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						Unique Motorcars 289 Diodato Fia Cobra 1

Building a Cobra

As Told by Bob Diodato

Photos by Steve Temple

When we met the Unique Motorcars family in the spring of 1997 at the Carlisle show, I was hooked! They had a product that would meet all of my expectations of what a quality replica should be. As Maurice Weaver stated during this initial conversation, “We’re not ‘selling you a car,’ we are inviting you to join our family.”

Having owned and restored several classic muscle cars, it was going to be so nice to start with a solid clean product. At this point I had my work cut out for me—raising three children, purchasing a new home and running a small business didn’t leave a lot of extra funds for this project. I decided that if this was going to happen I would have to find extra work to accomplish my goal, so I took on building decks, installing tile floors and other small home repairs along with painting cars at home in a small two-car garage.

At this point we also began the process of building the powerplant for the car the year before we even purchased the deluxe pallet car from Unique. We decided that the small block 1964 FIA car was our choice, so the only answer was a small-block stroker. We purchase a new Ford Motorsport block (351 Windsor) and stroked it to 393ci. We purchased a Scat crank 3.85 stroke , 6.2-inch H-beam rods and Wiseco pistons to match the Twisted wedge “R” heads. 

These heads would require the headers to be custom made, so Maurice Weaver took the provided flanges and made a perfect set of large-tube headers to allow these large port heads to flow all the air necessary. The valvetrain is a solid roller cam (.672) lift from Competition Engineering along with solid roller lifters and S.S. 1.6 roller rocker arms also from Comp.

We topped the engine with an Edelbrock Super Victor manifold with a Holley Ultra HP carb flowing 850 cfm. This engine would require a high-energy ignition so the system we chose was all made by MSD. We used the small-base billet distributor and 6AL ignition box and plug wires. Once all of the machine work was completed we assembled the motor in a matter of one weekend.

With the engine nearing its completion and the Spring of ’98 coming fast, we moved forward and contacted Unique and placed our order, Maurice assured me that even with the tight timeframe, our car would be delivered to the show at Carlisle in May. At this point we ordered a Tremec 5-speed and Lakewood bellhousing to be mated to the completed engine.

Showtime! Our car arrived as promised and all parts to be delivered with our deluxe pallet car were complete. Leaving the car at the show all weekend after waiting and planning so long made this the longest weekend of my life. I wanted to get this thing home and begin the process of finally assembling a lifelong dream.

During the show we also purchased several parts needed like the Compomotive wheels, size at 17” x 8” fronts and 17” x 12” rears. I knew that with this motor, we were going to need as much tire as possible to get this car to hook up and go straight, so by going to the 17” wheels we were able gain width in the rear, avoiding the strut bars supporting the Jag rear. We recently installed the Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial in a 315/35/17 in the rear and Goodyear eagle F1 245/40/17 in the front.

Finally Sunday and home we go. We began by removing the body from the frame and began the bodywork. Since the car was going to be black, the prep and painted was going to be a challenge, since the only quality tool I had was a great spray gun! Once the body was straight and smooth we built a temporary paint booth inside of our two-car garage and a makeshift exhaust system to vent the booth.

Having no formal paint experience other than “trial and error” over the years of painting, anything that someone would let me paint, we applied our stripes first, then taping them off, we applied the black over the remaining car. Then five coats of clear were applied and left to cure. We then began the wet sanding an polishing process. At this point we also began the mechanical assembly to prepare the chassis to be mated with the body.

I would have to say this was the easiest and most enjoyable car I have every worked on. If “A” part was to bolt to “B” part, it fit without any modification, thanks to the Weaver family and their business ethics. They have spent the necessary time and money to ensure that their manufacturing process is perfect.

The reminder of the car was assembled in a matter of a couple weeks working on it during my free time in the evening and weekend hours. This would not have been possible without the help of my sons Mike and Brad, along with my daughter Makenzee who was only three then and was kind enough to bring me food and water since most of my free time for a month or so was spend crawling around the garage assembling the car. Even though the boys were just teenagers at the time they were there to help when needed. Mike is the most mechanically inclined and gained experience that he continues to apply to this day. We assembled the reminder of the car performing many of the tasks needed to complete the project with only simple tools and time.

Having performed all of the work that it took to build this car at home was truly a rewarding experience and most people that we meet are surprised that even the paintwork can be completed in a simple two-car garage! With the car having been completed for many years now, we having continued enjoyed the experiences that it has provided my family and myself in both the people that we have meet and the pure excitement of driving a truly wild machine.

Car guys: You can do this!

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Cobra Unique Motorcars