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						Shell Valley 8295
Gray Phantom

Ls3 Powered Shell Valley Cobra

By Steve Temple

Photos by Juan Lopez-Bonilla

Baseball Hall of Famer Yogi Berra is famous for a number confusing quips, such as “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” While Berra was giving directions to his house at the time (either route would work, since it had a circular driveway), this strange piece of advice also applies to Carroll Shelby’s engine choice for the Cobra. Shelby originally wanted to stuff a small-block Chevy in the A.C. Ace, rather than a Ford. If it weren’t for some corporate pushback from GM, he might have taken that fork.

Approaching Ford proved to be a much more receptive route, though, since in the early ‘60s the company was about to debut a new V8 engine, and was looking for promotion. The Blue Oval had no sports car at the time, and the company’s new division head Lee Iacocca felt racing was an effective way to market the compact, lightweight power train. Thus the 260-cubic-inch V8-powered Cobra was born.

Ironically enough, years later Cobras raced in Europe with Chevy engines. And more famously, some Cobras were fitted with superchargers as well, such as the twin-Paxton model that sold at Barrett-Jackson several years ago for more than $5 million.


"I try to tell guys about the Chevy history when they give me grief.”

– Todd Krupinski

All of which brings us to Todd Krupinski’s Shell Valley Cobra replica. It’s powered by a late-model Chevy LS3 engine, and fitted with a Magnuson blower. So while some Cobra purists might feel that’s a bit sacrilegious, there’s a historical precedent. As for the unusual, plain-vanilla color scheme, well, that’s why they make different flavors of ice cream, right? It’s actually a light shade of gray, with silver stripes, but the lighting gives it a different hue.

Cobra Experience

Another reason for his alternative reality: This isn’t Todd’s first time to the replica rodeo, nor project cars in general. He’s been doing auto-body work and painting since the tender age of 14. Previously Todd came across a Cobra replica that had sat unfinished in a garage for nearly a decade, needing a pair of capable hands to complete it. After tearing it apart, he dropped in a 410 stroker with a Ford-based Dart block, World Products aluminum heads and full roller cam. That project, painted white with orange stripes and matching orange interior, is now his wife’s car.

For his next project, Todd ordered a new Shell Valley package, providing a blank slate to design his own color scheme, hood scoop, pipes and interior. The body and chassis (with Mustang II fronts and Ford 9-inch rear end) arrived in November 2014 and was completed in June 2016.

In revising some historical aspects of the original Cobra, Todd’s goal was to build a car with subtle modifications that catch your eye without taking away its traditional look. He drew on years of bodywork experience to tighten body gaps and create a cleaner appearance.

Tips of the Trade

Todd first recommends leaving the fiberglass body out in the sun for some post-curing. While fiberglass continues to “flow” even after setting up in a mold, some extra sunbathing can minimize this trait for a more rigid and stable body shape. Todd left his project in gray gelcoat for the summer.

Once tanning season was over, Todd spent some 500 hours on prep work, a seemingly endless process of sand, block, repeat. He prefers 3M’s lightweight body filler to take out any waves, along with Clausen’s Rust Defender, a high-build primer that won’t shrink. He’s a fanatic about ensuring precise, even gaps around the hood, doors, and trunk. Rather than using the old, somewhat crude “paint stick” method, he inserts sheet wax, about 4 mm thick, then flush-fits the panels together by mudding to the edges with the 3M filler. He also makes sure the panels have smooth height contours.

Unlike other Cobra replicas, Todd feels that the Shell Valley Cobra can withstand tighter panel gaps because of the solid, modular setup of the body mounting, which uses an integral tub for the cockpit. He prefers the extra thickness of the fiberglass, along with Kevlar in the layup. While that material adds some puncture strength to laminate, he went the extra mile to add liners and undercoating to the wheel wells to prevent road rash. “Gravel can push a star out in the fender,” he explains.

Inside the Build

With all prep work completed, Todd applied a custom, light-gray base coat, accented by silver stripes. Those are repeated in suede on the leather seat upholstery for a distinctive finish.

In addition to thorough prep work and unique paint treatment, his new Cobra also had to be a beast in the horsepower department. He chose the 6.2L LS3 and added a blower with 7.5 pounds of boost to achieve that, having found it to be an ideal combo in a couple of Camaros he’s owned. The 6-speed out of a 2012 Camaro donor car was also used to give it great cruising manners. Fortunately Shell Valley offers an option for Chevy engine mounts, and the cockpit tunnel is wide enough for the larger transmission.

For the exhaust side-pipe bezels, Todd handcrafted polished stainless pieces that add a completed look. He wanted side pipes with a removable muffler (for easy replacement if damaged) and adjustable tips, so he called the guys at GT Headers to explain the idea, and soon sent them the old pipes to use as a model. “This is probably my favorite part on the car,” Todd says. “They did an awesome job on the fit and craftsmanship.”

The hood scoop, also hand-modified by Todd, was made to replicate a shaker-style hood, and had to be removable while maintaining a factory look. It was a long process to make it look like it belonged, but in the end it was definitely worth it.
In the cabin Todd squared off the coamings with a right angle (rather than a rounded lip) to give the car a nice flow around the back and doors to the upper dash. It’s not noticeable unless sitting next to a stock Shell Valley. He also appreciates the extra legroom of the cockpit’s drop floors.

For the interior Harvey West from A-1 Upholstery provided leather to keep the clean look. Todd added Oracle Halo headlights, for safety and aesthetic purposes.

And how do onlookers feel about his forward-looking Cobra treatment? “I try to tell guys about the Chevy history when they give me grief,” says Todd. Ultimately, the result wins them over, whatever fork you take.

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Cobra LS3 Shell Valley