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						Homebuilt Cobra 23
Rikki Tikki — the Homebuilt Cobra Roadster

Auto technician builds a Cobra from sheet metal and spare car parts

As told by Rodney Wimett

Photos by Dawn Grant, DMGrant Photography

**On occasion, I like to throw out an offer at the end of our articles, inviting you, the reader, to send in a photo or a quick story, because you never know who might be inspired to send a note. In response to one of these invitations, I received an email with a photo of a somewhat, unconventional, Cobra build. It was primer brown, with Keystone Classic wheels and a slight revisionist take on the fender flares and front apron. But the New Hampshire plates and melting snow bank in the background told me that this guy drives his car. And his note detailed how he built the car himself from pieces of other cars and sheet metal, all to fulfill a friendly challenge. It’s different, Chevrolet-powered and rough around the edges, but that’s how Rodney likes it, I was surely impressed with his work. **

Three years ago, I was challenged by my wife Ellie and our dear friend Karen, who has a Factory Five roadster, to build a cobra. "Something you can join the local Cobra club with," they said. After searching the internet for Cobra bodies, I decided to build my own. I am an automotive technician, employed at my dads shop since 1974, and I have built several cars like this over the years on a strict budget. After four months of nights and weekends, this is what I had built.

It rides on a modified and shortened 1964 Corvette chassis. The body is formed in steel from bits and pieces of other cars. The front fenders and doors (doors are aluminum) are from a 1962 MGA parts car that my dad had. They are close in design to a Cobra and were easily reshaped. The rear fenders are from a 1940 Ford sedan, shortened and sectioned. The hood is cut from the roof panel of a 1961 Saab, and the trunk lid and hood scoop are from Factory five. The rest is hand formed around these key pieces using paper patterns taken from Karen’s Factory five roadster. The removable fiberglass hardtop was made from the remains of a Freightliner truck hood, our shop’s ramp truck, after a blown front tire damaged it.

The "REK" emblem up front stands for Rodney, Ella and Karen, and I cut it from a piece of 1/8-inch aluminum by hand. I needed to give these ladies credit in a visible way for their contributions in moral support, physical assistance and criticism. Karen even purchased the trunk lid and hood scoop as a gift to move the process along. I felt compelled to create this badge in honor of "our" efforts.

Power for this frankenCobra is a Chevrolet 350-ci small block in race trim with aluminum heads, and funneled though a four-speed manual transmission. The choice of engines has raised some eyebrows, but it’s fitting with the Corvette chassis and really works well. The car performs very well because it’s really a Corvette underneath, with independent rear suspension. But much lighter, I believe, as it weighs about 1,900 pounds and has about 425 hp. Perhaps it’s hiding in the long shadow of the Scaglietti Corvette, or some other dream never realized.

The last three years with this car have been life changing, and I had no idea where it would lead. Many people think it’s an ex-race car that I found in a barn somewhere, or a kit I found half done. Most find it hard to believe I built it from scratch.

We have gone many places with the car, from the open house at Factory Five in Wareham, Massachusetts, parked among nice cobras, to shows around New England. I’ve even run laps at the Club Motorsports road course in Tamworth, New Hampshire. It has been quite an adventure.

It’s rough around the edges and is still in primer, and will stay that way for the rat rod look. The cost was low, and the fun is high. And yes, for those wondering, they did let me in the Cobra club. From that the car earned its nickname, Rikki Tikki Tavi, because it's always chasing the Cobras around.

As with all builds, there are many layers to the story. These few details are but a fraction of what I could share about this car, as it has taken on a life of its own. It’s brought rich new friendships into my life and other Cobras to work on as well.

Thanks to my sister Dawn Grant, DMGrant Photography, for the photos.

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