Most people know whether or not they have the do-it-yourself gene. If you’re the sort of homeowner who always has ongoing home improvement projects, whether or not your spouse spurs you into action, you probably have it. If you’re the sort who takes pride in getting your hands dirty and getting the job done and if you’d rather remodel your own kitchen, wash and wax your own cars, build the best science project with your kids, perform a brake job on your autos… if you have done or do any of these things, you could be a great candidate for assembling your own Cobra replica. It’s great that you’re good with your hands, you’re creative, and you have the MacGyver sort of ingenuity to tackle such an immense undertaking. But, building a rolling, running work of art isn’t for everyone.
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If you’d rather take your Cobra cruising with other enthusiasts, participate in car shows, or race your replica on the track than meticulously build your car from scratch for months and months in your garage, you may be better suited to finding a pre-owned replica to purchase. There’s nothing to be ashamed about realizing that you’d rather be enjoying your replica by driving and racing it than putting it together. Think of this chapter as your map to Cobra replica ownership.
Throughout the chapter, I provide photos of the various replica manufacturers’ finished vehicles, some of which were purchased pre-owned and others that are still owned by their original builders/owners. In all cases, these cars have been superlatively and painstakingly constructed. Every one of these Cobras would be show-winning vehicles at almost any car show across the land, yet many of them are driven quite often and also see extensive track time.
In fact, one of the most notable aspects of replica ownership is the fact that the vast majority of Cobra owners drive their cars. Cobra replicas aren’t just trailer queens and museum pieces. They’re driven more than the original cars from the 1960s, because those roadsters are too valuable to drive. How ironic is that? The fastest production sports car of the 1960s isn’t driven much these days. What’s even more ironic, many replicas would blow the doors off original Shelby American 289 and 427 Cobras in every aspect of performance, except of course how much they cost to own.
Where To Look
A number of resources are available to find a Cobra replica. Many Web sites sell these vehicles, and you can learn a lot on various Web forums. The cars also appear at old-school places like auctions and car shows, plus in various newspapers, including your local publication. Don’t leave any stone unturned in your quest.
The “Cobras For Sale” section of the CobraCountry.com website provides an extensive and informative classified advertising section for enthusiasts looking to buy or sell Cobra replicas. Ad listings provide large images of the replicas for sale from different perspectives and include detail photos of the engine compartments and interiors. There are comprehensive descriptions of each Cobra replica for sale in all classified listings. Seller contact information is also provided.
Curt Scott, the originator of the site, has covered the Cobra replica hobby in particular and the kit car arena since 1996. He has also written a book called The Complete Guide to Cobra Replicas: All-New 4th Edition.
On the day that I perused the eBay Motors website for Shelbys, there were no less than 233 cars listed up for auction. As you can imagine, many of these vehicles were Cobra replicas, Shelby Mustang recreations, Daytona Coupe replicas, and Ford GT40 re-creations. It’s not hard to figure out why. With the passage of time, the genuine cars from the 1960s are being increasingly held on to as an investment, or they’re in museums.
ClubCobra.com caters to the general Cobra replica and genuine Cobra hobby and includes authentic and kit Daytona Coupes, as well as GT40 replicas and authentic 1960s race cars. All of the various replica manufacturers products are covered on Club Cobra. There is a very good chance that the replica you’re looking at is already known and well documented on the site.
Visit the forum, become a member (membership is free), and start doing searches. Members (well over 25,000) often times post a thread with full details of their replica when they wish to sell the vehicle.
Go to this Web site if you’re seeking a Factory Five Racing (FFR) Cobra, an FFR Type 65 (original Shelby American code name for Daytona Coupe), an FFR GTM, a FFR Cobra Spec Racer, or a 1933 hot rod FFR. In other words, any Factory Five Racing vehicle that has ever been built or is under construction is probably written about (possibly from start to finish of the project) on this forum. There are even build logs of specific cars that include detailed notes and quality photos of the projects.
FFCars.com has well over 23,000 active members, most of them passionate Factory Five Racing replica owners and/or builders. If you’re interested in purchasing a completed FFR roadster, this is the best place to start your search and the perfect place to learn all about Factory Five Racing. The company’s website provides another excellent resource to learn all about its various vehicle kits.
Going to a live auction can be a means to purchasing a Cobra replica or any other sort of enthusiast automobile, if you employ a viable strategy. You’ve no doubt heard of the major ones, Barrett-Jackson, Mecum, Russo & Steele, Bonhams, Christie’s, and RM Auctions. And you never know what you might find at smaller events. Typically replicas can be had for reasonable amounts of money.
At the start of week-long auctions, you usually see the low-cost sales leaders up for bid. In other words, you might snag a Backdraft Racing roadster for considerably less than what the owner paid for it, and it could be a low-mileage creampuff. The key is to get to the event at the very start of the auction and pore over the auction book, which shows all the cars up for sale with both photos and a reasonable description. Then look at the cars you wish to bid on.
In the case of Barrett-Jackson, the cars are in one of the immense temporary tent buildings or under the carnival tents (that’s the more likely location for the replicas), barely shielded from the desert winter weather, typically cold and rainy. You may even get lucky and see the owner detailing his pride and joy. If so, you might convince him or her to fire it up. You may even have an opportunity to drive the car a short distance, if the owner thinks you’re a serious buyer.
Remember that you need to have your wits about you, should you wish to bid on a specific car. Don’t get caught up in a bidding war. You could bid yourself broke.
Almost every major car show has an immense swap meet section, including used parts and new components. There is also often an old-car corral that’s bound to have several road-going serpents for sale to a good home.
Hemmings Motor News
This automotive classifieds publication has been around since 1954. Its slogan is “World’s Largest Collector-Car Marketplace.” For many years, Hemmings was the only place to find pre-owned enthusiast automobiles for sale. The publication is available on newsstands and via subscriptions. You may find Cobra replicas for sale in three sections: Racing & Hi-Performance, Replica & Kit, and Shelby. You can also look up cars on hemmings.com.
Auto Trader publishes various and sundry car classified magazines for specific marques. For enthusiast machines, the Web site is autotraderclassics.com. You can do various searches and discover Cobra replicas in several different categories and narrow your investigation to short distances from your home.
Before the Internet, automotive enthusiasts relied primarily on local newspapers for the Antiques & Classics section within the Automotive Classifieds. If I told you how many cars that I’ve found and acquired over the years from the Classifieds, you might not believe me. Some of the larger newspapers also offer the Classifieds section online.
Which Car Is Right For You?
Chapter 18 includes a list of the various Cobra kit car companies and details the components in each manufacturer’s product. One thing you are sure to learn is that no two companies offer the same kit. There is nuance in the way the cars appear, differences in how the frames, suspension systems, interiors, etc., are constructed and look. There are even various ways in which each kit is packaged, marketed, distributed, and sold.
Keep Your Head
Just as there are risks associated with buying used cars, there are also challenges to finding the right preowned Cobra replica. So before you get hot on the trail to hunt down a pre-owned Cobra kit car, I need to make this simple statement: Don’t get emotionally attached to any car you’re considering for purchase. You want to find the car of your dreams, of course. But you need to be analytical, methodical, and very deliberate about the process of buying a pre-owned Cobra. A potential owner who becomes excited about any one car will have clouded judgment, often overlook critical problems, commonly negotiate a poor deal, and many times end up buying a vehicle that doesn’t fit his or her needs.
If you perform your due diligence in selecting the best used kit car, you will avoid getting stuck with a lemon, a car that needs extensive rework. In reality, it’s more important to be skeptical, diligent,and particular when buying a used Cobra than buying a factory-built car. You are interested in finding a Cobra kit that fits you physically, your style, performance, and budget. You also want one that’s built well, is reliable, and is going to keep you and your passenger safe.
Know Your Intended Use
Manufacturers have built a variety of Cobra replicas over the years for various applications, such as high-performance street car, road racer, drag racer, stylish daily driver, weekend cruiser, and many variations in between. If you buy the ultimate 1,000-hp Cobra drag car that runs on aviation fuel to power a full-race 13:1 compression engine, it’s not suited for daily driving duties. A road race Cobra that develops its best power at 5,000 rpm or more and has incredible shocks and springs for racing does not make a great weekend cruiser. While these are extreme examples, they illustrate the point that you need to find a used Cobra replica that fits your particular application. Or, you need to take into consideration that you need to perform a certain amount of work to convert it to your particular application.
First and foremost, not all Cobra replicas are created equal. While all Cobra replicas feature the legendary silhouette or body shape, the hardware or underpinnings make the difference. And there’s been a wide variety of chassis, suspension, brakes, steering, etc. Over the past 40 years, more than 80 different companies have offered Cobra replicas kits, which run the gamut of quality and performance. The safest bet is to stick with one of the well-known companies with extensive enthusiast following and manufacturer support.
Factory Five Racing has built more than 7,000 Cobra replica kits since 1995, and ERA and Unique have also built thousands of Cobras. If you buy a used replica from a defunct manufacturer, you’re taking a substantial risk because you won’t be able to source information from the company, nor will you be able to get tech support and parts. I am not suggesting that it can’t be done; and if you’re a skilled mechanic and knowledgeable builder, it certainly is within the realm of possibly. But if you’re a novice and you decide to buy an obscure, orphan Cobra, you may find a lot of hassle and expense to fix problems and fabricate parts.
Become an Expert
Once you determine the ideal Cobra replica for your budget, application, and taste, you need to become the expert on that particular make and model. Let’s face it, the Cobra is a specialized vehicle and you may not be able to find the exact make and model you’re looking for. Therefore, you need to define the car you’re looking for and you may have to adjust that target during your search. To become the expert, get all the information you can about that particular Cobra, which includes build sheets, illustrations, parts lists, and marketing information. This information is provided on some manufacturer Web sites. A premiumquality Cobra is not one with just a pretty body. It’s the underpinnings. Some Cobras are built with Corvette, Jaguar, and other donor suspension parts. Factory Five Cobras utilize Ford Mustang chassis and suspension components while some use weaker common passenger car suspension, steering, and brake parts. Note all the details of your wish list.
In addition, join a Cobra replica club, such as the Ohio Cobra Club (OCC), and talk to members who own or know about the Cobra you want to buy. They may even have a lead on the specific replica you want to buy.
Visit popular Cobra replica sites and blogs. Ask the members questions and learn from their valuable information. But you also need to be skeptical and use creditable information. Anyone can write anything on a blog, so it doesn’t mean that it’s valid or accurate.
Review Component and Work Receipts
When contacting a potential Cobra seller, think of yourself as an investigative reporter. You want to know everything about this kit car. One of the first items you’re going to want to know is who built the car. From there, you can formulate all your other questions and get the answers you need to make an informed decision.
If the builder and owner is the same person, ask whether all the receipts for the components purchased in the construction of the car are available. These receipts provide the DNA of what went into the car and how well it’s built. Ask to look at these documents and study them carefully. A bunch of no-name automotive components on the receipts is a red flag. You want to see names such as Edelbrock, Finish Line, Holley, Demon, Hilborn, Smeding Performance, Roush, Keith Craft, Tremec, Ford Racing, Koni, Moto-Lita, Flaming River, ididit, Comp Cams, Bilstein, etc.
If engine or body and paintwork were performed on the replica, see whether you recognize the names of the shops on the invoices. In fact, if the engine was built by one of the professional crate engine builders, like Keith Craft or Smeding Performance, the engine may well still be under warranty, depending upon how old the vehicle is.
Location, Location, Location
If you live in a major metropolitan area, such as New York, Chicago, or Los Angeles, you may be able to find the right Cobra replica for you in your area. On the other hand, if you live in a less urban part of the country, chances are that you won’t be able to conveniently see it. Therefore, it’s important to do your homework.
When in contact with the seller, ask for detailed photos of every aspect of the car. Ask specific questions about any component of the car, build process, and ownership history. If the car is in a major metropolitan area and you do not live in that area, you can often hire a certified car appraiser and have him or her evaluate the Cobra. Typically, these appraisers compile a detailed report of the condition of the car and send it back to the perspective buyer.
Certainly, you can make arrangements, negotiate a price, buy the car sight unseen, and have the replica shipped to you. But many used Cobra replica buyers are not comfortable doing that, and they must see the Cobra before making a buying decision.
Inspection and Evaluation
You are buying a hand-built, rare super car, and that means you need to pay attention to specific details. But at the same time, you’re buying a pre-owned or used car, and therefore, you’re going to use the same time-honed techniques to inspect it. When buying any used car, you need to carefully inspect, analyze, and evaluate the function and condition of each major component group of the car.
To get a complete picture, get the car up on a hydraulic lift so you can look underneath it to see the frame, any collision repair, and other body work. I also recommend having a certified ASE mechanic inspect it at a shop. These guys work on cars for a living and can spot problems you may miss. Many professional service shops perform a basic inspection for about $100.
Of course, the test drive will reveal the Cobra’s level of performance, problems, and current state of condition.
The engine should fire up and run smoothly once it has been primed. Allow the engine to reach operating temperature and listen for any usual sounds. If there is a clicking sound, this could mean worn lifters, push rod, or cam. Any loud tapping or knocking sounds indicate a serious valvetrain problem, and often the only solution is a rebuild.
From underneath, examine the entire engine, the block, oil pan, heads, and front timing cover. These should not have excessive oil leaks or grease build-up. If they do, it indicates poor maintenance and there may be some underlying issues. If there’s oil between the head and block, then there is likely a leaking head gasket and possibly other problems.
To take a look at the engine oil, pull the dipstick. Ideally, the engine oil should be a caramel color or a little on the darker side. If the oil is milky, coolant has entered the engine, and a blown head gasket may be the culprit.
A compression test helps verify the health of the engine. Remove all the spark plug caps from the spark plugs and replace one spark plug with the compression tester and then proceed to test all eight cylinders. If the compression of all the cylinders is not within 10 pounds of one another, you may have a problem, such as a worn valve seat. Remember, an engine can’t produce top performance if the cylinders do not have a good seal.
You can hook up a leak-down pressure gauge; using compressed air, you can see how much air enters the cylinder and how much is measured on the opposite end. Look for any fluid coming off the engine. If there is, you need to determine the source and ascertain the problem.
Most Cobra replicas are equipped with a manual transmission for a true Cobra driving experience. Almost every iteration of manual transmission has been installed in Cobras— Toploader, Tremec, Muncie, Borg Warner, and others.
To get an indication of the transmission’s health, pull the dipstick and examine the color of the fluid,or shine a flashlight in the fluid-leel hole after carefully removing the plug. Manual transmission fluid for most transmission is 80W/90, and the color is light brown or semi-transparent. If the color of your transmission fluid is dark brown or black, it needs to be replaced, and the gearbox may be fairly worn due to lack of proper maintenance.
If you find a transmission fluid leak, check to see if it’s the base gasket or a more serious issue.
Since you’re not going to be able to see inside the transmission, the road test is an important part of evaluation. The clutch should engage and disengage smoothly without stuttering or grabbing because that’s a sign of a worn clutch or an out-ofadjustment cable. You should be able to smoothly and confidently find each gear, so you should not experience any gear grinding or significant resistance. In addition, it shouldn’t take a lot of arm strength to do it. Once it’s in gear, you should not hear excessive gear or bearing noise. If you do, the particular gear box may need to be rebuilt. Also it should always stay in gear and shouldn’t fall out of gear and find a false neutral.
The most notable sign of a worn rear differential is that it makes a howling noise at speed. Often if you hear a clunk when you accelerate. The sound is because there’s slop between these two components.
If the rear end is producing some sort of noise, most differentials with a Ford 9-inch or a Chevy 12-bolt are easy and relatively inexpensive to rebuild. While it’s a consideration when making a purchasing decision, it should not be a deal breaker.
Once again, you need to get underneath the car. Inspect the suspension arms, steering arms, steering arm ends, springs, torsion bar, and related front suspension equipment. There should be no damage, bends, or cracks, particularly on the welds. Also verify that everything aligns correctly.
If you compress the suspension by pushing on the nose of the car and you hear squeaking, then the front ball joints could be worn out, and replacing them will be an added expense.
If you ask the seller to push down on each corner, watch the rebound; if the suspension bounces repeatedly, expect to replace the shocks.
Make sure the car sits level or with the correct amount of rake. If it does not, this indicates a suspension or spring issue that needs to be resolved.
Steering and Brakes
As you view the brakes through the wheels, look for deep grooves, cracking (particularly from the crossdrilled holes and slots), and any other visible damage. Deep grooves mean that the pad doesn’t sit on a uniform surface area and braking power is decreased. Also, the surface of the brake disc can warp, and then the rotor thumps or produces noise under braking. In addition, if a disc brake is cracked or damaged, it can break apart and fail. While not that common, this is a huge safety concern, so if this is the case, you need new calipers, rotors and pads, which can run $1,000 or more. But it depends on the equipment used.
Remove the wheel to examine the brake equipment and find out whether the pads are exceptionally worn. Sit in the driver’s seat and press on the brake pedal to determine if it provides good brake pressure. Inspect the brake lines and fittings to determine if there are any leaks. If the system is leaking, you will see brake fluid on the ground when depressing the pedal.
Body and Paint
Kneel down at the front fender on each side and look down the length of the car. The bodywork should be clean and straight. If you see waves, ripples, or other abnormalities, often the body has been patched with filler and it was not done very well.
Look at the hood. Does it line up well with the fenders and are the gaps even on all sides? Do the fenders align evenly with the doors? Do the doors align with the trunk and runner boards? If fender, hood, and door alignments are off, these components can be adjusted and aligned. However, if the doors and rear quarter panels don’t align, this can be a much more difficult proposition to bring into alignment because often the rear quarters and trunk are anchored to the body.
Look closely at the paint. It should have a deep, consistent luster from one edge to the other of each panel. And this means you should see no significant flaws in the paint. A paint job should have a smooth, glassy appearance from the application of the base color and clear coat. If the paint does not have a seamless and smooth appearance, the paint and/or primer may have been contaminated during application or was applied improperly.
Most Cobras should have an enamel or urethane paint job, which are very durable. Cobra replicas are not pre-painted, so owners must paint or have their cars painted. You need to determine if the car has a sound paint job because stripping and re-painting it is a major expense—$5,000 or more.
One of the best tests is to look at the reflection of an object in the paint; you want to see no waving or distortion. In some cases, painting hides poor bodywork and poor application of filler, particularly with the lighter colors. However, in some cases, poor filler application and contamination becomes apparent with darker colors.
Contamination and other preparation problems can create many other paint problems. These include fish eyes, wrinkling, bleeding, checking, saggings, orange peeling, air trapping, scratches from sanding, and more. You need to recognize these common paint problems and take into consideration the ramifications of fixing them.
When the paint and/or primer are contaminated with oil, grease, or wax, you get paint-adhesion problems. Once the paint or primer is sprayed, fish eyes or circular imperfections form. In some cases, when new paint is not compatible with old paint, wrinkling can occur. Wrinkles develop when the new paint chemically reacts to the older paint underneath it. The new paint shrinks and it wrinkles.
Sags and runs are fairly common, especially with inexperienced painters. If the coat is applied too thick, the gun is held too close to the panel, or the painter does not move the gun fast enough, sags are often the result. Often, sags can be repaired by stripping the area and feathering in new paint, but this requires skill and experience.
Orange peel was prevalent in cars of the 1960s and 1970s and no longer exists on new cars. Orange peel is a paint texture that looks like the surface of an orange. If there is severe orange peel, the car may require repainting, but if it’s mild orange peel, polishing and wet-sanding removes the imperfections.
Although electrical problems can certainly be diagnosed and fixed, they sometimes take a great deal of work to pinpoint, and that can be very frustrating.
Test the headlights, turn signals, brake lights, dash lights, convenience lights (if any), and horn. The wiring under the hood must be correctly routed and anchored for safety; if it’s not, it could melt or get caught and create a dangerous situation. All wiring throughout the car should be correctly fused and anchored. If you see wiring hanging below the dash, you know it was a poorly assembled car.
You need to examine the electrical connectors to verify they have been correctly crimped; if not, the rest of the wiring is suspect.
Examine how the wiring harness was installed and whether the fuse box has been properly anchored. A Cobra replica must have a professional-grade wiring harness and electrical component installation. If you look at the wiring diagram of the car and notice that the fuse box has higher-amp fuses than specified, this is a red flag. These circuits were designed for a specific amp load and if a high-amp fuse allows too much current to flow through the circuit, a fire could result. Frayed wires indicate poor installation and maintenance, and often result in a short circuit, which in some cases leads to a fire. If the wiring has been spliced and spliced again, this indicates amateur installation and that you could have a difficult time sorting out the system.
Look at the battery ground straps and any chassis ground wires. These should be properly routed, properly installed terminals, and the grounds should be contacting bare metal.
The carpet should be correctly cut and oriented in the interior. In addition, it should extend under the rocker panels on each side of the car. Look for any unsightly gaps around the center console, footwells, seats, and other areas of the interior.
The gauges should be properly oriented with the steering wheel. The dash should be correctly mounted with no gaps between the windshield and the console. In addition, all the switches and convenience lights should be mounted in a logical and accessible location.
Look for any tears, abrasion, or damage to the dash, console, door panels, seats, and other items. Obviously, if there is damage, it requires time and money to repair, and that needs to figure into your decision making.
The seat tracks should be properly mounted in the correct location so you can adjust the seat to your preference. So sit in the drivers seat and adjust it until you’re comfortable.
The door panels should be even and equally proportioned on each side.
Make sure all the lights, gauges, switches, and controls function properly.
Are the wheels balanced? Bolt-on wheels are a matter of personal preference. If you like what is on the car, great; if not, factor in a replacement some time down the road. Knockoffs should be checked to make sure they are tight. If the knock-offs are safety-wired on the car, that shows a good level of attention.
Be sure to confirm what company produced the kit and whether it’s a manufacturer that is held in high regard in the Cobra replica arena. Determine whether the current owner is the person who constructed the kit and get an idea of the person’s technical skill level. Ask if a donor car was used in the car’s construction and what used components went into the replica’s build. Query what would have been done differently if the owner/builder were to build the project today. Find out how long ago the kit was built and how many miles are on the vehicle.
After these questions have been answered, ask some more. Just as with shopping for a used car, you need lots of information.
- Why are you selling it?
- Does it burn or leak oil?
- Has it ever been in an accident?
- Is it currently registered?
- How often do you drive it?
- Are you the original owner?etc.
All of these questions need to be answered before you ask if you can take the car for a test drive. Indeed, before you drive it, you need to thoroughly inspect every nook and cranny of the car, crawl under it, hover over it, and give it your best gearhead appraisal of how well it’s constructed. Should you be a neophyte in the automotive and Cobra replica enthusiast arena, bring a Cobra expert buddy with you when you go to look at the car.
The Test Drive
When test driving the Cobra, remember that it’s still not your car yet, so you need to be respectful and not abuse it. However, you need to verify the performance and operation of the Cobra, so you need to drive it aggressively. After all it’s a Cobra, and it’s meant to be driven in a certain way.
If you’ve never driven a Cobra before, start out conservatively and get acclimated to the car’s power delivery and handling. Be gentle with your right foot. Remember how much power these cars make, how short the wheelbase is, how light they are, and respect that power-toweight ratio. The laws of physics simply will not be denied.
Even if you’re a Ferrari or Corvette C-6 owner, this is different. Those cars are refined. They’re modern vehicles with traction control, ABS,and well-behaved driving characteristics. Find out how much torque and horsepower the test replica has before you plant your right foot from rest.
Once you’ve purchased the car, you can see how fast it will go. For now, “if you break it, you bought it.”
Find a stretch of lightly traveled highway or freeway. Accelerate quickly through the gears and listen to the engine as you’re doing it. Watch to see if it’s burning blue smoke. If it is, this indicates poor ring seal or valve seal, and this often necessitates an engine rebuild.
Listen and feel the transmission as you shift through the gears. Accelerate aggressively, let off the pedal, and accelerate again. If you see blue smoke behind you, this indicates worn piston rings or valve seats because oil is getting into the combustion chamber and burning. You should continue to take it through a variety of conditions, highway, freeway, and city streets.
Find some chicanes and some winding roads, so you can get a sense of the car’s handling capabilities and road holding. You should be able to select a line and the car should hold it. The steering should be smooth and precise through corners. The suspension should be firm yet compliant when driving over road bumps.
You should not hear any clunking or thumping noises from the front end. If the car bounces or keeps bouncing after going over bumps, the shocks have lost their damping and will need to be replaced.
Next brake aggressively but do not lock up the brakes and skid. You should not hear any grinding or unusual noises, pulling to one side or the other, thumping, or clunking. If you hear a squealing sound, the brake pads are likely worn down to the wear indicator. If you hear a grinding sound, you have metal-tometal contact of the backing plate against the rotor.
Closely monitor the temperature gauge and make sure that the engine progressively warms up. During operation make sure it stays within the middle range. If it uses an electric fan, make sure it activates at the preset temperature.
More Owner Queries
The test drive is another crucial point in evaluating how well the Cobra is built and how much it has been driven. Just as with your daily driver, if you hear funny noises coming from the engine bay or the undercarriage, do some investigating. Should there be copious rattles, or you feel the chassis flex when you’re driving over railroad tracks, make a mental note of all the anomalies and idiosyncrasies as you’re cruising around in someone else’s hand-built hot rod.
Be blunt with the owner and get him or her to divulge the cause of those peculiar noises, the frame flex, odd smells, etc. There may be an easy fix to the problem(s). Perhaps just the shocks need to be replaced to solve a soft ride or a rattle.
Maybe the remedy to an overheating problem is the simple replacement of the electric fans in front of the radiator. On the other hand, the block may have a crack in it. Or perhaps the car’s been driven while hot for enough time that the aluminum heads are warped. New aluminum heads will set you back more than a thousand bucks.
A correctly identified problem is also a means to negotiate a lower price. Mind you, there are some things that could be too costly. If you see oil spots when the owner backs the vehicle out of the garage, that could be a deal killer. It’s not good if there appears to be water in the oil. Listen to your gut. If you sense that something’s just not right, walk away. There are always more Cobras out there for you to check out. Find the right car for you.
Written by D. Brian Smith and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks
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