Bringing back a legend
The 427 Cobra Makes a comeback in
by Pat Christian
Utah Valley is living in
the golden age of dot.coms, so maybe motorheads Tom and Dave Kirkham are
throwbacks--bygone titans of a Detroit-style industry.
These brothers are hard at work in northwest Provo
producing a better-than-perfect replica of the 427 Cobra, a sports car legend
from the' 60s, and selling them to the likes of oil-rich Arab sheiks, millionaire
computer geeks or anyone else with gold in their pocket to spend on this incredibly
popular sports car.
The original American 427 Cobra was born in the '60s
when Carroll Shelby shoehorned a Ford V-8 engine into a small British car
body, calling it his Cobra. It took the thunderstruck motoring world by storm.
Not just any snake in the grass, Shelby's 427 Cobra
redlined at a screaming 7,000 rpm, and its 500 horses rocketed the monster
to 60 mph in a slim 3.5 seconds. Top speed was more than 150 mph.
As powerful as it was, the two-seater roadster was
also an undisputable beauty.
Only 348 Cobras were made. But then a plethora of
manufacturers began making replicas, mostly of fiberglass.
These replicas have continued to offer people who
are not millionaires a chance to drive the legend. (An original will cost
you the better part of a million dollar bill.)
But until the Kirkhams started making their 427, it
was always way too easy for a replica driver to tell the difference between
it and the original.
"Lots of manufacturers produce replicas of varying
quality and price," says Tom Kirkham.
"But we provide the one ingredient no other American
manufacturer is offering -an aluminum body just like the original car but
The amazing brothers Kirkham actually produce their
aluminum body in an aircraft factory near Warsaw, Poland, that once produced
fighter jets during the Cold war. Components are then added in Provo.
"Our guys in Poland built a defense system that had our
military nervous for 30 years," says David Kirkham.
The handmade original bodies that Shelby got from
British metal workers were imperfectly thicker on one side than the other,
but Tom says that unevenness is now gone thanks to computer design and their
Not cheap, a basic Kirkham 427 will set you back $60,000.
And that's with no engine, transmission or paint. Owners add the engine and
the rest. Then they claim the car drives and feels just like the original.
By now their car is the color they want and as powerful
as they dare and they've laid out about $100,000.
So what do they have to show for it? They have a car with no spare tire.
There isn't any room. They don't have a rain top or radio.
But that's OK. Owners want to listen to the throb
of their 427, not some punk rock band. There's also no heater and no outside
But they don't care -it's prettier and quicker than
their imaginations and a legend to boot.
Writer and photographer Pat Christian lives in
Utah, specializing in assignments in The Beehive State and San Francisco.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
published photograph by Pat Christian
Photograph by Pat Christian