that he won in 1959, Carroll set out to create what would become the Daytona. After tasking Pet Brock and Bob Negstad with the design of the bodywork and suspension, the two ambitious men started their journey. This project paid off as the car ended up winning many races, not only in the United States of America but also in races held in European circuits as well. It allowed for Ferrari’s winning streak to come to a stop and for Shelby to take the spotlight.
While the design wasn’t made from scratch, the Daytona Shelby’s chassis was built on the base of another model from Shelby - the Cobra Roadster. The Daytona ended up being powered by a beastly 289 cu in 4.7 Liter V8 engine, which was lighter, very potent, and capable of producing 385 hp. The transmission was handled by a 4-speed manual gearbox. The horsepower number may seem a little low for the time, but the overall light build of the car and finely tuned aerodynamics allowed it to achieve incredible results. It was this overall package that allowed the Daytona to outplace the Ferrari 250 GTO in all races, a monumental achievement as the 250 GTO was Ferrari's proud creation that was thought to be unbeatable.
Reports say that this car was quite the monster to drive and that everything from the clutch and brakes to gearshifts felt amazing to use, highlighting the finely tuned engineering that went into every little detail. With all that in mind, this isn’t a car that is exactly easy to drive for the average consumer, but that is quite expected as it was intended to be handled by the best of the best in the auto racing industry.
Despite being built as a race car the interior is quite habitable and the exterior look has inspired many models moving forward. On the inside, aluminum dominates the cabin and since it is a race car, the interior contains crossbars to ensure the driver’s protection in case of a rollover. With its gently flowing curves and perfectly designed surfaces, the Daytona is incredibly beautiful and yet anyone looking at it knows what kind of power it's hiding.
Today, the Daytona Shelby is considered one of the most important vehicles in car manufacturing history and racing. It is a heavy target of classic car collectors and since there are only 6 of them, the price can be astronomical. In 2015 a limited run of 50 continuation Daytonas was made to mark the 50th anniversary of Daytona’s historic win. But even then most of us can only dream of ever touching, let alone driving a vehicle of such status and in our humble opinion, the Daytona Shelby is every bit as impressive in real life as it is on the pages of history books. It’s not a perfect car, but given its purpose and history, it comes pretty close to that title.