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						John Custom Cobra A7
The Hard Way

A rocky start building a cherished 289 street Cobra

As told by Gary Cook

Photos by Steve Temple

Back in the summer of 1974, I was working at Cobra Performance, fixing a 427 Cobra for my boss, Gordon Gimbel. After I completed the job, he took me on a test drive at full speed, and I was hooked for life.

It wasn’t until the mid-1990s, however, that I was able to take the plunge. Through my shop, GT Auto, I had built a couple Cobra replicas, and I decided I had to have my own. As much as I love the 427s, though, there was something about the 289 slab-side street Cobras that inspired me to build one for myself.

After much searching, I settled on John’s Custom Fabrication in Coos Bay, Oregon. His body mold was taken from an original 289 Cobra, and he used a rectangular-tube ladder frame. The suspension has Mustang II fronts and a 9-inch rear axle with a four-link setup.

I started building my Cobra in the winter of 1997 and finished it by the spring of 1999. But things turned sour real quick.

I was working on my car every day until 1 a.m., rushing to finish in time for the Vintage Races at Sears Point Raceway (now renamed Sonoma Raceway). As soon as I was done, I drove it to my shop to meet up with the other Cobra guys who were going to the same race. But on the way to the track, disaster struck, as I rear-ended a four-wheel-drive vehicle at 40 mph, destroying the front end of my Cobra!

So I had to start all over again. The silver lining in this bad situation was that the insurance company paid me to build my Cobra again. The engine is a ’68 Ford 302, rated at 300 hp. It runs an Edelbrock Performer cam and is topped with dual 600 cfm Holley carbs. Mated to the small-block V8 is a TREMEC T-5 five-speed manual transmission. The wheels are American Racing Torq Thrust D, shod with BFGoodrich T/A radials sized 235/60R15. The body is finished in 1967 Mercedes Silver.

The rebuild took four months of very late nights in time to drive it to the Monterey Historics from Sacramento, California. Of course, I was way more careful on this trip, and this cautious approach has paid off. Some two decades later, I am still driving it there every year.

The Cobra has been a lot of fun through the years, but getting married in it is a significant highlight. I did a major burnout in the church parking lot and then took my bride on our honeymoon in the car. Since then, I have put 35,000 miles on it.

Today, I still build and repair Cobras and vintage race cars in my new shop, Vintage Performance. After all these years, I keep in mind a couple of important points: Try not to rush a buildup, and don’t rush to race with your Cobra buddies either.

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