Mount Rushmore. The Statue of Liberty. Yellowstone. Nicholas Cage.
The United States has its share of official (and unofficial) national treasures. From buildings to monuments to places, the U.S. Library of Congress has designated some 40,000 national treasures as significant to the history of the United States of America.
Never has a car made the list.
The car that finally earned the acknowledgment of the Library of Congress is not the car I would have thought would be singled out as the most significant in U.S. history. It’s not the Model T, which made the automobile accessible to every working man and woman in the country, and it’s not the Ford Mustang, which invented a car category still going strong today.
It’s not a pickup truck, which is perhaps the most American vehicle ever made, and it’s not the Chevy Malibu, which, oh never mind, the Malibu never had a chance.
The car that has been recognized as the first automotive national treasure is one of just 6 produced: a 1964 Shelby Cobra Daytona Coupe.
Built in January 1964 by Shelby American, the Daytona Coupe won the International Manufacturer’s GT Championship in 1965, which was the first time an American manufacturer had won an international race series.
That’s reason enough for national-treasure status, but the stats up the ante even more. The Ford 289-cubic-inch V8 puts out 375 horsepower, which is sent to the rear wheels via a 4-speed manual transmission and contributes to a top speed of 180 miles per hour. Stopping power comes from 4 disc brakes. There are sports cars today that don’t look that good on paper.
Now that the door has opened to include cars on the Library of Congress list, expect many more to come.
Mark Gessler, President of the Historic Vehicle Association, said,
It has been nearly 120 years since the first automobiles were produced in the U.S. During that time, we have implemented national programs to recognize our historic buildings, airplanes, spacecraft and vessels but not our historic automobiles…. Through our work, we hope to celebrate the contribution of the industry’s pioneers, the vehicles they produced and the preservation efforts necessary to ensure future generations appreciate the unique roll [sic] of the automobile in shaping America.
Which cars should be recognized as American national treasures?