Home-built Cobra replicas: Reader resto

By: Scott Murray with Graham Ullock, Photography by: Graham Ullock

Presented by

Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica #1 Graham Ullock's Cobra replica  #1
Graham's second Cobra as it was taken home after purchase (2009) Graham's second Cobra as it was taken home after purchase (2009) Graham's second Cobra as it was taken home after purchase (2009)
Cobra as inspected prior to purchase (2009) Cobra as inspected prior to purchase (2009) Cobra as inspected prior to purchase (2009)
At the Body shop (2010) At the Body shop (2010) At the Body shop (2010)
At the Body shop (2010) At the Body shop (2010) At the Body shop (2010)
Wiring progress as at (2009) Wiring progress as at (2009) Wiring progress as at (2009)
After licensing (2010) After licensing (2010) After licensing (2010)
Centre Console finished (2010) Centre Console finished (2010) Centre Console finished (2010)
First coats of Sting Red now applied First coats of Sting Red now applied First coats of Sting Red now applied
First coats of Sting Red now applied First coats of Sting Red now applied First coats of Sting Red now applied
Graham's model in Sting Red showing the stripes Graham's model in Sting Red showing the stripes Graham's model in Sting Red showing the stripes
Home from the paint shop (2011) Home from the paint shop (2011) Home from the paint shop (2011)
Finished Product Finished Product Finished Product
Finished Product Finished Product Finished Product
Finished Product Finished Product Finished Product
Finished Product Finished Product Finished Product

After being bitten once, reader Graham enters the snake pit once again with a second home-built Cobra replica...

Home-built Cobra replicas: Reader resto
Graham Ullock's Cobra replicas

 

Graham Ullock's Cobra replicas 


Back in October 1995 I bought a rolling G-Force body on a home-made Toyota Crown chassis from a local newspaper ad. With hindsight, this wasn’t the greatest idea. I didn’t know about these replica build-up jobs back then and soon found the 302 Cleveland engine was too wide for the bay and there was hardly room to fit a ring spanner on anything.

When I lifted the body off to see what was underneath, the chassis was a dog’s breakfast: the welds were like chook poo and nothing was square like it was supposed to be. To make matters worse, the exhaust headers had been wound around the chassis and welded up! Come November 1995, I admitted defeat, pulled the engine out and sold it off, and then proceeded to cut up the chassis so only the front and rear suspension assemblies were left.

Fast forward to Easter 1996: I had a completely new chassis welded up to suit the Toyota Crown assemblies and for Christmas of 1996 I bought a 1981 Thunderbird 302 Windsor as the intended source of grunt for the Cobra, but the curse of the Cobra struck again. The bloody thing was seized solid!

An unbudgeted re-build started in summer ’96, and was finished in February. This engine had been left out in the weather, without the air filter in place, and the whole intake system and cylinders were full of water and completely rusted solid. After about four hours with a big bar on the crankshaft nut and what seemed like gallons of CRC, we eventually got it to move one revolution! The rebore out to 40thou went through the sides of the cylinders, and we had to have sleeves put in two of the bores. At this stage I couldn’t afford to have the speed shop assemble the engine for me, so I took it back as a bare block, with all the parts to complete the rebuild, including rebuilt heads. I’d never done a rebuild on a V8, so I bought some books on how to build a 302 and started a very steep learning curve.

Slotting this newly-rebuilt heart in place, I fired it up and it was an awesome moment. I’d put two-inch rubber bull-nose exhaust pipes on it and I swear the shed walls were vibrating! In these photos the fuel tank is, yes, a five-litre fuel can, which I mounted in front of the radiator temporarily. I had the whole chassis and under-car painted gloss black and fiddled with a few small jobs like fuel lines, brake lines and positioning for the interior and electrics. By August, I’d had the cockpit fitted out with bucket seats and the new oak-burl woodgrain dashboard, using an XF Falcon steering wheel and TC Cortina gauges and wiring loom. The handbrake and gear knob ergonomics were figured out and fitted too.

Starting in summer ’97, I slowly got the bodywork smoothed out, including having the bonnet intake hole cut and resined. The rest of the body was then primed, rubbed down and painted, and the various body details were re-chromed and fitted. Fortunately the door gapping was relatively free of fuss after filling and extending the edges by 10mm. It’s so tempting to get complacent and rush this part, but the knock-on effects if you stuff it up just aren’t worth it. By the end of that February I had the Cobra approved and registered. Not without more drama of course. During the licensing test drive, it was noted there were some strange noises in the rear end under heavy acceleration. The car was licensed provided I fixed whatever this was. This proved to be the tailshaft’s universal joints between the gearbox and the diff binding up, as the angles changed under heavy acceleration. Not understanding the finer details about how these universals work, some more learning was needed to work out the angles required so they would not bind up, not to mention all the work redoing the engine and gearbox mounts, and tilting the diff to get the angles to all work together. After lots of frustration and full-size mock-ups on the workbench to get it all to work, I won in the end.

Come May 2002 I had to sell what had been a hard labour of love, to work on the new house. Time must have healed a few painful memories, because in 2006 I got the itch for another project car. A ground-up build was out of the question. I wanted one with Jaguar underpinnings already fitted. The body, this time, was from Replica Motor Company in Perth, and mounted to the Jag chassis made it much better than the old blue Cobra. Adjustable coilovers on all four corners took a while to get dialled in to find the right balance between harshness and comfort.

It already had a five-litre HSV V8 and a Getrag five-speed manual gearbox fitted and working. Fortunately the Holden engine was much easier to get sorted. The differential is a Jaguar LSD which has been fix-mounted into the chassis and doesn’t move, so there is no dreaded misalignment of the tailshaft and no more universal joint binding as before.

The aluminium dashboard which came with the car was plucked out in June 2009 and replaced with another timber job, made from 19mm marine plywood. Wiring up the dash, engine and computer meant I needed to make some of my own diagrams to keep track of everything. In the September I pulled the fuel tank out for cleaning and recalibration of the sender unit – which had been calibrated in reverse! Full meant it was empty and vice versa.

Wiring sorted, I fired the thing up in the November and the exhaust was like nothing you’ve ever heard. I’ve tamed it down since but still have to take headsets to keep my ears from ringing! Calibrating the speedo was an absolute brain-ache; even the experts couldn’t get it right.

As for paint, the first coats of Sting Red went onto the body in November 2010 and the body was back home in time for Valentine’s Day 2011. I fitted the exhaust pipe covers to stop copping ‘snake bites’ on the legs every time I got out of the car. These were made from discarded truck stacks, cut in half and bent to shape.

Along the way I had help from my nephew Douglas, my neighbour Kel Bennett (now deceased), and members of the newly formed Cobra Club of WA. John Harper was instrumental in helping me understand a lot of the fibreglass work and prepping for paint. In return, I did a lot of the electrical work on his Cobra. It’s taken a lot of hard work and nothing ever went perfectly to plan, but opening the garage door and seeing the Cobra peeking out makes all the skinned knuckles and technical tribulations worthwhile. It’s still a massive kick to drive. Will I ever do another?

I’ll get back to you on that one.

 

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