The Shelby Daytona Coupe was the first American car ever to win the FIA World Sportscar Championship, and it won back-to-back class victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring. As the car celebrates its 50th birthday this year, it has another honor to add to its list of accolades. The first vehicle to be placed on the National Historic Vehicle Register is 1964 Daytona Coupe serial number CSX2287, the prototype the rest of models were based on.
To be added to the list, an individual car must meet at least one of four criteria. It should be associated with an important American historic event, or it should be associated with important American historic figures. It should also have an exceptional value in its design or construction, or it should have exceptional informational value. The Daytona hits them all.
Carroll Shelby ticks the first two boxes easily. He was the consummate showman. He pitched himself as a hard working Texan who went to Europe to take on the best drivers in the world, and he famously wore his chicken farming overalls as he drove an Aston Martin to overall victory in the 1959 24 Hours of Le Mans. When his health got in the way, and he started building his own cars.
The car fills the other two requirements. Peter Brock, a talented racer in his own right who worked in Shelby's shop, took a bare Shelby Cobra chassis and formed an aluminum coupe body to lay over it. The most ingenious part was the cut-off Kamm-tail that improved aerodynamics while keeping weight down.
The Daytona Coupe never got to compete in its inaugural race in 1964 at Daytona because of a fire in the pits. However, it came back to take class victories in the 12 Hours of Sebring and 24 Hours of Le Mans. For the 1965 season, the team won the World Sportscar Championship.
Shelby Daytona Coupe CSX2287 is on display at the Washington Auto Show until February 2, and after that it is on display at the Simeone Foundation Auto Museum in Philadelphia, PA.