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						Cleveland Cobra 1
Cleveland Cobra on the Cheap

351 Cleveland Cobra roadster

By Dean Larson

Photos: Seller, Craigslist

For just $25,000, we don’t expect to be spoiled for features or options in the secondhand Cobra market. Bump it up to $30,000, and you start to find an assortment of 5.0-powered Factory Fives and aging early builds. But for less than that, cars usually have some serious needs. The Cobra we found here on Rochester Craigslist could use some updating and TLC, but there’s one big reason we think it’s worth the effort — Cleveland power!

When it comes to big-blocks and small-blocks in a Cobra roadster project, we don't think you can go wrong. What's not to love about a hot small-block in a 289 Cobra, and a stroker Windsor stroker makes an overwhelming case in most any 427 replica roadster. But who doesn't love a good big block, especially the iron FE (the family of big-blocks used in Cobras and MkII GT40s). But one such engine rarely seen in the Cobra is the 351 Cleveland — and that's just too bad.

The Cleveland has huge power potential from its massive valves and improved port design, all held within a conventional "small-block" footprint, making it a great engine for a Cobra replica. From a historical standpoint, the Cleveland is more of a ’70s engine than the 289 Windsor and FE big-blocks that powered the Cobra in period. But that doesn't matter too much these days, and the Cleveland is not much different than powering your Cobra with 351 Windsor or 460 big-block. Made famous in the early ’70s Ford Mustang Boss 351 and 351 HO, the mighty 351 C hails from the 335 engine family, consisting of the 351 Cleveland, 351 Modified and 400.

But of course all this depends on whether or not we’re looking at Cleveland, and its original and current specification — as the confusion between Ford’s 351 Windsor, Cleveland and Modified have burned many people in the past. In person, you want to look at the water neck on the front of the engine, and the number of valve cover bolts to determine whether you’re looking at a 351 W or C.

Cleveland Cobra 2

There are no engine shots in the ad, but the seller has included a link to a YouTube video that gives us a bit more to go off of. We can’t really see the water neck (to determine whether it extends from the block itself or the intake manifold), so that’s out, but we can see the valve covers, and can safely determine that there are indeed eight bolts, so we’re looking at either a 351 C or M.

To get the rest of the story, you need to look at the bellhousing bolt pattern and the motor mounts. Cleveland engines share a bellousing bolt pattern with the Windsor family (having a 5 1/8-inch spacing on the top two bolts), while the 351 Modified uses the larger 385-series big-block pattern. In addition, Cleveland motor mounts use two bolts, while the Modified uses three.

By way of specification, you really want a four-barrel Cleveland, over the lower compression H-code engines that powered a whole slew of sedans. While the Cleveland’s signature 4V heads with closed-quench combustion chambers can be fitted to a lower-spec 351 C block, many of these sedan-derived Clevelands were fit with a lower-spec cast-iron crank and two-bolt main caps. So while not all Clevelands were created equal, the performance potential in these engines is unmatched in a working-class Ford engine.

Given that we have this Cobra narrowed down to a 335-series engine, we’ll take the seller’s word for now that it’s a Cleveland (even though the erroneous 350 ci displacement in the description doesn’t bolster confidence). He goes on to say that the engine has been treated to a recent rebuild and runs and drives perfectly, but the car does need some TLC to be perfect.

From what we can see, the car does show well, and we really dig the black over tan interior color scheme. However the American Racing wheels aren’t doing any favors. If this were my Cobra, or I was in charge of selling it, I’d head over to the Vintage Wheels catalogue and order up a set of 15-inch Halibrand-style knock-offs. At first, I was thinking part no. HA02SETBLK in matte black, but on second thought, as-cast and matte gold has me smitten. You can’t go wrong with solid as-cast, part no. HA01SET blasted, but I think the real call is between the vintage matte shades of gold in part no. HA01G set, or traditional matte in part no. HA01Bset. But I digress.

No matter how ya slice it, I think there’s a really hot Cleveland-powered Cobra just waiting to reach its full potential. Check it out here on Rochester Craigslist.

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