I’ve driven Cobra replicas that wore primer only. I’ve ridden in a brushed-aluminum with polished-aluminum Le Mans-striped Kirkham Cobra replica. I’ve driven a silver FFR and 289 Unique Motorcars Cobra, a yellow Factory Five Racing Mk3, an FFR still clad in Gel Coat, a black-overred Backdraft Racing Roadster, and so on. Despite the rainbow of hues, or lack thereof, my single favorite Cobra color dates to the mid 1960s. That’s when Ford sprayed some Cobras and some Ford Mustangs in the heavenly hue of Caspian Blue.
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Dad and I contemplated for several months what color(s) our roadster should be. For the longest time, he lobbied to have our FFR Mk4 Cobra roadster replica in a racy shade of red. Cobras do look wonderful in red, but knowing the history of those racing Cobras of the early through the mid 1960s, I did not want our roadster to be red. The Cobra’s biggest rival has always been Ferrari. When these two foes battled, the Ferraris were red, and the Cobras were always white over blue.
During my tenure as editor of Kit Car magazine, I may have photographed more white-over-blue Cobra replicas than any other man in history. But our car just couldn’t be white over blue any more than it could be Ferrari red or any shade of red.
We agreed upon a midnight blue color. As silly as it sounds now, we were actually going to have a onecolor Cobra replica. We came to realize that we wouldn’t quite be honoring the Snake. The majority of original Cobras wore Le Mans racing stripes. A few months elapsed as we were toiling away at our FFR Mk4 in our home shop. Then we finally decided to also have the team stripes on the driver-side fender. Not too long thereafter, we gave two thumbs up to those delightful Le Mans over-the-top stripes in a sort of titanium color.
We wanted House of Kolor paint on our FFR Mk4 roadster, which was a no-brainer. The tough part of our decision was trying to find a reliable, professional, and reasonable body and paint shop to bring our House of Kolor Cobra to life.
We know now that the best way to find a top-notch shop would have been to contact House of Kolor and ask for painter recommendations that use its products in the area, and then go talk to them. Whether you’re using House of Kolor products or some other manufacturer’s painting finishes, contact an expert at the company and seek professional painter references in your area, either via the paint company’s Web site or on the old-fashioned telephone.
Make sure that you follow up on any body/paint referrals you get from your paint supplier. And when you negotiate a body and paint project with potential shops, get detailed written estimates. You are also well served by talking to customers of the shops that you’re investigating to see how pleased they are with the outcome on their body and paint projects.
Another way to get body/paint referrals is by talking to members of your favorite car clubs and car-buff buddies. The point is: complete your homework on this all-important aspect of your Cobra project.
Project 1: Fitment Procedure
Step 1: Install Passenger’s Door
Pro-painter and bodywork maestro Ray commenced fitting the doors. We located the door fasteners and hung the doors for Ray. Starting at the top, Ray adjusted the fasteners attached to the hinges in their slots to align the panel surfaces with the body. He proceeded to work with the passenger-side door hinge to get the door to hang right and to get the gap as even as possible before adding any sort of filler (if needed).
Step 2: Drill Hole to Rivet Body to Chassis
After the top of the door panel is in alignment with the body, the bottom of the body can be moved in and out a bit to assist in achieving the best fit between the bottom edge of the door and body. After Ray found the desired alignment, he used a couple of long 3/16-inch rivets to attach the bottom lip of the body with the chassis. Of course, he first needed to drill a couple 3/16-inch holes in the body lip/chassis to rivet the two together, shown here on the driver’s side of the car.
Project 2: Door Latch and Hardware Installation
Step 1: Install Door Latches
To get the doors to fit inside the door jams properly with an even 3/16-inch gap all the way around, the door latches needed to be installed. Find the door components and the door latch assemblies. Use a 1/2-inch wrench, a 1/8-inch drill bit, a Phillips-head screwdriver, a Sharpie, and lithium or silicone grease. First remove the original mounting bracket from the door latch striker. Only the striker and the washers are used. The mounting bracket and the nut aren’t used, so you can save them for your next project.
Step 2: Install Door Latches
Use the right amount of shims (washers) to bolt the striker onto the chassis. This is done to bring the base of the striker head flush with the door latch pad when the door is closed. Because the next step is to latch the door latch onto the striker and close the door, this is already shown in this photo. After latching the door latch onto the striker and adjusting the striker to fit the latch to the driver-side-door cutout, Ray was almost ready to mark where the holes need to be drilled into the door latch pad to install the door latch. If needed, you can use the FFR-supplied door latch spacers to assist with the alignment of the door latch to the striker. To prevent binding between the door latch and striker, use some lithium or silicone grease on the moving parts.
Step 3: Install Door Latches (Continued)
With the doors marked, use a 1/8-inch drill bit to bore the bolt holes to install the driver-side door latch. The holes all drilled, install the driver-side door latch. Repeat this same process for the passenger side.
Step 4: Install Pipe Spacer
Rather than use several shims to properly space out the driver- and passenger-side strikers to align with the door latch, Ray cut off the correct width and diameter of stainless-steel pipe to serve as spacer sleeves. After cutting, he installed the driver-side spacer.
Step 5: Install Trunk Lid
Find the fasteners that hold the decklid (trunk lid) on the FFR Mk4’s hidden hinges and install the lid. Just snug these bolts and locknuts for now. Leave the fasteners loose enough so that you can adjust how the lid fits the gap in the back of the body. To hold the lid’s surfaces level with the back of the body, you can temporarily use some of the rubber bumpers that are supplied for proper fitment of the hood.
Step 6: Install Trunk Lid
The fit of the decklid, prior to any bodywork taking place on the back of the car, is superb. Both Jorge Guerrero and Ray Rosales remarked at how great the quality of the FFR fiberglass is and how well the doors, trunk, and hood fit the gaps without needing any bodywork. In fact, this photo was taken before using any rubber bumpers to hold the trunk lid even with the back of the body
Step 7: Construct Template for Patch Panel
There are numerous occasions when you must take a MacGyver or improvisational approach to getting work done. We needed to plug the stock hole on the passenger’s side of the interior where the stock emergency brake is typically installed, so Dad used my note pad as a straight edge to draw an outline on a spare piece of cardboard that served as the template for the aluminum patch panel we cut out to plug the hole in our cockpit.
Step 8: Make Template and Fit Aluminum Panel
From looking at our very simple template, you’re probably wondering why we even needed to bother with a template. Those dotted lines show where the aluminum needs to be bent, which should give you a clue as to why we need the template.
Step 9: Make Template and Fit Aluminum Panel
We cut out the cardboard template and put it against the opening in the aluminum. This confirmed where we needed to bend the aluminum panel. Tracing this shape on the spare aluminum panel came next. We then cut out the aluminum patch panel using the very same tin snips. We marked the bend in the aluminum by transferring where the bend should be from the template. We bent the aluminum over a workbench, marked the holes, and then drilled rivet holes in the patch panel.
Step 10: Install Aluminum Patch Panel
After applying the silicone on the back of the patch panel where it attaches to the transmission tunnel wall and floor, we riveted the panel into place in the interior. The panel is hidden by HushMat sound and heat insulation and the FFR-supplied black carpet, so there’s no need to make the panel perfect. It just needs to be air- and watertight, which is where the careful application of silicone becomes important. You can also see the custom Lokar emergency brake, which works far better than the supplied E-brake system and looks great.
Step 11: Drill Holes for License Plate
Ray used a scrap piece of plastic to make a mounting template for the trunk’s license plate light. Notice that he already has drilled the installation holes in the template, which enabled him to locate where the holes need to be drilled in the decklid to properly mount the license plate light. He trimmed the edges of the template with an air deburr tool.
Step 12: Mark License Plate Light Holes
With the template properly shaped and drilled, Ray held it against the trunk lid, so that he could mark where the license plate light installation holes need to be drilled.
Step 13: Drill License Plate Holes
If you’re going to do your own body and paintwork, use a respirator or at least masks to help prevent poisoning your insides with fiberglass. A cordless drill with the appropriate-sized drill bit is sufficient for quickly boring holes in the fiberglass. Just correctly locate where the holes need to be, or you’ll be repairing the mistake and re-drilling.
Step 14: Install License Plate Light
After drilling the installation holes, temporarily install the license plate light to check that the bracket is properly centered and is level. Take the light back off and securely store it with the fasteners for installation after the body has been painted and the trunk lid has been hung.
Step 15: Fit Trunk Latch Components
To temporarily install the trunk latch, find the latch and components in the three-lock set in your FFR-supplied boxes of parts. You need to use a 3/8-inch socket, the ratchet, a flat-head screwdriver, and a Phillips-head screwdriver to complete the installation.
Step 16: Install Trunk Latch Handle
Prop the trunk lid up with a 2×4 and install the trunk handle/ latch mechanism with the Phillips-head screwdriver and a 3/8-inch wrench, or socket and ratchet.
Step 17: Install Trunk Latch Pin
We had to modify our trunk latch pin that installs at the base of the trunk to beef it up a bit. Typically, the latch pin screw goes through the fiberglass rear wall of the trunk. On the inside of the trunk a stainless-steel sleeve fits around the screw. The threaded end of the screw, for which the locknut fastened on the backside, is fit through the pre-drilled aluminum panel. An added reinforcement L-bracket was riveted behind the aluminum wall, which nicely beefs up how the latch grabs onto the pin. (Also see step 18.) Test how well the key works in the handle. But these trunk latch components don’t get to stay on the car. Remove them and secure them for quick retrieval after the body and trunk are ready to re-assemble (after the painting and curing process).
Step 18: Install Hood Hinges and Fasteners
To install the hood hinges, you need a rivet gun and 3/16-inch rivets, 3/16-, 7/64- and 5/8-inch drill bits, an electric drill, Sharpie, measuring tape, 3/16-inch hex key, and a 1/2-inch wrench. Find the hood hinges and the fasteners. The steel hood hinge mounts need to be primered and painted. Ray sprayed Rust-Oleum red-oxide primer and gloss-black Rust-Oleum paint on the steel platforms and let them dry before he and Jorge proceeded to perform this rather elaborate hood and hinge installation.
Step 19: Mount Hinge Arms
The simplest part of mounting and aligning the hood is to press those copper-colored sleeves into the aluminum hinge arms. We didn’t paint our hinge arms, but protected them with Sharkhide protectant to prevent oxidation. You may choose this route, or you could paint them with Rust-Oleum.
Step 20: Install Hood Hinge Pivot Mounts
Rivets are used to install the hood hinge pivot mounts on the underside of the front of the hood. FFR pre-drills these rivet holes, though they may need a bit of cleaning up with a 3/16-inch drill bit and cordless drill. Just a few rivets are required since this is a first fitting. Preferably, you want to remove the pivot mounts when the car goes to paint. If you’re building an FFR Mk4 like ours, one of the first things you likely noticed was the FFR sticker on the nose of the body. It states that all of the body panels are made oversized, so that they can be trimmed to fit and make a 3/16-inch gap all the way around. As we’ve mentioned previously, the fiberglass on the FFR Mk4 body and body panels is first rate. We didn’t have to trim the door panels or trunk lid on our car to get the gap to the optimal 3/16-inch space. To foreshadow a little, the hood is slightly trimmed on the passenger’s side and a miniscule amount on the driver’s side, but Jorge didn’t trim the hood until after he had perfectly fitted the hood to the hood hinges.
Step 21: Install Passenger-Side Hinge
From this perspective, you can see exactly how the hood hinge assembly goes together. It’s really a well-thought-out design, so you can properly align the hood with the hood hole. Notice that Jorge intentionally has the bolts and nut loose, so he can easily change how the hood fits in its opening by moving it side to side or fore and aft. In order to make fitment adjustments, use a 1×2 to prop the hood open. Also temporarily install the hydraulic hood’s prop arms on either side of the hood, which is fully detailed in the FFR Mk4 Complete Kit manual. Jorge hadn’t installed this here because he wanted to get the fitment of the hood perfect before doing any trimming on the hood.
Project 3: Eliminate Mold Line and Trim Body Panels
Step 1: Apply Mar-Glass to Mold Seams
To smooth the mold seams, You can use a 3M bodywork product called Mar-Glass. Mar-Glass is a short-strand reinforced filler and is very much like fiberglass. It’s harder than Bondo. Apply it over the mold seams and let the Mar-Glass dry for about 15 to 20 minutes before sanding the seams and the Mar-Glass with 40-grit sandpaper.
Step 2: Sand Away Mold Seams
Sand away the mold seams until they disappear and the adjoined body panels appear as one.
Step 3: Set Hood Gap
With the hood now fitting as it should, use an air grinder to sand off just a smidgen of the hood on the driver’s side.
Step 4: Mark Hood for Trimming
If your passenger’s side of the hood requires more trimming, use some painter’s tape to mark a straight cut-off/grind-off line just prior to wielding the air grinder.
Step 5: Trim Passenger’s Side of Hood
If you look closely, you see that almost half of the passenger’s side of the hood has been trimmed down to the tape. If you are doing this job yourself, easy does it is a great way to go when using the air grinder. Don’t cut off too much of the fiberglass. Though fiberglass is easy to work with, it’s more challenging to build up a straight edge than it is to cutoff that same edge. Right after trimming the passenger’s side, the back of the hood received the same treatment.
Step 6: Determine Location for Driver-Side Hood Handle
Take measurements to determine where to locate the driver-side hood handle. The FFR Mk4 Complete Kit manual offers a more elaborate explanation on how to locate the handles, if you are doing this part of the work yourself on your Mk4.
Step 7: Drill Hole for Driver-Side Hood Handle
With the driver-side hood-handle-hole location determined it is time to do some drilling. Use a smaller drill bit than the required 5/8-inch-diameter hole first. So that you don’t mistakenly drill into something that you don’t intend to, prop the hood up with a short 2×4 before drilling
Step 8: Enlarge Driver-Side Hood Handle Hole
If you have an air compressor and some air tools, you too can easily open up the hood-handle holes to the 5/8-inch-diameter requirement. Simply use the deburring tool on the end of your air drill.
Step 9: Install Hood Handle Paddle
After boring out the hood-handle holes to 5/8-inch, drill the two 1/8- inch bolt holes for attaching the hood handle to the top side of the hood. Then install the paddle with the 2.5-mm hex key and the hex-head bolt. After confirming the lock worked on the driver-side hood handle, repeat the same process to install the passenger-side hood handle.
Step 10: Mark and Drill Holes for Fuel Filler Cap
You can use the Le Mans fuel-filler cap’s rubber gasket as a template for marking and drilling the installation holes in the rear passenger side fender.
Step 11: Apply Mar-Glass to Side of Hood Sides
Though the hood now fits the gap well, with a 3/16-inch space all the way around, the sides of the hood needed a bit of beefing up to mate with the hood. Apply some Mar-Glass right next to either side of the hood, which is to be sanded smooth with 40-grit sandpaper and covered with a skim coat of Bondo.
Step 12: Trim Hood and Hood Sides
It may take two people to get the hood sides squared away, in anticipation of removing the hood to cut out an opening for the Cobra’s hood scoop.
Project 4: Hood Scoop Installation
Step 1: Cut Out Hood Scoop Hole
After the hood fits its opening, remove the hood from the hood hinges and secure away the hood handles. Remove the hood to mark and cut a hole in the hood that accommodates the functional fresh-air hood scoop. Turn the hood upside down. Trace the cutout for the scoop on the liner, 1½ inches in from the side and rear edges and 4 inches back from the front edge of the scoop recess. Use a large enough hole in the liner and fiberglass to enable cutting out the hood scoop hole with a jigsaw.
Step 2: Cut Out Hood Scoop Hole
Cutting the fiberglass with a jigsaw should be quite simple. Make the cut as straight as you can and be sure to wear a mask or a respirator.
Step 3: Smooth Hole for Hood Scoop
After cutting out the hole in the hood for the hood scoop, clean the cut edges both with a deburring tool attached to the air drill and also 40-grit sandpaper on a hand block sander.
Step 4: Apply Mar-Glass to Cut Edge
To finish off the cut edge, apply Mar-Glass, waited the appropriate time for it to dry, and sanded it smooth.
Step 5: Make Cut Line for Hood Scoop
Even though the hood scoop looks as though it’s ready to install, the flange needs to be trimmed so that it’s 3/4-inch wide on the sides and on the back. You can show off your pinstriping prowess by using a finger to draw the 3/4-inch cut line. After this cut line is drawn, mark rivet holes every 3 inches along the flange.
Step 6: Drill Rivet Holes
Use 3/16-inch rivets to install the hood scoop. Drill out the rivet holes with a 3/16-inch drill bit before trimming the hood scoop.
Step 7: Sand Bottom of Hood Scoop Flange
After drilling the rivet holes in the top of the hood scoop, sand smooth the underside of the scoop’s flange.
Step 8: Trim Hood Scoop Flange
With the hood scoop turned right side up, make quick work of the trimming with the air tool and its cutoff-wheel accessory. Then sand the cut edge smooth and apply Mar-Glass and sanded it smooth.
Step 9: Drill Rivet Holes in Hood
To drill the rivet holes in the hood that attach the hood scoop to the hood, firmly hold the hood scoop in place while you drill through the rivet holes in the scoop. Use the hood scoop as a drilling template to precisely locate where the rivet holes should be in the hood. The challenge with drilling the hood this way is to firmly hold the hood scoop in position.
Project 5: Primer Application
Step 1: Sand Body of Car
Before the body and panels gets its first sanding primer coat, give it a thorough sanding of all the body panels with 400-grit sandpaper. Obviously, this photo was taken prior to cutting the hood for the scoop.
Step 2: Apply Sanding Primer
Apply two coats of sanding primer get all the body panels. Each primer coat is thoroughly sanded with 400-grit sandpaper. In these sanding coats, imperfections in the fiberglass appear in the form of tiny pinholes and larger bubbles. Also, any imperfections in the body/paint prep can be remedied. Everyone was impressed with the top-notch quality of the Factory Five Racing fiberglass. Hardly any pinholes were found and nary an air-bubble void.
Step 3: Apply Seal Primer
After the two coats of sanding primer, the car is thoroughly coated with sealer/primer in the same general color as the car. Given the company’s reputation for providing the finest automotive paints, we selected House of Kolor paint for our FFR Mk4 Cobra roadster replica. The HOK sealer/primer used on our road burner is KD3005 Kustom DTS Foundation Surfacer/ Sealer Blue, which should is a clue of the actual hue of our roadster. The HOK sealer primer is mixed with four parts primer, one part HOK KD3000 Series DTS Hardener, and one part House of Kolor RU301 LV Warm Weather Reducer.
Project 6: Complete Footbox
Step 1: Modify Pedal Box Roof
While you spray the House of Kolor sealer/primer on all the body panels, modify the driver-side aluminum pedal box roof to meld with the remote brake reservoir block. You may have riveted enough aluminum panels to know how this roof was installed. What you don’t know is that we applied HushMat sound and heat insulation panels on the ceiling of this roof panel prior to the sanding, applying Sharkhide, applying silicone, and riveting it into place.
Step 2: Install Insulation on Pedal Box Ceiling
The HushMat insulation panels are easy to install. Cut the panels to size, peel off the backing paper, and stick onto the aluminum panels.
Project 7: Painting Procedure
Step 1: Wipe On Post Sanding Cleaner
Before spraying any paint over the House of Kolor sealer/foundation primer, the primer received a thorough cleaning/degreasing with House of Kolor KC20 Post Sanding Cleaner. The top coats of paint need to be applied over the HOK sealer primer within 4 to 6 hours max of the sealer primer’s application. If the top coats of paint are applied after the 6-hour window, the sealer primer must be sanded with a 600-grit wet sanding to ensure proper adherence. With the body and all other panels wet sanded with 600-grit sandpaper and the paint booth dust-free and ready for the painter, thoroughly apply the House of Kolor KC20 Post Sanding Cleaner to all surfaces to be painted.
Step 2: Use Compressed Air to Blow Off Dust
Carefully blow off any remaining dust or dirt on the surface of all the body panels three times, waiting several minutes between each session. This approach is very effective. After letting the air settle for a couple minutes, run your hand lightly over the body. You can feel some dust. When you blow off the body a second time, there is less, but still noticeable. Once the air settles the third time, you feel no dust. Now you’re ready to lay down the House of Kolor Shimrin 2 (S-2 for short) Stratto Blue paint.
Step 3: Select and Mix Paint
The new House of Kolor Shimrin 2 paints are VOC compliant in all 50 states. Right now, there are 400 different colors available in the Shimrin 2 hues. Later this year, there will be 1,500 colors. The Shimrin S-2 custom auto paint system eliminates the need to pick a stock OEM color and gives car enthusiasts and auto painters the ability to create their own custom-paint colors that can be kept top secret. In our case, we’re going with a very dark midnight-blue hue, based upon the fantastic House of Kolor Shimrin S-2 Stratto Blue as the car’s main body color. We reveal the other colors after Ray lays down the paint. But for now, he mixed four parts of the Stratto Blue with one part of the House of Kolor RU301 LV Warm Weather Reducer. Spraying this paint over the same color primer means that we used less paint, achieved better coverage, and produced a deeper and richer finish.
Step 4: Apply Base Coat of Paint
To make sure that the air hose is kept away from the body, drape it on your back as you sprayed the first coat of HOK Stratto Blue with his high volume low pressure (HVLP) paint gun. Only spraying at 20 pounds of pressure, still gets awesome coverage and no overspray. That blue tape on this fender is protecting some driver’s team stripes that have already been applied. For now, you just have to guess what color is beneath the masking tape.
Step 5: Apply Base Coat of Paint (Continued)
It’s just a few minutes later and Ray is already laying down a second topcoat of our top-secret shade of House of Kolor Stratto Blue. These colors really pop in natural light—day or night. House of Kolor has been providing premium custom finishes since 1956. With the several coats of Stratto Blue now on the Mk4 roadster body and body panels, Ray next shot the Klear. He used USCO1 House of Kolor Kosmic Urethane Show Klear.
Step 6: Mix Clear Coat for Application
There are three parts Klear, one part HOK RU-300 VOC-exempt Reducer, and one part Kustom Catalyst Urethane System HOK KU152 Catalyst mixed together to perfectly shoot the House of Kolor clear on the Cobra.
Step 7: Apply Clear Coat
To culminate the shooting for the day, Ray sprayed several coats of clear at 10-minute intervals.
Step 8: Tape for LeMans Stripes
Painter’s tape is applied on the front of the roadster all the way to the back of the car to outline the car’s stripes. In Cobra parlance, this duo of over-the-top stripes is known as Le Mans stripes. They’re named after that world famous endurance racecar contest known as the 24 Hours of Le Mans, held in Rheims, France. Typically, Le Mans stripes are each 6½ inches wide and are separated by 2 inches. We decided to have our Le Mans stripes a little larger. Ours is 7 inches wide, but still separated by 2 inches of top-secret Stratto Blue.
Step 9: Apply LeMans Strips
Though the color appears to be a shade of brown in the paint booth, it is actually a secret mix of House of Kolor Shimrin S-2 Galaxy Gray with some HOK Kosmatic Sparkling Pearl metal flake. We didn’t want to have yet another Wimbledon White over Caspian Blue Cobra replica, although there’s nothing wrong with that famous paint scheme.
Step 10: Apply Clear Coat Again
Now that the stripes are all in place, several coats of House of Kolor Klear are applied on all the painted surfaces. We’re still not going to reveal those driver’s team stripes yet.
Step 11: Buff Paint to Finish
After allowing the House of Kolor paint and Klear coats to cure for a couple days in the paint booth, we color sand and then buff the paint job. Use rubbing compound, ultrafine machine polish, and spray wax for the buffing process shown here. This complete process takes a few days to complete.
Written by D. Brian Smith and Posted with Permission of CarTechBooks