The Perplexing History of CSX2287

Posted August 27, 2018

Photos courtesy of the Historic Vehicle Association

No matter where your automotive loyalties lie, it’s easy to recognize that CSX2287, the first Daytona Coupe, is one of the most significant barn finds ever. In terms of barn find stories, this car has it all, even a few certifiably cringeworthy parts. To start, 2287 was the very first Coupe ever built, the working prototype turned racer, and the only Coupe to be built entirely by Shelby American. The car competed at Daytona, Sebring, Le Mans and more in 1964, and cleared the path for the following five Daytona Coupes to win the 1965 World Sportscar Championship GT III class. Going out with a bang, 2287 set 25 USAC/FIA world speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats in November of 1965.

Since the Daytona Coupe was nothing more than a tired old race car, Shelby listed the car for sale in a local newspaper for somewhere between $4,000 and $5,000, and the car was purchased by a wealthy man named Jim Russell. Russell soon sold the car to music producer Phil Spector, who drove the car around Los Angeles on the street. The purpose-built race machine was not fit for the road use, but still Spector fit the car with carpeting, full-length exhaust and hastily painted some of its records on the side with house paint. After racking up numerous speeding tickets, Spector sold the car upon his lawyer’s recommendation.

The following chapter is the most perplexing and significant one in the Daytona’s history since leaving Shelby American. Spector allegedly sold the car for $1,000 to his bodyguard, George Band, and Band left the car to his daughter Donna O’Hara. O’Hara stashed the Coupe in a storage unit in 1971, and the car’ remained hidden for the next 30 years. Eventually, the word got out that O'Hara had the Daytona, but it was understood that she could not be communicated with and would not sell the car. All sorts of buyers showed up at O’Hara’s door for a shot at the Daytona, including Carroll Shelby himself. But like all the others, Shelby didn’t get much of an audience, and O'Hara would not even open her screen door to speak with him.

Like countless other significant buys, it was a matter of the right place at the right time. Retired neurosurgeon and avid collector Frederick Simeone somehow got O'Hara's attention with “a very realistic offer,” thought to be around $4 million. Unfortunately, O’Hara willed the cash from the sale to her mother and set herself on fire after the deal had been done. A harsh legal battle followed with several parties, including Spector, claiming ownership of the car, but it was ruled that the car was sold legally to Simeone.

The unforeseen events that followed the sale of CSX2287 cast a shadow, but the car had one more surprise in store that would turn things around. After 30 years locked up in a storage unit, the Daytona was actually in remarkable condition. The car was well preserved with all its original parts and Phil Spector’s add-ons intact. According to Simeone, some damage was worked out of the nose and the car was treated to a careful mechanical restoration. CSX2287 is now in running and driving condition, largely as it was found, with its original paint and tires.

Given the car's originality and significance in American auto racing, CSX2287 was the first car to be included in the National Historic Vehicle Register and is currently on display at the Simeone Automotive Museum. 

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