If you are thinking about building a Cobra replica on a tight budget, then you'll be interested in this machine and the piece-by-piece method its builder employed to get it built. Unlike many kit builders, Jackie Nittler bought this roadster one piece at a time. He knew he wanted the car, but finding the cash to lay down all in one chunk was beyond his grasp. So Jackie chose another route by buying the pieces he needed one at a time.
Jackie chose to build a MidStates Classic Cars & Parts 427 Cobra replica, beginning with a bare chassis. He initially prepared it by adding an extra crossmember between the shock towers for a bit more rigidity. The 90-inch-wheelbase chassis arrived ready to accept the Mustang II frontend assemblies, and Jackie picked up a complete '76 Mustang II frontend--with a V-6 engine as a bonus--at a local junkyard for $70. That gave him the necessary suspension hardware, brakes, and rack-and-pinion steering setup he needed to get started. The steering column is a MidStates-modified Ford F600 truck unit that has the vintage looks to suit the replica.
The rearend installation calls for coilover shocks on a 9-inch Ford Granada rear, an installation that required fabrication of the brackets. Jackie tackled this project himself using patterns purchased from MidStates. At this point, he went back to the salvage yard and sourced a set of Lincoln Mark VII rear disc brakes and, using a set of Watt's Engineering brackets, adapted them to the Granada axle. The wheels are 15-inch Compomotives, 7-1/2 inches in the front and 10 inches in the rear. These he capped with Goodyear tires, 225-60s in the front and 265-50s in the rear.
Powering the roadster is an '89 Mustang LX 5.0 V-8. This engine had just 5,000 miles on it when Jackie purchased it complete with transmission, wiring harness, driveshaft, and all the accessories for $1,250. With the help of his neighbor, he modified the engine wiring harness so the engine would run a closed loop complete with an oxygen sensor, map sensor, EGR valve, and a stock engine-management fuel-injection CPU computer unit. The exhaust is purged through a set of MidStates headers. The LX Mustang uses an in-tank fuel pump, but Jackie replaced it with an external Ford truck unit that is wired into the harness.
All of the LX Mustang accessory brackets were removed, and the engine is now cooled by a '90 Ford Taurus fan assembly that Jackie also altered and housed in a new aluminum fan shroud. The alternator is mounted using brackets from a Maverick.
The transmission is a stock Ford automatic AOD four-speed with the stock factory torque converter. It uses a transmission cooler mounted in front of the radiator from an '88 or '89 Ford Ranger pickup.
The body and its associated components were the last pieces Jackie purchased. The body came in gray gelcoat, and Jackie had already planned the color scheme he would use. The paint went on in two basecoats of Sikkens Red with white stripes and a clearcoat finish over all.
The interior finished off the project--black automotive carpet, a leather dash panel filled with Stewart-Warner gauges, MidStates' traditional bucket seats covered in black leather with matching black leather side panels, and a four-point racing harness.
The project took two years from the first order to the final nut tightening. Jackie performed virtually all of the work himself, with help from the friendly folks at Mid-States, a few friends, and some professional assistance for some of the tougher procedures.
Jackie built the roadster to run and race, and he has actively pursued a variety of competitive venues with the replica. At the dragstrip, the roadster regularly turns a very respectable 13.732-second elapsed time at 97.97 mph, but that's only part of the racing story. The car is road-raced in "run & gun" events, with several class wins and an assortment of Second and Third Place trophies collected.
Jackie has also been active in autocrossing with the car since it has been finished. In SCCA (Sports Car Club of America) autocross events, he has won several regional E Modified Class events but, as he notes, "I really love driving this car on a long road trip the best. It's only then you can really appreciate what pleasure there is in having built your own machine." ...Even if it was built one piece at a time. KC