An American car was bound to make an appearance in this series at some point.
Finally, an American car makes the list. The Daytona is one of a several spectacular cars which came about as a result of Carroll Shelby's all-consuming need to stick it to Ferrari
. Shelby piloted an Aston-Martin DBR1 to a Le Mans win in 1959, the only break in Ferrari's winning streak from 1958 to 1965. From his first modified AC Cobras until his GT40s would take the dominance of La Sarthe back from the prancing horses in the latter half of the Sixties, Ferrari was always in Shelby's crosshairs.
The Daytona was a car created to solve a specific problem. Shelby was having a lot of success with his Cobra in GT racing, but there was a major drawback. On the tighter courses which characterized American GT racing, the light but powerful Cobra won race after race. But European tracks tended to have longer straightaways, such as the Mulsanne at Le Mans, and here the open top cars had a major aerodynamic disadvantage against the slippery Ferraris, which could hit much higher speeds, despite the lower power, and were therefore able to counter the advantage that the Cobra had in the twists.
Shelby put Pete Brock, a former GM designer, in charge of the design for a more aerodynamic hardtop version of the Cobra. The Daytona was mechanically identical to the Cobra (and is sometimes called the "Daytona Cobra Coupe"), and in a certain way, this is the reason why there are so few of them. An original Cobra or 250 GTO is not an easy thing to get your hands on, but both of them are much easier to find than a Daytona, and this is because of the FIA rules regarding homologation. GT cars needed to be classified as production vehicles in order to compete, and this means that a certain number had to be sold to the public.
Interestingly, Ferrari did a pretty half-assed job homologating the 250 GTO, much to the displeasure of the FIA and present-day collectors alike, but a car which simply had a different body from one which was already homologated didn't need to go through the whole process again. Therefore, Shelby only built as many as he needed to go racing. The Daytona did turn out to be noticeably faster than the Cobra, but this wasn't exactly a foregone conclusion. Brock had designed the coupe without a wind tunnel, and had basically just eyeballed it. Then once the prototype was built, the actual manufacturing of the bodies was sourced out to Carrozzeria Grandsport of Italy.
Grandsport took the liberty of making a few changes to the design in order to make the car more aesthetically pleasing (Italians, where would we be without them?), which were unfortunately less aerodynamic than Brock's original design. It was still fast enough though, and Ferrari was soon to be in for a nasty shock. The FIA had created a GT class for endurance racing in 1959, and for the first several years, it was entirely Ferrari's game. Cobras could win individual races, but the championship always went to Ferrari. The Daytona started off with a class win at the 12 Hours of Sebring, but this was one of those shorter American courses.
So Ferrari simply chocked this up to the racing-modified Ford
289 V8 engine under the hood and the 390 horsepower it produced. The real test of the Daytona was the 1964 24 Hours of Le Mans, where it was able to take a class win, as well as 4th place overall. Ferrari was able to retake the GT title at Le Mans in 1965, thanks to their ability to get a ringer into the GT class, in the form of a 275 GTB. But for the rest of the GT season, Ferrari showed the kind of sportsmanship which used to endear Enzo to exactly nobody ever, and threw a fit when the FIA refused to allow the 250 LM to compete as a GT because of a complete lack of any attempt whatsoever at homologation.
They otherwise withdrew from GT racing that year as a result, the automotive manufacturer's equivalent of taking their ball and going home. The Daytona would take the World Sportscar Championship that year, although it is likely that Shelby still would have been able to pull it off even if Ferrari had stayed in the race. It's very possible that Ferrari knew this, and the spat with the FIA was just the old man's way of finding a way to prevent Shelby from proving that he had built the superior car. Shelby turned his attention to the GT40 after 1965, and he no longer had the time to devote to the Daytona, so 1965 was its last year.
The move to the GT40 would start getting him overall wins instead of just class wins, and he would more thoroughly humiliate Ferrari by pitting the equally massive ego of Henry Ford II against him. Only six Daytonas were ever built, so all of them are extremely valuable, but it is chassis number CSX2061 which won the championship in 1965, and it was this car which set the record at auction.