The moment Dean Hornbacher unloaded his Midstates Cobra from the trailer we knew something was unusual. For one thing, the 427 badges on the front fenders above the cooling vents were Corvette 427 logos. Our second clue was the license plate: "COBRAT 1." To confirm our suspicions, we immediately opened the hood, with Dean's permission that is. Aha! The Cobra had a Chevy 427ci powerplant. To some, that's taboo. But, not everyone's a Ford fan. The kit car hobby is filled with individuals who desire to build some self-expression into their cars.
Ever since Dean purchased a '70 Chevy Nova that had originally been built with a late '69 Chevy 427ci mill at Nickey Chevrolet in Chicago, he'd been a GM fan. In fact, back when Orange County Raceway existed, Dean ran a 12.40 pass in that Nova. He wishes he'd held on to that rare car that came from Nickey Chevrolet (with the backwards K). Nickey Chevrolet was like Yenko Chevrolet-both dealerships hot rodded factory Camaros, Novas, and Chevelles for customers and sold them new. From owning and racing that '70 Nova, Dean remembered how stout the Chevy big-block engines were, especially the 427ci.
Growing up in Inglewood, California, he and his buddies used to ride their bicycles over to El Segundo. That's where the Shelby American shop moved to in the mid-'60s, at the corner of El Segundo and Aviation Boulevards. After getting kicked out of the small showroom, they'd peer between the fence's chain links and watch Shelby's technicians preparing and testing the Shelby Mustangs and the Cobras. From those moments Dean knew he'd one day own a Cobra-he just didn't realize it would be Chevy powered or a replica.
His Cobra stopped straight...
His Cobra stopped straight and true for both 60-0 mph braking passes (photo by Tim Bernsau).
Some 30 years later, after researching the various available Cobra replica kits, Dean purchased a Midstates bare body and frame. Midstates' owner, Bob Calio, emphasized that customers could build their kits anyway they wanted to. If they desired installing a Chevy drivetrain for example, Midstates would help them. Dean was also impressed with the quality of the Midstates fiberglass body and the significant amount of steel that reinforces it.
KIT CAR invited Shell Valley and Midstates Classic Cars & Parts, which is now wholly owned by Shell Valley, to participate in the KIT CAR Performance Day. Mr. Hornbacher is also president of the Association of Handcrafted Automobiles (AHA), the very same kit and replicar club that produces the annual Knott's Berry Farm show. It was fun to see "El Presidente," as club members know him, put his Chevy rat-powered Midstates Cobra through its paces. Since he used to drag race his Nickey Chevrolet '70 Nova, we weren't surprised to see him do well during the 0-60 mph runs. We're also sure that with more practice, he would have conquered the skidpad and the slalom.
The mighty rat mills from Chevrolet will hopefully again make a statement at KIT CAR Performance Day. Watch out for those "dirty rats," as James Cagney used to say, in upcoming test articles. KC
A wet sump Milodon road race...
A wet sump Milodon road race oil pan and high-volume blueprinted oil pump keep the Corvette big-block V-8 running smooth.
Auto Meter Ultra-Lite instruments...
Auto Meter Ultra-Lite instruments fill the dashboard. The owner utilized a custom wiring harness for the car.
Simpson four-point racing...
Simpson four-point racing harnesses keep driver and passenger safe.
The battery and a fire suppression...
The battery and a fire suppression system were both installed within the spacious trunk.
Dean almost looks like he's...
Dean almost looks like he's posing for the camera, as opposed to looking where he's going on the skidpad. (Photo by Tim Bernsau)
Billy Brown, owner of Brown's...
Billy Brown, owner of Brown's Auto Body, commented that the body prep of the Midstates fiberglass body was the best he'd ever seen. Using the two-step basecoat/clearcoat process, he painted the roadster Cougar Silver over Toreador Red.
Midstates Classic Cars & Parts
Name: Dean Hornbacher
City, State: Riverside, California
Year and type/model: 1965 Midstates/Cobra
Price of Kit: $15,500
Total Price as Tested: $55,000
Components Included In Kit
Frame: 4-inch round tube main framerails
Wheelbase: 90 inches
Rearend: Ford 9-inch housing custom made by Speedway Engineering-Strange aluminum pumpkin with Richmond 3.55 gears, Dan Press torque proportioning center section, fully floated 32-spline axles, unique to this Cobra-Wilwood Wide-5 hubs (bearings are the same as a one-ton pickup) front and rear
Rear Suspension: four-point links with Panhard bar
Front Suspension: Mustang II IFS with tubular A-arms
Sway bar: Speedway Engineering front 1-inch diameter, adjustable
Shocks: AFCO shocks with coilover springs front and rear
Rear Brakes: Wilwood 12-inch Superlite four-piston calipers and rotors (0.081-inch rear)
Front Brakes: Wilwood 12-inch Superlite four-piston calipers and rotors (0.125-inch-thick rotors)
Master Cylinder: Wilwood master cylinders and brake pedal assembly
Steering: Woodward power rack-and-pinion (IMSA type) 16:1
Front Wheel: 15-inch Real Wheels
Rear Wheel: 15-inch Real Wheels
Front Tire Make & Size: 255/15-inch BFGoodrich Radial TA
Rear Tire Make & Size: 295/15-inch BFGoodrich Radial TA
Paint: Two-stage clearcoat, Toreador Red (1999 Crown Victoria), stripe Silver (1999 Cougar)
Painter: Brown's Auto Body, Rialto, California
Fuel Tank: Custom, 22-gallon aluminum (foam-filled, not a fuel-safe bladder)
Gauges: Auto Meter Ultra-Lite
Wiring: Custom harness
Seating: Midstates Cobra-style
Material: Vinyl tan with matching tan nylon carpet
Engine Brand: Chevrolet
Engine Type: '68 427ci Corvette L88 bored 0.030-inch over
Engine builder: Dean Hornbacher
Headwork: Diversified Engineering, Beaumont, CA
Radiator: Griffin custom aluminum
Heads: GM signature aluminum oval port heads-ported
Valves: Manley stainless steel race valvesSprings: Comp Cam springs, titanium retainers with Comp Cams stud girdle
Pistons: Vinola 9.5:1 compression
Water Pump: Weiand aluminum high volume
Intake manifold: Weiand Stealth aluminum
Carburetor: Barry Grant 825-cfm Mighty Demon
Distributor: MSD billet
Transmission Type: Jerico NASCAR Top Loader four-speed (straight cut gears)
Clutch: Center Force 11-inch with Tilton hydraulic throwout bearing
Driveshaft: Custom chrome-moly
Accessories: Midstates hardtop option
0-60 mph: 4.37 seconds
Minimum stopping distance from 60 mph:137.89 feet
Lateral acceleration: 0.67g (rookie driver)
Slalom Speed (420-foot slalom): 36.2 mph
Lateral seat support: Good
Temperature: 75 degrees Fahrenheit
Elevation: 52 feet above sea level
Location: El Toro Marine Base, El Toro, California