The Daytona Dozen: Cars and bikes that celebrate the iconic track

Yesterday, Feb. 26, Kurt Busch won the 59th running of NASCAR’s Daytona 500 with a spectacular last-lap pass. The 500, NASCAR’s marquee event, kicks off the racing season in late winter. But Daytona International Speedway hosts plenty of other races, including the 24-hour endurance race and several for motorcycles. As one of the most famous tracks in the world, it was inevitable that auto and bike manufacturers would trumpet their successes on the Florida track and adopt the name for its new models. Here are the manufacturers and models that proudly—most of the time—carried the famous name. Let us know if we missed any…

1964-1965 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe
One of the greatest machines bearing the famed name, the Cobra Daytona coupe took a very quick and successful production-based race car, the Shelby Cobra, and made it truly fast. The 289-cid V-8 Ford-powered sports car had already racked up hundreds of victories both large and small when Shelby realized that top speed was limited by the Cobra’s shape.

Shelby American designer Peter Brock was asked to create an aerodynamic body to increase the Cobra’s top speed. During testing and development, the prototype Cobra coupe had been timed at speeds in excess of 190 miles-per-hour; a stock Cobra could do no better than 157 miles-per-hour. Thanks to the higher top speed, Shelby could finally take the fight to Ferrari and logged many class wins, including a class win at Daytona in 1965. The result was that Ford and Shelby finally bested Ferrari to win the World Championship for Manufacturers.

1968-1973 Ferrari 365 GTB/4 ‘Daytona’
Ferrari’s replacement for its 275 GTB, was the Pininfarina-styled 365 GTB/4. Its heart was a bigger, more powerful version of the four-cam engine used in the 275 GTB/4 and mated to a five-speed transaxle and four-wheel independent suspension. Never officially called the Daytona, it picked up the nickname because of Ferrari’s 1-2-3 sweep of the 1967 24 Hours of Daytona. Although there were 15 competition models built and campaigned by privateers, the heavy Daytona was more successful, and best-remembered, as a road car.

1969 Dodge Daytona
Back when NASCAR racecars were actually based on factory production models, automakers found that it took a lot of horsepower to push a typical American sedan through the air. But with a few aerodynamic tweaks to the Dodge Charger 500—like a flush rear window, revised front fenders, a longer, less blunt nose and a high-mounted wing to counter the corresponding front-end lift—the car could top 200 mph on tracks like Darlington and Daytona. Mated to the optional 426-cid Hemi, the Daytona gave Dodge super speedway wins and reinforced the company’s dominance of the 1969 season. Just 503 Charger Daytonas were built; only 70 carried the legendary Hemi engine.

1975-1977 Dodge Daytona
To capitalize on the fame of the Dodge Daytona name, Dodge got its own version of the Chrysler Cordoba and applied an appearance package. Even with the so-called 400-cid “performance” engine option, the car paled when compared to its winged namesake.

1984 Dodge Daytona and Daytona Turbo
Not willing to abandon such a magical name, Dodge dusted off the Daytona moniker and applied it to a new front-drive sporty coupe in 1984. Built on a shorted K-car platform, it made mockery of the legendary Dodge Charger Daytona with a 99 horsepower 2.2-liter four-cylinder engine as standard equipment. Performance was somewhat better in the 142 horsepower Turbo model, featuring a five-speed manual transmission. Reasonably quick for the era, the attractive Daytona Turbo was Dodge’s answer to the old-tech Camaro and Mustang.

2006-2009 Dodge Charger Daytona
In 2006 brought back the Charger as an aggressive and sporty four-door with an optional Hemi engine. The Daytona name was added with a special package that included exclusive colors, striping and about 10 extra horsepower (even more for 2009). For the first time since the original, Dodge mated the Daytona name to a serious performer.

1967-1974 Triumph T100R Tiger Daytona
Following Buddy Elmore’s win in the 1966 Daytona 200 riding a 500cc Triumph, the company added the Daytona name to the T100R Tiger production 500cc twin and introduced it for 1967. Derived from the 500cc Tiger and the original Edward Turner-designed engine, it was a higher-revving bike that offered greater performance. The chassis used a conventional front fork and twin coil-over shocks in the rear, with the vertical twin as an unstressed component, which was mated to a 4-speed gearbox. A popular—and lighter—alternative to the iconic 650cc Bonneville, the Daytona remained in production until the Meridian factory was closed due to a strike in early ‘74.

1984 Triumph Daytona Prototype
Triumph Motorcycles dusted off the old Daytona name when they showed a 600cc short-stroke Twin in 1983. It was to be part of the planned 1984 line-up, which was stillborn due to bankruptcy in late August 1983.

1997-2006 Triumph 955i Daytona
If Triumph wanted a sport bike to differentiate it from the competition, the company surely succeeded with this 955cc liquid-cooled inline-triple. The 128 horsepower engine was mounted in an aluminum, mono-shock frame. To stop the 161 mph machine, a hydraulic system was deployed, with twin discs up front and a single disc in the rear.

2002-2004 Triumph 600 Daytona
The reborn Triumph company built a 600 Daytona for three years. A very different machine than the bigger 955i triple, this modern motorcycle used a liquid-cooled, short-stroke, inline four-cylinder engine producing 110 horsepower at 12,500 rpm and mated to a six-speed transmission. Stopping power came from twin discs up front and a single disc in the rear.

2005 Triumph 650 Daytona
This Daytona eschewed a fourth cylinder, and used a 646cc twin-cam triple to produce 114 horsepower. It was quick, relatively light and used a mono-shock rear suspension with dual discs up front and a single one out back. A one-year model, it gave way to the long-running 675 Daytona.

2006-Current Triumph 675 Daytona
A development of the 650 Daytona, the 675 continues the high-performance triple’s pattern, but with 128 horsepower in its larger iteration. This superbike will hit 60 mph in 3.2 seconds and is stopped by dual discs in front and a single disc in back, all using Brembo calipers.

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