The interior largely determines your driving experience. After all, it’s what you’re in touch with when you drive the car. The seats, carpet, gauges, steering wheel, console, and all the related parts project the personality of the car. While most kit car manufacturers supply a complete interior kit, there’s nothing to stop you from choosing an interior that’s different than the one supplied by the manufacturer.
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In many cases, the Cobra kit car manufacturers provide an interior that appears similar to the original to provide that vintage English roadster/Cobra driving experience. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But if you want to outfit your Cobra differently than the manufacturer supplied interior, there’s a whole universe of options. You can select different carpets, racing or performance type seats (need to have low backs, so they don’t extend over the body lines), modern steering wheels, electronics, gauges, and so forth.
For space considerations here, we cannot go into every single combination an owner could select. However, many owners stick with the manufacturer-supplied interior and often that’s a wise choice because mounting the seats, dash, and other components follows the manufacturer’s instructions.
To avoid being redundant, we won’t again describe how the doors, trunk-lid, and hood go on the car.Suffice it to say that we managed to install all the painted panels and get them to fit their respective openings with the right amount of gap all the way around.
What we must talk about, however, is installing the windshield. This crucial step was supposed to take place before the body had been painted. Fortunately for us, putting the windshield in place was not difficult. It’s best to pre-fit the windshield before your Cobra replica has been painted. But, if you don’t, you still should be able to get the glass in without incident.
Project 1: Windshield Installation
Step 1: Install Windshield Stanchions
Using the supplied FFR fasteners, the first step in the windshield’s installation is to install the windscreen’s uprights or stanchions. You need the supplied short Phillips-head screws to attach the uprights. Once you’ve attached the uprights, you and an assistant need to place the stanchions through the stanchion holes on either side of the body. Be careful in sliding the stanchions through the openings, especially if your car has already been painted. The optimum time to fit the windshield is right after you put the body back on the chassis and aligned the body on the chassis with Quickjack bolts. When you’ve successfully placed the stanchions into the openings, the uprights likely bottom out on the chassis tubes. Mark the stanchions to be cut. Cut off the stanchions at a 45-degree angle to get the proper pitch of the windshield to the body. Because the frame has already been drilled to install the stanchions to the frame, carefully trace the installation holes onto the stanchions before removing the windshield.
Step 2: Shorten Windshield Stanchions
After removing the stanchions or windshield sidebars, cut off both stanchions. You can perform this within minutes of pulling the die grinder’s trigger. Using a hacksaw takes at least twice as long.
Step 3: File Cut and Drill Stanchion
Make a clean cut on both stanchions because then it requires just a little touch up with the flat file to make the stanchions install-ready, with the exception of drilling attachment holes. With a 1/2-inch bit, drill the attachment holes that you traced when the stanchions were temporarily in place.
Step 4: Tighten Stanchion Bolts & Nuts
Re-attach the uprights onto the windscreen frame using the aforementioned short Phillips-head screws. Then, use a 3/4-inch wrench, 3/4-inch socket, and ratchet to tighten the fasteners that hold the sidebars to the frame. With the holes successfully drilled, get your companion to help you slide the windshield uprights into their home in the body.
Floor Liner and Carpet
We decided early in the planning stages of our project to equip the car’s interior with sound and heat insulation. The reasons for doing this were pretty obvious. Cobras usually run big and hot V-8 engines that make a great deal of noise and create a fair amount of heat. The powerplants are set far back in the chassis to achieve a perfect 50/50 front/rear weight distribution, which enables superlative handling capabilities at high speeds. It also means that the hot, noisy drivetrain is almost in your lap. Indeed, you’re almost surrounded by heat and noise in a Cobra. There is a sidepipe on one flank and an engine/ transmission on your other side.
Dynamat, Fatmat, B-quiet, and others make quality sound deadening mats. Dynamat is a popular aftermarket option and common for restoration builds and many project cars. We decided to equip our roadster with HushMat Ultra, the fastest growing thermal insulation and sound deadening material available for the automotive industry. Every automobile manufacturer in the United States, Mexico, and Canada uses HushMat, so the state-of-theart foil constrained layer-damping technology was installed in our sports car.
Project 2: Floorpan Finishing Procedure
Step 1: Trim and Rivet Sill Panel into Place
Before you install the insulation in the interior, rivet two more aluminum sill panels into place. Test fit the panels, as they are a unique shape and may need to be trimmed. Our passenger-side sill plate did not need any modification, so we applied silicone to the frame, placed the sill plate into position, and drilled the rivet holes while the silicone was doing its job sticking. The sill plate bridges the small gap between the interior’s framing and the fiberglass body, so it’s very important that the panel is a good fit. Trim the surfaces that need modification with a pair of tin snips. You may need to trim along a curved radius. Once you cut off the required amount of the aluminum, use a flat file to smooth the cut edges. Apply silicone to the sill frame underneath the driver-side door opening, place the panel in place, drill it in place, put a couple strategic sheetmetal screws to hold it while riveting the panel, and finalize the riveting process for the aluminum sill plate panel.
Step 2: Apply Silicone to Seal Against Elements
Before installing the HushMat sound and heat insulation in the cockpit, use a silicone gun to seal any cracks in the aluminum panel floors and walls to protect the interior from the elements. We had a couple cracks in the footbox far corners, which we sealed with silicone and a crack where we filled the hole where the original emergency brake handle is supposed to go. We installed a Lokar custom E-brake system, so we closed the opening with an aluminum panel.
Step 3: Install Floor Liner
HushMat is extremely easy to install. Take one of the 1×2-foot panels, peel off the paper that is attached to the sticky layer beneath the constraining foil and adhere the sticky side onto the aluminum floor or walls. Use brake cleaner or Acetone to clean all aluminum surfaces before installing the HushMat, so it firmly adheres to the surface. To make your life easier, use kneepads or kneel on a furniture pad. Cover the passenger sidewall and work your way down into the passenger side, toward covering the lower floor inside the footbox and the entire footbox interior. You have to get into some fairly awkward positions while installing these high-tech insulation panels, but the end result will be worth it. For the longest time we resisted permanently covering the transmission tunnel because we wanted to maintain top-side access to the Holley Avenger EFI computer installed along the driver’s side wall of the tunnel. But there’s not really any advantage to having a lift off tunnel top since we do have easy access to the Holley EFI computer from underneath the tunnel
Step 4: Trace Cutouts in Trans Tunnel
Put the transmission tunnel top on top of the underside of the HushMat Ultra panel. Trace the two cutouts in the panel, one for the Lokar emergency brake handle and one for the shifter lever and boot.
Step 5: Cut Out Trans Tunnel Top Panel
Use some old shop scissors or a utility knife to cut out the trans tunnel top panel and apply the HushMat Ultra.
Step 6: Use Razorblade to Cut Out Shifter Hole
Wielding a razorblade to cut out the shifter opening is the right way to go. Trace the correctly sized cut out with a Sharpie and make sure not to over cut because you cannot add material back on. Peel off the HushMat Ultra’s backing paper.
Step 7: Apply HushMat Panel to Trans Tunnel Top
Applying HushMat Ultra is very simple. After sticking it on each panel, smooth it out with your hands. You can also use a kitchen rolling pin or slide a rubber mallet across the HushMat to firmly install it. Once completed, the covered trans tunnel lid is now ready to be riveted atop the trans tunnel.
Step 8: Inspect and Clean Floor Liner
With the exception of the tops of the sill plates, the cockpit is covered, and sound and heat/cold insulated with HushMat Ultra. Before gluing in the carpet, make sure the HushMat foil top is clean and free of any HushMat remnants or dirt. Vacuum the interior, and then proceed to adhere the carpet.
Step 9: Mask Off Body Where Needed
As with the HushMat Ultra insulation material, the first aluminum surface to receive carpet is the rear wall of the cockpit. Factory Five Racing–supplied carpet sections all come pre-cut from the FFR factory. Use 3M Super 77 Multipurpose Adhesive to glue the carpet to the HushMat foil layer. (This is the same adhesive that FFR recommends for gluing the padded vinyl dash panel to the aluminum dash.) You should be able to fairly easily control the spray of the 3M Super 77. To be safe, mask off any paint and body surfaces where you don’t want glue. Use painter’s masking tape and painter’s masking paper to protect these areas. We used an old hot rod poster that had seen better days. Our FFR rear wall carpet came pre-slit to accommodate the Simpson Racing harnesses that routes through the rear wall and attaches in the front part of the trunk. If your carpet also has these four pre-cut slits for the shoulder harnesses, here is a helpful hint: Use four thick pieces of cardboard, temporarily placed in the cutouts. When you initially glue the carpet to the rear wall, push these four cardboard pieces in the carpet slits and into the four harness openings within the rear cockpit wall. Another helpful hint is to use a putty knife to gently push the carpet up under the edge of the body, being careful not to scratch the body paint with the putty knife. Of course, be sure to protect the bodywork with paint and the hot rod poster paper. This first carpet panel to glue in is the most challenging panel to adhere, as it’s a large panel that is hung vertically. You’ll be fighting gravity and a large surface area, so having a friend to help put the panel in place is highly recommended.
Project 3: Interior Carpet Installation
Step 1: Install Carpet on Rear Interior Wall Corners
The FFR Mk4 Complete Kit build manual instructs you to unpack and lay flat your carpet sections for several weeks prior to gluing in the carpet. This is done to make sure that any folds and creases in the carpet sections from being shipped in a box all disappear before installation. When you glue the carpet to the aluminum (or HushMat insulation), push the carpet evenly onto the surface. Also, coat the aluminum/insulation surface with an even spray of Super 77 and where possible, do the same with the back of the carpet. If you spray adhesive on the back of the carpet, be careful not to get too close to the edge of the carpet. You need to be able to hold an unglued portion of the carpet to then stick onto the aluminum/insulated surface. If you get the glue on your fingers, the sticky stuff winds up on top of the carpet. Shown here is the rear cockpit wall passenger corner piece. The passenger-side rear corner wall slice and the driver’s rear corner piece are the second and third sections to be glued into place.
Step 2; Cut Shifter Hole in Carpet
Because you haven’t installed your trans tunnel top yet, cut out the openings in the carpet for the Hurst shift lever and the Lokar custom emergency brake handle. The FFR carpet piece for the trans tunnel drapes over and covers the entire tunnel, both top and sides. Hence, before you cut, make sure that the trans tunnel top is perfectly centered in the middle of the carpet piece. Lay the carpet upside down and the trans tunnel top upside down on top of it and center it. Confirm it is dead center by measuring and re-measuring the carpet and top. Cut out the openings with a razor knife. Even though boots cover both openings, you should still trim as carefully as possible.
Step 3: Rivet Transmission Top
Rivet the transmission tunnel top panel into place, after protecting the Lokar emergency brake handle with masking tape. Glue the carpet on the top of the transmission tunnel and on the sides.
Step 4: Trim Passenger-Side Carpet Tunnel Section
Cut the FFR carpet sections generously so you have enough for complete coverage. You may need to trim here and there to make the carpet a near-perfect fit. Then glue down the top carpet section of the trans tunnel first, trim it where needed on the sides and then glue the sides onto the tunnel walls.
Step 5: Install V-Section of Carpet
Install the V-sections under the doors. The section that wraps around the front frame tube is tricky. Fit the notch around the tubes on the passenger-side V-section. Be sure to test fit each section before applying glue to the HushMat and the backside of the carpet.
Step 6: Install Carpet on Footbox Walls and Floor
Use a furniture pad on the floor of your garage. You need to kneel and wrestle this carpet section behind the footbox frame tubes and then pull the panel across to the inner footbox wall, which is the wall section behind the pedal. When you’ve finally pulled this carpet into position, hold sections away from the walls and spray the Super 77 on the walls and on the back of the carpet. Smooth down this section as well as possible with your hands. After the outer and inner footbox walls and the section under the dash are glued in, glue down the passenger-side floor and then the driver-side floor. The passenger floor goes up to the footbox area, with a small triangular section that glues atop the round frame tube. It’s a little easier to install than the driver’s side, so we recommend you glue it down first.
Step 7: Install Carpet on Doors
The last sections to glue down are the pieces that go under the doors. These two little multi-section pieces of carpet are also a real challenge to glue into place. To get the installation done right, spend a good deal of time test fitting these pieces. Figure out the best way to cover the aluminum, and apply the glue to the section and put them in the proper positions. FFR supplies the C-trim piece that runs from the bottom of the door hinge to the bottom of the door latch. Cut this trim piece to the appropriate size and press the C-trim on top of the body/aluminum/carpet edge.
The mounting holes for the seats were drilled earlier in the assembly process, but now it’s time to install the seats permanently. For a couple reasons, re-installing the seats is a somewhat difficult proposition. The FFR build manual recommends that you put a wire or something in the holes that you drilled in the floor to bolt down the seats. Since we installed HushMat insulation, we covered those holes long ago. But we did manage to find them.
Project 4: Seat and Restraint System Installation
Step 1: Install Passenger Seat
Remember that we needed to drill two holes in the passenger-side floor to bolt down the passenger seat, when we first installed the seats while the body was still removed from the chassis? Now you drill the other two seat installation holes in the round frame rail that runs adjacent to the trans tunnel wall. After putting the roadster up on jack stands, roll under the car on a mechanic’s creeper and find the two black holes that contrast nicely with the Sharkhide protected aluminum floor. Poke the holes open with a pick, right through the HushMat material and the carpet. Align the passenger seat frame with the two picks that were sticking up from the floor and put the seat in place. Take another pick from topside and hunt around for the other two holes that you previously drilled in the frame tube. After initially installing the passenger seat, by attaching the four fasteners, we discovered that the edge of the seat rubbed against both the door striker and the door, so we made the proper adjustments. We removed the seat and drilled four more holes into the seat frame that would line up with our four holes that we had already drilled in the cockpit floor. Hence, we didn’t need to drill any additional holes in the cockpit floor, but we had to drill four more holes in the passenger-side seat frame. When we installed the driver’s side seat, we ran into a similar challenge. You’ll remember that we installed the driver’s side seat with an optional FFR procured seat track system. Dad was able to find all three holes that were in the aluminum floor and frame/plate. Regrettably, we learned that the installed seat hit in the same places on the driver’s seat, the striker and the top edge of the door. We re-drilled the four holes in the seat frame and once again solved the problem.
Step 2: Drill for Lap Harnesses
These Simpson five-point safety harnesses are included with the FFR Mk4 Complete Kit. You need a 3/4-inch wrench, 3/4-inch socket, and ratchet, so you can install the harnesses. In the FFR build manual, the directions show these safety harnesses being installed prior to the body being on the chassis. Thus, the carpet has already been glued in place on the rear cockpit wall, the seats are temporarily in place and the Simpson harnesses are installed. Had we done it this way, it might have been easier to install the harnesses, since we wouldn’t have to reach into the trunk with the trunk lid hitting our back. We might have had to re-do the safety harness installation, just as we had to re-drill the seat frames. Perhaps, doing it our way is the preferred method. After removing the seats, place a clean shop rag or a towel on the carpeted cockpit floor to minimize the mess. Use an electric drill and a 1/2-inch bit to drill a hole in the lower rear corner of the transmission tunnel that is directly behind the hole in the lap safety harness attachment ear. There is already a hole in this attachment, so you just need to feed the 1/2-inch drill bit through the hole to drill through the carpet/HushMat/aluminum. When you’ve drilled this hole, get on your creeper and install the washer and nut on the inner trans tunnel side. Have your buddy install the harness and the 3/4-inch harness bolt in the cockpit.
Step 3: Install Lap Harnesses and Seats
For proper installation of the Simpson shoulder harnesses, attach the Simpson lap harnesses and then re-install the seats.
Step 4: Adjust Shoulder Harness Straps
To correctly install the Simpson Shoulder harnesses, remove the attachment ear and the sliding adjustment buckle from the harness. Feed the harness strap through the slit in the back wall of the cockpit. The shoulder harnesses are left and right, so feed the left-oriented strap in the left opening and the right-oriented strap in the right opening. (The metal clasps that attach with the lap harness should come to the center; that’s how you know whether the strap is for the left or the right shoulder.) Once you’ve fed the straps through the opening, lay them out in the trunk so that the strap length is roughly even. Re-attach the sliding adjustment buckles and the attachment ears. Check the strap alignment on the seat back. If the Simpson straps are even in length on the seat back and in your trunk, you have properly adjusted them.
Step 5: Install Driver-Side Straps
When you are satisfied that you’ve properly adjusted the shoulder straps, feed the straps back through the sliding buckle and tuck away any excess strap. Then, use a 3/4-inch open-end wrench on the nut side and washer side of the fastener and a 3/4-inch socket and ratchet connected to the bolt head and washer side of the fastener. Firmly tighten these fasteners.
Step 6: Install Driver-Side Harnesses
Here is how a properly installed Simpson racing safety harness should be installed. Notice that the passenger side could use some adjustment to be the same length. After shooting this photograph, we adjusted the passenger side.
Custom Steering Bezel and Steering Wheel
On many customized vehicles, the steering wheel crowns the dashboard. It is the single coolest element in a first-class interior. The original Moto-Lita wood-rimmed and aluminum tri-spoked steering wheel came standard in the AC Bristol roadster, the 260, 289, and 427SC Shelby AC Cobra roadster, and many other sports and race cars of the 1950s and 1960s. It has a high-performance, yet timeless classic appeal. For this reason alone, we knew right away that we wanted that sort of steering wheel adorning the dashboard and immortalizing the cockpit of our roadster replica.
Several companies, including Andy’s Autosport and Tony D. Branda, offer reproduction Shelby Cobra steering wheels for that authentic look. But there’s nothing to prevent you from a selecting a modern steering wheel from a respected manufacturer, such as Momo, Grant, or NRG. Thankfully for us, this three-spoked wheel comes standard as part of the FFR Mk4 Complete Kit. When the time finally arrived to install this stylish piece, we were as excited as can be.
Project 5: Steering Wheel Installation
Step 1:Inspect Custom Steering Wheel Bezel
Custom touches are always appreciated, even in high-speed sporting and racing machines like our FFR Mk4 Cobra roadster replica. One of the few items that Factory Five does not supply as part of the Mk4 Complete Kit is a steering wheel bezel to cover the opening in the dashboard-padded vinyl where the steering shaft pokes through. We had an unused alternator pulley wheel from a PowerMaster high-performance chrome alternator. It just happened to have about the same diameter as our steering shaft. We took the pulley wheel to our local machine shop and asked the shop to slice the wheel in half laterally. We then had three installation holes drilled in the bezel with a drill press. Then three holes were countersunk to accommodate the button-head Allen stainless-steel 3/4 by 6/32-inch fasteners and 6/32-inch stainless washers and 6/32-inch lock nuts. We carefully drilled the three holes in the dash using a tiny bit and successfully installed the stylish alternator pulley/steering wheel bezel in the dashboard.
Step 2: Install Steering Wheel
Use a Phillips-head screwdriver, 5/16-inch Allen key, and 10-mm wrench to install the steering wheel. Find the steering wheel and hardware in the FFR box or your kit manufacturer’s box. Spray a little WD-40 on a shop rag to spread it around the steering shaft at the top where the steering wheel goes into place. Slide the steering wheel boss into position and place the steering wheel against the boss. The six installation holes around the steering wheel boss and the circumference of the steering wheel are not symmetrical, so the wheel only installs in one position. Also, the steering shaft, the boss, and the steering wheel are all keyed, so these components also only install one way. When you’ve put the wheel in place, attach the wheel to the boss with the supplied Allen-head screws and locknuts. Use thread locker on the bolt that goes in the center of the steering wheel and tighten the bolt.
Step 3: Install Factory Five Steering Wheel Emblem
The next step in the steering wheel’s installation is to fit the Factory Five Racing emblem on the steering wheel’s center section. This center section has an O-ring on the back edge of the piston portion that pushes into the center of the steering wheel and forms a friction-fit seal between the wheel opening and the center of the steering wheel. We’ve opted not to install the emblem yet, as we need to drive the car for several miles, before we take it to the alignment shop. The shop initially aligned the entire chassis, while the body was being prepared for paint at the body and paint shop. In case the alignment shop needs to remove the steering wheel for any reason, we don’t want them to mar the wheel or the center section/FFR emblem by prying it out with a screwdriver.
Miscellaneous Bits & Baubles
Some people call these dress-up items. They include the mirrors, shift lever, shift boot cover and bezel, and check straps.
Install Hurst Shift Lever & FFR Boot/Bezel
Ever since we relocated the shift point on our Tremec T56 6-speed manual transmission to the mid-shift point, we had an impossible time trying to find a short throw shifter. We wound up getting a Hurst Shifter with a black 6-speed shift knob that was 7 inches long. That length lever would look and work great in a 1960s-era muscle car, but it’s a full 2 inches too long for our Factory Five Mk4. We decided to lop off 2 inches at the bottom of the shift lever with the die grinder. We also drilled two attachment holes in the bottom of the shift lever. We then drilled four installation holes using our cordless drill and a 1/8-inch bit. Here’s another helpful tip for finding the drilled holes in the black carpet. Squirt a little blue thread locker where you drilled the four holes. You’ll see the blue thread locker, so you can screw in the fasteners with a Phillips-head screwdriver. The bonus is that the threads of the screws get a coating of thread locker as they go through the holes in the carpet.
Written by D. Brian Smith and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks