It was a blue-sky Pacific-coast spring day in April 2010, when the Stewart Transport 18-wheeler backed up to our driveway with our precious cargo, the Factory Five Cobra Mk4. The shipment included the FFR Mk4 body on chassis and 22 carefully labeled boxes. The Stewart Transport driver helped us move all the boxes and the body/chassis to our home shop. He painstakingly had us confirm with the shipping manifest that we had received everything that Factory Five Racing had sent us. Within an hour, we had everything safely stowed away into two bays of our three-car garage. Some of the more fragile bits, like the seats, instruments, dashboard, etc., ended up in our living room for safe keeping.
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Kit and Component Inspection
While you’re inspecting and inventorying all the components that were shipped in your kit, it is a good idea to unpack your carpet and dashboard. This allows you to lay these items flat, so that they won’t have stubborn wrinkles and creases when it’s time to install them in your cockpit. If you don’t have room to safely store them, you’re probably best off leaving them in the boxes that they came in. That also holds true for the components that you’ve inspected and checked off your inventory list.
In the case of any FFR kit, the boxes are numbered from 1 to 22 according to when the components inside them are going to be used. Each box has a contents list.
The day after we loaded up our house and garage with FFR Mk4 components, we lined up all 22 boxes in chronological order in our driveway. We had two objectives in mind: take photos of the components for this book, and carefully inventory all of the parts before beginning the deconstruction/construction process.
Because the boxes had a large number of parts in them and we only had a finite amount of sunlight to work with to get the photos taken, we decided to remove just one or two prominent parts from each box for our photography. We gave each box a cursory inspection, but this approach proved inadequate. We didn’t notice that one of the boxes had a new driver-side aluminum footbox panel in it that was to replace the old-style panel that was also pre-mounted on the chassis from the factory. We also didn’t match up any backordered components with the complete listing of shipped and backordered items from Factory Five Racing. Kudos to FFR, the company provides a detailed and extremely well-organized listing of every shipped item, as well as the backordered components.
Our inspection/inventory oversights should serve as a forewarning for you to do a more thorough job than we did. The mistakes came back to haunt us later in the build, to the extent that we had to wait for some components we thought we had already received. In the other instance, we wound up replacing the pre-installed, old-style front footbox panel with the revised panel.
We could have left the old panel in place, if not for my brother Kevin. He reminded Dad and me that we’re building the ultimate Cobra replica, not some car with an obsolete footbox panel. Kevin insisted on removing the old panel and replacing it with the new one while Dad and I did other work, which made it an easy fix. That was an excellent display of teamwork. Kevin did the heavy lifting while we two procrastinators prepared other aluminum panels for being riveted to the cockpit by protecting them with Sharkhide.
Bear in mind that when we received our Mk4 Complete Kit, the fourth-generation Mk4 FFR Cobra replica was extensively re-designed and brand new. We received one of the first Mk4s in the world. So the fact that there weren’t very many backordered components is testament to how professional and how thoroughly organized Factory Five Racing is and also to how great the company is at providing exemplary customer service. None of the components picked and packed by FFR and shipped via Stewart Transport were in any way damaged.
It was up to us to build our ultimate Cobra replica. In the coming months we found out firsthand whether or not the Smith men were up to the challenge.
The next thing to do is cross reference the parts manifest and project assembly spreadsheet to determine if you have all the necessary parts and materials to start the assembly of a particular component group. Once you’ve determined you have all the parts for a particular component group, you should allocate a set of shelves and storage area for those particular parts.
One of the most effective methods I’ve used in the past is color coding the particular parts for a component group. Use colored duct tape to apply to the particular part or box. But keep in mind that duct tape leaves behind adhesive residue, so don’t put it on sensitive parts. In addition, you can use a colored Sharpie pen to mark the boxes for a particular component group.
For color coding, you can mark interior parts green, suspension parts blue, chassis parts black, and so forth. This way, you can go to a specific area of your garage, see all the parts for a particular install, and then easily access those parts. Now you don’t have to waste time looking through a bunch of boxes when it comes time to assemble a component group. You need at least one garage stall to store the parts and another garage stall to actually assemble the car. If you’re working in a one-stall garage, you need to make some provisions for your situation. A large temporary shed to keep the parts organized and protected is one option, and be sure no animals can get into the area and damage your components.
Also be careful when storing your parts. We chose to store sensitive parts like gauges, glass, seats, and other parts in the house. We recognize that many builders may not have that option, but nonetheless, you need to store your parts wisely. Fragile and sensitive parts should not have anything resting on top of them and they should not be put around hazardous chemicals. I know this may seem like common sense, but people get in rush and make mistakes in complex projects. Thus, do not put oil or radiator fluid on top of the seats or make a similar mistake.
There are no substitutes for the correct storage containers and they should be used appropriately when you’re working on your project. Want to minimize hassle and frustration? Use plastic Rubbermaid-type bins for large parts, and buy a large number of resealable freezer storage and sandwich bags for smaller parts. Also, zip ties come in handy to group particular fasteners or parts to a particular area. Permanent markers to label all the parts in the bags are required. Home painter’s masking tape is good for labeling parts because it doesn’t leave behind residue like regular masking tape.
Consult Your Build Manual
Before you begin your Cobra project, get into the habit of consulting the build manual that came with your kit. Whether you’re building an E.R.A., Unique Motorcars, Shell Valley, Lone Star, Everett-Morrison, or Factory Five Racing Mk4 roadster like the one we’re creating, make sure you carefully read each section of the manual before you proceed to the work in your garage.
The Factory Five Mk4 Roadster Complete Kit manual is extremely thorough and very logically laid out. If you have an FFR Mk4, it is feasible to build your Cobra replica without this book. But having this book should make your job much easier. In addition, the descriptions in this book are more detailed. Also, having the advantage of more photos, and all in color, provides you with more ability to decipher exactly what you’re supposed to be doing during each step of your Cobra project, no matter which kit you choose.
Maybe you can relate to how I used to be. I was one of those guys who said, “Who needs to read the darn manual? I’m a smart guy. I can figure this thing out.” That sort of logic might work for putting together your daughter’s bicycle before her birthday, or perhaps even hooking up your home network of laptops and desktops. But, it doesn’t fly with building a car from scratch.
If you need more convincing, let’s do some arithmetic. With the FFR Mk4 roadster, there are 22 boxes filled with parts. We don’t know exactly how many components, fasteners, wires, etc., are in those 22 boxes, never mind the body on the chassis and the 62 aluminum panels, but it’s at least several thousand. Do you know how to assemble this kit completely so that it’s a safe and reliably running car? If you answered yes, you’re kidding yourself. Not even an automotive engineer could put a Cobra kit together without looking over the manual a time or two.
You actually have an advantage, because not only can you consult the instruction manual that came with your Cobra replica, you also have this book. Consulting your manufacturer’s manual and this book gives you the best chance to avoid mistakes, which of course saves time and money.
If you’ve pored through both books and you’re still having difficulty figuring out what to do next, you have other resources. There is a good chance that the manufacturer of your kit has its own online forum. You can also call your manufacturer’s tech support line with questions. Use all the resources at your disposal so that you can build the best Cobra replica possible. If you avoid mistakes, you’ll likely be saving time and money.
Tools and Supplies
You’re creating a car from the ground up in your garage. So you’re going to need a professionally equipped garage, with plenty of high-quality tools. Rather than using discount tools, make sure that your tool chests and workbench walls are equipped with tools that are guaranteed for life. Our garage is predominately a Sears Craftsman shop. We also use Snap-On and Home Depot Husky tools.
Your kit manufacturer’s build manual may also specify automotive specialty tools. We had difficulty finding snap-ring pliers that worked well for us for more than a month. Instead, we made a couple visits to a local machine shop and a pro exhaust system shop to borrow tools. After checking with several auto parts stores in our area, we finally obtained an inexpensive set of four mini snapring pliers, both internal and external, that worked perfectly.
In the Factory Five Racing Mk4 Complete Kit assembly manual, there is a very helpful list of tools, which I don’t copy here. Your assembly manual is likely to have a similar list. Just note that to create a quality kit car, you need to use first-class tools and supplies. Going cheap could prove much more costly than going first class.
Written by D. Brian Smith and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks
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