NAJA
Naja:
a genus of venomous elapid snakes. Naja consists of 21 generally accepted species, the most recognized and most widespread is commonly known as the Cobra which range throughout Africa, the Middle East, India, Southeastern Asia, Indonesia and the streets of Sacramento, California (1).

Our family has always had a strong appreciation for 60's muscle cars that we enjoy driving and showing, but my wife felt somewhat overlooked because she did not have a car of her own. Since she liked the lines of the Eleanor Mustang, we decided it would be a good project to consider.

We began looking around for a nice '67 or '68 fastback that would suit our needs. We finally located a car in Southern California that was being driven by an 18-year-old high school senior who was reluctantly selling the car to support his future college education. We liked what we saw, purchased the car and drove it to our home in Sacramento, California.

We immediately contacted our old friend, Tom Lucas, at FE Specialties . He had worked on our daughter's 'S' code 1967 Mustang, and we wanted him to build an engine for this car that would make it unique, but stay within the original Shelby era and school of thought. We told him to follow these guidelines and to build an engine that he would build for himself if this were his car. Since Tom is a dedicated Cobra fanatic, he decided to go back to Carroll Shelby's roots and built an aluminum 427 that would produce over 700 horse power, enough to keep my wife happy and the rest of the family in the rear view mirror.

Over the next few months we completely removed everything from the Mustang, down to a rolling chassis, and began tackling the removal of the undercoating. It was a mid-west car that had fortunately been treated with Tuff-Kote Dinol, a black, gooey rust- proofing material that covered the entire unibody, engine compartment and trunk and probably saved its life. Unfortunately, it also completely covered the body panel numbers and frame rails which cleverly disguised previous cutting, welding and replacement of the entire front end from the cowl forward. We knew this car would produce enough horsepower to make compromised frame rails a scary proposition and would require experience and knowledge beyond our skill level so we sought outside expertise. That is when we contacted David Henry at Henry's Hot Rods in Shingle Springs, California. 

After carefully listening to our description of what we would like for our Mustang, Dave's first suggestion was to put an Art Morrison muscle car Max-G frame under the car and build around it. Trying to strengthen the Mustang's unibody and restructure the compromised frame rails to handle the incoming horsepower would be a crude conciliation. Dave has had great personal experience with Art's frames and knew it would handle all of our needs.

Art's facility CAD engineered the frame while considering our engine specifications, tire and wheel size, front and rear suspension components and braking requirements. The frame is mandrel-bent 2x4 steel with passages for the side exhaust and driveshaft which allow for a low center of gravity and ride height, and with the Air Ride Technologies suspension system, the car is capable of attaining a ground clearance of less than 2 inches. The Air Ride Technologies Ride Pro system components have found a home in the trunk area of the car and control the ride height of all four wheels using a Thomas compressor with a three-gallon tank and four way solenoids.

Morrison's steel tubular control arms provide precise steering control along with an AGR power assisted modified Mustang II rack and pinion system. The braking is being handled by Wilwood  SL6 calipers with billet 13” vented rotors and controlled by Wilwood's aluminum triple master cylinder pedal assembly containing a balance bar to accurately set brake pedal bias. The rear end is a Ford 9 inch housing with a triangulated four bar air suspension containing a Strange Engineering 3:73 posi third member with 35 spline induction hardened axels. Everything is riding on American Racing Shelby Cobra 427 polished wheels. Up front are 17 x 8's, with a 4.75 inch backspacing, and 17x 9.5, with a 5.75 inch backspacing on the rear and mounted on 245/45ZR and 285/40ZR BF Goodrich G-Force KDWS T/A's.

Once the Mustang body was removed from the unibody, it was placed on the Max-G frame, and we relied on Ron Pepper of Pepper Fabrications  to handle the daunting task of fabricating and welding all of the sheet metal. This included the floors, trunk, firewall, wheel wells and the inner and outer fender panels as well as the engine mounts, transmission cross member, roll bar and radiator support. During this entire process Ron's experience and forethought allowed him to methodically construct each panel while realizing which steps to follow that would ensure everything was correct and eliminate the frustration of replication.

Once the body and the sheet metal were secured to the frame, the bodywork began. This included fitting and fiber glassing the Eleanor body kit, the side exhaust and the side pillar gas cap. Leaving the best for last, Dave Henry and Ron Pepper fabricated the hood hinges and hood release pins to allow the hood to pivot open from the passenger side while hiding all of the hardware beneath the inner fender panels. This eliminated any ugly hood springs or prop rods and is truly a work of hot rod art. Massaging the body to meet our specifications required hundreds of man hours to complete, but was well worth the effort since the PPG black would shamefully reveal the smallest mistake or blemish.

The painting tasks were handled by Rodd White and Troy Costa and the crew at Gold River Auto Body in Rancho Cordova, California. Thankfully Rodd and Troy are perfectionist and wanted everything flawless. They purchased a stock GT decal side stripe kit and had it reproduced in vinyl, but in its reverse image which enabled them to mask off the stripes and then paint them on the car. They went to great lengths to find a color that would give the stripes a striking appearance and settled on PPG candy apple red sprayed over silver mettalic.

The interior has been given a makeover by Rene Cornejo and Ben Lizardo of Acme Tops and Tunes. The original dash has been fitted with JME's billet Shelby signature 200 mph gauges and brushed aluminum panels. The upper and lower consoles contain additional Autometer Phantom gauges, an Eclipse head unit controlling the Boston Acoustics amplifiers and speakers, Electric Life window switches and door locks, the Air Ride Technologies air bag control module and the all important nitrous arming switch. The classic Moto Lita wood grain steering wheel tops off the Flaming River polished stainless steel tilt column and compliments the Shelby signature series leather seats. All interior chores including the front and rear interior panels have been hand fabricated or modified from the stock units by Victor Chavez and upholstered in black leather by the crew at Acme Tops and Tunes.

Tom Lucas at FE Specialties held nothing back when putting together the engine. Machine work included decking the Shelby aluminum block, and using torque plates, align boring the cylinders 0.050 inches over stock to 4.280 inches and then align boring the main bearing saddles to ensure blueprint quality. We originally wanted the motor to run on pump gas, but after simulating some horsepower numbers, we felt the additional compression would make the motor more responsive, and of course produce more power, so we opted for the 12.4:1 Ross custom pistons and pins fitted with Childs and Albert plasma moly rings. The Scat billet crank and Scat h-beam billet rods were fitted with Federal Mogul race bearings and produced a final stoke of 4.250 inches, for a total displacement of 490 cubic inches. This rotating assembly is kept in line with a Crower custom roller cam using a Milodon gear drive.

Tom does all of his head work in house and gave the Edelbrock aluminum heads a stage III port job and a four angle valve job. The Ferrea 2.25 inch intake valves and the 1.75 inch exhaust valves were fitted with Crower roller valve springs, locks and retainers, while Sig Erson rocker arm assemblies and Smith Brothers push rods maintained valve geometry. Everything was sealed up with Cometic MLS head gaskets followed by porting and matching the tunnel wedge intake. The tunnel wedge was sent to Mike Thermos at Nitrous Supply to be plumbed for a Nos Pro Shot fogger nitrous oxide system and to ensure all the lines and fittings met Tom's specifications. The induction system was topped off with a pair of dual 725 cfm Road Demon Jr . carburetors. Spark is controlled by an MSD coil and billet distributor feeding the Taylor Spiro Pro race-fit eight millimeter wires. The custom made headers and three-inch stainless exhaust system that traverses through the frame and exits the provided side openings were masterfully constructed by Mike Lelchook at Performance Welding Racing Headers

Since the rack and pinion steering setup made a front oil sump configuration impossible, Tom decided it was best to go with a dry sump system from Aviaid. This includes a custom Cobra, low profile, three inch sump oil pan with internal baffling and a windage screen, a four stage series I dry sump pump and a remote filter adapter. The pump has one pressure and three scavenger sections that use a Gilmer belt drive system attached to the crankshaft. The oil storage tank is an Aviaid six inch, eight-quart oil reservoir that is mounted and hiding under the passenger side fender well.

Power is transferred to the rear wheels via a McCloud aluminum flywheel which supports a 12-inch clutch cover assembly and a Tilton hydraulic throw out bearing with a Lakewood bell housing keeping everything under wraps. A Tremec 600 TKO close ratio five speed handles the gears with a final overdrive ratio of 0.68 to make highway travel tolerable.

Engine cooling is easily handled by a custom made aluminum radiator from American Pastimes and includes two twelve inch puller fans, while cabin heating and air conditioning is provided by Vintage Air . The air conditioning compressor, alternator and power steering pump are all part of Billet Specialties Tru-Trac serpentine system.

 The task of performing the final assembly was handled by  Ron Pepper of Pepper Fabrications . It is obvious that Ron has a passion for his work and he enjoys being challenged. Ron is the type of person that thrives on creativity and his fabrication skills are phenomenal. Our project was very unique and required an extensive and diverse knowledge of all automotive systems and Ron brought it to life with his enthusiasm and skill.

Rodd White and Troy Costa of Gold River Auto Body were responsible for the final appearance and fine detailing of the car. Their years of custom car building made the most challenging problems disappear. Rodd and Troy are very finicky and their workmanship is impeccable. They will only accept perfection and take great pride in their work. We are extremely fortunate to have their services.