Recent Cobra & Stang Engines....click to view project pages
Gessford Machine built our first 427 Ford Cobra Kit Car in 1994. It was and continues to be our pride and joy at the factory. What a great advertising image it has become. It has gone from being used as a Pace Car at local race tracks to participating in actual road race and drag racing events all over the country. I'm a happy Cobra owner. Read on and understand some of what it takes to become a satisfied Cobra owner.
George Anderson Staging for Drag Race at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix AZ.
Being featured in "KIT CAR MAGAZINE"'s December 1995 issue, after racing at Firebird Raceway in Phoenix, was a dream come true. Careful documentation, attention to detail, and taking pictures as we built the car all came back to us in this feature article. Perhaps having a Coke Machine in our race trailer and passing out cold sodas to the Editor and his staff also helped.
Winning the 1996 "KIT CAR ILLUSTRATED-- Run & Gun" bracket II drags in Norwalk Ohio only drove us to build more horse power in 1998. Winning the PRO "A" Quick 8 drag race at Gateway International in St.Louis during the awesome 1998 "Run & Gun". The 2000 Run & Gun lived up to it's reputation and was again a great race of Cobra Replicas. We were fortunate to finish runner up in the Pro A Big Block Road Course and Auto Cross this year. Running 140 MPH at 6500 RPM down the front straight of the Road Course is beyond belief. The thrill of hearing 600 HP at full throttle with open headers will give you the attitude adjustment of a lifetime and we had another 1000 RPMs to go.....Believe me you do need ear protection when you run close to the wall. Featured again in December 2001 Issue of Kit Car Magazine was another dream come true for me.
And this Article from Dec 2001 was too My Cobra Article
We visited Mid-States Classic Cars in 1994 and knew right away we wanted to do business with Bob & Lauri Kallio. I Took several of my key people on this visit. We looked over several of their Cobras very carefully. We decided on a rolling chassis with the body fitted. Some 400 hours later I took my first test drive. You can build a dream and, if you do it right, the pleasure never stops. People love these cars and will stop and talk to you everywhere you go. When you win that first "People's Choice" trophy you will understand what I mean about the dream.
Since becoming associated with the MidStates owners group we have assembled many Cobra engines and built some wonderful friendships from coast to coast. Having one of these cars is an open door to new and great friendships. When we build an Engine for a Cobra, we build a lifetime friendship and expect to see our customers both at national events and perhaps at their own local events as we travel the country. At the "Run & Gun"s we have been introduced to other manufacturers and their customers too. Even with the competition, we all look forward to the next time we can compete together.
If you're interested in building a Cobra Kit Car be sure to visit the www.cobracountry.com web page to get some great information on the reputable companies and the advice of people who have "been there and done that". Curt Scott is one of the consumer advocates for kit car builders and his Buyers Guide is a must have for a first time buyer. Another great web site is www.clubcobra.com You can exchange ideas with other Cobra owners at this great open forum.
Be sure to think out your motor, transmission, and rear end needs very carefully. If you want to take long drives or go on cruises, I suggest a tame engine; if you want to go quick and don't mind some engine tuning time, then money will buy any level of dream you can imagine. Remember one thing--"someone is always faster", so don't go off the deep end with horsepower that you can't enjoy at the level you want to drive the Cobra. If you want to drag race the Cobra think about the ET you may want to run. 14 second ET engines are less expensive than 11 second ET"s, probably about $7,000 cheaper. A good rule of thumb is to allow 35% more than you have in mind. This will cover all the things you will learn about and then want to buy later in the project. Here's a good example--You decide to paint the engine the exact color of the car, so it looks super at the car shows. Good engine builders will offer a matching engine block and accessory bracket color scheme, if they know anything about advising on what will attract votes at a car show. A professionally painted engine is a killer at Car Shows and will set you back about $300.00.
It is not fun explaining to people why their cobra is in the shop all the time getting tuned up or repairing broken rearends, transmissions and engine parts. Buy the best parts you can for the level of sustained horsepower you want. Understand that the more horsepower you have the shorter the potential life of your engine. Most people who look at a Cobra's engine compartment expect to see something special and awesome. Chrome is great but hard to keep clean after that first year or so. Think ahead and look at other cars before you decide exactly what you want for your engine. Look extra close at how the wires, hoses and fuel lines look on different engines.
Go to a "Run & Gun" in St. Louis and visit with owners and builders to see what the dream is all about. Then select a few factories to visit before you buy anything. Listen to what the factory has to say about the engines, transmissions, and rearends they recommend because they have "been there and done that" a hundred times and know what works. Rely on their experience. Ask for several references from their customers in the last year and from the last two or three years. Get their phone numbers and start calling. I may get shot for saying this, but believe what the customers say, not the salesman. Until you know you can trust the company, call their customers. Good companies will give you good customers to call and you can listen and learn a great deal. All companies occasionally have problems. You can find out how they handle these from the people you call. Even their good customers may have had some problems and you can learn how they were handled.
Lead time is really a significant issue. If the company wants lots of money down to reserve you a slot in their busy schedule, consider why they want the money--(CASH FLOW). I suggest a reasonable deposit but not 99% of the finished value until you see a finished project. We use 80% on the parts and 60% of the labor to start, 10% of the parts and 30% of labor the day we start final assembly of the engine and the last 10% of labor and parts when testing is complete and you see the engine running or you get that fantastic phone call with the engine starting and running in the background. That is my favorite day too! We often personally deliver our engines to our customers' builders. We charge for it but we want to know for sure they will treat this carefully machined power plant like we did....with loving care!!!
Experience in this field is a very important ingredient in deciding from who you buy the cobra kit, and ensuring the dream becomes reality and not a nightmare. Calling and talking to salespeople is usually a challenge for the rookie cobra buyer and you don't become a veteran until after you go through the experience and are actually driving one. You will spend hundreds of hours building this dream, so make the most of it by ensuring you don't take on more than you can handle by yourself or with the help of good and reliable friends. Study and study again just how much work you can handle without losing interest.
If you can afford it, my advice would be to go, at a minimum, with a rolling chassis that you can pickup at the factory, load on a trailer, and head home to finish it. It is important to not lose interest in the car as 400 hours adds up to lots of free time you won't have for other pleasures. Lots of Cobra Kit buyers end up never finishing their project, because it becomes an overwhelming "A" and they just give up. Buying a kit one part at a time is great until the company updates something, and then you have to start modifying to finish the car. It is not unheard of for one of the companies to sell out or go out of business and then there you are with half of a car--scratching your head wondering how to finish it.
Having a donor engine to start with is helpful if you like being involved with the machine shop from start to finish. Knowing the history of this engine is even more important. There are good salvage yards out there who can help you find a good donor engine. Remembering a donor engine with all the pulleys, alternator, starter, dampner and flywheel is nice, as lots of people think they have a motor when they see a block, crank, rods and heads. Thousands of dollars separate a block, crank, rods and heads from something of beauty cruising down the main drag with the top down. Most salvage yard engines won't have all of the right parts you will end up using, but the basics are there for a good start.
Many cobras need the alternator on the passenger side top location due to the frame configuration but the donor engine had the alternator on the bottom side of the engine, requiring modification of the mounting and adjustment brackets. Find an experienced machine shop and engine builder, especially one who will test run your new engine before you install it in the Cobra. Test running your dream engine is a must and if you overlook this most important detail it can spell disaster in the end. Trust an engine that has been broken in on the test stand, not in your dream car. At our shop we don't build crate motors and we don't sell to your builder. Our interest is in the Cobra owner and helping them find exactly what they really want to make their dream come true. Making new friends has many rewards, and at some time in the future you may want to freshen up that great Gessford Engine and we will be here to help.
Feel free to call if you need help getting started in the right direction toward building your dream.
George Anderson, Owner, Gessford Machine, Inc.
E-mail to George@Gessford.com
This is a new Shelby 427 Ford all Aluminum Engine being unloaded at a customers shop October 1999. It features the new Shelby Engineering Aluminum 427 Block and Shelby Aluminum Heads. The intake is a Dove 2X4 Tunnel Wedge. The fuel log is an all Aluminum design which we manufacture and install on our FE's. Notice the expansion tank Top is assembled backwards for this CSX 4000 application.
The Following Is A Feature From The Nov 1995 "Kit Car The Specialty Car Magazine"