Build Diary – Factory Five’s MKII Roadster/Cobra – Part 1

By April 26, 2012 Cobra No Comments

Back in 2002, through my adventures at EA on Need For Speed, I was doing a photoshoot with a continuation Cobra 427, of which I also got a proper ride in. Needless to say, the 535hp all-aluminum 427 combined with those gorgeous curves had me hooked from the second the engine turned over.


I couldn’t stop thinking about that car, and with my passion for working with my hands and building things, I decided I had to have a Cobra, even if I had to build my own. I learned about Factory Five Racing and their component cars, both the Cobra and Daytona Coupe. By October of 2003, I had specc’d my Cobra component car, and placed my order!

There was quite a long waiting list at the time for Factory Five’s cars (and I don’t doubt there still is), so my kit wouldn’t arrive until early in the new year, talk about suspense!

Finally on April 13th 2004, my kit was delivered, but not without a few hiccups. The transport company called me the night before saying they couldn’t get across the border into Canada because of some restrictions, so I would have to come pick up the car myself, or wait another 2 weeks for another driver to bring it across the border. I decided to sleep on it, and figure out what I would do in the morning. That night, I actually had a dream, that I rented a U-Haul truck the next morning and picked up the car myself with the help of a friend. When I woke up, I picked up the phone and gave U-Haul a call right away, sure enough, they had a truck that would fit the Cobra, and the transport driver would wait for me just on the other side of the border.

A few hours later, I was through customs and back home with FFR 2975! I gave a few friends at work a call, and they came by and helped me lift the car out of the truck and into the garage!

It was a tight fit with the wheel tubs sticking out, but we made it work!

Regardless of the look on my face, I was genuinely giddy!

It’s actually mine!! Was very hard to believe. Pretty sure I slept in the garage that night.

The chassis comes delivered with a few of the aluminum panelling already in place.

I have to admit, at this point I was a bit overwhelmed, didn’t know where to start!

Was renting a house with a friend at the time, and we cleaned up the garage pretty well, although the lighting left something to be desired.

You can see all the FFR boxes stacked up in the back. I ordered my FFR with quite a few options:

- IRS rear suspension (apparently the last FFR to make it into Canada with IRS, as the DOT stopped allowing them to be imported)

- Autometer vintage gauges. These look just like the original Smiths gauges, but have Autometer reliability.

- Tubular lower control arms. Replacing the Mustang stamped steel control arms was a nice upgrade to the suspension.

- Chrome rollbar, and quick jacks, just had to have ‘em.

- Ceramic coated sidepipes and 4-into-4 headers. Cobra’s are meant to be loud, and the 4-into-4′s were the option for me. I won’t comment on passing local smog regulations.

- I also ordered the rear suspension arms with the pin drive width. This allows you to run wider rear wheels, which give the nice deep dish look the classics had.

I will never tire of those lines.

The FFR chassis is very well engineered, using a similar approach to the original Cobra’s. The FFR chassis is modernized, triangulated, and much stiffer because of modern chassis design knowledge that FFR employs.

I had FFR do the body cut-outs for me just to save a bit of time, and for how much they charge, it was a no brainer.

Unfortunately, the living situation didn’t work out, and I needed to find a new shop! My roommate William and my friend Anthony all worked hard one night to get the car rolling, so it could be moved. Moving a bare chassis was hard enough the first time, I didn’t want to do it again!

Fortunately, a friend of mine had a 3 bay garage fairly close by, and it was completely empty! This would be the home of my project for the next year or so.

I began working on the suspension once in the new shop. Here you can see I’ve got the non-stock swaybar mounts hitting the bellows on the steering rack. The swaybars were from VPM Racing and are really well designed for their purpose. I however, decided to also use Levy Racing’s Competition Bump Steer Kit which gives almost zero bump steer! This is a huge improvement over the stock Mustang setup.

I ended up having to carve out the clearance on the sway bar brackets, and with some continual tweaking, I finally got the two to work together in perfect harmony.

You can see the bumpsteer kit offset kingpins where the steering rack usually connects to the spindles. This places the steering rack tie-rods almost exactly parallel to the lower A-arms.

I was able to quickly and easily get most of the suspension installed as well as the brakes as you see here.

Also a lot of time went into bonding and riveting the aluminum panels to the chassis which not only seals the cockpit, but adds a fair bit of rigidity to the structure.

For the brake system, I went with a Mustang Cobra setup which coincidentally had Cobra stamped right on the calipers! The system consisted of 2 piston calipers clamping 13″ Brembo rotors in the front with Hawk HP+ pads for street/track, and 11.98″ rotors in the rear with single piston calipers.

I also decided to go with a manual braking system which would provide the most feel. I wanted this car to be as pure and raw as possible, nothing added that didn’t make it accelerate faster, turn faster, or stop faster.

For the suspension I went with the Bilstien Coilovers on all 4 corners. These came with adjustable sleeves to be able to adjust the ride height to fine tune the handling on the car.

You can see more of the rear IRS here as well as the VPM rear swaybar setup. The front and rear swaybars from VPM are adjustable which is nice to have on a car that is known for being notoriously twitchy.

For the differential, I went with a Ford 8.8 setup, which takes the front section from a Thunderbird, and the rear section from the Lincoln MKVIII, which makes the whole differential case aluminum, saving quite a bit of weight.

The gears came from the Thunderbird as well, and had Trac-Loc already installed. I decided to go with the 3.27 gearing which would give me decent acceleration, but great driveability on the highway.

My friend Anthony and I built up the body buck, which would help hold the body for when the bodywork was to be completed.

Lookin mean!

One of the most enjoyable parts of the build was building out the brake line system. You can see the rear diff and suspension in this shot as well.

Another variation I did on the front suspension was the SN95 spindles, which offer slightly better geometry to the stock Mustang 5.0L spindles.

I began piecing together my fuel system as well, going with this 190LPH in-tank fuel pump to supply the fuel of the Cobra. This fuel pump is rated to up to 450hp, so the it would handle the stock requirements just fine.

In the front and rear suspension I used poly bushings, and mounting the differential, transmission, and engine, I used all solid aluminum mounts. The solid mounts transmit a lot more shock and vibration, but the direct, immediate feel you get is un-beatable!

Doing some final fitment on the VPM swaybar mounts as well as the Levy Racing Bumpsteer Kit. As mentioned before, the bumpsteer kit eliminates almost all of the bumpsteer the older Mustangs were prone to. The kit moves the steering rack from the FFR position, 2 inches in front, and about 2 inches downward.

I ended up ditching the factory Ford power steering rack in favor for a Flaming River 15:1 quick-ratio rack. A power steering rack without the power steering isn’t great, and the tired old Ford unit wouldn’t do the car justice like the FR rack would. The steering rack is also mounted on aluminum solid mounts, giving the most direct steering feel possible.

Another nice shot of the front suspension. The stock Mustangs are MacPherson Strut type, but the FFR uses a double A-Arm setup, converting the strut mount on the spindle to a ball joint.

One thing that FFR doesn’t design into its car is the 5th point mount for the submarine belts of the harness. The submarine belts make sure the lap belts don’t ride up when cinching the shoulder belts, and also make sure in the event of an accident, you don’t slip out underneath the belts.

I built a simple bracket out of steel and bolted it directly to the frame structure underneath the driver and passenger seats. Worked pretty well, and was simple enough.

If you notice where the engine mounts are, they sit significantly behind the front axle line. With the small block V8 installed, its closer to a mid-engine car than a front-engined car! Fantastic weight distribution for a front-engined V8 car.

Car is coming together! Steers, rolls, starting to get pretty exciting!

- Carl

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