Superformance: Modern Takes on Classic Cobras


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Story and Photos by Tim Suddard

Driving a real Cobra is a unique experience that few will ever experience due to a simple numbers game: Only about a thousand cars were built, and today they trade for more than a million dollars apiece. Fortunately the Cobra, in both 289 and 427 versions, is among the most replicated cars, and Superformance offers standout recreations of both the coupe and roadster.

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Where Factory 5 has taken a leadership position in the homebuilt market, Superformance cars come ready to run–or nearly ready to run for those who’d like to install their own drivelines. While visiting Superformance dealer Hillbank Motor Corporation, we drove not only their GT40, but also a Shelby-branded version of the famed 289 FIA Cobra.

Compared to the genuine article, a Superformance Cobra demands a few tradeoffs. Instead of an easily dented aluminum body, the Superformance can be ordered with a tough fiberglass exterior. And instead of a hot, uncomfortable cockpit, the Superformance is a nice place to spend some time.

Then there’s the money side of the equation. Even if you can afford an original Cobra, how nervous would you be each time it’s driven, shown in public, or removed from its protective glass case? The 289 FIA car that we drove starts at $92,995; add in the Ford Racing engine, Weber carburetors and some extras, and the final tally is $141,240. That’s less than the cost of a new Porsche Turbo or many other modern supercars. And where that new exotic is going to depreciate, we have noticed that over time some quality replicas–specifically, early Superformances–have done okay.

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Compared to the original Cobra, the Superformance also offers the benefits of 50 years of improvements in technology, build quality that rivals anything from the ’60s, and the freedom to personalize as desired. Want a five-speed gearbox, stroker motor or other upgrades? It’s all possible, and without hurting the value of a bona fide classic.

We have driven real and replica Cobras, and we found the latest Superformance to be true to the original, with perhaps fewer squeaks and noises–credit the chassis upgrades performed over the years. While the ride is not supple, it is rather comfortable for a car of this ilk. The traditional point-and-shoot Shelby handling has been preserved while being subtly improved.

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Our final analysis? We came away wanting one. Badly. Superformance delivers the Cobra driving experience–from resting an arm on the cut-down doors to the unequalled view over the hood–but does so with fewer penalty points.

The Ford 427-ci. engine is nestled in behind the cockpit of this Superformance GT40

The Ford 427-ci. engine is nestled in behind the cockpit of this Superformance GT40

We also got to spend some time behind the wheel of a Superformance GT40 MKI, this one wearing traditional Gulf livery. First challenge: getting behind the wheel. Second challenge: not getting arrested for tripling the local speed limits. The 427-cubic-inch, 535-horsepower small block fitted to our test car offers tremendous thrust; the light GT40 surges ahead in an almost frightening fashion.

Once underway, the steering lightens up and the chassis just glues itself to the road. The suspension is firm and confidence-inspiring. Unlike the original, though, the Superformance GT40 offers its occupants effective air conditioning, power mirrors and other niceties that make the prospect of a long tour or rally seem like a good idea rather than corporal punishment.

The Superformance GT40 rolling chassis retails for $109,900. The finished car that we sampled, which comes complete with installed engine, Gulf colors, Quaife five-speed transaxle and other upgrades, stickers at $183,450. A new Porsche 911 Turbo S, in comparison, starts at $188,100, and budget at least $3 million for a genuine GT40.

While many of us dream of owning a Cobra or GT40, there are some compelling arguments for going with a quality, usable replica like those offered by Superformance.

SOURCE:

Hillbank Motorsports
(888) 445-5226
hillbankusa.com


This article is from a past issue of the magazine. Like stories like this? You’ll see every article as soon as it's published, and get access to our full digital archive, by subscribing to Classic Motorsports. Subscribe now.

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