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						Track Star A13
Track Star

Track Star Daytona Coupe

Story and photos by Jim Youngs

The history of Carroll Shelby’s Daytona Coupe should be familiar to most readers of this magazine. But for those of you new to the Cobra legacy, the chassis was based on the successful Cobra roadsters of the 1960s. The much more aerodynamic Coupe was designed by Pete Brock and the Shelby crew specifically to take on Ferrari in international GT class racing. Only six Daytona Coupes were built between 1964 and 1965, the first in the Shelby American facility in Venice, California, and the remaining cars completed in Modena, Italy. The cars were very successful against the formidable Ferraris, with an impressive string of victories throughout the world. As such, original Daytona Coupes are among the most valuable collectible cars ever, and are absurdly expensive. Strangely enough, not one Daytona Coupe sported a “Gurney bubble” — even the one (CSX2299) driven by Dan Gurney!

Gurney’s 6-foot, 4-inch height, unusual for a race driver, caused him constant problems during his career. He struggled to fit into the tight Ford GT40 cockpit, so master fabricator Phil Remington installed a roof bubble over the driver’s seat to allow space for Gurney’s helmet — now known as a “Gurney bubble.” In a fortunate error, the Italian coachbuilder that built the body for the 1964 Le Mans class-winning closed-cockpit Cobra Daytona GT Coupe, driven by Gurney and Bob Bondurant, mistakenly made the cockpit “greenhouse” two inches too tall — the only thing that permitted Gurney to fit in the car comfortably.

Despite the Coupes’ collectibility, replicas of them are rare in comparison to the Cobra roadsters that enjoy an enormous following. Several companies offer interpretations of this beautiful car, ranging from faithful reproductions to an oversized iteration influenced by the original’s design.

Taking a look at one particular case, in 2004 Shell Valley purchased the R&D Design Concepts Daytona Coupe project, at the time considered to have a dimensionally correct fiberglass body. The company added the Coupe to its Cobra replica offerings on a modified version of the Shell Valley Cobra chassis. For its follow-up Series II Coupe, Shell Valley called on its Erie, Colorado, dealer, Miller Motorsports (MMS) to help design the prototype. Headed by Mahlon Miller, MMS is a small custom shop specializing in fabrication and construction of a wide range of replicas and race cars, not only for a select few customers but also for itself as well.

The car shown here is not only the prototype for the Series II, but an over-the-top custom track star that illustrates a degree to which all Daytonas should aspire. In fact, Mahlon considers this car his favorite among a collection of GT40 clones, a Superlite, several Cobra replicas and a smattering of vintage Mustang race cars and assorted Porsches. It has also surpassed his expectations when it comes time to drive the Coupe in anger!

The foundation for the Coupe is Shell Valley’s 2- by 4-inch rectangular steel tubing, featuring an hourglass shape designed to lower the seat positions and allow more headroom for those drivers bigger than Ken Miles. MMS added additional cross members for extra rigidity, along with some mods and reinforcements for mounting the substantial 2-inch DOM roll cage and added safety. Front suspension consists of Mustang II-based tubular MMS upper and Shell Valley lower control arms with forged spindles, QA1 shocks with custom Wilwood brakes providing the “whoa.”

The rear suspension setup features a Ford 9-inch located by a triangulated four-link and more QA1 shocks. On this particular car, however, based on an admittedly “crazy” desire to mount the widest tires and wheels possible, and stuffed with the biggest brakes possible, MMS had to custom-make a 9-inch rear with a four-link and Panhard bar. Extra clearance for the Panhard is seen in the photos by a tall aluminum cover in front of the fuel cell and behind the main loop of the roll bar, necessary to accommodate the lowered height of the car and movement of the bar. MMS fitted huge six-piston Wilwood calipers on all four corners, controlled by Wilwood dual master cylinders and a balance bar. And the rear brakes are additionally adjustable with a proportioning valve.

So just how big is the rubber on this car? Mounted on lightweight 12-inch Bogart racing wheels, the front Hoosier A-compound DOT slicks measure a whopping 315/35-17. The rear tires are 335/35-17 Hoosiers.

That “crazy” rear wheel/brake idea also complicated some of the body configuration in that the inside tub of the body had to be cut apart and re-glassed to accommodate the big rear rubber. And that of course created other problems, not the least of which was the necessity of custom making fiberglass seats to fit. In typical fashion, Miller Motorsports designed a trio of seat plug configurations — low, medium and high backs — that were sent back to Shell Valley to make molds and offer as options on its Daytona Coupe kits. As it ended up, the interior can easily accommodate 6-foot,  3-inch drivers wearing helmets. Still, MMS decided to add a Gurney bubble to the car’s roof, believed to be the only such roof blister on a Daytona Coupe, real or replica.

Miller is running a 1969 Ford 351 Windsor block stuffed with COMP’s full mechanical roller cam with .700 total lift and COMP roller rockers. Ford SVT racing heads were milled for a 13:1 compression, ported and polished with titanium retainers and Isky racing valve springs. Forged pistons, H-beam rods and a forged crank sit in the 427 ci block with a 4.030-inch bore and 4.170-inch stroke developing an estimated 650 horsepower. The engine is fed through an intake-matched-ported Edelbrock Victor Sr. manifold and Holley 850 cfm double-pumper racing carburetor. The 2-inch exhaust headers were made in-house. Backing up the healthy mill is a period-correct Toploader four-speed with a large NASCAR input shaft.

Other than the body mods mentioned earlier, the Coupe’s body is pretty much the standard Shell Valley fiberglass shell with a Kevlar blanket for added strength. About the only exterior modification was removing the hood scoop and cutting it into eight pieces to make it taller and overall larger to accommodate the engine while maintaining as original body lines as possible. MMS even made a mold of the new scoop so that it too could be offered to other Shell Valley customers.

The interior is pretty sparse with bare aluminum surfaces, roll bar padding and painted surfaces. It does benefit from fresh-air ducting and no side windows.

Like the original Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupes, this tribute is beautiful, hits the track with authority, and will surely leave its mark wherever it appears. And Dan Gurney might like it too, given its unique roofline shape. 

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