You could be looking at the most expensive collector car ever. This is Carroll Shelby’s personal 1965 Daytona Cobra. It was purchased by the current owner from the man Carroll Shelby himself. Shelby commissioned the Daytona Cobra and it is fully documented and is listed in the Shelby Register as well.
Besides being piloted by champion drivers like Phil Hill, Derek Hill, Derek Bell, Danny Sullivan, John Morton, and Brian Redman, it has taken vintage racing wins at Laguna Seca in California, and Goodwood in England. Though it is not one of the first six coupes taking the GT class from Ferrari at LeMans, it is still an original and significant race car.
Daytona coupes are far more desirable and rarer than Cobra roadsters
Of course, after the Daytona coupe wins Shelby switched gears and helped develop the GT 40. Given that this was owned by Shelby it adds a lot of gravitas to the coupe. Recently, a 1965 427 Cobra roadster owned by Shelby sold at auction for almost $6 million in January. But a Daytona coupe is far more desirable and much rarer than any Cobra roadster. Still, $50 million is a tall mountain to climb.
But it has everything that could elevate it to that threshold. Its ownership, race wins, list of champion drivers, and extreme rarity, place it above most other collector vehicles. It also cemented Shelby as one of the top racing enterprises that could virtually guarantee wins.
Once in endurance competition, the Daytona coupe excelled over the field
These were originally designed by Shelby employee Pete Brock to the skepticism of almost the entire Shelby organization. Its design was sparked by pre-war aerodynamic studies done by the Germans before WWII. Right up to its first track run it was thought to be no better than Shelby’s Cobra roadsters. Once in endurance competition, it excelled over the rest of the field. Brock’s instincts were right.
Powered by the same small block Ford engines as the first Cobra roadsters the aerodynamics raised the coupe’s top speed well above the Cobra roadsters. It won the GT class at the 1964 24 Hours of LeMans driven by Dan Gurney and Bob Bondurant. The coupe placed 4th overall that year. It ended Ferrari’s reign at LeMans.
Virtually all of the collector cars selling for more than $20 million are from Europe, with Ferrari filling most of those slots. The only American-manufactured vehicle is the 1935 Duesenberg SSJ which sold for $22 million in 2018. And the highest-paid was $70 million in 2018 for a silver Ferrari GTO. Another GTO that same year sold for almost $50 million.