As told by Erik Treves

Photos by Jeff and Meggan Haller from Keyhole Photography

As a retired chief warrant officer, what should I do with my time after serving in the U.S. Army for 22 years? I spent four of those as an Apache attack helicopter repairer and 18 years as UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter maintenance test pilot. So, I built a Cobra of course — but not the helicopter type.

The choice to build my Factory Five Racing Gen 3 Coupe, dubbed the Hawk Coupe, was more of an opportunity given to me by Dave Smith and Tony Zullo at Factory Five. The car is the actually the seventh car I have built from Factory Five. Why so many?

I do not keep building them as a job or because I am not happy with the end result. It is really quite the opposite. The Factory Five kit is a lot of fun to build, and the ease of assembly actually allows me to relax on the weekends and enjoy the challenges and the rewards. That includes the challenges that come with an all-new build, the first start of the engine and completing the kit.

Since my last tour in Iraq, I don’t sleep well and carry a lot of stress at work because I can never seem to “turn it off.” So the weekends and hours after work into the late evenings are spent in the garage. It’s the only way I can let my brain relax honestly.

Getting into the major phases noted above, I find the planning stage to be really fun. The design juices get flowing and all the ideas start popping up. Starting from new is always exciting and also a little stressful, but that’s part of it.

As for the first start, it’s super exciting to crank the car up and hear the engine breathe for the first time (kind of like when you hear the whine of a helicopter turbine kick on). The sound of the pistons and exhaust through fresh pipes and a few taps on the go-fast pedal — it’s music.

Lastly, when completing the kit, it always seems to end on a sunny day with a picture of the car at the bottom of the driveway — mission accomplished! Now it’s time to clean the garage and start thinking about the next one.

The last few cars that I built as of late have been theme-based, with names such as the Green Lantern, the Sidekick, the Flash, and the Black Mamba. Building the cars around an idea really allows me to focus in on an end goal of what the finished kit might look like.

After meeting Wayne Presley from VeryCoolParts.com, my craft really took hold. He constantly challenged me to improve and to pay attention to the details. Throughout all of the builds, not only did my results improve, but we also managed to build an extremely strong friendship. This is not uncommon around the Factory Five family and also in the military.

The parallel between these two worlds is pretty clear when I step back and look at where I started six cars earlier. If I ever needed anything, the Factory Five group was there. If the guy flying next to me was having issues or I was, we were there for each other.

The coupe build would take this parallelism to a new level. When it came time to start the Gen 3 Coupe, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with it. I knew I wanted a Coyote motor in it, but I didn’t want to do a “plain” build. There isn’t anything wrong with plain or true to the original, but as Wayne always tells me, “You need to challenge yourself every day.”

My last car was an extremely period-correct 289 FIA Cobra roadster, so another period-correct car wasn’t on the radar. The issue with the Gen 3, and the original car, is that it is such a timeless shape, that it begs you to “color inside the lines” and stay true to the original look.

A challenge for me? You bet! How to make the car my own, yet not insult the history of the car, its designer Peter Brock, or the engineers at Factory Five (Jim Schenck and Jesper Ingerslev). The journey began, and for the first time, I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to end. In addition, this was the first Coupe I’d ever built and it was the beta version!

If that wasn’t challenging enough, shortly after deciding on the Coyote drivetrain, I remembered a PowerNation episode of a Coyote twin-turbo Mustang. Perfect! That was the fuse that would lead to my vision of the Hawk Coupe. I decided to build a car that paid homage to two brotherhoods, the Army and Factory Five. A car that would tribute my years of service in the Army and what it did for me, and to my other extended family in the Factory Five community.

All the other cars, while built by me, didn’t really tell my story or reflect who I was in the finished product. This car does exactly that. Starting with the military color, olive drab CARC green, which is the color of the helicopter that saved my life and countless others. The cyclic stick from a helicopter serves as gearshift lever, and the decals on the exterior are from my units. And most important, are the names of two souls on the rear hatch who ride with me for all to see. They lost their lives serving their country, but are not forgotten.

Discussing these design themes and details with the Factory Five community allowed me to share the build experience with others as well. As for the rest of the challenge, why not two turbos, along with as much high-end detail as I could muster?

Making this vision a reality would require some modifications under the hood. With the increased airflow from the Magnum turbos (60 mm with 63 AR housings), I had to up the fuel delivery with 78-pound injectors from DeatschWerks. Otherwise, the engine is completely stock, right out of the 2016 Mustang. The Coyote internals were improved after the 2014 model year. It’s very well documented that the newer engines will support 1,000 hp, so including these power adders was an easy decision.

For the plumbing and all, the first thing that needed to happen is establishing a horsepower number goal. Too often people just throw stuff together and then these parts aren’t really happy — the combination just doesn’t work, or doesn’t work well.

Here’s where my friend Wayne came in. We wanted to make around 100 hp more than the Green Lantern Cobra, so we aimed for 675 horses (but ended way north of that, as you’ll see). The horsepower level determines how big of a turbo you need and also sets the size of the intercoolers.

Then you have to figure out where to put all the pieces. When I first saw the coupe layout at the SEMA Show, the footboxes looked perfect for intercoolers, and the turbos would go right around the header area. My initial assessment was right, as that plan never changed! It looks really complicated, but honestly, it really can’t go any other way in my opinion. I never sketched it out or anything, I looked at it and it just made sense.

The fabrication part was a simple exercise in welding tubes together and making things as tight and symmetrical as possible. For me, it’s about the little things and making sure everything I do is very deliberate. And as each detail grows on the next, they end up complementing each other. That’s the big difference between a DIY “throw-it-together” turbo kit (which looks like it sounds) and a clean custom turbo installation that looks like it was born to be in the car. I think that’s what I accomplished with this car.

In the end, the piping and turbos work really well with the Coyote, and that engine really wants to be forced some air. I am really not leaning hard on it at only 10 psi, and it’s making around 805 hp at the flywheel — plenty of power!

The neat thing is that it is easy to drive and very enjoyable. That’s a tough combination to have at these horsepower levels, but it’s a testament to the Coyote engine and the engineering of Factory Five Gen 3 Coupe. The car is built with an incredibly rigid chassis, and it works well with a nice streetable tune by Wayne.

Looking back on the project, there is so much detail covered in matte black and green paint that you don’t even notice how much “stuff” is in the car. Every place you look there is another small detail that was missed the first two times you looked at the car. The motto of the build was “everything gets touched.”

That’s a lot of pieces to touch, but in the end, the car came out exactly as I hoped and I stand next to it as proudly as I wore the patch on my right shoulder while in uniform. The Gen 3 Coupe is by far the best design from Factory Five to date, and as a result, it’s the best driving car I’ve ever built.