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						2003 Factory Five Mkii Roadster 1

Owning and Driving a Replica

As Told by Neil B. Katz

Like most car guys my age (I just turned 59), I fell in love with the AC Cobra as soon as I saw it in the Sixties, and dreamed of owning one (despite being raised in a Chevy family). When I was in college, they were selling for about $20,000, and I thought as soon as I became a lawyer I would be able to afford to buy one. But when I finished law school they were about $35,000 and I thought OK, maybe after two to three years I should be able to buy one.

Of course kids began to arrive a few years later, and I bought my first house, and suddenly a Cobra was $50,000, then $100,000, et cetera, et cetera. I quickly realized I would probably never own one.

So, I settled for more reasonable fun cars to own, restore and drive including several MGs, a Cortina, a Rambler Marlin, a bunch of Corvairs and my longest-owned car, my ‘66 Eldo Convertible that I have had for over 24 years. For 12 years I owned my best show car, a ‘57 MGA in absolutely pristine condition, basically a trailer queen rarely driven.

One day about five years ago, though, my brother, who lives in Las Vegas, was out with me on a rare drive in the MGA, and I was lamenting the fact that while I loved the car, it was getting a bit boring to own since I was afraid to drive it. My brother then told me about a Factory Five MKII Cobra that he saw the prior week at a cars-and-coffee gathering in Vegas, and that the owner/builder “might” be interested in selling. 

A lightbulb went off: Why not own a replica car? It has all the features of the original (almost), and isn’t that what really matters? Plus I could drive it all the time.  

Anyway, I called the owner and went to see the car the next weekend, and of course loved it. I would have bought it on the spot, but my wife, the more sensible one in the family, insisted that I sell the MG first. The Cobra owner said he had no problem waiting a month or so. Since I was asking more for my MGA than I had ever heard of before (and the car was worth it), a month of marketing turned into a much longer time—like 12 months!

Meanwhile, the Cobra owner sat patiently by and it was a great joy being able to finally call him with the good news. I bought the car in January 2010 and had it shipped by covered carrier to my house, where it arrived on a Friday afternoon. The next day it rained so I could not drive my new car, and it proceeded to rain every weekend for the next seven weeks! The car just sat in my garage—so frustrating. Finally, almost two months later, the driving began. I have now taken the car on multiple weekend vacations and Cobra events, and regularly do “canyon” runs in Socal mountains. I drive the car almost every weekend, weather permitting.    

I try to maintain the car in the best condition possible in term of paint, engine compartment and interior, and have added a few upgrades since acquiring the car. The dashboard is now covered in 2011 Bentley Continental leather (I bought scrap leather from the Bentley dealer in Beverly Hills, and also used Bentley leather for the seat piping and matching shift boot.) The door panels are custom made, one-off using hand-picked and finished ash wood veneer and leather matching the seats.

As for the paint, recently I had the entire body wet-sanded with 3000 paper, followed by four rounds of different levels of polishing pads, and finally a Modesta coating. Now the car looks brand new, much better than when I first saw it. Even so, it’s still a driver to be enjoyed, the opposite of my MGA. And while I have given some thought to replacing it with a new Corvette convertible, there is simple no substitute for the sound and the feel of the car, and the universal reaction from the public. From kids to grandmothers, everyone knows this is a special car.


Factory Five MKII Roadster (built in 2003 in Las Vegas, with no “donor” car or used parts; only all-new components)

Ford Factory Racing GT-40 Crate engine; GT-40 Aluminum intake, 410hp at engine, 320 rwhp

Kenne-Bell polished aluminum twin-screw supercharger

Billet steel flywheel

Fuel Injection

90mm Mass Air Meter/70mm Aluminum Throttle body

BBK 4-1 Headers with polished stainless steel side exhaust

Tremec TKO 5-speed tranny with mid-shift kit and King Cobra clutch

Motor Sport 3.55:1 rearend with SVO aluminum cover

Flaming River rack-and-pinion steering

P/S polished 15” Halibrand style wheels

Fluidyne Aluminum radiator


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