SNAKES ALIVE!

HAVING AN ORIGINAL WOULD BE WONDERFUL, BUT GUY ALLEN CAN SEE THE APPEAL IN OWNING A MUSCLE-BOUND MODERN VERSION

Cobras have, not surprisingly, been one of the most-imitated cars in the world, with many manufacturers across several countries making replicas, often in kit form. The quality has varied enormously, but the reality is you can build one from scratch for a fraction of what a real one costs. Plus you have the opportunity to inject some engineering updates to make a better car.

Australia has had more than its fair share of makers over the years. One of the better-known ones was Robnell, which has been out of operation for several years. However the cars are highly regarded and you can meet an owner on these pages.

A more modern take on the theme is Absolute Pace in Queensland which, though keeping the original curves, builds a whole new and very up-to-date chassis that’s stronger and owes nothing to the original.

Managing Director Craig White tells us, “We’ve taken a modern approach in the design, engineering and construction of this car. We use computer-aided design and modern production techniques. It has a full aluminium semi-monocoque chassis that’s TIG welded. The body is a carbon and Kevlar material.

“The suspension is all bespoke. It’s manufactured for that car – it’s all aluminium with CNC billet, a pushrod style like you see in race cars.

“We have a choice of engines.

Customers can choose a more traditional older Ford engine – a Windsor from five litre to over seven.”

The company can also shoe-horn in a current Coyote V8 – normally aspirated or supercharged. However the folk in charge tend to favour a GM LS series

(with or without forced induction), for its combination of compact size when compared to the Coyote, and current technology. That may seem like heresy to some, but you can understand their view once you scope the installation of the LSA 6.2lt supercharged in the demo car.

“Most of the gearboxes are five or six-speed Tremecs,” says White. “We use an aluminium ZF differential centre.

You’ll see the same centre used in the VF Commodore. It runs an 8.5 inch crown wheel and comes in lots of different versions, such as with shot-peened gearsets, LSD and so on. The rest of the rear end is custom fabricated.

The car in the pics claims to weigh around 1050kg and produce 650 horses.

As a ballpark figure, it would cost an owner around $100,000 in parts, which is everything. Add another $30k if you want Absolute Pace to build it. It does however come with a 600-page instruction manual and ultra-clear labelling and organisation of components. Accordin g to White, “It can be built by anyone with a reasonable mechanical knowledge.

“Nearly all our customers are building the cars themselves, but if they need assistance we can help out.” y

I Own One

Bauer Media staffer Andrew Steadwell fulfilled a lifelong dream in getting a Cobra I NEVER TIRE of the lines of an AC Cobra – the low-slung body and muscular posture, the elegant nose and fat rear-end, separated by the open cockpit. Not to mention the hair-raising performance and the sound of a worked V8.

As a kid in a Superman T-shirt, the Cobra was the most treasured car in my Matchbox collection. I dreamt that one day I’d own one.

But I thought my Matchbox dreams would never come true.

At 18 I sat in the driver’s seat of a green Robnell Cobra SC302.

Excitement turned to ecstasy when my mate’s dad threw me the keys. Unfortunately, I couldn’t lift my leg to use the clutch as I’m six-foot-three.

Nevertheless, over the years I kept a look out for Robnells in the pages of Unique Cars until I stumbled across a burgundy Robnell Cobra from the Northern Territory. The ad read: “will suit tall driver”. The rest is history.

Only 67 Robnell Cobras were built – mine is #19. Surprisingly, the one I was thrown the keys to all those years ago was #18.

It was a non-factory built car and runs a 6.3-litre stroked Cleveland with a Motec computer, Porsche fuel injection, working four-inch sidepipes, Truetrac limited-slip differential and a four-speed top loader gearbox.

So far it has proved extremely reliable and, with over 300hp at the rear wheels and weighing in at just over a tonne, it has ‘enough’ performance to match its aggressive looks.

It’s not a daily driver, but for taking my son Jesse for a blast across to the beach or up the mountains on a sunny weekend, I can’t think of a better car.

Jesse certainly thinks so.

Perhaps it’s even worthy of his Matchbox dreams…