About this site:

Updated: 8/3/20

This site is a chronicle of my Factory Five Mk IV Build, a ‘Cobra replica’.  It is roadster chassis number 9047.  My shop is named after our home in Sunshine, CO.  The Shelby Cobra is an iconic 1960’s American race car: winner of the 1965 FIA Championships in the form of the Daytona Coupe; part of 1960’s culture (‘Hey Little Cobra’); and, today, wildly expensive to purchase even a non-storied CSX 2000 or 3000 series car.  The short wheel base (90 in.) and substantial power to weight ratio can make the cars, as with the originals, tricky to control.  Two forums (ffcars.com and the Factory Five Forum) provide a tremendous amount of advice on every aspect of building a Factory Five roadster and numerous examples of completed cars.  Finished roadsters range from all-out race cars with no creature comforts to roadsters suitable for touring and outfitted with power steering, power brakes, heated seats, heaters / defrosters and so on.  There are many reviews in the car magazines on the Factory Five Roadsters and one of my favorite quotes, from Car and Driver magazine (July, 2004), is:

 'A primal brute that will confirm all your mother-in-law's worst suspicions.'

Another (Automobile: October, 9, 2014):

‘...a visceral, joyful, unforgettable drive—a thundering rebuke of soft edges and digital ease.'

So why build a car?  There are a number of ‘cobra replicas’ available for purchase, some ‘turnkey’ or ‘turnkey-minus’ (car minus engine and transmission) and others in 'component kit' form (e.g., ERA Replicas or Unique) as is the Mk IV.  Some, like the Kirkham or Superformance, are well-made, beautiful cars with rolling chassis and factory fit and finish just waiting for an engine and transmission. In my opinion, they are 'component cars' only by stretching the definition.  

I’m fortunate to have the time, resources and mechanical inclination to build a car, but it goes beyond that for me.  There is no doubt that the world is getting more complex.  Everything seems to have been superseded by the more complicated.  When is the last time you saw a typewriter or navigated with map and compass?  Our daily rhythm is regulated by devices, and sometimes ideas, of which we have no real idea of how they operate.  Building a car, particularly a Cobra replica like the Factory Five roadster, brings us back to the days when we could relate to the machines in some visceral way.  More directly, building and driving a car like the Mk IV connects us to what cars and driving used to be: fabricating and ‘wrenching’ in a garage and a direct connection between driver and machine.  It's the antithesis of 'drive by wire’; it’s analogue in a digital world.  In the end, no matter what anyone else thinks about the end product, the car that rolls out of my shop will be the product of my labor, my creativity and my stubbornness, it will be MY car, not someone else's vision of what it should be nor the result of their labor.

This build is my second F5 roadster project.  My first (#6759: 2008) was destroyed in the Four Mile Wildfire of 2010.  It wasn't completed but was a rolling chassis.  I was bummed by its destruction, for sure, but one reason that I wanted to build a car was to learn about cars in a direct way, and I did.  I was sad for the loss but grateful for the experience of building.  So, having a car like the F5 roadster is, for me, about the process, too.  It's also about learning about the evolution of decades of automotive innovation, about fasteners, torque specs, wiring and working with fiberglass and metal; it's about esthetics ('the look'), mechanical principles and making something that lasts.  It's about connecting to other people with the same automotive 'ethos' and desire to build a car.

There is a wide range of opionions about 'kit cars' among car buffs.  Cobra replicas, particularly, seem to stir the ire of collector car purists.  Never-the-less, Factory Five has changed the calculus regarding kit cars by producing a well engineered chassis that can accept a wide range of aftermarket performance products.  That a Factory Five roadster will outperform the 'original Cobra' is sweet but to me 'component car', 'kit car', 'hot rod', 'rat rod', 'modified street', wedging a V8 in an MG is a distinction without a difference: it's about starting from a pile of parts or a fifth-hand chassis or a wreck that is one haul from the junk yard and transforming these things into something about which we can say, 'I built this!'.  All of the internecine squabbling is silly: a car, hand built in a garage, is a beautiful thing irrespective of what it is called.  

What I find ironic about the kerfuffle surrounding 'Cobra' component cars is that, in its origin, the Cobra was basically a hot rod: in 1962, Carroll Shelby and Dean Moon took an AC Ace and replaced the anemic 2-liter Bristol 6-cyllinder with a 260 ci V8, markedly increasing the power to weight ratio.  By building such a car in our shops we are only celebrating the tradition of big engines in lightweight cars.  In fact, one of the arguments against Shelby in the ‘trade dress’ dispute with Factory Five was that the 'Cobra’ shape was really just a modification of the AC design (initially built in hot rodder Dean Moon’s shop in CA).  Peter Brock, the designer of the Daytona Coupe and Shelby associate, wrote the linked article recently about the replica issue (from Classic Motorsports, Nov. 2017): ‘Is it Real?'

The site has five main sections: 1) A build overview describing the general attributes of the car that I'm building; 2) a build ‘blog’; 3) the main 'folder' for construction; 4) a set of photo albums with many detailed photos from the build; and 5) a section with supplementary materials, some related to this build and others of general interest.  The flow of the construction section generally follows the sequence of the build process although there are some exceptions.  Throughout the site there are many links to other locations in the site.  For example, in each section of the construction steps folder, you can navigate to the corresponding photo album containing detailed build photos.  Some of the menu headers have drop-down sub-menus but also look at the highest-level item (e.g., ‘click’ on ‘Construction Steps’ not jut the sub menu-items).


Note: This site is always under construction.  Steps that I have shown, and my opinions, are the way that I did the build, not necessarily the ‘correct’ way, if, indeed, one exists.