CSX2287, the first vehicle placed in the National Historic Vehicle Register. Photos by Adam Pepper.
Editor’s note: This piece comes to us from Adam Pepper, a freelance contributor who attended last weekend’s debut Preservation Workshop at the Simeone Automotive Museum.
Saturday, December 12, marked the beginning of a new Preservation Workshop series at the Simeone Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, presented by museum founder Dr. Fred Simeone and featuring Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe CSX2287, the very first example built. The workshop was the perfect opportunity to view the original-condition coupe, get in-depth details, and meet Dr. Fred and museum staff in person.
This was my first look at a real Daytona, and the car did not disappoint. Low and sleek, it has a purposeful, almost brutal look. The unique shape of the car’s roof has signatures from Carroll Shelby, Pete Brock, Phil Hill, Bob Bondurant and Craig Breedlove. Cast Halibrand wheels are art in themselves, created for this car and riding on period-correct Goodyear “Blue Streak Stock Car Special” tires. The rear Plexiglas window is in good condition, sporting an ancient “Morse Signal Devices” decal, and revealing a spare Halibrand wheel, held in by three bungee cords. The whole package looks taut and ready for action.
CSX2287 was the first of six Daytona Cobra Coupes, the only one built here in the States. Pete Brock, at 24 years old, a designer and instructor at Shelby’s “School of High Performance Driving,” penned the Coupe’s body shape to increase top speed. His new design was unconventional; some of his fellow Shelby American employees doubted it would work. Initial testing at Riverside got them quickly on board, and the new Coupe proved itself to be 20+ MPH faster than the roadster’s 150 MPH top speed.
Pete Brock’s email to me on Dec. 17 2015 tells the story of how the Coupe almost didn’t get built and the hurdles they encountered even after approval:
“The rear wing was designed as a driver-adjustable device that could be trimmed by the driver to suit circuit conditions or even weather (rain).
The “ring airfoil,” as I called it at the time, was considered a fanciful and impractical idea by Phil Remington who tried to convince Carroll that the whole car was a bad idea and we were wasting our time. Phil was probably the best race car builder in the world, so his advice was universally respected. Shelby had been enthusiastic when I first explained the concept, (“borrowed” from a German aero-concept done in the 1930s), but after listening to Phil, he was uncertain (Shelby was technically unsophisticated). Ken Miles convinced Shelby to continue, so this created some enmity between Ken and Phil! As I explained to all on the crew who would listen….”we’ll be running at speeds that would be similar to aircraft. Designing a new airplane and then suggesting that the tail assembly be removed would be insanity.” Phil thought the whole concept went against everything he knew or was “accepted” among knowledgeable racing designs, so “there was no point in building the car.” Most of the team followed Rem, so Ken Miles, John Ohlsen and I did most of the initial work building the buck… at that point a couple of other guys on the crew “came over” on their own time and it got built. Ken proved the concept first time out at Riverside. New lap record!”
At Spa, Phil Hill discovered instability at 180+mph; Phil Remington made a rudimentary rear spoiler and solved the high-speed rear lift problem. Hill set the track record and got pole position.
For me, the Coupe’s story is fascinating; the physical result of a long shot. A Texas chicken farmer and world-class sports car racer named Carroll Shelby refuses to accept Ferrari dominance in racing. He rounds up a posse of Southern California hot-rodders, fabricators, engine builders, would-be racers, top-flight drivers and a young designer; sweet-talks Ford into ponying up parts, engines and money; builds a new weapon; goes gunning to beat giant Ferrari on their home turf and wins. Repeatedly.
Imagine going to work with Carroll Shelby, Pete Brock, Phil Remington, Roy and son Doyle Gammel, Fred Larson and Ken Miles, with star drivers Dave MacDonald, Dan Gurney and Phil Hill dropping in on a regular basis!
Dr. Fred’ s lecture on the Daytona project was insightful, spirited and often humorous, with many slides of the extensive mechanical and cosmetic rotisserie restoration. Simeone walked us through the entire restoration from his purchase in 2001 by “Fred’s Motorsports LLC” to conservation completion.
Dr. Fred Simeone with CSX2287.
Dr. Fred kept the story of the complicated purchase short, as it did not bear on the original design and racing history. Sold by Shelby American to Jim Russell of RussKit slot-car fame in the late 1960s, it was then sold to Phil Spector about 1970. After a short stint on the street garnered too many speeding tickets, it was “sold” by Spector. The car was stored improperly for three decades, luckily in a dry area of California. Carroll Shelby tried unsuccessfully to buy the car in the 1990s.
With over 200 Daytona fans on hand, you could hear a pin drop during Simeone’s one-hour talk.
He spoke on preserving original history through conservation versus restoration, which often erases and loses history. His first example was about the gun used to assassinate President Lincoln. A viewer, when handed both the real gun and an exact copy would have an emotional reaction to the real gun in their hand. The copy, however exact and true, would not create the same response.
The decision to preserve the Daytona Coupe’s originality was made after careful consideration. Experts were consulted, and a leading restoration shop undertook the delicate task of preserving as much originality as possible, while restoring full function. Originally built in about 60 days, the car took 1.5 years of rotisserie work at a shop well-versed in the care and restoration of 1960s racing Fords.
On disassembly, chassis number CSX2287 was verified on the front frame member. The frame was media-blasted to remove rust in paint-less areas, and remarkably, considering poor storage, the car was intact. Most of the car was salvageable, and the major damage was from galvanic corrosion between aluminum and steel components. The frame had only one crack, as did one rear suspension arm. These were repaired.
Inspection of the engine showed it to be in good overall condition, so the HiPo 289 was removed, disassembled, cleaned, reassembled and dyno tested. Date codes on engine block and heads, oil cooler, radiator, differential and alternator were all correct, and many original factory paint markings on the Ford HiPo parts were preserved.
All original paint was carefully cleaned, and paint was added to bare areas on frame and body only. The gravel pan had suffered frame galvanic corrosion, but was saved through careful cleaning; an epoxy primer was added between mating surfaces.
To illustrate his views, Dr. Fred told us that he and Pete Brock (a friend of Simeone and the museum) have an amicable, but passionate disagreement on the current condition of the coupe. Brock would repaint it Viking Blue and restore every part to look like the day it left his hands at Shelby American.
Simeone feels original condition can only be preserved by careful conservation, leaving originality intact. He summed up his view neatly: “The beauty of the vase is not in the clay, but in the potter’s hands.”
At lecture end, Dr. Fred took questions, and one fan asked: “Are you going to turn it on?”
Dr. Fred obliged, hopped in and cranked it over. After several slow (high-compression) cranks with three Bendix Elmira fuel pumps clattering away, the HiPo 289 fired up and ran; a glorious sound even at low RPM. On shutoff, the crowd applauded.
The fans present were very knowledgeable of the Daytona history, and I spoke with a few of them. “Daytona Don” Wells built CSX7072 as a tribute to 2287; his car was invited to the upcoming Daytona Coupe Museum event. Joel Lipperini races CSX7061 and told me “the harder you drive it, the worse it gets. The toe (toe-in/toe-out) changes under braking.”
Gavin and Geoff Tindell traveled from New Zealand to attend the workshop.
Gavin Tindell and his father Geoff earned the “Long Distance Award,” traveling from New Zealand to attend the workshop. Gavin builds “correct” replicas, and his Ferrari 250 GTO on a 330 frame, with a 330 engine, appears to be a masterwork.
Two Daytona Coupes were on display outside, including a Shelby Continuation, CSX9129, and a Factory Five Racing “Type 65 Coupe.”
If you haven’t yet visited the Simeone Foundation Museum, put it on your list. The collection celebrates the spirit of competition and evolution of seven decades of sports racing cars. Over 70 examples of the best sports racing cars ever raced are under one roof. The “Winner’s Circle” displays five of the winningest cars in the collection. Don’t overlook the Annex, either; full of interesting “lesser” cars, it’s easy to miss at the back of the museum.
On “Demo Days” selected cars are brought out and run on the museum’s back lot, and Dr. Fred gives a talk on each machine’s technology and unique history. A well-stocked museum shop includes new & vintage books (including Dr. Simeone’s The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles and The Spirit of Competition), models, clothing, posters and more. Museum volunteers are helpful and knowledgeable about the vehicles on display, and a visit to the Simeone will surely expand your knowledge and appreciation of racing sports cars while supporting the museum’s important mission to preserve history.