The $500,000 electric-powered Renovo Coupe for 2015 is definitely a Tesla killer. But it’s also about as retro as it could possibly be, closely following the styling and the excitement of the original 1964/65 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe, of which just six were built.
The Daytonas were glamorous cars, built to overcome the aerodynamic drag that held up the Cobra droptops as race winners. The fourth Daytona (featured in the film Redline 7000) sold in 2009 for $7.25 million. Its four class wins probably had something to do with the price.
The fiberglass-bodied Renovo, which recently had a high-profile debut at Pebble Beach. Did I mention that this all-electric road rocket has 1,000 foot pounds of torque? Well, it does, with twin electric motors making more than 500 horsepower (hence the tire-smoking video). And zero to 60 in “less than” 3.4 seconds. The top speed is 120 mph.
Want some downsides? Start with the $529,000 price, and add just 100-mile range from the 30-kilowatt-hour battery pack. It’s not a Tesla, though it might beat one in a drag race. Renovo CEO Christopher Heiser said that a bigger pack might have yielded 300-mile range, “But then it would’ve been a 4,500-pound car.” As is, the car weighs a credible 3,250 pounds. Charging at 240 volts is said to take five hours, and there's a quick-charge option (half an hour to full).
The Renovo sits on a “genuine, factory modified Shelby American CSX9000 rolling chassis,” which basically means authorized by Shelby. The original Daytona was designed by Peter Brock, who was more recently involved in the marketing of Mark II Daytonas from Shelby American with the option of Roush 427 motors making, you guessed it, 500 horsepower. Here’s a 2010 model for sale at $179,000.
“This shape was nearly perfect 50 years ago, and physics don’t change much over time,” said Brock. “However, the redesigned [electric] car has a totally updated body, frame, suspension and cabin; it’s a new chapter for this chassis.”
The plan is to build less than 100 units. Heiser isn’t a car guy; he’s a serial entrepreneur based in Silicon Valley, which is where the car is being built. Cofounder Jason Stinson is an 18-year veteran of Intel. I’m sure the computer/controller will be state of the art. Perhaps the market here is the money-is-no-object owner whose other car is a Tesla, and wants something wilder and woollier for Sunday drives. Heiser calls it “an aspirational vehicle.” Time will tell on that one; the originals certainly are.
One of the most interesting of the original Daytonas is the prototype, CSX2287, also the only U.S.-made car. It was raced extensively at Daytona, Sebring, Spa, Reims (and even the Bonneville Salt Flats), which only adds to its value. It was owned subsequently by eccentric music producer Phil Spector, who paid all of $7,500 for it in 1966 or so and painted some outlandish slogans on it, including “Winner 33 grand prix,” “Land speed record 227 mph” and “427 cu in engine.” The Daytona was used in an episode of The Monkees TV show (Leave the Driving to Us).
After that, Spector’s handyman, George Brand, got his hands on it, and for safe keeping gave it to daughter Donna Brand, who locked it in a trailer. A long sleep ensued, followed by Brand's death and a lengthy court battle, the result of sketchy ownership records.
Today’s the prototype Daytona is in the spectacular Philadelphia collection of Dr. Fred Simeone. It's undoubtedly appreciated hugely and is now a multi-million-dollar car. Will Renovos accrue value like that? Nah, but I’m sure they’re a blast to drive.
Now for some videos. Here's a closer look at the Renovo:
And here's Dr. Fred Simeone on the long, tangled history of the original prototype Daytona now in his collection: