Rare Car Network

Rare Car Network
Unique Classics, Replicas and Build Culture
						Memorable Cobra Replica 2
Snake Charmer

Memorable Cobras

By Jim Youngs, Editor Emeritus

Sometimes popularity has its drawbacks. Since Cobra replicas are by far the most common model of specialty car, the bane of any kit-car journalist is “Cobra burnout” (pun intended). Meaning that it’s sometimes a challenge to choke out a thousand more words about yet another Guardsman Blue snake with Wimbledon White stripes.

That may be the reason that I tend to seek out the more unusual snake builds. And isn’t that the beauty of building a specialty car in the first place? The ability to tailor it to one’s whims and fancy, instead of just copying what ‘ol Shel came up with back in the Sixties? I think so. (But that’s not meant to detract from those of you who appreciate the traditional approach to building a Cobra replica.)

As a teenager in the early Sixties in Inglewood, California, I was just a stone’s throw from Shelby American’s facility, and spent time watching Shelby guys flogging the cars on an old airstrip in Marina del Rey. With all the Cobras looking similar, with just a few colors available back in the day, Shelby racer Allen Grant’s car was a real standout for me, and probably my favorite, just because it was significantly different than the rest. You might recall that his racer was painted bright yellow with distinct black graphics designed by George Lucas of Star Wars fame. You may also remember that we did a cover story (KIT CAR BUILDER, Feb. 2013) on an exacting Unique Motorcars-built replica of that particular snake, the 2012 London Cobra Show raffle prize.

Memorable Cobra Replica 1

Several distinctive Cobra replicas come to mind when I consider standout cars I’ve encountered during my tenure as a specialty-car journalist. I suppose the whole distinctive-Cobra attraction started with the first kit car I built—an Elegant Motors snake, which I traded for a boat.

Around 1990, shortly after Temple took the helm of Petersen’s Kit Car magazine, he asked if I’d be interested in writing some features. I didn’t know much about that corner of the automotive world, but my love of cars and a willingness to learn turned into a two-decades-plus total immersion in the hobby. Like anything I’ve ever written about, it helps to be an owner and have firsthand experience with the subject matter.

When I was writing heavily about boats, I became a boat owner many times over. When I wrote about motorcycles, I rode two wheelers. And so on. So it made sense to me that if I was going to write about car building, I needed a kit project.

Though Elegant Motors, and its subsequent iterations, is long gone, at the time the company offer one in particular that caught my eye, not only because it was different, but also afforded a hot-rod approach. It made sense to me, too, as its foundation seemed a bit more modern than what was being offered as traditional Cobra fare, since it took full advantage of a mid-Seventies Corvette chassis and components.

So I bought a 1977 Vette, stripped off all the unwanted components, added a few aftermarket tricks and hauled the refreshed chassis to Indy for Elegant to add the body and give me some first-hand tips on building the sports car.

I took a hot rod approach to the build by chroming up the L48 Chevy mill, adding Centerline alloy wheels, keeping the automatic trans, shaving all exterior trim and hardware, and generally eschewing anything even closely resembling Shelby touches. It was a fun car to build and even more fun to cruise in.

Memorable Cobra Replica 4

Another unique Cobra that immediately comes to mind is Darren Freidman’s over-the-top custom show car. I didn’t particularly care for the car, but I give him major props for building a spectacular show queen whose tires probably never made a full revolution on pavement. The car was loaded with custom touches including air suspension, flip-front clip, impressive paint job, exotic skin upholstery and more chrome and polished components than can be described. From that car on, Darren progressed to more mainstream snake replicas—albeit also with lots of custom touches—direct from the aluminum-skinned replica offerings at Kirkham Motorsports.

Also off the top of my head, I really appreciated another trailer queen, Tim and Deb Booth’s Vurple, a “very purple” Shell Valley Cobra replica with matching upholstery, matching display EZ Up tent, and owner’s clothing. It was powered by a ZZ430 GM crate engine, and while it was moved around in its early show days on Saran-wrapped wheels, I actually got to drive it one time in a memorable stint with the late Rich Anderson, former owner of Shell Valley/Midstates. The car was beautifully built and deserving of all the accolades it received. We did a feature story in our October 2003 issue.

The cover of one of our best selling issues (June 2006) showed a stunning photo of Mike Brown’s Classic Roadsters snake, photographed by Martin Bydalek against the nighttime Seattle skyline to illustrate a story on “Boomer-Sized Cobras.” That beautiful car was an award winner at the prestigious invitation-only Grand National Roadster Show.

Bob Bondurant was the guest of honor a few years back at the annual London Cobra Show where he had the opportunity to run a bunch of snake replicas through an eighth-mile straightaway on Main Street in London, Ohio. I overheard him talking to several Cobraphiles afterward about his seat time. He raved about one replica in particular, an oddly quiet Everett-Morrison, owned by John Spina. That Buick Grand National turbo V6-powered car is wickedly fast and plastered a semi-permanent grin on Bondurant and his wife’s face for the duration of the event.

Those are just a few of the snakes I’ve seen over the years that really stand out. There were many more of course, but space prevents me from recalling all of them. 

Memorable Cobra Replica 3

Comments for: Snake Charmer

comments powered by Disqus

Related Stories You Might Like

Filed Under