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Jul 31

Missing Sports Car Found In Storage Drives Out Of Ca History And Into New Book

One car, a 1964 Cobra Daytona Coupe, periodically speeds in and out of California history. The Cobra was built by Carroll Shelby at his shop in Venice, California. Shelby wanted to build the worlds fastest race car. In 1964 he and his team of designers finally succeeded.

The prototype car, and five new cars that Shelby modeled after it, raced in Europe in 1964 and 1965, challenging the worlds fastest cars (Porsche, Ferrari, Jaguar, Aston Martin). Craig Breedlove drove the original prototype Cobra the only Cobra to have been built in the United States — at Utahs Bonneville Salt Flats in 1965, setting 23 speed and endurance records. The Cobra could go from 0 to 60 in 3.8 seconds, from 0 to 100 in 10.6 seconds, and from 0 to 100 and back to a dead stop in less than 14 seconds. But it was destined to sit in a storage unit, gathering dust, for 30 years.

The Cobras path to being mothballed is a story in itself. After the Bonneville Shelby retired the original. He sold it to Jim Russell, the founder of Russ-kits, who sold it to record producer Phil Spector. Spector loved the car and drove it around Los Angeles, getting one speeding ticket after another. L.A. urban legends claim Spectors lawyer told him he was bound to end up losing his drivers license if he didnt stop driving the Cobra. Spector did stop, though, mainly because the Cobra, not designed for city driving, kept overheating.

Here the record gets murky. The car eventually passed to Spectors bodyguards daughter, Donna OHara. For years car enthusiasts tried to find out what OHara had done with the Cobra.

In 2001, OHara committed suicide. Race car fans were dumbfounded to learn that OHara had been keeping the Cobra in a southern California storage unit. Because the Cobra had been sitting untouched, in storage, for 30 years, it was in mint condition worth about $4 million. A legal battle ensued, but when the dust cleared the Cobra left its storage unit and joined Fred Simeones collection at the Simeone Foundation Automotive Museum. This January Simeone finished a book (The Spirit of Competition) about the cars, telling the story that goes with each one. And what a story he has to tell!

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