Shell Automotive Icons Pioneering The Future Of Engine Performance


November 5, 2015 By Mike Lee
Last updated on November 5, 2015

'64 Shelby Cobra
Shell made a legendary return to the 2015 SEMA Show by unveiling the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe (CSX2287), which was piloted to set 23 individual records during a Goodyear tire test in 1965 at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The vehicle’s unveiling during the Shell ‘Pioneering Performance’ press conference commemorated the 50th anniversary of the famed record-setting day (Nov. 6, 1965) by reuniting driver Craig Breedlove, designer Peter Brock and the Cobra for the first time since the record attempts.

HISTORY

Automotive legend Carroll Shelby made his mark after winning the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1959 in an Aston Martin, but decided to stop racing shortly thereafter with an impressive career under his belt. Not only an accomplished driver, Shelby was also a skilled automotive designer who recognized the Cobra roadster as a great platform on which to build a championship GT vehicle. Shelby tapped designer Peter Brock to carry out his vision for the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe we know today. After the design process was completed and a satisfactory coupe, the CSX2287, was built and tested at Riverside Raceway in California, the vehicle went off to Daytona International Speedway in Florida for its first race. As a result of Brock’s design, the streamlined coupe on a roadster chassis went 20 miles per hour faster.

In 1964, the International Championship for GT Manufacturers was narrowly won by Ferrari over the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, but in 1965, the Shelby captured redemption and took home a victory over Ferrari. The most intriguing part of the 1964 coupe’s history, however, revolves around a Goodyear tire test in November 1965 when the car was called into action at Utah’s iconic Bonneville Salt Flats.

THE CAR

Back in 1965, Goodyear secured a four-day stretch at the Salt Flats with the United States Auto Club (USAC) to practice land speed record attempts with Craig Breedlove and the Spirit of America jet car. Since the jet car was out of commission for repairs, the Goodyear team needed a legitimate reason to stay on the Salt Flats until it could run again. The Goodyear team called Carroll Shelby and asked if the CSX2287 coupe was available because, if they could use the Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe for endurance record attempts, they could hold onto the Salt Flats for their allotted time and avoid any issues with the USAC.

Initially, Carroll Shelby questioned the request because the 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe had not been used in the six months since the 1965 Le Mans. To make proper adjustments to the vehicle before it was sent to Bonneville, Shelby sought out Tom Greatorex, a former crew chief. Greatorex had the Le Mans engine removed from the Daytona coupe and added in a rebuilt engine from Shelby’s shop instead.

The 2.88 Le Mans rear axle gearing was still on the Shelby coupe as well, so all that was left to do was to apply a new set of racing tires. Shelby and Greatorex arrived at Bonneville and found a place to test the vehicle. Soon, it was running at 6,000 RPM in top gear, approximately 188 mph. The car felt motionless, with only the tachometer needle sound indicating its speed.

When it came time for Breedlove (a man who had previously driven over 500 mph in his jet car) to test the CSX2287, the team found he had never driven a car with a four-speed, stick-shift transmission, but he caught on quickly.

Significant adjustments had to be made during the tests in order to keep the car running properly. The USAC officials did not believe that Goodyear’s endurance record attempts were serious, and they doubted that the “little motor” could run that fast for 12 hours. They were also worried that with no refueling rig, the time it would take to fill the huge tank by hand pump would affect the records. As was described that day, “the whole effort was so spontaneous that it almost failed for lack of preparation.”

The end result is perfectly stated in Brock’s book, Daytona Cobra Coupes: Carroll Shelby’s 1965 World Champions: “At dusk it was over, Breedlove…had clocked more than 1,931 miles, averaging 150 miles per hour and breaking the record set by Bugatti in the 1930’s by some 200 miles. It also set 23 national and international speed records.”

(Adapted from The Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum)

THE RECORDS

National Records:

400 miles ……………*S          157.981 mph

400 miles ……..…….*F          158.993 mph

500 miles ……………. S           156.233 mph

500 miles ……………. F           156.963 mph

1,000 kilometers … S           155.571 mph

1,000 kilometers … F           156.179 mph

1,000 miles ………… S           155.586 mph

1,000 miles ………… F           155.832 mph

2,000 kilometers … S           154.017 mph

2,000 kilometers … F           153.947 mph

3 hours ………………. S           159.979 mph

3 hours ……..………..F            160.918 mph

6 hours ……………… S            155.689 mph

6 hours …………..…. F            157.581 mph

12 hours ……….…… S            150.094 mph

12 hours ……………. F            150.198 mph

 

International Records:

500 miles ………………. 156.233 mph

1,000 kilometers …… 155.571 mph

1,000 miles …………… 155.586 mph

2,000 kilometers …… 154.017 mph

3 hours …………………. 159.979 mph

6 hours …………………. 155.689 mph

12 hours ….……………. 150.094 mph

*S =Standing         *F=Flying