August 25, 2020 By Francis G. Pallarco Photos: Jun Vinluan

Tuner: Snake Bite

Getting hooked on a Cobra

It’s loud, hot and a handful to drive, but in the hands of a capable driver the Shelby Cobra was able to beat Ferrari in its own game of sports car endurance racing during the sixties. Back in the day, the ’65-’67 427 Cobra was the pinnacle of performance. Powered by a 427 cubic inch, big block Ford V8, it was a readily available street car that could accelerate from 0 to 100 and back to a standstill in about 13.5 seconds. A record that stood unbeaten for many years. Since then the Cobra has become an automotive icon and something most car collectors would do just about anything to own. Unfortunately, the late Carrol Shelby only built a total of 348, 427 Shelby powered Cobras which have resulted to prices shooting way past the stratosphere. Just this year alone, a barn find 427 Shelby Cobra sold at auction for close to a million dollars while the first ever Shelby Cobra (CSX2000) which was personally owned by Shelby sold for a staggering $13 million dollars in 2016. So, what’s the logical solution to this situation? Build your very own replica which Cobra enthusiasts worldwide have been doing so for the past 30 years. It’s so popular, that most kit car manufacturers offer Cobra replicas either as a rolling chassis or complete turnkey versions

When it comes to Cobra kit car manufacturing, Factory Five Racing (FFR) is an American company that takes a serious approach in terms of engineering and actual build processes. Founded in 1995 by brothers Dave and Mark Smith who are also car enthusiasts, FFR has been manufacturing and has sold well over 7,000 Cobra replicas which is known as the Mk3 Roadster. In addition to accurately reproducing the looks and keeping the essence of the 427 Cobra, FFR has engineered it to work with modern technology and components to improve performance and reliability. FFR offers pretty much a complete kit with everything needed to build the car except for the engine, transmission, rear end, brakes, wheels and tires, battery, fuel pump, and paint. They do however have a tie-up with Blue-Print engines who supplies fully built crate engines. In this case the only thing needed would be the tools and manpower for assembly and paint. Perfectly exemplified by our featured FFR Mk3 Roadster Cobra owned by Wesley Gatchalian that’s been assembled and painted by Alex car Restoration.

Just like the original, the FFR Mk3 Roadster Cobra also features a round tube frame chassis finished with all the engine and suspension mounts necessary. The front independent suspension consists of A-arm control arms with Koni coilover shocks. Although a polished Independent Rear Suspension (IRS) would look fine, the kit comes with a three-link rear suspension with a solid rear differential that’s easier to maintain. When dealing with a lightweight body and a powerful motor, braking becomes a crucial component. Reason enough to require Wilwood (6-piston) calipers and 12-inch cross-drilled rotors to do the task. The huge brakes require 17-inch wheels whose design closely resembles the original magnesium Halibrand wheels complete with the faux ‘knock-offs’ and are wrapped with sticky Nitto NT555 tires to get maximum traction for such a mighty beast.

If the brakes and suspension components seem overkill, this is because there’s a stout V8 engine with a Tremec heavy duty 5-speed manual tranny under the hood. While the tight confines of the engine bay could accommodate a huge 427 cubic inch Ford V8, this one uses a 302 small block crate engine from Blue-Print engines in the States. Fully rebuilt, it comes with an Edelbrock single 4-barrel carburetor and aluminum cylinder heads which are lighter and offer better flow characteristics for more power. It comes rated to put out 235 bhp and 317 ft-lbs of torque. It may not sound much on paper, but after considering that it only weighs 2250 lbs., a weight distribution of F-46.9/R-53.1 with a very low center of gravity makes it one heck of an explosive ride.

With the mechanicals taken care of its time for the exterior starting with the composite body which is a one-piece hand laid vinylester. FFR’s years of manufacturing know-how has enabled them to engineer the body to provide structural support. The hood, doors and trunk come complete with nicely crafted aluminum hinges and pre-drilled mounting holes. Once everything was assembled and prepped for paint, they went with a titanium gray metallic which is an original FFR color but with the addition of custom ghost stripes. Something that Alex Isip notes as the most difficult challenge of the entire build since it was a special paint color by Cromax that wasn’t easy to do. Proving how the FFR kit can be so complete, almost every exterior and interior detail imaginable to make it look, feel and drive like a 427 Cobra comes included in the kit. From the gauges, lights, windshield, steering wheel, shifter, quick-fill gas cap, roll bar, and so much more which all look period correct. Aside from the convenience of not having to source so many different parts, it also made the rest of the build very straightforward.

Overall, the FFR Mk3 Roadster Cobra is far from your average kit car as this one comes loaded with expertly crafted components. It’s certainly awesome as the breathtaking pictures attests to, but this is one of those special cars where it is best seen in person. It’s so well built and detailed that it should be looked at and admired from not just one, but different angles and directions. It’s that kind of car that speaks for itself. Rather loudly if I may say, while staring at the side exhaust pipe.

SPECIFICATIONS

Factory Five Racing Mk3 Roadster Wesley Gatchalian

Engine

302 Cubic-inch Ford V8 Blue-Print Crate engine

Engine Mods

Edelbrock Carburetor, Edelbrock Intake Manifold, Blue-Print camshaft, Blue-Print aluminum cylinder heads, Serpentine belt drive pulleys Shelby ‘Signature’ Series Valve Cover and Air Filter, Accel Plug Wires, Factory Five Racing Stainless headers and side exhaust, MSD Ignition, Powermaster High Torque Starter, Aluminum Radiator, Cooling fans, Motul Oil,

Horsepower

235 bhp, 317 ft-lbs of torque

Transmission

Tremec 5-Speed Manual

Brakes

Wilwood (6-piston) Calipers, Wilwood Slotted/Cross-drilled rotors (12in) Wilwood Master Cylinder, Wilwood Pedal Box,

Suspension

Front: Unequal length A-arm control arms with Koni coil-over shock suspension Adj upper control arms & lower tubular control arms w/ ball joints & fasteners,

Rear: 3-Link suspension kit with rear-end brackets, upper link kit, and fasteners, including panhard bar kit. Koni coilover shocks, Factory Five tubular rear lower control arms w/ polyurethane bushings,

Rollers

Vintage Halibrand Style Wheels (F-17×9, R17x10.5) Nitto NT555R Tires (F-245/45ZR17, R-315/35ZR17)

Frame

Complete jig-welded original style 4” round tube frame. Includes engine mounts, 3-point roll bar and passenger side roll bar mounts

Body

Hand laid 3/16” laminate composite body and panels made with vinylester resin

Body & Paint

Alex Car Restoration using Cromax Titanium Gray Metallic automotive paint with custom ghost stripes, Japan Pro-Tech Auto Detailing

Interior

Seats and dashboard are covered in Italian Cowhide leather by Leatherplus+, FFR gauges (Speedometer, Tachometer, Oil Pressure, Water Temperature, Fuel Level Gauge, Voltmeter, Clock), FFR Wood-rimmed steering wheel, Polished shifter & hand brake, Auxiliary switches, Simspon Safety Harness Electrical Master Cut-off switch, Custom Luggage by Fino Leatherware,

Exterior

Authentic chrome on brass windscreen frame, LeMans–Style Gas cap, Original style headlamps, brake lamps, turn signals & side mirrors, Original quick-jack competition bumpers

FACTOID

Only 998 original Shelby Cobra’s were assembled from 19691 to 1968 (655 leaf-spring 289 Cobras and 343 coil-spring 427 Cobras) These include street cars, competition cars, Semi-Competition S/C roadsters, etc

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