Porter Press International recently published the latest title in their fabulous ‘Great Cars’ series, number 14, which recounts the history of the Daytona Coupe version of Carroll Shelby’s famous Cobra. This particular book, written by author Rinsey Mills, focuses is on CSX2300, which is one of just six cars built and takes an insightful new look at Carroll Shelby’s world-beating Cobra Daytona Coupe.
The book has over 300 period photographs, many of which are published here in the book for the very first time, along with a selection of specially commissioned photographs. The book takes the reader through the design evolution and development of the Daytona Coupe, with insights from Peter Brock, the car’s designer. It also covers all 16 events in Shelby’s two-year campaign with these cars, starting with the 1964 Daytona Continental, which was a forerunner to the 24-hour race at the circuit, which gave the model its name. There is also extensive coverage of the five events entered by CSX2300, which includes the Tour de France in 1964 and the following year’s Daytona 2,000Km, Sebring 12 Hours, Nürburgring 1,000Km and the Reims 12 Hours.
Mills provides the reader with detailed biographies of the eight men who raced CSX2300 and there are also some wonderful individual stories about race team entrants Alan Mann Racing and Ford France. The book then concludes with CSX2300’s life after 1965, including a spell racing in Japan.
Just a little background to author Rinsey Mills before we delve into the book in more detail. Mills’ involvement with AC Cars and historic motorsport led to a close association with Carroll Shelby which resulted in him writing the highly regarded book Carroll Shelby: The Authorized Biography. Based in Devon, Mills has also authored three other books about Cobras: Original AC Ace & Cobra (Bay View in 1990), Essential AC Cobra (Bay View in 1997) and AC Cobra (Haynes in 2003).
The foreward is written by Peter Brock, who was the Director of Special Projects at Shelby American from 1962 to 1965 and the car’s designer. In it he says: “There have been many words written about the Shelby era but relatively few that focus on this most intensive early period with the Daytona Cobra Coupes. Rinsey has presented the back story of how it all came about with great accuracy and authority.”
In the introduction, Mills tells us that the Shelby Daytona was born of one man’s determination to prove his cars in the field of international racing. The car was created with the audacious ambition of dethroning Enzo Ferrari as the king of sports car racing, and in 1965 it did just that. Despite the Ferrari factory’s greater experience and all-round competitiveness of the Ferrari 250 GTO, the Daytona Coupe defeated Ferrari in the large-capacity class of the FIA’s International GT Championship. This was a prize not won before or since by any other American manufacturer in the history of motor racing.
Part 1 of the book sets the scene, with chapter 1 taking a look at early Cobra racing with the Cobra’s first appearance in the Sebring 12 Hours in which 1961 World Champion Phil Hill rocketed away right from the start.
Chapter 2 takes a detailed look at the people Shelby worked with, such as driver Ken Miles, lead mechanics Jim Culleton, Mark Popov-Dadiani, Wayne Pierce, and Cecil Bowman who looked after the engines. Englishman Jack Hoare started working (initially unofficially) with Shelby American in September 1963, staying at the company for two years and was one of the people who accompanied the team cars to Europe in 1964. A young Ted Sutton was tasked with converting CSX2196 into the first 427-powered Cobra that raced at Sebring by Miles and Morton.
In Chapter 3, Mills looks at the evolution of the Daytona Coupe, as Shelby’s Cobras enjoyed unprecedented success in their first full season of domestic racing. By the end of 1963, Cobras and drivers had notched up three national championships including The Sports Club of America (SCCA) ‘A’ Production Championship and the United States Road Racing Championship (USRRC).
The introduction of the rack-and-pinion race cars meant that the team’s earlier cars were sold off. The new rack-and-pinion cars raced at Sebring and were soon followed by other cars. Six Le Mans Replicas were then built in two batches. This was also the time that Cobras first raced in Europe. In fact, a right-hand-drive car (CS2131) was entered for Le Mans by the AC factory, driven by Ninian Sanderson and Peter Bolton. They even managed to get some sponsorship from The Sunday Times!
Part 2 of the book begins with ‘Racing in 1964’ and the team’s 1964 campaign. The year before Carroll Shelby had set his sights on competing in the 1964 world championship. At the opening round of the championship (the Daytona 2,000km), Carroll had a number of FIA roadsters and one Cobra Coupe available, which showed its potential despite the failure of an oil seal which deprived it of a possible win. The second round was the Sebring 12 Hours on 21st March, which saw Shelby American field five cars, its Daytona Coupe (CSX2287) driven by Dave MacDonald and Bob Holbert, three FIA roadsters and an experimental Cobra fitted with a 427 cubic inch Ford V8 (CSX2196) driven by Ken Miles and John Morton. The coupe finished fourth overall behind two Ferrari 275 P’s and a 330 P, and first in class. The Spa-Francorchamps 500km followed on 17th May before the big one – Le Mans 24 Hours over the weekend of 20th/21st June. Ferrari took the first three places with Graham Hill coming second in his Ferrari 330 P and John Surtees third in another 330 P. But once again the Cobra Daytona Coupe (CSX 2299) came fourth overall and first in class.
We are then taken through the Reims 12 Hours on 5th July, the Tourist Trophy on 29th August at Goodwood and the Tour de France from 11th to 20th September.
In Part 3, the focus narrows down to CSX2300 itself and 1964, the year in which the car was built. In fact it was the first of the tiny series of Daytona Coupes that would have their bodies built more closely to the original design specifications. Once completed, CSX2300’s rolling chassis and body were flown over to Ford’s Slough racing headquarters in England where the car was completed, overseen by Phil Remington, the same Shelby American crew member who has worked on the European campaign.
The Tour de France from 11th to 20th September was to be CSX2300’s racing debut, driven by Bob Bondurant and Jochen Neerpasch but was sadly unable to finish the race due to engine problems.
“The sheer logistics of the Tour de France – an event comprising high-speed tests all over the country – put it apart from anything that Shelby American had tacked so far during its quest for the GT crown.”
Part 4 looks at ‘Racing in 1965’ with chapter 6 concentrating on that year’s campaign. The season started with the Daytona Continental on 28th February, followed by the Sebring 12 Hours on 27th March. It was at this time that Alan Mann came onto the scene. It was then over to Italy for the Monza 1,000km on 25th April before the Tourist Trophy at Oulton Park in England on 1st May. Two weeks later it was over to Belgium for the Spa 500km on 16th May. A week later on 23rd May it was the Nürburgring 1,000 before the Rossfeld Hillclimb on 13th June. The team then headed over to France for the Le Mans 24 Hours on the weekend of 19th/20th June, where the Cobra Daytona Coupe of Jack Sears and Dick Thompson finished eighth overall and first in class. Even before the Alan Mann/Shelby American team arrived in northern France for the Reims 12 Hours on the weekend of 3rd/4th July, the championship was all but won. However, two Daytona Coupes (CSX2601 and CSX2300) and John Willment’s red Cobra coupe (CS2131) made it a certainty.
Part 5 of the book looks at CSX2300 in 1965, where in chapter 7 the car competed in the Daytona 2,000km on 18th February and finished sixth overall and third in the important GT class, hampered by a failing clutch.
Chapter 8 takes us and CSX2300 to the Sebring 12 Hours, where the Daytona Coupe recovered from a start-line accident to finish the race 13th overall and third in class. In chapter 9, CSX2300 competed at the Nürburgring 1,000km in its striking new Ford France livery and finished 13th overall and third in class, driven by Jo Schlesser and André Simon.
Chapter 10 takes CSX2300 to France and the Reims 12 Hours, where the car finished ninth overall and second in class, this time driven by Jack Sears and John Whitmore. The chapter also goes details about Alan Mann Racing and Mann’s passion for motorsport.
Part 6 of the book focusses on CSX2300’s drivers which included Bob Bondurant (chapter 11), Jochen Neerpasch (chapter 12), Allen Grant (chapter 13), Ed Leslie (chapter 14), Jo Schlesser (chapter 15), André Simon (chapter 16), Jack Sears (chapter 17) and John Whitmore (chapter 18).
The final part of the book, Part 7, looks at CSX2300 from 1965 to the present day. In chapter 19, almost 40 years to the day after they first come head to head in the 1964 Tour de France, CSX2300 and 4399 GT (a Ferrari 250 GTO) are nose to tail during Goodwood’s TT Celebration race in September 2004 and makes for a terrific full page colour photograph.
In chapter 20 and final chapter of this wonderful book, Rinsey Mills looks at the car today. Owners Daniela and Oliver Ellerbrook continue to look after and treasure CSX2300, keeping it in its original condition, demonstrated by the wonderful pages of colour photographs taken by Roman Kuhn just last year. The photographs were taken at Reims in northern France, the former road circuit being a fitting venue for the photoshoot as the car made its competition debut here on 12th September 1964, driven by Bob Bondurant and Jochen Neerpasch, for the first test of the Tour de France, before returning ten months later for the Reims 12 Hours.
The Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe and CSX2300 played an important role in the Shelby team’s success and is a most worthy addition to Porter Press’s acclaimed Great Cars Series and is a must read for any Shelby Cobra enthusiasts.
Publication date: February 2020
UK Price: £60.00
Format: 285x235mm portrait, Jacketed hardback
Illustration: over 300 images
Great Cars Series No. 14
Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe –The autobiography of CSX2300
By Rinsey Mills
Published by Porter Press International
For more information and to purchase your own copy of the book, please visit the Porter Press website: https://porterpress.co.uk
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a member of The Guild of Motoring Writers, professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.
Illustrations courtesy of Porter Press International