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						Drift Cobra A4
The Drifter

1,000 hp Superformance drift Cobra shakes up SEMA ’17

Story and Photos by Steve Temple

A couple months prior to the SEMA Show last fall, we heard from Vlado Jancev of V’s Automotive that his popular drift Cobra would be a step up from last year’s exciting exhibition ride. But nothing prepared us for just how much he would raise the bar. This time, he came loaded for bear, with enough venom to take out not only a really big grizzly, but also a whole pack of wolves.

Before getting into the specifics of this weapons-grade drifter and its upgrades from last year’s version, let’s take a look at how it hearkens back to the way Shelby Cobras were originally driven in the heat of competition. 

As noted in a previous feature on this same Cobra, the concept of drifting through corners is nothing new. Years before drifting became popular among tuner-car enthusiasts, it was a typical driving technique used by racers. The fast way around the track was usually sideways, with all four tires slipping and sliding as the driver counter-steered. But back then, they didn’t call it drifting. Instead, it was referred to as throttle steering or power sliding. 

This technique was a necessity because the chassis designs were too flexible for hard cornering. But those old V8 war chariots were loaded with tons of torque, so it was easy to hang out the rear end on a sharp turn by abruptly lifting the throttle and trail-braking, and then gunning it to line up the car for the proper exit. It also made for some hairy action at the apexes, as cars lost traction and mixed it up in the corners.

Getting back to Vlado’s previous setup for drifting: He started out with a standard Superformance MKIII Cobra replica as a base, already a healthy performer. But then he fitted the chassis with a special hydraulic e-brake. Pulling on the hand lever is a quick way to initiate the drift, both to unweight the rear tires and then control the drift. 

For extra help in breaking the tires loose, a Ford Racing Aluminator 5.0-liter Coyote was installed under the hood. Topped with Borla’s Eight Stack fuel injection, it pumped out 530 horses. Since driver Pablo Cabrera gets on the power hard, Vlado beefed up the TREMEC TKO 600 six-speed transmission and installed short-ratio gears and a twin-disc clutch.

Besides the hot mill under the hood and the e-brake, Vlado modified the factory setup in several other ways. He put more angle in the steering system by installing custom Wilwood Engineering spindles and Detroit Speed’s rack-and-pinion with power assist. This quick-steer system is geared differently as well, so one turn of the thickly padded rim provides two turns of the front tires.

He also added fully adjustable coilover shocks and longer, lower control arms in front for more steering angle and negative camber. All told, it has an extra 10 degrees of steering, which helps greatly with handling at speed, as every degree can make a difference.

Since braking is as important as hard acceleration for a controlled drift, there are six-piston calipers in the front and four-pistons in the rear in addition to the four-piston caliper for a separate e-brake.

So what did Vlado do to improve on this setup from last year? The engine delivers nearly 1,000 hp now, for one. It started life as a Ford Racing Aluminator SC crate engine. In order to up the output, “We removed the heads, changed the springs, cams and valves,” Vlado relates. “The bottom end is a stock Ford Racing Aluminator SC crate engine running a Whipple supercharger at 22 pounds of boost and 100 shot of nitrous to get that thousand wheel horsepower.”  

This much forced induction requires a lowered compression ratio so the engine doesn’t blow its stack. So rather than the stock 11:1 ratio, this particular engine came in lower, at 9.5:1. 

For engine management, Vlado’s Pro-Am drift driver and shop technician Pablo wired in a MS3Pro ECU system with a custom-made harness. It took him about two weeks to hook it up and mount it on the transmission tunnel below the dash, as he wanted to make sure it was just right for a high-profile event in front of the throngs at SEMA. This configuration allowed for easier laptop tuning, a necessity given all the changes in airflow and fuel delivery. For the latter, the shop installed Aeromotive fuel pumps drawing from a Customline surge tank.

The drivetrain was beefed up for the deluge of power, running a McLeod Racing race-duty Mag Force triple disc clutch in a GSR G-Force transmission from RTS. The output funnels into a 2005 Holden rear end with Driveshaft Shop axles. 

Other upgrades include a pair of X-members cradling the underside of the frame. Commenting on the increase in rigidity from last year’s ride, “The chassis stiffening helped the suspension,” Pablo notes. “It worked better than last year and feels really solid.”

That’s a good thing, considering the binary throttle response of the blown Coyote, along with a shorter gear ratio. “The way the power comes on is different,” he admits. “It’s a rocket — instant torque.” But he also says that can be a double-edged sword.

“It’s hard to control. You’re gonna spin out if you don’t feather the throttle.” Given the prodigious amount of power on tap, no wonder he didn’t bother opening up the bottle of nitrous. “It would’ve raised the output to almost 1,200 horses! That’s too much stress on the engine and drivetrain,” he notes with a knowing wince.

While these upgrades might sound like pretty heady stuff, it’s all in a day’s work for Vlado. “Putting the car together overall wasn’t too bad,” he recalls. “It was just the fact that we didn’t have a lot of time. We had about a month and a half to do the car, and overall it came out great.” He does admit to having a couple issues with the supercharger belt and pulleys, but they were fixed in a couple days after testing at the racetrack.

Considering how many rocket ship rides Pablo gave each day during the week of SEMA (about 30 per day), it’s surprising that the car survived this much abuse. But the only things that needed changing were the extra-sticky Toyo tires before each 30-minute session and occasionally a fraying supercharger belt. Otherwise this high-caliber car was basically bulletproof.

But not all of the passengers were as invincible as this slippery Cobra. A few were shaking all over as they climbed out of the cockpit. “I got a kick out of that!” Pablo laughs. 

Even Carroll Shelby’s grandson, Aaron Shelby, enjoyed a few hot laps, but he exited with aplomb, thanking Pablo with a smile and handshake. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

So what’s the next mountain to climb with this Cobra? Well, recall the record-breaking Superformance Cobra (“The Shootist”) that we featured on the cover of our October 2017 issue?

Vlado says he’s gunning for the 201.1 mph record, aiming to best it by as much as 20 mph! More power to him — literally. 

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