The Modernized AC Cobra Experience for a Fraction of the Cost
“Built not bought” is a phrase that gets thrown around a lot these days in the car community. Most often, it is used by some enthusiasts to separate themselves from the others, a dividing line for those that can and those that can’t, specifically in regards to mechanical ability versus a willingness to open one’s wallet to get things done.
The problem, of course, is the sliding line of what constitutes building a project car versus buying one. For someone that may have done all of the wrenching on the modifications of their dealer-purchased muscle car, they feel that they fall into the “built” camp, but to another that did a full nuts-and-bolts restoration of a classic, the first guy was just buying bolt-ons.
Roadster in a Box
Owner Jim Barlow isn’t concerned with the distinction, but his Factory Five Roadster did show up in boxes. Modeled after the classic 427 Cobra, the Factory Five Roadster kit offers owners a much lower cost of entry to that rarified experience as long as they are willing to put in the work. The complete kit is delivered ready to be assembled, needing only a powertrain, wheels, tires, and paint.
Jim grew up in South Georgia in the late fifties and early sixties. His dad was a Chevrolet guy who got started drag racing his daily driver on an abandoned World War 2 training airport. He would trade cars every year for Chevrolet’s latest and greatest, drive to work during the week and put the slicks in the trunk and go to the strip on the weekends.
His last daily driver he raced was a ‘62 Impala Super Sport with the 409 4-speed and Posi-trac rear end. Jim recalls, “I grew up hearing that big block lope at the light and then explode off the line. I have always wanted a car like that.”
Although Jim has strayed from the straight line focused performance of his youth, he still desired a piece of that classic American feeling. The Cobra replicas caught his attention, offering vintage muscle car power and aesthetics, with the handling and braking of a modern vehicle.
At the beginning, he considered buying a completed replica, but after reading about the variability in quality, he turned his attention to Factory Five. Their kit allows the owner to do all of the work to build it, controlling quality, as well as the option to customize along the way.
When choosing the powerplant for the Factory Five, Jim stayed within the blue oval family. The 351 Windsor was stroked to 427 and built by Forte’s Parts Connection. The power is routed through a Tremec 600 with a 3.55 rear end.
Jim modified the system with a mechanical throttle linkage and hydraulic clutch to improve drivability. He notes that the most challenging aspect of the build was building the fuel lines and brake lines, but ultimately enjoyed getting that experience and having the knowledge for the future.
Suspension wise, the front rides on a Koni coilover system with adjustable upper control arms with ball joints and fasteners. Jim opted for the independent rear suspension, borrowing pieces from a modern Mustang to fit Koni coilovers on the back end as well. The resulting performance is a much more stable package than the unpredictable original Cobras of the past.
Inside, the car stays true to the minimalist nature one would expect, but Jim has installed a heater, heated seats and hidden Bluetooth sound system to make trips a little more enjoyable.
The Roadster was fitted with Nitto NT555G2 tires over the classic Ford wheels to provide quick off the line response, stability in the straights and confidence in the corners. Additionally, for the few times he has had the car in the rain, he’s felt comfortable and safe.
Recently, Jim has begun autocrossing the Roadster, and noted that the NT555 G2s performed admirably, but shared that he’s eyeing Nitto’s more track-oriented NT01 DOT compliant tires for future events.
The Factory Five was Jim’s first experience with a project this large, but notes that the build manual and the Factory Five online community made it all relatively painless. He shared that many of his favorite memories with the car “revolve around the build itself, having a problem and then working it out, learning along the way.”
While everyone might not be equipped for a DIY project like this, there’s a lot of value in diving into a project and being able to piece together a car that’s tailored to one’s exact tastes. Where does a Factory Five kit fall on the “built not bought” scale? We’ll leave that debate up to the forums, but Jim’s out having the time of his life regardless of where they land.
More From Driving Line
- Want to see more from Factory Five? Check out this hot rod truck with 800hp.