As told by Kevin Beamon

Photos courtesy of Kevin Beamon

It’s amazing what you can do with a little help from your friends — and a forum, too. I’m not really a gearhead, truth be told, but a financial planner by trade, a carpenter by choice and a musician at heart. I did do some restoration work on a couple of ’67 Mercury Cougars some 35 years ago, but I never got very deep into the mechanical side.

Even so, I have always had a great desire to get in and learn every nut and bolt on my car. When I discovered the Factory Five Racing forums, I found all the people and expertise to help me to realize my goal, which was an updated interpretation of the classic Shelby 427. I wanted to incorporate modern technology and engineering to improve performance, safety, comfort and reliability, all without losing sight of what made the Cobra an icon.

I’ve been fascinated with Carroll Shelby’s Cobra since I was a child, and I think it might be the most perfect automotive shape ever sculpted; and its iconic status and lasting popularity lends credence to that opinion. I had been dreaming of building a Cobra for over two decades and planning it for at least two years. Many dreamers will understand that my desire had to be delayed until the joys of family and parenting had waned.

My build took about 16 months to complete, with four months on the custom-tilting front alone. I’d seen this style on GT40s and Daytona Coupes, and I like the way it shows off the engine, the chassis and the overall elegance of the body shape. I initially wanted to handle the tilting front by myself, but I was intimidated by the complexity of the project. It also didn’t help that I did not know how to weld at that time. However, the rest of the build progressed smoothly and much quicker than I had anticipated.

To get the wheels turning on the front clip, I began talking to King Burgess (username 2bking on the forums) about his tilt-front design. He was willing to help me with my project, and his only request was that I keep copious notes and photographs of each step of the process. He also asked me to write a comprehensive instruction manual for doing this modification, which sounded like a very fair trade to me.

To my knowledge, there are only three tilting-fronts like this one in the world. By eliminating the traditional hood opening seams from the front of the car, the sexy curves of the body design are accentuated. Those curves are further enhanced by the elimination of the traditional racing stripes.

While our design is unique, it does have historical precedent with Shelby’s original CSX 2196. To make access at both ends quicker and easier, he hinged both the front and the rear of the car to create the original “flip-top” Cobra.

A friend loaned me his welding equipment and taught me to weld. My initial efforts were crude, but I soon got a lot better. King was invaluable in each step of the process, and he and I worked together to modify and simplify his initial design. I think we agree that the process was beneficial for both of us. I completed a custom car that few have ever done, and he gained an outside perspective on his designs and documentation. I really look forward to helping the next intrepid builder do this modification.

In addition to the assembly time, the paint job required eight months, a job I outsourced to Kandy Shoppe Creations in Mesa, Arizona. The final product is truly one-of-a-kind, and it took an enormous number of man-hours to do all the bodywork to make the bisected body flow smoothly from end to end.

After the prep work was complete, the body was sealed and smoothed with many coats of epoxy primer. Color coats began with six coats of black base, followed by multiple coats of silver paint with fine flake. The beautiful candy shell was then applied in many, many thin coats of custom-mixed House of Kolor paint that includes candy apple red, cabernet, brandywine, blue and some other Kandy Shoppe Creations magic. The entire car was then enveloped in many layers of clear coat, and we estimate there are over 50 coats of paint on the car.

Lastly, the interior took another four months, completed by Unique Upholstery in Gilbert. They created a modern supercar look with a healthy respect for the styles of the past, and I’m really happy with the finished product. The centerpiece is the 1-inch-thick, solid zebrawood dash that’s bent at each end. I have done a lot of cabinetry and woodworking since childhood, and this zebrawood treatment pays tribute to my woodworking experience.

All told, how much did I invest in this project? Far more than I should have. But education has its price, and the entire experience was priceless. I had a steep learning curve and chose to use nothing but brand-new parts — the most expensive way to build a Cobra replica. I think the results justify the means though.

FlipTop is truly a one of a kind, award-winning show car, earning trophies for both Best of Show and ReinCarNation magazine’s Editor’s Choice at Factory Five Racing’s 2018 Huntington Beach Cruise-In. There are only two like her, and none exactly like her. But if someone else loved her as much as I do, I would part with her and build another one. That’s how much I loved the process!