Traversing Time and Culture in a Superformance Daytona Coupe
Turn the key to ACC. Click the immobilizer button on fob. Press up on the toggle below start. Briefly contemplate how it is that you came to be at the wheel of such a damn fine machine. That's the typical routine that comes with driving a Superformance Shelby Daytona Coupe—I can't imagine it would ever get old.
Objectively approaching a car like the Superformance Shelby Daytona Coupe is impossible. A momentary glimpse of its gorgeous body, or a brief bit of its audio reaching your ears is all it takes banish any semblance of objectivity from your mind. This is a car that demands affection, admiration, and attention. Unlike its contemporary counterparts, it's justified in its pursuit of making people swoon, and all it takes is some time behind the wheel of one to understand why.
Superformance Shelby Daytona Coupes are not kit cars, so you can go ahead and get that term right out of your head. This is a turn key vehicle, no assembly required, and it can be had for $165,000, which is an absolute whale of a deal considering what it would cost to buy an original Shelby Daytona Coupe. Superformance builds these cars with the blessing of Shelby, and they're all given CSX 9000 series numbers, meaning they are officially part of the Shelby registry. The Daytona Coupe I drove was built in 2010, had 2,540 miles on it, and was given the designation CSX-9134, which is how I'll refer to it from here on out in hopes of retaining what's left of my sanity. It weighs 2,600 pounds dry, has the venerable 5-speed Tremec T-56 Magnum gearbox, and wears sticky Nitto NT-555 rubber that keeps the car mostly in line—unless you try really hard to change that. Not saying I did...but not saying I didn't either.
The fun began as soon as I dropped into the surprisingly plush drivers seat, and heard a satisfying thud when I shut the door. Eager as I was to get on with the driving experience, I had to take a moment to admire the cockpit, and to find a place to put the removable center console armrest extension.
An array of gauges and switches dominate the center stack, enough to make you feel like you're just an FIA-approved roll cage and a fire suit away from taking on LeMans. That feeling is a big part of what Superformance counts on in order to sell these cars, but much to my surprise, it's not the part that I found most compelling.
Once there was a long enough stretch of open road, I had a chance to open the car up. The true performance brilliance what Superformance has done immediately became apparent. They've taken a legendary vehicle with a singular purpose, and turned it into a car that I'm confident just about anyone would feel comfortable driving on a daily basis. Of course, the sound emanating from the side pipes was intoxicating, and the feeling achieved from third gear pulls was addictive, but when you jump in the driver's seat, you don't really expect to drive something as refined as it is.
Forget that under the hood there's a 351 Windsor V8, that's been bored and stroked out to a 427 by Roush Racing. Ignore the 525 horsepower and 532 lb-ft of torque that's on tap. Consider the lack of wind noise in the cabin, the ice-cold air being pumped in your face, and the ample cargo space behind the seats. Enjoy the shockingly smooth ride courtesy of adjustable Bilstein coil-overs and independent rear suspension. Take comfort in knowing that because Superformance added power-steering, a tight brake pedal paired with Wilwoods at all four corners, and a light clutch, their take on the Shelby Daytona Coupe is well suited for the mundane as it is the extraordinary.
While that might not sound exciting, it's of critical importance. By being civilized enough for daily use, a Superformance Shelby Daytona Coupe brings a whole hell of a-lot of value to the table, which is crucial given the price bracket it falls into. If a loud exhaust note and classic look was all there was to these cars, I don't think there would be much of an argument for choosing one over a new 911, AMG GT-S, or used McLaren. Instead, there's just enough 'new car' mixed with old to make this a very attractive option for the kind of money you're spending, especially if you're the kind of person that prefers Stewart Warner gauges to the latest infotainment systems.
Driving CSX 9134 down deserted California roads just before sundown will stick with me for the rest of my life. The action of the angled shifter, the way my thumb fit into the cupped knob, the directness of the steering—these things are now core memories. The view out over hood of the damn thing; it's right up there with a sunset in the northern Sonoran Desert or a cloudless day on the top of Mammoth Mountain. Curves drenched in Monza Red and Dark Silver twin stripes lead the way down to a massive hood vent before falling away onto the road. It's a car that's enjoyable at any hour, but in the soft light of the fading California sun, it's really something to behold.
A GT car in the truest sense isn't exactly what Peter Brock and Bob Negstad had in mind when they designed the original Shelby Daytona Coupe back in the early '60s. But that's what their vision ultimately led to. Cars like this will continue to generate interest in the first golden age of automotive design and motorsports long after the people who lived it have passed on. Lance Stander and the rest of the folks at Superformance are keeping that history alive for a new generation, honoring legacies left behind by Carroll Shelby, Dan Gurney, Pete Brock, and making new ones in the process. Photo Credit: Raz Krog & Visual Vocab for BoldRide