Weathering the Storm

Posted September 27, 2017

By Dean Larson

It’s a pretty difficult situation to cope with: A Category 5 major hurricane is headed straight for you and there’s limited time to prepare. While other Floridians might not consider prepping their garage for the big storm, you’re not like other Floridians, and you’re not about to let your hand-built collector car become some convoluted insurance claim.

This is exactly the situation Dave Dinger of Sarasota, Florida, found himself in. Irma’s “cone of uncertainty” encapsulated the entire Florida Peninsula, meaning the hurricane could take a number of paths across the state, and everyone must prepare for the worst. Like millions of others, Dave prepared his home with hurricane shutters on all windows, doors and other openings. But inside the garage sat his pride and joy 1965 Shelby Cobra replica. The Cobra’s open-air nature and custom paintwork make it a less than ideal getaway vehicle for an approaching hurricane (Apocalyptic badass? Yes. Practical? No.), so the car would have to stay home, but Dave made a few extra preparations to give his Cobra a fighting chance if the worst came. 

While built to withstand 135 mph winds, Dave’s Sarasota home is just 1 mile from the coastline, so storm surge was a big concern. And Irma was slated for plenty of storm surge, 5 to 8 feet in the Tampa area and 10 to 15 feet further south. To ensure his hand-built Cobra stood the best chance possible, Dave reinforced his garage doors with 4x4 posts — two on his 16-foot door and one on the 8-foot door. The posts were anchored into the concrete floor, and the header as well, with metal straps. Should any water get into the garage, the Cobra was raised up 22 inches on jack stands. Confident in his extra preparations, Dave, with his wife Sue and their dog Neko, headed 45 minutes north to a friend’s home, which is 8 miles from the coastline and built to withstand 155 mph winds

“We were very lucky to have dodged a bullet with this storm,” Dave said after returning home to find no significant damage to his house or any of his vehicles. Indeed, all of Florida fared better than expected after Irma decreased in intensity before hitting the mainland. 

Dave's Cobra

"I have always had an affinity for sports cars and I also love to build things to challenge myself. In 2009 I went to a car show with the thought of picking up an older Corvette to restore. At that show, I saw a Corvette next to a ’65 Shelby Cobra and quickly changed my mind," says Dave. "In 2010 I purchased a Factory Five kit and decided that I could modify the fit and finish and the looks, improving it and making it unique to me. My goal was to finish the project in two years. I missed my deadline by one week." 

"Another one of my goals was to do as much of the build as I could without sacrificing the quality of the final product. Under the hood, I went with a Windsor-based Dart block, bored out to 412-cubic-inches. The setup made 525 hp on the dyno. The research in doing this project was as much fun as the actual building. From bending brake lines, to bodywork, to changing the interior, I could go on and on but you get the point. It was a wonderful project and a labor of love that often made me lose total track time."

Some of Dave’s custom build choices are apparent from the exterior, but it’s mostly in the detail work where he made his Cobra unique. The deep maroon paint hides a pair of full-length ghost stripes and paint-matched roll bars with custom stainless steel bezels. From the front end you’ll also notice the “floating grill,” which Dave designed and fabricated himself.

The interior of the Cobra was improved with the addition of air conditioning, heated seats and some custom fiberglass work for improved fit and finish inside. Dave also laser cut a dash from black walnut with his ideal gauge layout and relocated most controls under the dash for a clean look.

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