Road and Track - December 1979

When Phil Hill signed up to drive for Shelby. he had just left Ferrari where, although the boss wasn't too easy to get alone with, the cars were certainly very strong and reliable. Phil recalls that while he was driving for Ferrari he spent quite a lot of time watching the cars of the various opposing teams just breaking up around the drivers, and he was relieved when the Cobras proved to he strong and reliable too. An amusing incident occurred at Sebring at this time. Phil got into the lead at the start, and when he came around in the Cobra after the 1st lap, the Ferrari mechanics were all standing in front of the pits cheering and waving him on.
Phil Hill
Although Carroll Shelby's main competition were the other international sports car teams, he was also competing to some extent for Ford's patronage with Holman & Moody, who were preparing cars for NASCAR events. It was a political situation, and Dan Gurney says he steered well clear of it because, in those days, he was trying to make a career for himself as a driver and didn't want to get involved in politics. Holman & Moody's cars were powered by Ford's 427 competition engine and it was natural Ford should want these engines in the Shelby program.
Presumably because he had learned fairly early on in life that he who pays the piper calls the tune. Carroll and his men did a fast shoehorn job with a 427 engine into a normal Cobra chassis. Ken Miles, who was one of Shelby's employees and a driver of considerable repute, did most of the work and it was Ken who, while practicing for Sebring in 1964, managed to stuff the 427 car into about the only tree growing in that part of Florida. The car was repaired for the race but it suffered a number of ailments before finally retiring on the back of the course.
However, the effort was not in vain because it was the predecessor of a series of some 350 427 Cobras, which were the fastest production sports cars ever built and were radically different under the skin, and considerably more sophisticated than what had gone before. The frame was bigger and stronger, being constructed of 4.0-in. tubes. Texas-size driveline components were used throughout. the suspension used coil springs and upper and lower A-arms front and rear and Halibrand magnesium wheels were standard equipment.
Some competition versions of the 427 were built and I asked Dan and Phil what they were like to drive. Both agreed that they much preferred the 289 cars because the 427 wouldn't really do anything the 289 couldn't do and some things it really didn't seem to do as well. However, they did mention that the 427 might have a slight advantage at a circuit such as Spa, which was tremendously fast with a very smooth surface. Of course, the difference between the street versions of the cars was much less subtle because the stock 289 engine put out an advertised 270 bhp and the 427 about 425 bhp, depending on whom you asked.

Shelby's operation in Venice, California attracted a lot of talented people from the southern California area and among them were Pete Brock and Phil Remington. Remington has been around race cars most of his life and he now works for Dan Gurney, who describes him as "a one-man army." It was probably because of the influence of these two that six competition coupes were built on the 289 HA chassis. The first coupe was built in Venice to. Pete Brock's design and today it is still one of the best looking and cleanest competition coupes ever built. It retained much of the mean look of the roadsters but the windshield was more steeply raked, blending into a long, sloping fastback ending in a chopped off Kammback tail. The cars were called Cobra Daytona Coupes, because the first car made its initial appearance at Daytona in 1964.
One day back in 1964, while they were testing at Riverside International Raceway, Ken Miles took me for a ride in the coupe. which was an interesting experience because not only did it give me an impression of what the coupe itself was like, but also it gave me a good impression of the handling characteristics of the competition Cobras in general, and altogether it was a fairly hairy.