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

Part 1: Why Would Anyone Want to Do This?

If you like cars as much as I do, you have your own automotive wish list. Like mine, it's probably not written down, and it changes quite often -- for example, every time you read a car magazine or see a beautifully restored '60s muscle car cruising down the highway.

I found myself adjusting my wish list (actually, I was making it longer) while attending an all-Ford car show on a sunny Sunday afternoon a couple of years ago with my wife, Debbie. We were there to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Ford Thunderbird and were proud to display Debbie's recently restored 1957 T-Bird.

As we checked out all the pristine Fords, we discovered a section reserved exclusively for Ford-powered cars. These cars were not manufactured by Ford, but had Ford engines under their hoods. In this section, two Cobra kit cars -- one red, one blue -- caught my attention, and I decided to take a closer look.
Blue Cobra Both Cobras were exceptionally well-detailed. The red car was powered by a small-block Ford engine with a single four-barrel Holley on top. It was very, very nice. But the blue Cobra had a big-block, 427-cubic-inch, side-oiler, FE-series engine with dual-quad carbs. As soon as I saw that huge engine stuffed into that little roadster, I mentally added a big-block Cobra to my wish list.

Back at home, I grabbed the current issue of "Hemmings" from the coffee table in the living room (isn't that where you keep yours?) and found a few classified ads offering kit cars and parts for sale. The first thing I learned is that quality Cobra kit cars are not cheap. There were a few cars available for less than $30 big ones, but newer, nicer vehicles were advertised with asking prices as high as $65,000! I couldn't believe it.

At that point, I reasoned that completed Cobra kit cars -- like the ones advertised in "Hemmings" -- cost so much because building a kit car must be very labor-intensive. Of course, it was logical to assume that if I supplied the labor myself, the cost of such a car could be dramatically reduced.
Heck, I tinker with cars and trucks, old and new, on a regular basis; even completed a few frame-up restoration projects. Plus, I've got a big barn with plenty of room to work on a little Cobra. The barn

It would be great to work on a rust-free car where every nut and bolt was brand-spanking new. A car that's 100% free of previous owners' mistakes, sloppy workmanship, butchered repairs, and missing parts. A car that you get to know piece by piece, tires to top, and bumper to bumper. A car where you have complete control over quality, and build it exactly the way you want it.

It didn't take much to convince myself that building a Cobra kit is what I wanted to do. I had enough talent, time, tools, and space to tackle a project like this, so why not? Besides, I knew I could convince Debbie to help (I'm lucky; she likes cars too), and it just sounded like a lot of fun!

Yes, this was a chance to do something none of my wrench-wielding friends had ever done. An opportunity to replicate one of the greatest cars ever -- the 427SC Cobra -- and have an absolute blast doing it!

Next Week: How To Select a Kit Manufacturer