There's stealth, and then there's nonstealth, and we experienced both during the last phase of a two-day photo shoot of several products from Leisure Industries (Classic Roadsters and Sugar Sand Marine), based in Fargo, North Dakota. To be specific, we ventured to Alamagordo in storied southern New Mexico and onto the White Sands Missile Range to take a look at a very cool Classic Roadsters' Cobra replica and a hot new Tango jet boat from the company's marine division. We received the Joint-Chiefs' permission to do some photography at Holloman Air Force Base as long as the cameras stayed pointed at the cars and not at some of the secret stuff (we had an escort to ensure that), such as stealth planes, scattered around the base. That was the stealth aspect. At the other extreme, the Cobra replica was anything but stealthy in appearance or operation.
The only real tie-ins were the company connection (since the boat wasn't available in kit form) and the fact that both the car and the boat were screaming yellow; but the possible photo locations were too much to pass up. Jack and Dan Rees of RRR Roadsters in Tularosa, New Mexico, who build custom Classic and other kit cars, provided our subject car and arranged our unusual photo locations. Jack spent 28 years in Army Aviation as active military and as a civilian. He flew both fixed-wing and rotary aircraft and served as a test pilot and a maintenance officer. His last assignment was Director of the White Sands Missile Range Army Air Operations Directorate, in whose hangar we were allowed to shoot some film.
Brother Dan's background includes virtually a lifetime of car stuff, starting in high school with a Third Place state win in Plymouth's troubleshooting contest. Dan worked for several of the largest Chrysler dealerships in the West, specializing in police, high-performance, and muscle cars.
The Classic Roadsters kit was assembled pretty much according to the manual. The RRR boys then took the car to the next level by concentrating on those details that separate a nice car from a great car. The team used plenty of aircraft standards and components, many of which may not show up but still give the vehicle enhanced durability and reliability.
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the RRR car you see here is its engine. It may not sound like a big deal to power a Cobra replica with a built 351 Windsor small-block, but if it's one with 545 hp, 500 lb-ft of torque, and instantaneous mayhem when desired, not to mention one that's still able to idle calmly, maintain its cool in heavy traffic, and be quite tractable and tolerant of in-town grocery runs, that's something to applaud. The Rees hit on a nice combination with their demo--a car that can set you back in the seat on the strip, lifting the front tires off the runway, and still make the run to 7-Eleven is impressive.
The 351 was machined to accept a Probe stroker crank and Eagle rods and was slightly overbored for 410 ci of displacement. Dart II heads were added, as was a set of TWM throttle bodies on a prototype, Weber-style fuel injection system developed by Pantera Performance in Colorado. The induction is managed by a Haltec F7 B fuel management computer with cockpit controls. The cam is a Crower Compu-Pro with a duration/lift of 297/582 intake and 306/605 exhaust. The ignition is a Mallory Unilite distributor and HyFire IV rpm limiter and control box.
The engine was additionally fitted with a high-volume oil pump, roller rocker arms, ARP fasteners, a Fluidampr harmonic damper, and an aluminum Cobra "T" oil pan. Unlike a lot of high-revving performance engines, this one's not too lopey; it idles at about 800 rpm and is easily driveable. You can have problems getting a little heavy on the throttle foot, at which time the beast comes alive with a fury that takes a bit of skill to keep out of trouble. But you can drive it as normally as you would your daily driver, the difference being that you have awesome reserve when you want it--up to about 7,500 rpm. Rounding out the engine compartment gear is a Harrison aluminum puke tank, a five-core American Cooling Products radiator, and a Flex-a-lite electric fan.
Rees chose a Richmond Road Race five-speed to back up the powerful mill. It's fitted with a Lakewood bellhousing and scattershield, a Hurst shifter, and a Hays clutch. Although it's a five-speed tranny, it doesn't have overdrive, which takes a little getting used to. You can start out in virtually any gear and not overload the engine, thanks to the abundant torque.
The suspension works very well, too, and provides a comfortable ride. The front suspension differs from stock in that it has custom RCC Specialties tubular control arms with adjustable struts and Avo coilover shocks. Wilwood four-piston calipers with 11-inch rotors help with stopping power, and an adjustable proportioning valve allows fine-tuning of the brake bias. The rear features a Currie-modified, 9-inch 31-spline Ford live axle fitted with adjustable upper links, Avo coilovers, and another set of Wilwood four-piston calipers with 10.5-inch rotors.
Goodyear GSC rubber (245/50 ZR-16 front and 255/50 ZR-16 rear) wraps Motor Sports Specialties wheels. Since the engine's induction system doesn't lend itself to porting vacuum for a brake booster, RRR custom-built a safe system consisting of a trunk-mounted aftermarket vacuum pump, an accumulator tank, and a series of check valves to route vacuum pressure forward to the brake booster. So even if the engine dies, there will always be quick, boosted brake power.
The interior of the RRR roadster is pretty standard Cobra fare: a pair of very comfortable bucket seats, a five-point racing harness, VDO gauges including an electronic programmable tach, a wood-rimmed steering wheel, toggle switches, and a rotary dial for the onboard computer to manually richen or lean out the induction. The dash was also fitted with a Pioneer cassette head with its speakers concealed in the rear package tray, and Rees added a locking glovebox.
With backgrounds in performance cars and the preparation, modification, and airworthiness of aircraft in the roles of test support and weapon-system development, the Rees brothers are well-versed in what it takes to make things special and purposeful. The level of detail in their demo car illustrates the attention to the small stuff, and this on a car that has been driven hard and put away wet on more than one occasion. For example, the last mile of road to the RRR shop is washboard-smooth and gravel. This is one driver that's not babied and that's frequently turned over to prospective customers. Unlike the equally awesome stealth machines we saw at the base, there's nothing stealthy about a Vivid Canary car with metallic charcoal stripes and a hopped-up powerplant with no shortage of horsepower or torque.