My Car Quest

June 27, 2022

The Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe vs The Ferrari 250 GTO

by Wallace Wyss –

It is only, gosh, three years after the event happened but sometimes I have to struggle to keep up with classic car events going on worldwide. This event that I just discovered was a comparison between the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and the Ferrari 250 GTO at the Simeone Automotive Museum in 2014.

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe vs The Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO and Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

They called it the “indoor Demo Day “ and the presentation featured a genuine, not replica, example of each car. As the pictures by Andrew Taylor amply demonstrated, there was plenty of similarities but also plenty of differences between these two cars born one year apart. The Cobra, CSX2287, was the very first Coupe built and the first to race, at Daytona in 1964, where it was leading until a fire put it out of the race.

The Ferrari shown alongside at the Museum it was the second GTO built and the car that finished second overall, first in class, at the 1962 Sebring 12-hour race, driven by Phil Hill and Olivier Gendebien. The owner of the Ferrari, Mr. Bernard Carl, was kind enough to be on hand to offer his impressions of driving both cars. He was also a former owner of another Daytona Cobra Coupe, #2601.

The Simeone Museum is a museum that doesn’t just believe in static displays, so they make sure that, on occasion, you “ see, hear, and smell famous race cars run.”

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe vs The Ferrari 250 GTO

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and Ferrari 250 GTO

The Demo Days, which began in 2009, feature extremely rare racing sports cars from the Simeone collection being driven on the three-acre lot in back of the Museum.

Dr. Simeone himself gave a lecture on the cars.

Brock Debriefed – Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

Now my memory might admittedly be a bit faulty after 40 years but, when I interviewed Pete Brock, former Shelby American employee, for my book Shelby’s Wildlife, over 40 years ago, he told me he conceived of the shape of the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe all by himself, and he was not consciously echoing the shape of any other car. But you have to admit, seeing the long bonnet, sloping rear deck of his 1964 Cobra Daytona coupe right alongside the year earlier 250GTO, the Italian car must have had some subliminal influence.

Peter Brock and Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

Peter Brock and Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

In the front, though, the two cars are more markedly different. The Ferrari GTO has those three inlet holes above the main grille cavity, and by the way those holes could be covered with little doors on a cold day. The Cobra Daytona coupe had a more efficient hood vent, in the form of a hole in the bonnet, with an under tray leading from the bottom of the radiator up to the hole so that air that had been through the radiator was expended, if not sucked out by this arrangement.

In the rear, the Daytona coupe had a rear spoiler, much like the 250GTO, though it is worth pointing out that, when the 250GTO was first rolled out of the factory, it had no rear spoiler. It was obvious from the first tail lift problems that it needed one. It is unclear to this author whether they had already attached that spoiler by the time Brock was designing his car.

In terms of side vents, the Ferrari 250GTO had the famous three vertical (or shall I say inclined) hot air exhaust vents. The Daytona coupe also had a side vent, it’s hard to say which was more efficient.

As far as livability (and who is to say whether either was really planned for street driving?) the GTO was far more livable. Its side windows went up and down where, on the the Cobra Daytona coupe they weren’t glass but plexiglass and fixed in place, making it a virtual hot box. And in the Daytona coupe. one thing that contributed to creating a hot box was the side pipes sunk into the rocker sills while the Ferrari 250GTO has the exhausts coming out the back as befits a street car.

Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe vs The Ferrari 250 GTO

Ferrari 250 GTO (top) and Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe (bottom)

I actually had a ride in a 250GTO with a Motor Trend associate art director driving (that car owned by Monterey Historics founder Steve Earle), so I can verify it was a moderately comfortable street car though you could in fact drive it from the street right onto a race track.

I never had a ride in a Daytona Cobra coupe, though I am sure it is a more grueling experience, though Phil Spector, the former owner of the car shown here, did indeed drive his on Sunset Strip, managing to endure its discomforts in exchange for the status of driving a bona fide race car on the street. Another former Cobra Daytona coupe owner who told me he street drove the car and managed to street race it in the Hollywood Hills was former Shelby team member Bob Bondurant.

Forty years ago, I asked Pete Brock about the Aston Martin 214 and 215, Zagato bodied cars that Aston prepared and raced in 1963, whether they were responsible for inspiring him to have the concave rear end of his Daytona coupe but he didn’t seem to remember those models though I subsequently found a picture of Brock racing a Lotus behind an Aston 214 or 215 so I thought he would remember following that car around the track.

Suffice to say that both cars had the influence of the E-type Jaguar motivating them, though ironically Enzo’s panic that the E-type would shame the Ferraris on the track was misplaced; they weren’t reliable enough to threaten the subsequent GTO in any way.

I have to give Brock credit for whatever you call it; maybe “situational awareness,” having beaucoup publicity pictures taken in 1964 while the events involving the cars design and fielding in combat were happening at Shelby, showing him with drawings, clay models, etc. so that, when any historians came along decades later, they would have ample proof that yes indeed this young designer was the man responsible for such a brilliant design. (I always think of taking those pictures long after the situation happened…).

Peter Brock and Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

Peter Brock and Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe

Brock left Shelby-American when the Ford GT came on strong, those cars designed in Dearborn and there was no longer a need for a by-guess-and-by-gosh designer who could design on the spot.

In the comparative value department, it is difficult to affix a present day dollar value to the two models. Dr. Simeone is believed to have paid car finder Martin Eyears $3 million for the Daytona coupe, which he wrested away from the mother of the girl that owned it after she died, while the last 250GTO sale I am aware of was said to be around $38 million though I heard rumors of one going for $52 million since. The most I can remember a Daytona coupe going for at a public auction was at the Mecum auction in Monterey in 2009 for $7,685,000.

This in spite of the fact there are six times as many 250GTOs as there are Cobra Daytona coupes.

The remarkable thing about the Cobra Daytona coupe is that, when Shelby first set aside time and money to build the car, the rest of his race-veteran crew had been pessimistic that this kid, who designed the firm’s T-shirts, graphics and the like, could come up with a winning design. They nicknamed it “the slug.” And then when the car went out for testing at Riverside, the call came in to the shop that it reached 180 mph on the straight, there was begrudging praise for The Kid. That was about 10 mph faster than the 289 Cobra roadster could do downhill, flat out in top cog, with the wind….

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss, author of SHELBY: The Man, the Cars, the Legend, reports that film rights to his book are once again available, the first option by Hollywood having lapsed.




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The Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe vs The Ferrari 250 GTO
Article Name
The Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe vs The Ferrari 250 GTO
This event that I just discovered was a comparison between the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and the Ferrari 250 GTO at the Simeone Automotive Museum in 2014.


  1. Mike Clarke says

    Bizzarrini designed the GTO years ahead of the Daytona and was already working on the Iso A3C which sitting next to the Daytona made the Daytona look like a brick aerodynamically with it’s windshield in a upright position. I think the A3C and Daytona is a much better comparison because their build dates are closer. One interesting detail on the Daytona is the small front flairs that were added on. Being only a inch wide I always wondered what their purpose was?

  2. Wally,

    Back in the day, my racing partner, Charles C. Jones owned one of those Daytona Coupes, my recolation is that it was fitted with an automatic transmission.

    Have a happy day.


    • Neil Tusing says

      If it had an automatic transmission, it had to be a replica. All six of the original Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes had 4-speed manual transmissions. CSX2287 is in original condition and the only one built in the US. The remaining five were all built in Modena, Italy and have been restored to immaculate condition.

  3. Ron Spangler says

    Wallace, the comparison between the Ferrari and the SHELBY were done by me as the marketing and PR chief for Simeone Museum and I sold the GTO to its present owner I’m at cell 4103827100

    I have video we shot for PBS MotorWeek, of which I am a Producer.

    Prancing Horse Farm.

    Ron Spangler

  4. Neil Tusing says

    There was also a comprehensive design comparison of the Copbra Daytona Coupe and the 250 GTO published in Automotive History Review, Autumn, 2015, Issue 56.

  5. Derby Preston says

    I think one important factor left out here is that Pete was educated in design and No discredit to the older gaurd but , he studied Areodynamics from 1930 ish German Technical Reviews to come up with the Design …. Note Flipped up rear fuselage ….. Carroll gave him the worst Cobra in the stable ! I thnk it was crashed or burnt up ! With one intern and himself he changed History re : add Bob Bonduraunt to the Shelby Magic

  6. Fuad Camanero says

    There were a few cars that looked like that, the Jaguar Coupe also has a similar shape.
    I believe that since the Daytona Coupe won the World Championship is under valued. There are about 39 GTO’s and only 7 Daytona Coupes. But a GTO is worth about $80Milliin, I think a Daytona Coupe should be worth at least $40Million, since it’s a rarer car.

  7. Fuad Camanero says

    The Jaguar e type was built before these cars, the inspiration could have been from the Jaguar 🙂

  8. Wallace Wyss says

    The Pete Brock-designed Daytona coupe was pretty much of a steal from the GTO though Brock likes to tell of how he discovered a German book on aerodynamics that gave him the basic idea. It is odd they ran the Daytona coupe without a rear spoiler at first though Ferrari had already learned that it needed one on their car. It is too bad the Daytona coupe was never refined enough to run as a street car. I know Bondurant had one as a street car but then he could handle it, having driven one in racing but it was too hot and uncomfortable compared to the 250GTO, one of which I was treated to a street drive in.

  9. Giotto designed the GTO but by the time Brock designed the Daytona Giotto had moved onto the next phase of the GTO with his Iso A3C.

  10. We were there!

    How is Wally?

    All the best


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