The Dodge Viper Is the Big-Block Daytona Coupe Shelby Never Got To Finish
Sometimes life has a weird way of working out after all...
The connection between Carroll Shelby and the Viper is well known throughout the auto industry. Tom Gale wanted a modern-day Cobra, he approached Carroll Shelby and Bob Lutz about the car, and the rest is history. No need to rehash the story like most Batman shows/movies like to rehash the death of Bruce Wayne's parents.
However, what if I could share with you all a realization that adds a little bit of depth to the Viper lore? Adding another spin –another take– on the history most of us know pretty well? One that adds poetic justice to a car that Carroll, Ken Miles, and Shelby American never got to finish nor race?
The beauty in question... (Photo Credit: Shelby American)
Most of us know about the Daytona Coupe. It was a significantly more aerodynamic Cobra meant to compete with the Ferrari 250 GTO. Despite the initial apprehensiveness from Carroll and others because of its weird shapes and design, Pete Brock's slippery new body ended up giving the Cobra the top speed it needed to give Ferrari quite the headache. Easily competing with them down long straights like the Mulsanne straight and, while not taking an overall victory, proved that Enzo Ferrari was not a god-among-men, and that he could be conquered.
Though not with the car we're going to be focusing on today. While the Daytona Coupe proved to be mighty impressive (impressive enough to get the normally reserved Ken Miles excited), Carroll felt that the little coupe needed more power to win an overall victory at Le-Mans.
The solution? Just stick a bigger engine in the little bugger! The plan was to shoehorn the 427 NASCAR V8 Ford had into the Daytona Coupe. They were going to extend the chassis by three inches and then do glorious battle with Ferrari at Le-Mans. Unfortunately, Ford was ramping up development and effort on the GT40 and wanted Shelby to be the front-man for the car. This meant that funds for development on the Daytona Coupe were drying up and the chassis they were using to create a 427 Daytona Coupe was ultimately converted back to being a normal 289-powered Daytona Coupe. Even the 427 Super Coupe (a Daytona meant to have 427 compatibility from the offset) never got finished (sadtimes.png for Pete Brock).
Thing is, I realized something when reading stories about the Daytona Coupe: Not only was the Viper a spiritual successor to the Cobra, but the Viper GTS (later introduced in 1996) was also the unintentional successor to the 427 Daytona Coupe.
With the gargantuan size of the Viper's engine (488 cubic inches for those who don't know), and the Cobra influence on the RT/10 plus the Daytona Coupe influence on the GTS, it's hard not to see the merit in this idea.
I quite like this “theory” as well, because it gives Carroll Shelby, Ken Miles, Pete Brock, and everyone else involved with that project some closure for a project that never got its full potential realized. Through the creation of the Viper GTS (and subsequent Viper coupes), the 427 Daytona Coupe and perhaps even the Super Coupe finally got their big break (spiritually at least). Carroll Shelby would finally finish his secret weapon, though probably not how he thought he would.
I hope you enjoyed this little... whatever this was. Let me know what you think in the comments below! See you later.
Make sure to check out these articles and one by our very own Dylan Smit for more on the Daytona Coupe and the 427 Super Coupe:
Originally posted on Cody's Car Conundrum on 1/16/2021.