LABOUR OF LOVE: Ken McKenzie behind the wheel of his beloved Cobra replica.
LABOUR OF LOVE: Ken McKenzie behind the wheel of his beloved Cobra replica.

Breathing fire and venom

WE all had dream cars as teenagers, and for many growing up in the 1960s, the AC Cobra was a natural choice. Low, incredibly wide, a roaring V8 and motorsport pedigree gave enduring appeal, not least for Kuluin’s Ken McKenzie.

Buying a genuine AC Cobra is beyond the reach of most non-millionaires these days, but such is the demand for Cobras, numerous companies offer replica kits for enthusiasts to build their dreams.

Yatala’s DRB is one such company in Queensland, and Ken bought a Cobra chassis and fibreglass body through them and put in 500 hours of work to create his fire-breathing weekend toy.

“As a teenager I saw Carroll Shelby was putting 427 cubic inch motors in them, and after seeing them race on TV, it was a childhood dream to own one,” Ken said.

In 2004 it became a reality. Ken used his expertise as a mechanical engineer and his experience in restoring classic American cars to build the replica. Prior to this Cobra, he’d restored a 1962 Pontiac Convertible, two 1965 Chevys and two 1939 Chevys.

When you buy a Cobra kit from DRB it’s up to the owner which engine they fit. Tradition dictates a Ford V8 should be placed under the car’s curvaceous bonnet, and Ken has obliged with a 5.0-litre fuel-injected bent-eight from a 2001 Ford Falcon XR8 Tickford ute.

“I bought the engine and five-speed gearbox from a Tickford ute that had been wrecked after only 4000km,” he said. “It was basically a new engine. I’ve custom chipped it too to give 261kW, meaning it will reach 100kmh in 4.2 seconds and hit 300kmh.”

The Cobra’s front suspension comes from a Holden Torana, while there’s a shortened Ford nine-inch diff at rear. And as Ken is a fan of the old-school deep-dish wheel look, he’s opted for imported 15-inch South African WAW rims, with mighty 10-inch width for the rears.

“I’ve used moulded fibreglass seats and had them trimmed in Italian leather locally for some comfort,” Ken said. “I also made the wooden dashboard myself and fitted all the carpets.”

The result is a sports muscle car that has few rivals on the road in terms of performance or presence. “From three-year-olds to 93-year-olds, everyone seems to love it,” Ken said.

The Cobra replica has won a few people’s choice awards at local shows, and is often used as a weekend cruiser by Ken and his wife, with driving to Maleny for coffee mentioned as a favoured route.

A change in circumstances means Ken has the car up for sale at present, with any interested parties able to contact him on 0412  887  518 for more information on a car he describes, very aptly, as his four-wheeled motorbike that offers open-air driving.

VITAL STATISTICS

Owner: Ken McKenzie, Kuluin.

Model: AC Cobra replica by DRB.

Details: Two-seat, two-door sports muscle car based on the AC Cobra originally produced in 1961.

Engine: Tickford Ford 5.0-litre Windsor V8 with custom engine chip generating maximum power of 261kW.

Transmission: Tremec 5-speed manual from a Ford Falcon AU XR8.

Performance: 0-100kmh in 4.2 seconds; top speed approximately 300kmh.

Value today: $75,000.


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