Five by Five
This Cobra replica is powered by a modern 5.0 and tuned by VMP Performance
By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of VMP Performance
Cobra. This slithery snake packs an insane combination of lightweight and big power in a short-wheelbase roadster. The original Shelby-built machines are worth huge money, but if you want one of your own, there are several companies offering built-it-yourself roadsters that embody the spirit of the originals but offers the opportunity to inject them with modern muscle.
“Back in the mid ’90s, I was looking to build a Cobra. I went to many manufacturers including ERA, Contemporary, Mid-States and FFR,” Henry explained. “I liked the single-donor concept and had access to a ’90 Mustang GT, which I used for the donor.”
This project wasn’t Henry’s first rodeo. He has built 10 cars, seven for himself and three for other lucky people. Among those projects were the first customer-built Factory Five Racing GTM and ’33 Ford. The latter won fourth place at the 2012 SEMA show and is powered by a blown ’53 Mercury Flathead.
A Flathead is an unexpected choice. When you think of the original Cobras, it’s the storied 427-cubic-inch that made those cars the monsters of legend. These days those cars sell for millions, but if you are building a car to enjoy it’s hard to argue with the performance available from modern engines like Ford’s Coyote family of 5.0-liter engines.
“I was looking for a simple-to-run, minimal adjustment, high-horsepower engine,” Henry said. “I contemplated a Chevy LS motor, but I believe it’s a sin to put a Chevy motor in a Ford. I’ve had carbureted Cobras and wanted something simpler that starts every tine.”
Thanks to the clever crew at Ford Performance it is easy enough to swap a Coyote crate engine into just about any vehicle by employing its Controls Pack setups. These kits include the Powertrain Control Module and wiring harness needed to bring a stock 5.0 engine to life. However, if you want to rev up the performance with different hardware, a custom calibration is necessary.
In the case of Henry’s Factory Five Mk4 Roadster, he opted to install one of Ford Performance Parts’ high-revving Cobra Jet intake manifolds. Doing so meant the PCM in Henry’s roadster needed some tweaking of the TiVCT and other parameters to extend the Coyote’s rev range to maximize its high-winding potential.
“I had a friend that worked with Justin and he highly recommended him. I went to see him back in October 2015 and he found a bad O2 sensor. I fixed the sensor and changed the intake and throttle body to a Cobra Jet set-up, which he tuned to 418 rear-wheel horsepower,” he said. “The car responded great to his tune and I just put on some VMP Performance fuel rails to complete the look I was hoping for.”
With over 400 horsepower at the flywheel in stock form, a Coyote delivers plenty of performance for a roadster. However, when that Coyote is modded and tuned up for over 400 horsepower and 350 lb-ft of torque at the wheels, the fun factor gets multiplied.
Watch it run on the VMP Performance Dynojet here…
“The car weighs 2,400 pounds with me and a full tank of gas,” Henry enthused. “It definitely gets out of it’s own way.”
Henry is busy keeping us safe as an active member of the United States Air Force, but when he is back home, he plans to enjoy this lightweight powerhouse as much as possible.
“When I come back in mid June, I am going to the London Cobra Show in London, Ohio. I’ve been there every year as long as I was not deployed (missed three of them) since its inception in 2002. This event started when the East Coast guys were bragging to the West Coast guys about the best chocolate chip cookies,” Henry added. “Ed Combs decided to develop this event in the middle of the country so both sides could attend. To this day, they still have the cookie contest, of which I am a judge every time I attend. I also go to Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, every year in early October and enjoy the camaraderie of the Capital Area Cobra Club.”
Believing it is a sin to install a Brand X engine in a “Ford,” Henry opted for a 2013 Coyote 5.0-liter engine breathing through a Ford Performance Cobra Jet intake and throttle body. His Factory Five roadster features numerous modern conveniences, like power steering, power brakes and air conditioning.
Painted a 2015 Ford blue, Henry’s FFR roadster lacks a hood scoop, side vents and side exhaust. Instead it wears an under-car exhaust. Its soft top is removable and the lighting is quite modern, as the headlights are HIDs and the taillights are LEDs.
Henry built his Factory Five roadster with a number of custom pieces, including the dashboard, console and roll bar. It also features heated Kirkey low-back racing seats, Factory Five electronic gauges and a hidden Custom Auto Sound audio system.
After Justin Starkey of VMP Performance worked his magic behind the keyboard developing a custom calibration for this Coyote-powered roadster the car put down peaks of 418.70 horsepower and 353.02 lb-ft of torque at the wheels.
The Mod List
Block: Stock 2013 5.0-liter
Crankshaft: Stock 2013 5.0-liter
Rods: Stock 2013 5.0-liter
Pistons: Stock 2013 5.0-liter
Camshafts: Stock 2013 5.0-liter
Cylinder Heads: Stock 2013 5.0-liter
Intake: Ford Performance Cobra Jet w/ Ford Performance throttle body
Fuel System: 190-lph fuel pump w/ VMP Performance fuel rails
Exhaust: Custom headers w/ Spintech oval mid-pipe and Spintech mufflers
Transmission: Tremec TKO five-speed w/custom driveshaft
Rearend: Ford 8.8 w/ 3.55 gears
Engine Management: FPP Controls Pack PCM w/ VMP Performance calibration
Ignition: Stock w/ MSD ignition booster
A-arms: Factory Five upper and lower
Struts: Koni coilovers
Brakes: 13-inch Cobra
Wheels: Factory Five Racing w/ black powdercoated centers
Brakes: Stock Mustang
Wheels: Factory Five Racing w/ black powdercoated centers