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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ride.
start, Ken was
grinning from ear to ear throughout, because he thought he was scaring
the hell out of me (which he was). Then, there was more noise inside
the car than out, which meant it was absolutely deafening inside, and
also very hot and rather oily. On the back straight we were probably
hitting about 150 mph. but it was coming up through the esses that was
disconcerting because Ken held the car in a series of classic 4-wheel
drifts in which the car was pointing at 45 degrees to its general
direction of travel. This, of course, was the classic method of getting
a car which underwent considerable camber changes while cornering
through a turn as quickly as possible. It wasn't a slow method of
cornering, but it was different from what you see today and you had to
be strong and courageous to do it..
As far as driving
in a long-distance race was concerned, Phil and Dan agreed that the
cars were very effective but very tough to drive. Phil remembers them
as being exceptionally stiffly sprung and much stiffer than the
Ferraris he had been driving. On circuits such as the Targa Florio.
Phil recalls the cars using up what suspension there was and bottoming
all the time, so it was a question of hanging on rather than driving.
feelings were that you had to he fit to drive them and you had to roll
up your sleeves and really go to work. Dan recalled a tense moment at
one race during a pit stop. Jerry Grant was about to get in the car and
Carroll Shelby was shouting at him to just get in and get going. So
Grant did and took off without fastening his seatbelt. but the ride was
so wild he was practicably being thrown out of the car and had to stop'
and fasten the belt.
The records show that Mike
was campaigned as a team car in 1964 at the Targa Florio, Spa and the
Nürburgring. It also won the Freiberg Hillclimh and the Sierra Montana
Hillclimb in Switzerland in the GT class driven by Bob Bondurant. In
1965, which was the year in which Shelby took the HA GT championship
from Ferrari, it won the Tourist Trophy in the GT class and was 4th
overall, driven by Sir John Whitmore. and was then used as a practice
car at Spa and the Nürburgring. It finished the season by winning the
GT class at the Rossfeld Mountain Hillclimb in Germany driven by
At the end of the season, the car was
shipped back to
California and sold. It remained in storage for nine years until 1974
when it was taken out, lubricated, tuned. washed and waxed and it has
remained that way ever since.
One could describe the
being relatively unsophisticated, but tough and very fast and they were
a source of embarrassment to people with much more sophisticated
machinery. When Carroll Shelby set out to campaign his Cobras in the
classic European road races, it was an exciting time for everyone and
it proved that a bunch of guys from L.A., many of whom had gained their
early experience in hot Ridding, could take on the sophisticated
European racing establishment and beat them at their own game. Tony
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