Starting 1983, 11 replicas of the Shelby 427 Cobra roadster have been revealed. What revived our interest was news that a racing version of this kit car was being built for only $ 1500 more. Only one year ago, Factory Five Racing even put together a series for its spec racer. The first race in Virginia has a field of five cars and we are sure the sight of Cobras dicing it up on the track was well worth seeing. The model features a pushrod 16-valve V8, iron block and aluminum heads that is capable of producing 225 BHP and 300 lb. ft. of torque. The power is being sent to the wheels through a 5-speed manual transmission. Its estimated price starts at $ 23.500. It is capable of acceleration from 0 to 60 mph in 4.8 seconds and in 13.9 seconds to 100 mph. The FFR will soon offer a gorgeous replica of the Shelby Daytona Cobra Coupe.
Since 1983, we've reviewed 11 replicas of the great Shelby 427 Cobra roadster. The Cobra is the undisputed darling of the kit-car industry, comprising about 70 percent of all kit cars sold. The replicas cover the gamut from $100,000 copies of near perfection to $30,000 packages that are simply kit cars with Cobra bodies.
We first noticed the ads for Factory Five Racing's 427 roadster kit in 1997. The company made quite a claim: Pay $10,990 for its kit, then acquire a V-8 Mustang built between 1987 and 1993, and you're on the way to winding up with a Cobra copy for less than 20 grand. We were skeptical: Our experience told us that inexpensive Cobra replicas usually feel like what they are -- cobbled-together fiberglass bathtubs with wheels. So we didn't get around to a test.
What revived our interest was news that a racing version of this kit car was being built, for only $1500 more. A year ago, Factory Five Racing even put together a series for its "spec racer" car. It's pretty much the same kit car, but now it's outfitted for racing duties. So we rang up the folks at Factory Five Racing, and a short time later, two factory-assembled cars were delivered to our Ann Arbor office for tests.
Factory Five Racing (FFR) was started in 1995 by the car-crazy Smith brothers, Dave, 31, and Mark, 32. We've all heard of dreamers losing their minds and their worldly goods trying to build cars -- even kit cars -- but the combined backgrounds of these brothers -- in business, engineering, and manufacturing -- brought a discriminating and more cautious quality to the often tumultuous business of making cars. They've been successful from the git-go and today sell about 550 kits a year. Since there is no national kit-car association, industry statistics are virtually nil, but Jim Youngs, editor of Kit Car magazine, says the Smith brothers sell more kit cars than anybody else.
Their spec racer pictured here has been converted for racing by the addition of an SCCA-legal safety bar, a racing seat, five-point racing belts, a fuel cell, a small driver's-side windscreen, and a stripped interior. You need two things to build it: The $12,490 kit (plus shipping costs ranging from $450 to $1000) and a 1987-93 Ford Mustang with an intact 4.9-liter V-8 engine and five-speed manual transmission, which should cost somewhere between $1500 and $3000 for a damaged but usable example. Simple. No chasing parts. Between 1987 and 1993, Ford sold thousands of V-8 Mustangs, so they shouldn't be tough to find. Speaking of business smarts, FFR provides a list of salvage yards that will find a car or supply only the needed parts.
Assembling the car is a matter of unbolting selected parts from the Mustang and bolting them onto the kit-car frame. Your handsome Frankenstein will need the Mustang's V-8 engine, five-speed manual transmission, brakes, front spindles, radiator, driveshaft, wheels, tires, rear axle, and rear shocks. The front suspension and the steering rack come with the kit.
The frame is composed of two steel tubes four inches in diameter with welded square-tubing substructures. The trunk floor and the passenger compartment are made from prefitted aluminum sheets that the builder rivets to the frame. Finally, the fiberglass body is bolted to the frame and acts like a skin covering the mechanical bits but providing no structural support.
The kit comes in boxes packed in order of assembly, so there's no need to wade through everything to get started. The only things you'll need to farm out are the shortening of the driveshaft and the painting of the body. Even all the fasteners are included.
Assembly times are dictated by the experience of the builder, but FFR estimates 250 hours to build its replicar. If that's a job you want to avoid, FFR can recommend a builder in your area, but it will add about $5000 to your cost. Our test car was assembled by FFR, and it came with some extra gauges and rear disc brakes that upped the price to $18,500. That price included a donor Mustang the company found for $1800 but did not include any labor costs (we estimated $23,500 for the as-tested price of our car, which included labor). The ultimate cost will depend on what you pay for the Mustang and how much of the work you do yourself. Whatever the case, it is clearly possible to wind up with this Cobra replicar for a good bit less than 25 grand.
Although we didn't have the pleasure of building the car ourselves, after driving it, we were impressed. The car felt solid, not flexy, as we expected. There was enough legroom for a six-foot test driver. The pedals were a bit tight but not unmanageable. Shifting is via a forward-facing lever, as in an original Cobra, and it moved through the H-pattern with satisfying crispness.
The manual steering was stiff and hard to turn at low speeds, but it lightened up when the pace quickened. We could feel cornering forces build through the wheel, and there wasn't any excess play. Dave Smith says they tried using the Mustang's power-steering gear and found it made the car too twitchy.
The FFR car was quick, scooting to 60 mph in a Corvette-comparable 4.8 seconds and clearing the quarter-mile in 13.6 seconds at 99 mph. The spec racer is the benefactor of Mustang pieces that were designed for a heavier car. Mustangs of the donor vintage weigh roughly 3200 pounds. The spec racer weighs only 2305 pounds, with about 55 percent of the weight on the rear axle. So brakes that would overheat in the heavier Mustang haul the spec racer down from 70 mph in 181 feet with little fade.
After breezing through our testing regime and posting 1.01 g on the skidpad, the thought of racing one of these became a no-brainer. We could push the car confidently, and it never threatened to spin. Neutral was the word of the day. Sign us up!
The Factory Five Racing Challenge Series is sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association. In its debut year, the races were all held at the new Virginia International Raceway and Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. For 2001, a series in northern California and one in the Southwest are planned as well.
Racing the car shouldn't wound the wallet too badly, as much of the running gear (hubs, bearings, and brakes) is proven durable Mustang stuff. More important, the rules were written to ensure parity. Chief among them is an engine-claiming rule that allows officials to inspect the engine and confiscate it if it's anything other than a stock Mustang V-8. Tires will be the biggest cost, as the mandated Kumho DOT-legal racing tires are about $600 a set. Entry fees are about $100 per weekend.
As of this writing, FFR has shipped 17 spec-racer kits. The first race in Virginia had a field of five cars, and we're sure the sight of Cobras dicing it up on the track was well worth seeing.
Factory Five Racing, 18 Kendrick Road, Wareham, Massachusetts 02571; 508- 291-3443; www.factoryfive.com.
Factory Five Racing Spec Racer
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 1-passenger, 2-door roadster
Estimated price as tested: $23,500
Engine type: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, Ford EEC-IV engine-control system with port fuel injection
Displacement..........302 cu in, 4942cc
Power (SAE net)..........225 bhp @ 4200 rpm
Torque (SAE net)..........300 lb-ft @ 3200 rpm
Curb weight..........2305 lb
Zero to 60 mph..........4.8 sec
Zero to 100 mph..........13.9 sec
Zero to 120 mph..........27.9 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph..........5.8 sec
Standing 1/4-mile..........13.6 sec @ 99 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph..........181 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad..........1.01 g
Unequal-length control arms and manual steering rack (right) are provided by FFR. Simple dash with classic gauges looks cool, but you'll want to add a more accurate tach.
Factory Five Racing Coupe
Old Mustangs have a new purpose: Add one FFR kit, one Ford Mustang. Start wrenching. Drive.
In addition to 427 and spec-racer kits, FFR will soon offer this gorgeous replica of the Shelby Daytona Cobra coupe. Only six original Daytona coupes were built in 1964 to make the Shelby Cobra more competitive against the sleek Ferrari GTO. Getting your hands on one today would set you back several million dollars.
For somewhere south of $35,000, you can build the FFR coupe and drive it without thinking you're risking millions. Or you can leave it in your garage and just stare at it.
The FFR boys haven't worked out final mechanical details for the coupe, but it will go together much like the spec racer. In other words, you'll need the $19,900 kit and a Ford V-8 Mustang. For the rear end, however, the coupe uses the differential and driveshafts from a 1989-97 vintage Ford Thunderbird mated to an FFR independent rear suspension.
The above-mentioned combination would undoubtedly make for an enjoyable, knockdown-gorgeous car. A nice car. Our test car, however, was not nice -- it was a fire breather.
FFR, you see, swapped the 4.9-liter Mustang engine for a 6.5-liter Ford V-8 pumping out an estimated 445 horsepower. In addition, FFR replaced the Mustang hubs with knockoff spindles and filled the fenders with Goodyear racing slicks. FFR says that as long as the customer specifies a chassis designed for the big motor, installation is a bolt-in operation. The bigger engine does, however, raise the price. FFR estimates a do-it-yourselfer could build the pictured coupe for about $35,000. Add about five grand if you have someone else do the work.
The phrase "eyeball-sucking performance" is a tired, overused metaphor, but it should have been saved for the FFR coupe. Galloping to 60 mph takes only 3.6 seconds. Bye-bye, Porsche 911 Turbo! The quarter-mile passes in only 11.9 seconds at 119 mph, faster than a Dodge Viper GTS.
To be fair, the FFR coupe does not meet the same safety, emissions, and comfort standards as a production car, but it is a hoot to drive. And it's classy right down to the wood-rimmed steering wheel and low bucket seats. Best of all, it feels secure when you push it hard.
If you still think of those VW-based monstrosities when you hear the words "kit car," this one will help you get over that.
FACTORY FIVE RACING COUPE
Vehicle type: front-engine, rear-wheel-drive, 2-passenger, 3-door coupe
Estimated price as tested: $40,000 (estimated base price: $35,000)
Engine type: pushrod 16-valve V-8, iron block and aluminum heads, Ford EEC-IV engine-control system with port fuel injection
Displacement..........395 cu in, 6475cc
Power (C/D estimated)..........445 bhp @ 5800 rpm
Torque (C/D estimated)..........430 lb-ft @ 4500 rpm
Curb weight..........2295 lb
Zero to 60 mph..........3.6 sec
Zero to 100 mph..........8.2 sec
Zero to 130 mph..........14.2 sec
Street start, 5-60 mph..........4.1 sec
Standing 1/4-mile..........11.9 sec @ 119 mph
Braking, 70-0 mph..........183 ft
Roadholding, 300-ft-dia skidpad..........1.04 g
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