The Factory Five Shelby Cobra 427: Bring Your Brown Pants

When it comes to sports car icons, the Shelby Cobra ranks among the greatest. Original examples of Carroll Shelby’s high-speed roadster, though, are hard to find, not to mention expensive. That’s where kit-car versions, like the Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster, come into play. And as YouTube team Throttle House discovered, a Factory Five Cobra 427 is just as scary and thrilling to drive as the real thing.

A Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster is a build-it-yourself Shelby Cobra 427

A silver-with-white-stripes Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster 25th Anniversary Shelby Cobra 427 replica kit car
Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster 25th Anniversary Shelby Cobra 427 replica kit car | Factory Five Racing

While Massachusetts-based Factory Five Racing has multiple kit car models, arguably its most well-known product is the Roadster. The company has been making its Shelby Cobra replicas since the late ‘90s, steadily improving them over the years. That’s lead to the current form of the Factory Five Cobra, the Mk4 Roadster.

Factory Five sells the Roadster in three different trims, but the Mk4 is the closest to the original Shelby Cobra 427. And not just in terms of looks, but basic design, too.

That means, for example, that its hand-laid composite body panels attach to a tubular steel frame. Also, under its hood is a large-capacity V8 that sends its power to the rear wheels via a manual transmission. Plus, beyond the door panels, five-point harnesses, and the driver’s roll bar, there isn’t really any safety equipment. No airbags, no traction control, and while the Factory Five Cobra has four-wheel disc brakes, there’s no ABS.

However, automotive engineering has evolved significantly since the first Shelby Cobra 427 hit the racetrack. And the Factory Five Mk4 Roadster benefits from those improvements. For one, its frame is significantly stiffer than the original version. The Roadster also uses more aluminum than the original Cobra 427, so it weighs even less. In 1965, Car and Driver record a 2529-lb curb weight for the Shelby Cobra 427. And in comparison, the Factory Five Roadster Throttle House tested weighed 2250 pounds.

That weight saving isn’t solely from the Mk4 Roadster’s construction, though. It’s also due to the lighter modern crate engines Factory Five offers, Automobile notes. These engines, despite having smaller displacements, are also more powerful than their classic counterparts. Among other things, that’s because some of these powerplants ditch carburetors for more powerful, easier-to-live-with electronic fuel injection.

It’s an expletive-inducing old-school throwback that terrifies and delights

Back in the day, the Shelby Cobra 427 reportedly made 485 hp from its 7.0-liter V8. Translated to the modern horsepower scaling methodology, though, the ‘true’ output is more like 340-345 hp. To be fair, that was still enough for a 4.3-second 0-60 mph run in Car and Driver’s hands.

The Factory Five Cobra Throttle House recently drove, though, is significantly more powerful. It, too, has a 7.0-liter Ford V8 under its hood. Only this fuel-injected engine is linked to a five-speed manual, rather than a four-speed one. And it puts out a dyno-verified 520 hp and 550 lb-ft of torque. That gives the replica Cobra a better power-to-weight ratio than its spiritual successor, the Dodge Viper.

An overhead view of the black interior of a black-with-white-stripes Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster Shelby Cobra 427 replica kit car
Factory Five Racing Mk4 Roadster Shelby Cobra 427 replica kit car interior | Factory Five Racing

As a result, Throttle House found this Factory Five Cobra “[bleep]ing scary!” Flooring the throttle and aiming for the V8’s 6000-RPM redline is a terrifying experience. One that’s made even more visceral by the rumbling roar of the side-exit exhaust pipes. That roar, incidentally, is loud enough to even drown out the squeal of tires at the edge of adhesion. And the lack of a roof and windows compounds the raw assault on your senses.

As intimidating and overwhelming as this replica Shelby Cobra 427 is, it’s also thrilling to drive. Not just because of the noise and smells, but because the un-assisted steering lets you “feel everything,” Throttle House says. The clutch is rather heavy, but the shifter is “rather pleasant to use” and the accelerator is “telepathic” in its response. Plus, the Roadster in the video uses the optional Mustang independent rear suspension with Koni coil-overs.

All this makes the Factory Five Cobra feel like a vintage race car. It’s frightening in the most exciting way possible.

How much does it cost to build a Factory Five Cobra?

Although the Factory Five Mk4 Roadster is available as a complete Cobra kit, it’s not “a snap-together model kit,” Autoblog reports. And while the complete kit ships with the body, frame, suspension, and interior, you’ll still need a powertrain, wheels, and tires. The body is also delivered un-painted. However, Factory Five partners with a crate powertrain supplier that offers several different V8 options.

And even with these added component costs, a Mk4 Roadster is significantly cheaper than an original 1960s Shelby Cobra 427. Factory Five’s complete kit starts at $19,990; figure $20,000-$25,000 for the engine with a transmission. Or, if you don’t want to wrench, you can buy a pre-built used one. The average price for a Cobra replica on Bring a Trailer hovers around $50,000.

To be sure, a Factory Five Cobra isn’t practical or a good daily driver. But it delivers thrills as few other modern cars do.

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