Please enjoy part 3 of this series! We hope you liked part 1 and part 2 as well. This is the conclusion of the story - all about the restoration phase of the classic Shelby Cobra.
The period of Cobra ownership between 1980 and the 1990s is what I call the “I don’t get no respect” years. The car fell into some slight disrepair (simply from a lack of upkeep) and became strictly a garage ornament. As Loreta and I had 3 small boys, the car became surrounded by tricycles, big wheels, bicycles and eventually, dirt bikes. It was used as a hiding spot during neighborhood games of hide and seek, and even used as a dog house when the neighborhood mutt took shelter there during thunderstorms.
Towards the end of this period, I failed to notice that my boys were taking a great interest in the car, and one weekend while I was away on a business trip, they took the initiative to rebuild the carburetor, buy a new battery and a few other small parts to get the car “ready to go”. As I was arriving home, they were eagerly awaiting my approach, smiles beaming as they turned the car over and listened to the engine roar. With a little persuasion, they talked me into taking it for a spin.
Beginning in 2008, we slowly but surely started the restoration process on this classic beauty. She had a long way to go before she was show ready, but we knew that with some patience and hard work, we could get her back to the original state we remembered from the 60s. It all started when my friend Carl pushed me towards restoring the Cobra when he fabricated a duplicated of the lost hood pin at his machine shop in Brazil. He then had a friend of his in Albuquerque finish the fabrication and plating of the pin. Carl helped me with some other mechanical tasks and the layout of a restoration plan, but we soon realized that we needed a qualified restoration shop, as these repairs were not things we could manage ourselves.
Loreta and I, after much thought and debate, decided to refurbish the car instead of restoring it as a “survivor”. We wanted to see the car as we remembered it when we drove it off the showroom floor and decided to stick with a shop close to home (Indianapolis), landing on Denny Jamison of Automotive HammerArt, located in Gasoline Alley. I loved the passion Denny had about his work, and also liked his reasonable hourly rates. We then began the full body-off restoration process, stripping the car down to the aluminum body and building it back piece by piece. We refurbished the fiberglass foot boxes and fiberglass spare tire mounts and added a few new sheet metal panels for cosmetic reasons (all the old panels have been retained). Worn parts were either repaired or replaced on front and rear suspension systems, and Denso tape was applied to both traverse leaf spring assemblies. The entire frame and suspension parts were powder coated prior to reassembly.
We sent the engine to a local specialist, Schmidt Automotive, where it was disassembled and measured against factory specifications. It was reassembled with a few new pieces, all matching original factory specifications. The fuel tank was cleaned and leak checked and the original fuel level sensor was repaired and calibrated against the fuel gauge in the cockpit.
A new, updated electrical wiring harness was fabricated by Rhode Island Wiring Services, and both the Starter and Generator rebuilt by Tom S., a local automotive electrical expert. We also replaced some other electrical relays and regulators with new units.
We replaced the tires with four new period correct Pirelli Cinturato tires with high speed Michelin tubes, but we retained one whitewall Goodyear Wingfoot as the spare.
All the chrome work, including the original Talbot Rear Vision Mirror was done by D&D Classic Bright Works in Piqua, Ohio. The new red interior carpeting and leather work was done by Mike, at Griffey’s Custom Leather & Upholstery in Muncie, Indiana. We installed only period correct materials from England, with the exception of a KoolMat insulation to reduce heat levels in the cockpit. The original red leather seats were retained after the decision was made to put new leather in the cockpit.
My son, Scott, handled the repainting of the car, as he now worked as an expert auto body painter. I spent more time determining that Scott and I had the proper paint color of the original Silver Mist then I spent on any other part of the car. The time was well spent. The color came out beautifully, and I couldn’t have asked for a better paint job than what my son did on the Cobra. It was a beautiful tribute for my grown son to help perfectly restore the car that his mother and I brought him home from the hospital in when he was only a few days old; time spent with him that I will not soon forget.
Since the restoration of the Shelby, we have gone on to show the car all over the country, and have won many prestigious and coveted car awards. I currently belong to two Shelby organizations: the Shelby American Automobile Club (SAAC - member since 1975), and Team Shelby (member since 2010). I meet other Shelby fans outside of these clubs as well. Many seem to find me via word of mouth or through car registries, not to mention all the people we meet at the car shows in which we participate. It is a joy and an honor to meet other fans of this classic muscle car
, and to share my Cobra story with people from around the world.
About Classic Auto
Drew Yagodnik is Vice President of Classic Automobile Insurance Agency, Inc. Classic Automobile Insurance Agency has been protecting collector, classic and exotics since 1992.