In January, 2001 I decided the time had come to realize a longtime dream, to own a Shelby Cobra. In December, 2000 I was fortunate enough to meet a man by the name of Marvin Matlack of Chatsworth, NJ. Marvin is a long time cobra enthusiast and a top notch chassis builder who has been building cobras in his garage on a limited basis for several years. One visit to his shop and I was hooked. I knew that he was the man to build my dream car for me.
This car is not a kit car by any stretch of the imagination. Marvin begins with straight tubing, steel plate, and angle iron and literally fabricates the entire chassis by hand using original cobra blueprint specifications. There are few modifications to the original chassis configuration, mostly to accommodate the use of upgraded modern technology parts that were not available in the 1960s. He utilizes the best of the old and the best of the new available technology to produce a frame that is stiffer and stronger than the original. His bodies, although fiberglas, are produced in a mold lifted from an original 427 cobra body. Rather than riveted aluminum body panels, Marvin molds a one-piece fiberglas tub interior which is then bonded to the body shell before the body is lifted from its mold to produce a very strong body unit. The actual bodies are produced from Marvin's mold set by professional fiberglas workers working for a company that produces huge one-piece inground swimming pools. They lay up each body using hand laid mat and resin rather than a chopper gun method for a stronger product. Inside the fiberglas hood, trunk lid, and doors are steel bar inner frames to add strength and rigidity to those structures. Many pieces are hand fabricated, including the hinges, dash panel, pedals and housing, clutch and accelerator linkages, body side louvers, stainless steel roll bar, stainless steel nudge bars and overriders, fuel tank, and four link rear suspension and Panhard bars.
The rear end links are fabricated using stainless steel heim joint ends with urethane bushings and aircraft quality gold anodized aluminum shaft stock. Rather than using a high cost and relatively weak Jaguar IRS suspension, Marvin chooses a Ford 9" posi rear from a 1978-79 Lincoln Versailles. This rear comes stock with 11" disc brakes and 28 spline axles and just happens to be the correct width for the cobra application. The front suspension components consist of reinforced Mustang lower control arms with radius bar, Troyer tubular upper A frames, 11" vented discs, and Wilwood four piston racing calipers. Monroe racing adjustable coil over shocks are used at all four corners. The wheels are reproduction 15" Halibrand wheels exactly like the original car. The front rubber is 235-60R-15 with 295-50R-15 in the rear. The motor for this car is a completely balanced and blueprinted 1969 Ford 351W from which I hope to get 390-400 bhp by using a street-strip Iskenderian hydraulic cam, cast iron GT-40P heads with 1.6 ratio roller rockers, an Offenhouser 360* aluminum intake manifold, and a #4118 Holley 730 cfm vacuum secondary carb that came off an original HIPO Shelby 289 motor. Marvin prefers the weight to power ratio of the 351W engine over the 427 side oiler because the lighter 351 gives the car a more neutral handling feel, due to a nearly ideal 50-50 front to rear weight distribution (Amazingly, this man just happens to have FOUR 427 motors sitting in his garage). Marvin even fabricated a T style racing oil pan for this engine using the original front sump pan. An Accel super coil will supply 50,000 volts of spark to the racing plugs via a converted pre-electronic distributor. All hoses will be Aeroquip stainless steel braided using Aeroquip anodized fittings. An original type Cobra Mocal oil cooler will keep the oil temperature within reason. An electric preluber will provide 55 lbs. of oil pressure before engine cranking. Original type twin radiator fans will supply the radiator with air. The headers are modified sprintcar units using 1 1/2" tubing mated to a pair of tuned sidepipes. All exhaust components will be jet hot ceramic coated in silver chrome rather than chrome plated. Fortunately I found a local shop that caters to aviation enthusiasts experienced in powder and ceramic high temp coatings. Behind the engine is a Lakewood scatter shield modified to use a late Mustang cable type clutch fork and a rebuilt close ratio Ford top loader 4-speed transmission. A set of SW gauges will compliment the naugahyde covered aluminum dash panel. A reproduction cobra steering wheel attached to a Ford steering column will operate the Mustang manual steering rack. No power steering for this baby. The interior will be completely hand made including the reproduction cobra seats.
Pinelands Restoration and Collision in Tabernacle, NJ will be doing the body prep and paint. I have chosen an original cobra color scheme of Guardsman Blue and Wimbledon White Racing Stripes with black interior. The plan is to prep the body and prime it while off the chassis and then return the car for the color coats after the car is finished but prior to installing the interior.
Now for some photos. I will be adding to this page whenever new photos become available, Please click on the thumbnail to see a larger version:
First, early chassis fabrication and construction. All metal materials came from Fazzio Brothers in Glassboro, NJ. The chassis actually began as two lengths of 4 inch round steel tubing along with some square and rectangular box steel. The sections of tubing over the rear wheels were sent out to a shop that could handle bending 4" tube. All chassis parts are hand fabricated and then assembled using home made jigs to insure that the finished item is plumb and square.
Now for the oil pan and raw body:
Here is the progress on the engine and chassis as of March 31, 2001. In the fourth photo I caught the master himself fiddling with the tranny. The 1969 vintage 351W had been completely torn down. All that remains of the original engine is the block bored and honed .030 over, the crank, and piston rods which were sent to Medford Speed Shop for machining and balancing. Engine assembly and blueprinting was performed personally. All other parts are brand new including Iskenderian cam, hypereutectic pistons, chrome moly rings, Offenhouser intake, and Holley carb.
Cobra Page 3, 2002 Small Modifications
Cobra Page 4, 2003 Big Modifications
Cobra Page 5, 2005-2006 Modifications
Cobra Page 6, New Intake & Heads in 2007
Cobra Page 7, Car Shows
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