Cross-Country Cobra (continued)
Our exhaust manifold gasket blew out again that afternoon, and when we stopped in Ely for the night, Tom vowed to have it fixed properly. “We’ll have to put new studs on the manifold flange,” he said.
We got it repaired expertly the next morning at Carney Brothers Garage, just down the street from our motel. The garage was full of Briggs & Stratton-powered go karts and Junior Dragsters. A mechanic named Joe Mondragon removed the whole exhaust manifold and heated and replaced the studs. After that, no more problems.
One of the garage-owning brothers, Richard Carney, refused to charge us anything for the two-hour repair.
“You’re crazy,” Tom said.
“No,” he replied, “I’m just a racer. Have a good trip.”
We put in gas and drove, put in gas and drove. Drank bottled water and Gatorade, put in gas and drove. The sun was hot, and our bottled water quickly got warm enough to make tea. “Ahh, I love the taste of hot water on a sweltering desert afternoon,” I said, quaffing the stuff with mock pleasure. “Also, this steaming hot Gatorade I found under the seat is excellent.”
On nearly every fill-up, regardless of mountains or driving conditions, we got a little over 18 mpg. Tom occasionally added some lead substitute and octane booster. We could never sense any difference, but, with an 11.6:1 compression ratio, it made us feel good. The car didn’t like midgrade fuel and pinged like a Jamaican steel drum band when we couldn’t get 93-octane unleaded. Sometimes 93 wasn’t so good, either. I’m sorry to say many of our nation’s gas stations seem to have an octane honesty problem, and the Cobra’s engine was a very effective lie detector.
We stayed the night in Roosevelt, Utah, then stopped at an antique shop in Craig, Colorado, the next day to look for a suitcase.
Since the beginning of the trip, Tom had wanted a vintage suitcase to put on the Cobra’s original equipment luggage rack. This, incidentally, was shown on the original invoice, which also told us that Cobra CSX 2490 was sold by Jack Loftus Ford, Hinsdale, Illinois, with a base price of $5195 and a class A accessory package including luggage rack, white sidewall tires, a radio, anti-freeze and freight, for a total sticker price of $5779.55.
Tom found an old brown Samsonite for $11 and we put the car cover in it to free up some trunk space and strapped it on the rack with bungees.
“Great,” Tom said, sliding behind the wheel, “now all we can see out the rearview mirror is the suitcase.”
“Still, it looks good on there,” I offered.
“And we can put stickers on it from our trip,” Tom said.
We adjusted the Ray-Dot fender mirror so the driver could see over his left shoulder, and then headed up into the high Rockies, dropping down to the ski town of Frisco. We found rooms at the Frisco Lodge, a friendly little place where I once stayed on a ski trip to nearby Copper Mountain.
We had “dinner” at the bar of an excellent micro-brewery down the street and spent the evening compiling Top Ten Lists of our favorite cars, at dozens of different price levels.
The Cobra, of course, was Tom’s Favorite Car of All Time.
I decided the Cobra was my third, after the D-Type Jaguar and the Aston Martin DBR-1. But I had already concluded that if I had to pick a favorite to actually drive on the street, it would be the Cobra.