SOLD - 1964 FIA Shelby Cobra Replica

Too Fast, Too Loud, Impractical and Dangerous.
In other words, perfect.
My FIA Cobra is the only one ever built by ERA Replica Automobiles to be powered by the 281ci DOHC SVT Cobra motor, aka the "mod motor' or modular motor. It is much larger in size than the 289 that usually powers FIA Cobras and is also fuel injected. Hence it's quite a departure from a traditional replica. I have room for just one sports car and it's time to experience a GT car, perhaps something with A/C and power windows. The Cobra project was a great chapter in my life... it taught me a lot and helped forge friendships that will last a lifetime.

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Note the cool little FIA dimples in the trunk for the "FIA suitcase"
This Cobra is the less common 289 FIA variety, not the more common, voluptuous big block 427SC variety. Many refer to the FIA as Bo Derrick as opposed to the big block, Dolly Parton. I chose the ERA brand because of their reputation and body construction design. ERA is what we call a "Blue Chip" replica manufacturer and is without question the most well regarded company out there.  They initially restored Porsches  years ago and employ those techniques for their car's unitized construction. That makes for a far more durable body and chassis combination than other manufacturers offer.

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Building this car was complex with a goal of turning a Cobra replica into a modern reliable Cobra. Carol Shelby might have considered this power plant for the Series One, but his relationship with Ford was on the rocks. The Series One certainly would have sold better with Ford power.  It couldn't have sold much worse. SVT motors share similarities with the Cosworth motors that ran at Indy. Furthermore, Mario Andretti was a big fan of the SVT motor, and I am a big fan of his. Each motor is hand assembled and signed by the builders on a niche assembly.  This would clearly be a very custom project.

ERA takes on on a custom project periodically to keep the engineers from going mad with repetition. You'll notice I said engineers, not builders, mechanics or blacksmiths.  They are capable, educated guys. Frankly, they were a tough sell. This was a huge undertaking and would cost more than any traditional replica project. They wanted to be assured I’d achieve success and thus protect their reputation. That concern only furthered my commitment to ERA, especially since every other manufacturer I approached was willing to take on the project immediately, even before understanding the full scope. I wanted an elegantly engineered solution.

Once assured of my technical and financial capacity, they warmed to the idea. I learned that many of the guys at ERA found a high tech application like this an exciting departure.  They still charged me a premium but certainly earned every penny of it.  I'm sure they'd tell you that this project was too expensive and complicated to do again. 

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Wiring and coolant have both been rerouted for cleaner appearance
They pulled chassis # ERA2031 off the “line” and began fabrication italian style. Italian style means they drop the engine into the chassis, measure, fabricate and repeat. Bob Putnam explained: this was more efficient for one-off applications.  Since no blueprints were created, I was pleased... I wanted to be the only one with such a car.
Peter Portante (one of ERAs owners) built a Cobra powered by a 427ci SOHC motor, so they had done something like this before. Pedals moved locations, tranny and motor mounts did too. Headers were fabricated to hold catalytic converters (now gone). The steering column was rerouted around the enormous heads. Foot wells got reshaped to wrap around the engine. It was a perfect transplant. All this work was done at the factory.  ERA’s work is the difference between a custom fitted suit and one you buy off the rack. They never passed any additional expenses on to me and delays were minimal.  I recall being treated like a visiting dignitary when I flew out to see the progress. It was clear that they were enjoying themselves.

take by Eric English of Mustang & Fords Magazine.

While the fabrication of my chassis was underway I commenced shopping for options. Other ERA owners advised me to spend a lot on brakes. I upgraded the brakes to the larger 12.2” rotors. I also purchased the very 1st (or maybe 2nd) optional ERA competition rear suspension. That upgrade included many significant improvements, not the least of which were vented outboard brakes and an aluminum housing. I’d later also upgrade to leather seats, a heater, convertible top, dual anti-sway bars, powder coated chassis, factory body bonding and Trigo wheels.

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The SVT motor is actually even wider than the 427 engine.  The FIA had a very accurate engine compartment, fitted specifically to the small 289 motor. Due to it’s DOHC design the SVT more closely resembled the size of the 427 SOHC motor.  The motor above was borrowed to build the second set of headers. Note how they exit straight away from the block, the pipes then bolt directly on. The tire in the background was a great track and street tire... the Yokohama AVS Intermediate, which are no longer available... so I think old school Goodyears will be next

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The leather FIA seats have great side support and are comfortable for long drives
When the car arrived from Connecticut there was still lots of work to be done. While I had managed to get the OEM Ford wiring to work, it proved to be imperfect for such a simple car. The wiring weighed over 25lbs and most of it was OBD-II related stuff and various accessories that were irrelevant.  As the only shop around with an eddy current type dynamometer, Blood Enterprises was the clear choice for the tuning portion of the project.  Blood Enterprises advised me that, as the only person in the country with this motor (at the time) we had a unique opportunity.  So we made some calls and used the SVT motor to develop two different EFI systems in collaboration with the manufacturers F.A.S.T and Accel DFI Gen-7. The cost of developing such systems would have been prohibitive without such an opportunity. After the R+D for both systems was complete I chose to keep the Accel DFI system for the car.  Blood's installed two discrete lights to add to the dash panel,  a programmable shift light and a service engine light.  For you people who like to  modify and tune the DFI has various levels of user programming, so you experiment with fuel mixture and timing without screwing up too much.

All the testing, dyno runs, driving and wiring was done before painting. This made it much easier to work without fear of scratching the car. But now it was off to the painter, where the car languished forever (or at least, it felt that way).  This gave me time to collaborate with Blood Enterprises to rebuild an engine for more aggressive use.
I had dreams of a bullet proof motor.  I planned on driving at the track, which is much harder on a motor than the street. The plan was to build for quality and durability and not to chase after horsepower numbers. A car this light proved to be fast enough already. Over the previous 2 years, we’d learned a lot relevant to the SVT motors. I had comrades that were campaigning a 700hp version of this motor at The Silver State Classic in Nevada. Also I'd met with Mark Sanchez of AEW (Advanced Engineering West) in Ontario CA, perhaps the world’s authority on these motors at that time. It was Craig Blood’s race engine building experience that was the biggest factor in our decision to over build the engine. We actually piggy-backed a lot of work with some of the big ticket engine projects he had going at that time, otherwise I might not have paid for Polydyn coated pistons.
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Mine of the left.  OEM on the right.  "Cracked" rods have very serious issues

I learned at Blood Enterprises during the engine build that the speed and cost of custom work is quite variable. If Polydyn, JE, Manley, Moroso, Mr. Gasket, ARP, ARE, etc know you are doing something special, you can get some cool stuff developed fast. Throw in a potential magazine article, and you’re golden.

The engine is clearly a work of art. We had some pretty cool starting material. 32 fasteners hold down the forged, fully counter weighted crankshaft through the 6 bolt main caps (yes, I said six) . Early blocks like this one were forged at Teksid. In later years Ford cut costs and stopped using the Italian blocks so not all aluminum SVT blocks are equal.  Machine work included: torque-plate honing, porting, polishing, and balancing. We even optimized the oil return lines with a quick polishing and a full windage tray to insure good oil delivery. The rotating mass was optimized with less accessories to drive and improved materials in the crank trigger, internal oil pump, pulleys and a lighter Aluminum flywheel. Every fastener was replaced with ARP including a stud kit for the oil pan. While the horsepower resulted in a modest 320hp on the dyno, the throttle response dramatically changed compared to a factory motor. 

Red line is currently set to 8,000, valve springs or shims could take you to 9,000rpm if that interests you. The rings were gaped with enough extra clearance to allow for boost of any sort.  The 320hp has proven plenty fast for me so the subject of nitrous, turbos or a blower has never come up. It is built to handle about 600hp easily, so give it a shot if you’re brave enough. The car is fast with 320hp, but not completely insane.  The transmissions' been enhanced and the gear ratio changed since the magazine article in 2001, so it's a bit faster. It can do the ¼ mile in the lower 12’s and perhaps 11’s if you can find the right tires. 0-60 in the 4 second range, but again, it could do better with more serious rubber. Torque is not the same as a big block car, and they have walked away from me if I’m not in the right gear.  But that only happens once.  It produces 295ft/lbs which is respectable for a 281ci engine. The RPM range is broad even with my 3.73 gear ratio, so you’ve got to shift down to get to that 4,000-5,500 power sweet-spot. If you’re in 4th or 5th gear it’s pretty quiet and can be quite civilized, but don’t get too comfortable in the first 3 gears or you’ll kill yourself. Things happen quickly with a fast revving motor like this. If you're in doubt, read my blog post about just such an instance, when I almost killed myself and magazine author Eric English, quite embarrassing.

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I hate car shows, but it helps when you win.
PPG Silver paint with a Viper Blue stripe was the paint scheme. Very unoriginal, but hey, baby blue was the FIA’s original color! I recall driving the car back from the painter after coughing up $14,000. I drove very carefully. I should have taken a hint from all the trophies that I was going over the top in the paint department. NW-Cars was a show car painter, which I didn’t clearly understand I guess. It really did turn out well, and has held up nicely. Oh well, nothing refinancing the house can’t fix.

After getting the car inspected the title read as a 1964 Kit Car. Not exactly how WA registration law explained the process. As an accurate replica, it should have been titled as 1964 Cobra “R”eplica or if the inspector was a complete idiot is could have been titled as a 1996 Kit Car. I got neither, but did not press the issue since it was exempt from emissions laws and eligible for collector plates.   A lesson for other Cobra builders out there:  Bring photos of your car and photos of the original cars that look like yours.  They'll sympathise with what your trying to replicate and often help you get the title/registration you want.  The rules are not cast in stone (except in California)...  

By 1999 Blood enterprises had tested and tuned many of these motors in Mustang Cobras. They knew the Cobra would pass emissions with or without the catalytic converters. So we yanked them out and welded up new improved headers with more modern collectors and better airflow. It’s important to note that I do not need to pass emissions, but simply wanted to be compliant for the sake of the environment. As expected the emissions didn’t worsen after removing the catalysts. I’m sure it runs “dirty” during idling, during warm up and under acceleration, but the 25mph emissions were great. So that was enough for my conscience. Now in California, I believe they expect to visually confirm emissions equipment like EGR valves, ECM and whatever. So that would have been tougher. CA always is with any car. I considered moving to California in 2001 and worked up the cost of full CA compliance. It looked like about $3,000 and maybe 10hp too using today’s high flow compact catalysts.  Frankly, I wouldn't sell to anybody in California unless they were really sure about the registration process. There is only one man to prep a car like this in California, Mark Sanchez of AEW.

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To Idaho and Back, a week long trip.  Must bring sunscreen next time.

Miles? 18,000 and counting. I hate how people want to sell you a custom built car with no miles on it. How am I going to trust that thing to take me on a 2 week road trip when the builder hasn’t even driven it 300 miles yet? It looks to me like they ran out of money, so have to sell before really finishing. Driving is the only way to sort out a car! Things like: loose relays, bad bearings, vibrations, rattles, handling issues etc. All these things are discovered and sorted from real use. I say, give me a custom built car with 3000 miles and I’ll believe the car is done. This car is sorted out.

Some things do suffer from 18,000 miles of use. Tires wear out, I’m already on my second set. Rock chips, they happen, but I’m not driving gravel roads so they are minimal. Oh, another thing, my undercarriage ain’t clean either, it’s covered in grime. Grime from the road. That’s where I drive it, on the road!… Not onto and off of any trailer…. (just kidding,  a jab at trailer-queens.  I do clean the chassis each year. But you get my point). Don’t get your hopes up about the convertible top either, many of those mile were driven using the top, many times at over 100mph. Which isn’t too good for the top I suspect. One side curtain has a crack too. The center of the top is cracked a little and the window in the back is all but useless. I still use it because it rains here. Oh, and yes this car has been driven in the rain too. I’d never go anyplace here in Seattle if I couldn’t handle getting caught in the rain.  It is fiberglass you know, they make boats out of the stuff...  

We’ve driven it throughout the Oregon desert on a 2 week excursion. We might have broken the speed limit on that one a few times. I’ve also been caught in a torrential downpour with a few pals out in Spokane on a week long trip to crash a Viper show in Coeur D'Alene, ID.  The trunk in this car is huge, very different from any other Cobra replica.

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This pic, is a link to another track pick, with "the enemy"
Track days? Hell yes it’s been to the track. I spent time at SIR/Pacific Raceway’s driving school run by our local hero Don Kitch (Team Seattle, Daytona 24hrs). I lived an hour away from the track. It was really cool to arrive, race and drive home in the same machine. When driving the car on track days I’d run a 3 quart oil accumulator to lubricate the motor more and prevent any risk of starvation. The accumulator acts kind of like a dry sump but is less complicated to install. It’s a must have for track use in my opinion. The car no longer sports an accumulator, since my race days are over. Once I got my head around the 6 figures spent building this car, I began to think twice before signing up for a track days. I wrote about it in more detail in my blog on trackdays. But you should go out there and learn what this car can do. Better yet, learn first hand and appreciate what Ken Miles did in one of these cars. I went fast, but was never brave enough to challenge the car much  The car can to 155mph on the long straight at Pacific Raceway.  But, my nerves aren't really really up to it.   I'm not cut out for driving that fast, I'm more cut out for buying cool accessories, installing them and drinking coffee.
Well, that about sums it up.  The wife doesn't want me to sell (she's one in a million, I'm sure you'll agree).   But I'm ready to move on to a Porsche 911 Turbo or RS America maybe. This is a very specific car for a very specific customer, I expect the Cobra for a while before the right guy comes along.  I've also got some plans if keeping it becomes the plan (or if a bigger garage comes along)  like a Lemans hard top, Shelby 2011 GT500 motor perhaps.  Also stroking it to 289 inches and adding webbers has been brought up.....  Only time will tell...  Please check the blog if you want to see what happens.

Price is:  SOLD  (See what I bought with the money )

Check out my more current blogs: 

This is the perfect example of the premise "Buy don't build" (see link).  Clearly the buyer will save tens of thousands buying this car rather than building one like it.  Even if it is not exactly his dream, it will be a starting point to realize his personal dream.  This will get him closer, faster than doing it himself.  In that process he'll be able to make it his own, don't worry.


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Fuse panel is relocated in the passenger footwell with modern fuses.
My alternator would have melted that vintage stuff right off the firewall.

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You'll make lots of friends

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Don't buy from people with messy garages
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Blood Enterprises custom EFI wiring harness, elegant.

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Inspirations and rationalizations:


Series 1


Imax's "Superspeedway"

ZR-1 32 valve
Bernard Earll <> wrote:

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