Birth of a New Machine - Building a Cobra Kit Car
Copyright 1996, Daniel J. Sommers

Part 11: Connect the Dots
With the engine and transmission in place, it was time to install the stubby, little drive shaft (about 20-inches long) between the Toploader transmission and the Jaguar-Salisbury differential. The drive shaft had been fabricated by ERA for this application, and it fit perfectly. As I lined up the holes in the drive shaft flange with those on the differential, it appeared special bolts might be required to fasten them together.

Piece by piece, Deb and I examined all the general-purpose hardware we had purchased for the Cobra kit, and even rummaged through a few coffee cans filled with odds and ends from past projects, but we couldn't find anything that was quite right. Somewhat frustrated, we put the tools away, locked the barn, and decided to call ERA for advice before we went any further.

Bright and early Monday morning, I called ERA and asked to speak to Peter about the drive shaft bolts. He was on another call, but it didn't take long before he picked up. I explained the situation to Peter, and he knew exactly what I was talking about.

Because ERA builds turnkey Cobra replicas for customers who are not willing or able to build a kit themselves, Peter knew of some special, high-strength bolts used in the aircraft industry. He explained that these would work perfectly -- and he had some in stock -- but cautioned that they were expensive at $3.00 each.

Yes, but we needed them. So I told Peter that I would send him $12.00 plus $3.00 for postage and asked that he forward the bolts immediately. I mailed the check that afternoon; on Friday, the mailman delivered the fancy-schmancy aircraft bolts -- just in time for the weekend.

Deb and I were out in the barn by 7:00 a.m. that Saturday morning. With the new bolts, I had the drive shaft connected and snugged in about 10 minutes. Next, we installed the hand brake lever and cable and followed the procedure in the ERA assembly manual to adjust the cable length.

Turning our attention to the engine compartment, we installed the battery tray, voltage regulator, and the accelerator pedal linkage. ERA had pre-drilled all holes, and everything fit as intended. It reminded me of my Erector Set when I was a kid.

The cooling system was next. The very-thick (and heavy) radiator mounts at an angle, but slid into place from under the car, just as the book said it would. Four bolts through two support straps and a big bracket on top were used to hold it in place.

The upper radiator hose is a standard Gates pre-molded hose that runs from the top of the radiator to the expansion tank on the engine. The lower hose is a Gates part too, but had to be trimmed to fit. In addition, the radiator cooling fan thermostat switch, installed in an aluminum tube, fits into the lower hose to sense coolant temperature. We used '60s-vintage Ford hose clamps to keep things looking as original as possible.

ERA provided three sturdy aluminum radiator-shroud pieces that were positioned to maximize airflow through the core of the radiator. One of these pieces had to be modified slightly because we were installing the optional oil cooler, which was next on the list of things to do.
Mounted to the underside of the lower radiator shroud, the oil cooler was connected to an oil-cooler adapter that fits between the oil filter mount and the filter itself. Flexible, stainless steel covered hoses were used to route oil from the engine through the cooler and back. The combination of stainless steel and red and blue anodized-aluminum fittings used on the hoses added a subtle high-performance look.

Back under the hood, we installed a manual heater-flow control valve to the intake manifold, then added two lengths of plain, black heater hose between the engine and the heater-core fittings that protruded from the firewall. The control valve would allow us to stop hot coolant from flowing through the heater during warmer weather. Again, we used reproduction '60s Ford hose clamps (from Tony D. Branda) to keep things looking authentic.

The final cooling-system hose connected a small fitting located at the top-right corner of the radiator to another fitting soldered onto the top-right corner of the expansion tank. The small, 3/8-inch hose is used to "burp" air from the cooling system into the expansion tank. I had never seen this arrangement used before, but it seemed like a logical way to purge trapped air from the system.

The assembly manual indicated that the next step was to install the windshield-wiper system. Following the instructions, we mounted the wiper motor on top of the passenger-side footbox in the engine compartment. The left and right wiper wheelboxes were then carefully fastened to the cowl, taking care not to scratch the gorgeous green paint. Working from inside the car, it didn't take long to fit the cable tubes to the wiper motor and wheelboxes. The final step was to insert the driving cable into the left wheelbox, through the tubes and the right wheelbox, then into the motor.

We performed a few alignments and adjustments, applied white lithium grease in the appropriate places, and tested the mechanism by using a battery charger to supply 12 volts to the terminals on the wiper motor. It worked great!

Next, we bolted the windshield to the car and installed the wiper arms and blades. As a final test, we sprayed some water on the windshield and applied power to the wiper motor again. Success! With that, Deb and I decided to call it a day, cleaned ourselves up a bit, and went to our favorite restaurant to celebrate the progress we had made.

Sunday morning, we were up early and out in the barn by 7:00 a.m. again. According to the assembly manual, it was time to tackle the dashboard, glovebox, and fresh-air and speedometer cables.
The dashboard came preassembled from ERA, so all we had to do was install the wiring harnesses and play "connect the dots" with the multicolored wires. This section of the ERA assembly manual includes the following words of encouragement:

"The dashboard must be wired before it can be bolted into the body. Looking at all the wires staring you in the face, you might think this is a complicated task.  With patience and care, it's not at all difficult."

It took a couple of hours to install the ERA-supplied front and rear wiring harnesses, fuse blocks, accessory relays, and starter solenoid. Then, working inside the car with the dashboard positioned face-down, and supported by a couple of cardboard boxes, it took about four hours to carefully route and connect wires to various gauges, switches, warning lights, and instrument lamps.

After double-checking all connections, we positioned the dashboard and loosely threaded the mounting screws into the pre-tapped holes in the frame. This allowed us to pull the dashboard away from the body far enough to install and align the glovebox from under the dash. We also routed and installed the left and right fresh-air vent cables and the speedometer cable at this time. We did everything by the book and were always pleased with the result.

Though we were getting a little tired and hungry, Deb and I decided to tackle one more small task: installing the battery tray and battery cables. According to the assembly manual, the battery tray was to be bolted to the passenger-side footbox, in front of the wiper motor. It fit perfectly, with all four bolt-holes aligned with those ERA had pre-drilled in the footbox.

With a big-block engine under the hood, space was at a premium, so the right rocker-arm cover had to be removed to install the reproduction mid-'60s Autolite Group 24F battery. A 24-inch battery cable ran from the starter solenoid on the firewall to the positive post of the battery; a 16-inch ground cable was attached to the rear-most intake manifold bolt on the right side and would eventually connect with the negative post on the battery.

To deliver power to the starter motor, we used a 24-inch length of zero-gauge cable with eyelet-type terminals at each end. This cable was carefully routed from the starter solenoid to the starter motor. To finish things up for the day, we added a short length of ERA-supplied 10-gauge wire between the right rear bolt on the intake manifold and a bolt on the steel transverse cowl support member (behind the firewall) to ground the chassis.

Deb and I were pretty pleased with the progress we made that weekend. As we put tools away and tidied-up the Cobra's nest, we talked about how well things had gone that weekend and how much we thought we could accomplish during our next session.

Next week: Time to Move Inside