While many of us spend years bumbling our way through the build of our dream car, making mistake after costly mistake along the way, there are others out there who take the smart approach from the get-go. Stu Trinnaman is one of those ‘other’ guys. He’s the first to admit that he’s got very specific tastes, but has neither the mechanical aptitude nor the time to spend toiling away on building a car himself.
So when he sold the family boat a few years back and decided that finally the time had come to own the car he’d been dreaming about since his teenage years, he set about formulating an impressive plan.
Spending hour after hour researching on the internet, discussing with local car owners and workshops, his plan developed into one in which he had a very good overview of everything that would be involved.
The dream was to own a Cobra replica, but not one that had been built for someone else to their tastes, it was to be one that had been built specifically how he wanted it, and without any compromises, both in terms of build quality and styling. During his research he got talking to well known kit-car builders, Fraser Cars. And while they are more familiar with Lotus 7 replicas, the fact that they’re a fibreglass bodied kit-car builder with fantastic fabrication expertise made them the perfect place to take on the job. Stu can’t speak highly enough of Scott Tristram at Frasers, who he says he bugged with a million questions, but nothing was ever a problem.
His research also led him to Factory Five cars in America, who produce a range of fibreglass-bodied replicas. The kit he chose came with pretty much everything required, besides the obvious few hundred hours of labour to assemble it. You can only imagine how excited Stu was when his giant jigsaw arrived at Frasers for the assembly to begin.
The basis for the build is an original-styled twin four-inch round-tubed chassis, which comes complete with engine and body mounts. Stu opted for the black powder-coated option, not that you’d ever see it with how low the finished product would end up sitting.
He’d informed Frasers that the stock engine mounts would be no good, as he’d decided to power the car with a late-model LS3 engine, but after having purchased one, the reality of dropping a Chev into a Ford got the better of him. “I bought it from down south, and a mate of mine was bringing it up. But before he’d got halfway, I’d already worked out that I didn’t want it. It was lucky that I knew a guy in Matamata who was after one, so I had the truck drop it off to him on the way instead,” he says of the change of heart. In preference he opted for a Windsor, as is found in most other Cobras. It was this pandering to the de rigueur that would eventually annoy Stu to the point where he had to do something different. First it was adding aluminium heads to the existing motor, but that alone wasn’t enough.
After talking to the guys at Engine Specialties, the decision was made to go for a tough crate motor from Dominator Engines, and better still, it’d be topped off with Weber carbs. With an Eagle crank, Eagle rods, ARP fasteners and Speed Pro Pistons, the new engine comes in at 347ci, and thanks to the quality parts used throughout, it’s now good for around 400hp at the treads. And in a vehicle that weighs 1100kg with driver, that’s enough to make it a seriously fast car.
Not only do the 44mm IDF Webers give the engine bay an awesome look, they also give the car a sound unmatched by any others, especially when combined with the subtle whine of a Gilmer belt drive. Although with the noise emitting from the Factory Five–supplied side pipes, only trained ears will notice the audible symphony coming from the front.
The change in engines required Frasers to create some new custom headers, which were then coated as per the exhausts. Stu’s motto for the build was that it had to perform well, but it also had to look good too, and we think you’ll agree he’s really nailed it.
Being very specific about the colour he wanted for the body, he chose a Jaguar Racing Green with Alpine White stripes, as “there was no way I was going to have the traditional British Racing Green,” he says, “even if no one believed me that the Jag colour would look any good at the time.” It’s a similar story for the wheels, he knew exactly what he was after, not too big, not too small, but just-right 18×9- and 18×10-inch Foose Legend wheels in a titanium colour. Again, the wheel choice separates the car from other Cobra replicas out there, but if you’re anything like us, you’ll agree he’s got not only the size, but also the style and colour combination, spot on.
With the car never intended to have a traditional Cobra look, sourcing the correct seats for it soon turned into a bit of an interesting exercise. Most modern seats are too big and bulky for the car’s small body, and half-height old-style buckets were never going to cut it. After much searching, Stu discovered Honda S2000 seats, which not only fitted perfectly and suited the style, they’re black leather from the factory too. All that was needed to finish off the look was a carbon-fibre dash and a handful of Auto Meter gauges, and the modern-looking spin on the old-style car was complete.
He’s had the car on the road for a few years now, but it’s only in recent times that he’s happy with how the Webers are set up. “I saw an ad for Forza Works in NZ Classic Car magazine, saying they could tune Webers. I’d already had a few people try, but they’d never managed to get it right. After a few minutes, Forza had diagnosed the problem, and it was something everyone else had missed, yet it was so obvious we now know,” he says of the experience. With it now running like a dream, he’s waiting for next summer to come around so he can get it out there and drive it again. And with a car like this sitting in the shed, you can hardly blame him!
This article is from NZV8 issue 89. Get your copy here.
2008 Factory Five Cobra Replica – Specifications
Engine: Dominator Engines Ford 347ci small block, ARP bolts, Eagle crankshaft, Eagle forged I-beam rods, Speed Pro pistons, Perfect Circle rings, Clevite bearings, Howards Performance hydraulic roller cam and roller lifters, aluminium heads, 2.02-inch intake valves, 1.6-inch exhaust valves, Comp Cams springs, Comp Cams retainers and locks, double roller timing set, Comp Cams pushrods, Comp Cams roller rocker arms, MSD billet distributor, MSD coil, Moroso leads, Gilmer belt drive, Weber eight-stack 44mm IDF carbs, custom headers, Factory Five lake pipes
Driveline: Ford AOD transmission, TransGo shift kit, Ford Racing 8.8-inch rear diff, Positraction head, 3.55:1 gears
Suspension: Mustang lower control arms, Koni coilover shocks, fully adjustable upper A-arms, three-link rear suspension, Panhard bar
Brakes: Ford GT 11-inch front rotors, Wilwood twin-pot calipers, Ford 10.5-inch rear rotors, single piston calipers, Wilwood pedal box
Wheels/Tyres: 18×9- and 18×10-inch Foose Legend Titanium wheels, 245/45R18 and 275/40R18 Falken tyres
Exterior: PPG Jaguar Racing Green, Alpine White stripe
Chassis: Full chromoly-built by Factory Five, original style four-inch round-tube frame, gloss-black powder-coated finish
Interior: Honda S2000 leather seats, Factory Five steering wheel, Fraser Cars shifter, Auto Meter gauges
Performance: Approx 400hp at the wheels
Stu Trinnaman – Driver Profile
Car Club: Cobra Club of NZ
Occupation: Self-employed — Scientific Medical Instruments and Consumables
Previously owned cars: Mustang Cobra, HQ V8 Ute, Porsche 928S4
Dream car: Other than the one I have, a Ferrari 275 GTB/4 and Cobra Daytona coupe
Why the Cobra?: It was my dream since I was 18
Build time: Nine months, but does it ever really stop?
Length of ownership: Nearly four years
Stu thanks: Fraser Cars, Engine Specialties, Trevor Hansen Paint and Panel, Forza Works, and the Cobra Club of NZ
Words: Todd Wylie Photos: Adam Croy[Gallery not found]