Everyone knows Cobra roadster replicas are great fun for a quick sprint on a sunny day, but the new crop of Daytona Coupe replicas presents a new concept: Cobra clones for serious long-distance touring. Many enthusiasts attend cruise nights, car club tours, and marathon events like the Hot Rod Power Tour and the One Lap of America. But as fun as roadsters are, with mega-power and rock-solid suspension, the smile factor can wear a little thin after an hour or so on the straight and narrow.
I had been wanting to evaluate Shell Valley's new 1964 Daytona Coupe Series II Replica, so I eagerly accepted an invitation to give it a spin from their Columbus, Nebraska-based headquarters to Speedway Motors' museum in Lincoln, a 170-mile round-trip journey.
In the real world, weather conditions can include searing heat, freezing cold, and drenching rain, so I was anxious to see how the new kit on the block was to live with on a daily basis. With early summer weather, I expected a cool trip down in the wee morning hours, but sweltering heat on the way back. A good test of the Coupe's versatility was in order.
Clambering into the cockpit was surprisingly easy without the wide sills of a GT-40 (the other popular hardtop kit) to get in the way. The door opening was low, but no more so than a Mazda Miata with a hardtop. The 14-inch-diameter Grant wood-rimmed steering wheel is a good size considering the Shell Valley kit has power steering, an unusual item in kit snakes. My biggest complaint was the turn signal lever, which was too close to the steering wheel and was constantly being accidentally flicked on as the wheel was spun. Since the signal has to be manually cancelled anyway, it would make sense to revert to a dash-mounted turn signal switch like the original Cobras had. Other dash controls fall readily to hand, and all the instruments save the steering wheel-shrouded speedometer are easy to read at a glance.
The seats are surprisingly comfortable, with good side support once belted in with the four-point racing harness. Foot room is limited for 6-foot-plus drivers, as neither the seats nor the pedals are adjustable, and the floors are already as low as they can go. Leggy builders might consider shortening the bottom of the dashboard to provide more knee room, and a heel rest for the clutch foot would provide a place to rest between gear changes.
There were no side windows installed, but Shell Valley has developed a set with sliding glass that will be available by the time you read this. Visibility is good in front and side to side, but the small period-style side mirrors hamstring rear visibility. Although some larger and more modern mirrors might look out of place, they would make the Coupe more traffic-friendly around town.
My test car was equipped like many typical roadsters: with a honkin' crate motor that was more at home in quarter-mile sprints than on a tour. A turn of the key and the estimated 500-horsepower 347 Ford stroker motor burst to life. Breathing through a 750-cfm Holley on an Edelbrock Victor Jr. manifold, the piping-hot mill sputtered and loped at low rpm like a caged animal fighting to get loose. The throttle required blipping to keep the plugs clean. With 10:1 compression and AFR aluminum heads, it ran just fine on Super Unleaded, but the COMP Cams roller cam was pretty extreme for the street.