The Tale Of The Lost Daytona Coupe

Josh MortensenBy Josh Mortensen

I was recently digging through old forum posts on various websites when I came across a photo of what was clearly a barn find Shelby Daytona Coupe. There wasn’t any information about it or a link, but it looked so incredible I decided I had to do some digging to see what I could find out about it. I eventually tracked the photos back to the Nevada Shelby Club, where I discovered that the photo was of the Missing Daytona Coupe. This story originally broke back in 2001, but I thought it was so interesting that I had to post it for anyone that missed it back then, those who might have forgotten about it or for those that were wondering what ended up happening with it.

The story behind this Shelby is almost as an incredible as the car itself is. Shelby’s Cobra was quite the force in racing, but they just couldn’t take on the best Ferrari had to offer. They had the power and handling but lacked the aerodynamics to achieve the kind of speeds the Ferraris could. So, Shelby set out to building 6 coupes with the help of Peter Brock. The one you see here is car CSX2287, the very first one built. It was the only one that was built entirely by Shelby, the other 5 were built in Italy.

After dominating in the 1965 racing season, CSX2287 set a couple land speed records at the Salt Flats and was then retired. In late ’65, it was sold to the founder of Russkits, a slot-car manufacturer for $4,500. A year later, it traded hands, this time to Phil Spector for around $12k. Spector drove it on the streets for a while, but it proved to be too uncomfortable for street use. He eventually sold it to his bodyguard, George Brand, for just $1,000. And this is where the story begins to get interesting. No one knows why or exactly when, but as some point in the early ’70s, Brand gave the car to his daughter, Donna O’Hara.

Calling O’Hara eccentric might be an understatement. A close childhood friend got the opportunity to drive it on a handful of occasions, but shortly after taking ownership of this Coupe, she put it into storage. No one knows why she took it off the road, but clearly, she didn’t want people to know she owned this history car. It didn’t take long for the rumors to start as to what happened to this Shelby. Some claimed that it had been destroyed, while others that Carroll Shelby had it hidden away somewhere. In reality, Donna had it hidden in a storage unit in Southern California, left to deteriorate.

There were many Shelby collectors that tracked Donna down to see if she still had the car and if so if she would sell it. Every time someone came knocking on her door, she would deny its very existence. Even Carroll Shelby approached her about buying it, and like usual, she denied owning it and told him to move along. That didn’t stop serious collectors from continuing their pursuit of CSX2287. For whatever reason, Donna decided life wasn’t worth living, even after receiving some serious cash offers for the car. On October 22, 2000, Donna apparently lit herself on fire. With her passing, ownership of the car came into question and a legal battle between Donna’s parents, her childhood friend and Phil Spector (who claimed to have never sold it to Brand) ensued.

After a lengthy legal battle, it was decided the car legally belonged to Donna’s friend, Kurt Goss. Her mother had already sold the car to a neurosurgeon for $4 million, so she had to pay Goss $800k as part of the settlement, taking up much of what was left of the money. Talk about a strange and dramatic story. The only bright side, if there is one, is that the lost Cobra is no long hidden from the world. Today you can see this incredible car at the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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  1. Rick

    Thought that looked familiar. Was in the museum not too long ago, lusting after many of the cars there…

  2. Rabbit

    Talk about unicorns, the Holy Grail, Bigfoot & the Loch Ness Creature (She’s not a monster…) This is number one on my “I’d kill to get one” list, & I’m not even close to being a Ford guy.

  3. Dave Wright

    Great car, fun story……..I still prefer a GTO Ferrari.

  4. Boyhowdy

    Just WOW… that’s it… just, WOW.

  5. JC

    I remember the story of this lady setting herself on fire, it was just about 15 minutes from where I live here in Newport Beach. She was under a bridge in a concrete wash area, she had her pet rabbits with her and they went up too if I remember correctly. She was still alive when authorities found her and she was still bitter as hell and telling them to shut up and let her die. Sad, sad situation. She was clearly nuts.

    • billy

      Sad indeed, often the case of rich peoples children. Many lose interest in things as everything they ever wanted came quickly and easily. Life is forever “boring” . I had a friend who inherited millions when he turned 18. A few years later I ran into him, his life was aimless except for lots of women, drugs, booze. He died before age 27 of HIV. We all had been jealous of him in high school, richest family in town, thought we all wanted to be him. Little did we know. Funny thing, he in our younger days would be over at my parents place with a bunch of other guys and suddenly someone would ask where where he was, often we would find him in the kitchen watching my Mom bake cookies. He wanted the simple things, yet all his absent jet setting parents gave him was cash. We all need to remember that great wealth (the kind needed to own this car) is not always whats its cracked up to be. Many of us are rich in the most important of ways. I may never have a Ferrari, but I am indeed blessed.

      • JC

        Billy, she and her father who gave her the car, as well as her mother, were not wealthy by any means. She worked for Sears and was in financial trouble near her death.

      • John

        That’s a sad story about your friend, Billy. I’m not sure how rich Donna O’Hare was as she was the daughter of Phil Spector’s bodyguard. Bodyguards may be well paid, but probably not entering the rich category. Either way, a sad story

      • billy

        Hmmm, I just assumed she was wealthy. This makes it even more disturbing, she had mental health issues. So sad, If I worked at Sears and had financial troubles, yet had a very valuable car in storage, I sure hope I would figure out that selling it would be a Godsend., Guess the mental health issues were too great, may she rest in peace like I hope my friend has for 30 years now.

      • Keith

        Very poignant story Billy. So many of us (myself included) always think “the grass is greener” or “I wish I was that guy”, when in reality “that guy” is often more miserable that you or I…even if we think he/she has it all.

    • Don

      She went out in a blaze 🔥🐰🐇

  6. Dolphin Dolphin Staff

    With all due respect to Shel, the driving force on the Daytona Coupe was Pete Brock.

    Shel wasn’t too interested in having time and resources taken up by modifying the existing Cobra, and was more interested in doing a new car. But Brock persisted, and with his knowledge of aerodynamics he was able to get quite a few more MPH top speed out of the Cobra as a Kamm-back coupe than as a roadster.

    This made the Cobra coupe competitive at places with very high speeds like…oh, I don’t know…. maybe, DAYTONA.

    Brock and his helper built a wooden buck, and I believe that was what was used as a guide to having the aluminium panels beaten out in Italy for the rest of the Coupes.

    Sam Smith, a terrific writer for the ‘new’ Road & Track magazine did a story on this, with probably the best photography that’s ever been done of the Coupe. If you don’t have that copy (September, 2015) you can read about it here on the R&T website:

    BTW, Pete Brock is still working on car design and writing. He does one of the best columns in the car world today for “Classic Motorsports” magazine. Pete Brock and Peter Egan are probably the two best car writers alive right now.

    • JC

      Although I would agree it wouldn’t have come to be without Brock, without Carroll behind it all, it would have been a footnote and a dream that never came, he was the man that made it all happen.

      They should have stuffed a 427 (set back of course) in those cars like they did the GT40’s and Enzo wouldn’t have appeared anywhere in the results for LeMans.

      • Dave Safford

        A 427 Cobra Coupe sat for years at Holman & Moody in

        Charlotte North Carolina. It was sold at the final Holman & Moody auction sometime in the nineties if I recall

      • Old Nasty

        They did indeed stuff a 427 into the coupe. Only one was built.

    • Rspcharger

      Funny, I’d sat Peter Egan is The Best motorcycle writer alive right now.

  7. grant

    As I recall, the reason she hid the car away was due to questions on the legitimacy of the transaction between Phil Spector and her father. Spector was attempting to reclaim the car for many years before her death and his (unrelated) imprisonment.

  8. Todd Zuercher

    I saw this car at SEMA 2 years ago with Peter Brock and Craig Breedlove and didn’t put 2 and 2 together that it was the same car, having read the whole sorry tale many years earlier.

    Agree that Peter Brock and Peter Egan are the best writers alive. Egan is my all time favorite.

    • ccrvtt

      Peter Egan is brilliant, but my all-time favorite motorcycle writer is Ed Hertfelder.

  9. Wm Lawrence

    I understand these came close to winning Le Mans in 65. Ford would not have been happy…

  10. rando

    These and the Corvette grandsports are the most interesting race cars ever, in my opinion. I have read this story and read all I can about the GrandSports. Including the book on them. Funny how the Chevy guys cut the top off of 2 of the grandsports to reduce lift yet Brock added a top to the cobra. Love those days of racing, when the guys were learning and just trying things to find speed.

    The story of this one is just great. I think I may have been looking at same site as Josh – I remember it popping up and I had already read the story on this one.

  11. Cargirl

    I am a docent at the Simeone Automotive Museum in Philadelphia. Free tours for any Barnfind readers that ask for me by name!

    There are great stories around this car. Especially when it comes to breaking speed records on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

    Peter has been to the museum and done talks. If it is okay I am posting a link to our place. Do come visit. We are ten minutes from the Philadelphia International Airport.

    • Dolphin Dolphin Staff

      Been to most of the car museums around the country, Cargirl, but unfortunately not the Simeone. If I’m in the vicinity I will definitely stop in. And thanks for the offer of a free pass!

    • Josh Mortensen Josh Staff

      What an awesome offer! I won’t be in Philadelphia any time soon, but if I ever get a chance to, I will be sure to stop by and say hi!

      • Cargirl

        Well the caveat is that you need to know my real name LOL

        It’s Kelly.

    • Mike H

      And when you’re there I’d HIGHLY recommend picking up a copy of Fred Simeone’s Book “The Stewardship of Historically Important Automobiles”. I bought a copy last year and it’s incredibly important reading for avid hobbyists; something that can make you rethink that “Drop an LS in it!” philosophy.

    • Andrew Brown

      O am near the airport in southern Chester county. I travel for work but usually have time on Mondays and Fridays. Could we make that happen? I have known of the museum but never had the chance to visit.
      Thank you

      • Cargirl

        Andrew we are closed on Mondays. I’m not at the Museum every day so if anyone wants to contact me send me an email at
        Friday’s would be fine.

  12. Mike_B_SVT
  13. Ron500E

    Good story, on par with the Lou Brero Jr. 375 spyder. That’s the nice thing about this hobby, the stories – if they’re not true, they should be !

  14. Doug Towsley

    I disagree, Hunter S Thompson WAS the BEST writer and for those who are not familiar read his many articles, “The Song of the Sausage creature” was the best motor vehicle review ever.
    I am looking for an online version of his letter to the CEO of AMC right now for another posting. I have the hard copy here that appears in his book “The proud highway” and it appears on page 548.
    As to this car I have seen variations of this story elsewhere and is the granddaddy of all car find stories. I love this body style as well as the Vettes and why I have a kit car version. The Fiberfab Banshee-Caribee, The body lines of the kit car are off a little but I am working on that, Ill never be able to afford the real thing but I can own a kit car.

    • David Wilk Staff

      Doug, much as I love the work of Hunter Thompson, and like you, I do, in my humble opinion, no one will ever top the fabulous Ken Purdy. And let us not forget Denise McCluggage, who was also terrific.
      But the comment above was about the best *living* automotive writers, and I agree that Egan and Brock are head and shoulders above the rest writing today.
      Finding really good writing about cars is a rare thing, it seems.

      • Dave Wright

        Peter Egan bought my last 300SEL 6.3…….he was living in Monticeto or south Santa Barbera. I was managing a Goodyear store on the 101 in Camarillo, he noticed it while driving down the freeway one day and stoped to ask about it. He was mostly into motorcycles at the time, had an incredible Ducati collection. One day I had a weak moment and sold it to him…..he actually bought it for one of hid journalist buddies….the editor of Car and Driver I think…..a couple of years later it was for sale again fully restored by the editor. Nice guy, not being a big motorcycle guy, I really didn’t know who he was until he started writing more automotive stuff.

  15. Bob S

    Can imagine how many people tried to get this woman to sell it to them. Must have brought out the worst in people. Hopefully Phil stays locked up forever.

  16. Moose Feather

    Anyone know why the friend was awarded ownership of the car?

  17. Wayne

    Seems ironic that there were two Peter Brocks linked to Daytona Cobras. The famous Australian racing driver of the same name was killed driving one in a rally in Western Australia.

  18. Car Guy

    Here is the history of the Cobra and more details of how it made it to the museum.

  19. Chuck

    Go see it run at a Simeone demo day. Guranteed goose bumps.

  20. gbvette62

    The story of the car’s restoration/preservation, is almost as interesting as the story of the car’s history. The original paint was still on the car, covered by a series of repaints. The car was painstakingly stripped, and compounded, until they got down to the original paint. The car wasn’t restored, in the traditional sense of the word, but instead was returned to original, and then special steps were taken to preserve it.

    I’ve seen that car a number of times, including running around the back lot of the Simeone Museum. One Saturday a month, the museum has a demo day, where they pull 3 cars (sometimes 4) from their displays, and park them in the middle of the museum. The doctor will spend some time discussing each car, and then weather permitting, he will take the cars out back and run them. It’s a great opportunity to not only see the cars run, but also to see the cars close up.

    The Simeone is a fantastic place, especially on demo days. Where else in the world can you see an Allard J2, or a Jag D-Type that was raced by Fangio and once owned by Mick Jagger, or a 917 LH, or a Cunningham C-4R, or two Ford GT’s (a GT-40 and a Mark IV), a Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa, or Grand Sport 002 being driven by George Wintersteen, who owned and raced the car in 1966? I’m involved in vintage racing, and never see anything at the track, like can be seen at the Simeone.

    A $50 annual membership to the museum is worth it, if for no other reason than the unlimited free admission.

  21. Cargirl

    The neurosurgeon mentioned is Dr. Fred Simeone. According to Dr. Simeone Goss came out of the woodwork after O’Hara’s death and claimed that he had been her boyfriend and that she had verbally given him the car. He had no title, no CA pink slip, nothing to prove that the car was his. Her mother paid him the money to get rid of him. It was chump change to the haul she had just been awarded.

    In 1965 this car broke 23 records at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The car only showed up for the event to keep the salt away from Goodyear and in Firestone’s possession while the Spirit of America and the Wingfoot Express had work done on them. That’s the most amazing thing about this car. It owned the Salt Flats.

  22. GP Member

    I think when it was sold to George Brand for a thousand dollars, that was a good price. I see nothing good looking about it at all. Sorry.

  23. Frank Opalka

    are all the Corvette Grand sports found?

    • Ron500E

      About 30 years ago there was this guy in Evanston, Il who claimed he had a GS for sale and wanted a deposit to dig it out… Forgot his name but everyone called him “The Greek.”
      Not sure why they called him that but I’m guessing he wasn’t Russian.

    • Rando

      All 5 are documented and in existence. There was a site, I think, that documents in great detail, the restoration of #002, I think. They reproduced the body as built when first converted to roadster. But they kept the original wintersteen body in storage. All five started as coupes, but two we converted to roadsters late in their careers. Penske had one and wintersteen raced the other. But the 68 L88 left the GSes obsolete. There is a book on them.

  24. Jdoc

    Hey Kelly,

    I was just at the Simone Museum last Fall. Ironically, I was in Penn to negotiate on a tooled replica of the GT40 Roadster X1/X2 (1966 Sebring winner with Ken Miles at the wheel) using original parts from the Holman/Moody auction. I’m still savoring the Gt40s and the Daytona along with other displays of automobile racing’s history at the Simone. Any and all readers of Barnfinds need to take you up on the offer and then throw a donation to the Museum.

    I do need to come and visit with you. I have a couple of incredible GT40 stories. One about Carol Shelby/Henry Ford and the X1/X2 roadsters and another shared with me by Ford Advanced Vehicle (FAV) GT40 Engineer John Horsman (Racing in the Rain, 2006). In 1965 Horsman used a built 289 from Shelby’s personal Ford Fairlane tow/pusher station wagon used while Shelby was in England and Europe.
    Yes, Hunter S Thompson would be much better than most writers with these stories because they would jump off the pages into the minds of readers with a psychedelic twist. Then throughout the rest of the readers life there would be musing flashbacks.

    Jerry (Jamaican owner)

  25. RC

    When I was a kid growing up in Yorba Linda California, I lived 6 houses down the street from a George Brand and I remember seeing the car through the fence when I would ride my bike by. I stopped once for a closer look and then told my dad all about it when I got home. I honestly don’t think dad believed me. He was a big car guy too, we had a gullwing Mercedes and other wild stuff, but pops never made the trip up the street to check it out.

    I doubt highly that the daughter ever drove it. The car was kinda rough and not running when it was in the backyard.

    During my life of car hunting I had told the story of the car to many people. I think everybody thought I was full of it, but when the car surfaced after the daughters death I finally had closure as to what had happened.

    I often dream of what might have occurred if my father actually inquired and bought the car. He had a way of selling cars right before they skyrocketed in price. I think he got a whole 25k out of the Gullwing as an example.

    He did keep his 356 though, which I still have today and I managed to acquire a Packard he owned and loved long ago… but the Gullwing and the “neighbors Cobra” will never touch tire upon my garage I’m sure.

  26. Cargirl

    @RC if your dad was Dr. Simeone’s dad you would own the Simeone Collection today LOL That’s exactly how it started. His dad had an eye for cars and they were not rich but they held on to their cars. Same with so many collectors I deal with. At least you got to own and even keep a few cool cars.

    • RC

      I’m not complaining , I was very fortunate to grow up in amazingly fertile soil for a young gear head . My dad has been gone for over 30 years but I still feel closest to him when I’m playing with cars…which I do…a lot!

  27. Adam T45

    In a bizarre and creepy twist on the whole history of the Daytona, one of Australia’s most revered racing drivers was a gentleman by the name of Peter Brock. Brock, among other successes, won the annual Bathurst enduro nine times between 1972 and 1987. He competed full-time in circuit racing until his eventual retirement at the end of 1987. He subsequently made a couple of one-off appearances at Bathurst before once again retiring from circuit racing.

    In 2006 Peter Brock was competing in a Targa road event in Western Australia. He was competing driving a replica Daytona (pictured). On 8th September 2006 he lost control of the car on a wet, downhill corner and hit a tree broadside (directly on the driver’s door). Peter Brock, Australian racing legend, died instantly at the wheel of a Daytona.

  28. Imperialist1960

    If you are a fan of Peter Brock, or even merely curious about what he’s up to, type “Aerovault” into your favorite search engine. If you have a midsize car or smaller to haul, and money in the bank, it’s a very interesting design.

    • jesus bortoni

      Imperialist, out of curiosity I went to the link and found a very beautifully designed (not styled) hauler. Thank you for the suggestion.

  29. ThruxtonRider

    I toured the museum in early 2013 when we lived in the area. I stood alone behind a tour group and listened to Fred talk about the Daytona, which was the soul reason for my visit. The museum was amazing enough that I convinced my wife (non car person) to accompany me later in the year as she compromised with me instead of watching Le Mans at home. When we parked next Dr. Simeone’s Aston, we heard of Allen Simonsens crash at Le Mans. We spoke briefly to him as he was going up the steps to his office. It was a very surreal day which I will always remember.

  30. Cargirl

    Fred Simeone has an incredible knowledge of cars and he is a wonderful man to boot. I hope you and your wife return to the museum. Come visit on a demo day.

    • Andrew

      Car girl
      I sent you an email in case it ends upon your spam/junk folder

  31. Cargirl

    Andrew I answered you a few hours ago. Look in your spam folder.

    • Andrew

      Your reply isn’t clearing our filter . I resent you one from my gmail account.

  32. Walter Joy

    I remember seeing this car a few years ago at the D.C. Auto Show. I managed to get a few pics from 30 plus feet behind the velvet rope

  33. Bill McCoskey

    If you’ve never been to the Simeone Museum, and you are a gear head who likes racing and high performance cars, YOU MUST go visit this remarkable place. While other car museums have cars that are similar to the ones that won the big races, the cars in this museum are often THE cars that took the flag!

    And if you have the time, about 3 hours away is another very interesting car museum; The Swigart Museum. A very eclectic collection of everything car & truck related. The family began collecting vintage cars & ephemera back in the 1930s. During WW2 they had to create a museum to keep everything from being declared as scrap and destroyed.

    They have such an incredible hoard of things that only about 1% of the entire collection can be displayed. Many years ago I remember seeing a storage building packed tightly with license plates, so tightly I don’t think another plate could be added! Also remember seeing a 55 gallon drum filled with radiator emblems, plucked off cars in junkyards back in the 1930s, 40s & 50s. Note; These individual things are not for sale. [Don’t believe they’ve even been inventoried!]

    The website is:

  34. starsailing

    Russkit slot car Daytona Coupe and frame kit was the best in it’s day…about late 65-early 66. Brother bought it and used a Bob Cat motor. great kit!

    Anyone remember the 66-67 race car movie….. kinda a Frankie and Annette type movie where the star guy drove a Blue Daytona Coupe as his street car?

    I am thinking this was the car in the movie.


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