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:) The Phoenix Project begins: Sunday, February 24, 2002

Five years ago I researched every conceivable kit car site and manufacturer, trying to find a car that was buildable by a semi-experienced amateur auto mechanic (me), street legal, open-top, affordable, thoroughly engineered (so no welding, fabrication, or backyard engineering would be required), cool looking, and carrying only American parts (sorry!). About then, two brothers in Massachusetts, Mark and Dave Smith, were getting the word out on their new company’s kit car, the Factory Five Racing “replica” of a 1965 427 S/C Shelby Cobra roadster. Replica hell, I considered it BETTER than the original Cobras after reading their brochures: a steel tubular frame, with aluminum sheet bonded and riveted to the frame to form the interior, firewall, trunk, and engine compartments, jig welded to precise tolerances, and designed to make use of the engine, tranny, rear axle, electronics, switch gear, and brake/cooling/steering systems from a wrecked Fox-body Mustang (’87-93 vintage). I flew to Massachusetts to meet the Smiths, toured their factory, verified they were for real, and laid my money down.

I started building my car, FFR #1152, June 1, 1997, finished it in December, 1997, and drove it 62,000 miles all over the USA the following four years. It was a conservative car, stock 5.0 Ford engine with EFI and 5-speed T-5 transmission. Along the way, I learned to autocross race it, ran it on the open track at Charlotte and Sebring, raced the incomparable open road autocross “Bay Bottom Crawl” at Sugarloaf Key three years in a row, drove it from Jupiter , FL to the top of Pikes Peak and back, road-tripped to Sacramento, CA for a “team autocross” event, to Cape Cod, MA for a Factory Five sponsored autocross, and ran all over the Blueridge Mountains in North Carolina every chance I got. It was even the getaway car for a wedding last year of some folks deeply connected with this forum! The car never failed me, I always made it home, and had an absolute BLAST driving it. FFR #1152 was constantly a point of conversation and interest with folks I met while traveling, and was the greatest car I ever owned.

Well, that’s all history. February 4, 2002, FFR #1152 spontaneously ignited in our garage and burned to the ground, along with the entire contents of the garage…including my wife’s S2000! What happened is still a bit of a mystery, and maybe the subject for a later article. The bottom line is: Gotta build a new FFR. I have a new kit scheduled to arrive around March 20, 2002, at the house we’re renting while our former home is rebuilt. It’ll be a good thing: I have all new tools, a relatively empty rental garage to work with, friends who have built FFR’s recently to help push this thing forward at a rapid pace, and Factory Five has just improved the kit so significantly it’s now referred to as the “Mark II”. I’m calling this effort “The Phoenix Project” (because “Project Phoenix” makes for an unpalatable acronym), and will try to keep you all abreast of how the project progresses via these reports.

STOP ME if this in uninteresting, OK? The administrator swears you Acura-heads want to know about this American V-8 heavy metal project, but if he is wrong, please feel free to tell me so! I’m connected somewhat to ya’ll because my wife, Lynn, chose a silver 2002 TL-S to replace her S2000. So far we love the car, but are still breaking it in so no enthusiastic driving yet. I'm hoping to learn a lot about mods and other tips from this forum.

More news as something happens! John Phillips
 

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sorry to the hear about the lost of your car...atleast u have a new project car to work on!
im trying to get a 53 chevy truck...im planning to hot rod it! what tools are you going to get? Craftsman?
 

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StylinAccord said:
sorry to the hear about the lost of your car...atleast u have a new project car to work on!
im trying to get a 53 chevy truck...im planning to hot rod it! what tools are you going to get? Craftsman?

Ouch craftsmen are ok tools for bumping around in the garage but if your serious about tools or use them for as living.. Snapon

Nothing worse then a failing torque wrench at 110lbs :mad:
 

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For all of you who might not know much about FFR (Factory Five Racing) and their Cobra replicas, visit www.factoryfive.com and www.cobraforum.com. The latter URL is a great place to hang out and see some TRUE gearheads throwing ideas around. I have a great deal of respect for anyone who can build one of these replicas - it is no small ordeal.

Welcome again, John!
 

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Hand tools are mostly Craftsman, as they are good enough for my use, replaceable with no questions asked anywhere in the country, and (very important) not expensive! Power hand tools are a mix, depending on what's on sale when I need it and if it feels good when I heft it.

For anyone interested, pics of my "old" FFR and all the things we did with it are at: http://members3.clubphoto.com/john257347/owner-8323-1.phtml It'll give you an idea of why I am anxious to build another.

I'll try to post pics of the new build as it comes along. First pics should be of the kit being unloaded from the 18-wheeler at our house.
 

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I would LOVE to have one of those. Unfortunatley things like money, technical know-how, and time prevent me from having one...:cry:
 

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Engine decision time. Advice from folks more knowledgable than I are that I should build/buy either a Ford 331 (stroked 302) or 392(stroked 351) with EFI. Rear wheel horsepower should be near 325 - 425 depending on which is chosen. Smaller engine is 50+ pounds lighter, larger engine makes up for the bigger weight with WAY more horsepower and pavement-peeling torque. I was able to use all the HP in my old FFR with stock 5.0, 225 rear wheel horsepower, but wanted a little more kick out of tight autocross turns. I'm persuaded to opt for the 331: it's lighter, still 100 HP more than I had before, likely to be more compatible with the transmission and rear axle I'll be using without needing constant repair or heavy-duty upgrades, and I just like the "small engine making big power with high revs" angle...kind of "Acura-esque" in that regard! Now to figure the transmission, rear gears, wiring harness and brake system needed! John Phillips

P.S. Nootch, I understand the time and money concerns. But don't let a perceived lack of technical knowledge or ability keep you from building a car. It's JUST like building a big model kit, only with no glue, and you get to drive it when you're done!
 

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jlphil said:
Engine decision time. Advice from folks more knowledgable than I are that I should build/buy either a Ford 331 (stroked 302) or 392(stroked 351) with EFI. Rear wheel horsepower should be near 325 - 425 depending on which is chosen. Smaller engine is 50+ pounds lighter, larger engine makes up for the bigger weight with WAY more horsepower and pavement-peeling torque. I was able to use all the HP in my old FFR with stock 5.0, 225 rear wheel horsepower, but wanted a little more kick out of tight autocross turns. I'm persuaded to opt for the 331: it's lighter, still 100 HP more than I had before, likely to be more compatible with the transmission and rear axle I'll be using without needing constant repair or heavy-duty upgrades, and I just like the "small engine making big power with high revs" angle...kind of "Acura-esque" in that regard! Now to figure the transmission, rear gears, wiring harness and brake system needed! John Phillips

P.S. Nootch, I understand the time and money concerns. But don't let a perceived lack of technical knowledge or ability keep you from building a car. It's JUST like building a big model kit, only with no glue, and you get to drive it when you're done!
Well I would personally go with a standard 5.7L 350 EFI ... again depending on what the final weight distribution is.. Aftermarket support for the 350 will be greater and it would be easier to look into upgrades to a Ligenfelter LS1/LS6 twin turbo on a standard 5.7 :D

And arent most stroker kits to the 350 reaching a limit at 383 unless you swap out to 401 crank and rods?
 

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Oh to have that choice, John!! Makes me want to make one. :-/

Anyway, bearing in mind that the FFR kit takes a standard 5.0 mount and you don't want to have to modify the mounts and pipings, etc too terribly much, I'd say go with the 331 - less weight, and I don't know that the FFR can have wheels wide enough to put that kind of power down. Doesn't Jason (the one with the yellow FFR with a blower) have curve issues? I recall that he could only use the HP in a straight line...

And since you use the IRS kit, isn't the FFR IRS only guaranteed up to a certain HP/Tq?

Again - the 392 just sounds like a monster.

Besides - you could always use a supercharger on the 331. :pimpgrin:
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Chebby parts are out of the question, 350 or otherwise. Got to be all Ford, otherwise this entire puddle of 5.0-type information and experience I've accumulated will be for naught, and I'll be shunned by the Cobra crowd for having a bastard beast of impure pedigree. In fact, even though the Shelby American club welcomes replica Cobras at their events, you're not allowed on the grounds if you're running anything other than Ford power. A significant consideration, as they sponsor open track events at Charlotte, Lime Rock, Las Vegas, etc. annually. Those are venues I aspire to try sometime in the future if all goes well. All my "brain trust" advisors concur on the 331/aluminum heads/Edelbrock or Holley intake choice; glad to get some thumbs-up here too!
 

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Hey John - another idea would be to get domed-top pistons and stronger rods - make the engine a bit over-square. If the upper engine could take it, that might give you an extra 500-1000 RPM which may translate to more HP.

Ideas? Admittedly, I'm no engine guru. :eek:
 

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Why did you choose FFR and not a Superformance for example? I don't get the impression is it a financially driven decision.

I have had my heart set on a Superformance as soon as "my ship comes in." But that just got dashed with Ford's announcement of the GT40 production...
 

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Any thoughts to building the next one up a bit more, like say a nice little A-Trim kit or 347 stroker?

I've always liked the Cobra kit cars. One of those is definitely on my "wish/pipe dream/hope to build someday list"
 

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Discussion Starter #15
MikeS 18, The Factory Five choice was an easy one for me. I'm very familiar with the car, was pretty successful at the kind of racing I did with my old one, had some specific ideas of how to improve the performance of the car in the new build, and have many friends who have built, developed and raced FFR's who are willing to help me. There is incomparable internet assistance available for FFR builders. I also received a killer deal from Factory Five on this new car, and have been friends with the Smith brothers (who founded and run FFR) since I met them at their factory before buying my first kit in April 1997, so feel a great deal of loyalty to their product. They have always treated me like a member of their family, and I admire what they've accomplished.

Superformance is a prebuilt factory assembled car. At most you just get to install the engine/trans, but it is one fine machine for sure. Some guys are using them very aggressively on tracks around the USA, and the USA importer did Car & Driver's One Lap of America the past couple of years if I remember right, fairly successfully. ERA, Unique, and some others I've seen are really nice, a bit expensive to build, and are not seen very often at autocross or open track events I've been to. They tend to be heavier cars, with less-stiff frames and have fewer folks out there sharing info on how to make em handle better. I believe many builders of those other types of replicas have a different use in mind for their cars, like shows, cruising, and socializing. All valid pastimes, but not what I'm interested in.

The FFR fits my ambitions perfectly, I can afford to build and maintain it without breaking the bank, and I can wail away on it all I want to without thinking I'm ruining a showcar. Some guys DO build show-quality FFR's and more power to em, but mine will be given a "5-foot test" paint job so I won't be tempted to worry about nicks, rubs, or cone marks. Hey, maybe I over-answered your question, huh? Sorry, got that stream of consciousness thing going awhile! Yeah, the GT-40 is awesome, I hope Ford doesn't screw it up when they to producing them for sale. The show versions they displayed are perfect.

The engine I ordered is a 331 with AFR aluminum heads, race balanced cast crank, forged rods & pistons, dampener and billet flywheel, X303 FMS cam, 1.6 roller rockers, and that's about all I can think of now. Buying a crate longblock is a little daunting: you lay down a bunch of $ trusting the guys who build it to do a conscientious job, then you have to buy a LOT of other pieces to make an operable engine: all the EFI components including intake, injectors, fuel rails, valve and timing covers, water pump, alternator and P/S plus brackets, water pump. pulleys, oilpan, pickup and pump. Headers, engine bolts... Jeez, I'm sure I'm leaving something out. It's coming from California, so there's shipping and delay and risk of damage...we'll see how it comes out about three weeks from now! I've not built up an engine before, this will be a good learning experience. I didn't want to learn to select and assemble the rotating internal parts; too important and too easy to make fatal errors for a first-time guy.

Will report more later. Nope, no plans for a 347 or a blower...this car is for a different use that massive power or torque would not assist.
 

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jlphil said:
P.S. Nootch, I understand the time and money concerns. But don't let a perceived lack of technical knowledge or ability keep you from building a car. It's JUST like building a big model kit, only with no glue, and you get to drive it when you're done!
I wouldn't mind helping to put one together with someone that knows way more then I do about cars. It would be a good way for me to learn about that kind of stuff.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Brief Update

The Phoenix Project is picking up speed. My kit's on an 18-wheeler now, having been loaded at the factory in Wareham, MA on Friday, and is due to be delivered to our home here in Florida Tuesday, 3-19. This is a good trucking outfit, specializing in delivery of Factory Five kits around the USA. They load 8 kits in a typical enclosed trailer, then head out and deliver to your door. The owner of the trucking co. told me they picked up 14 0r 16 kits this week, one truck heading south, and the other to the north and midwest.

I'm running down parts to get ready for our build which begins the last wekend of April. I changed the cam spec'd for the engine, and have a race oil pan, valve covers, distributor, alternator, P/S pump and water pump coming. Tonight's the deadline for figuring out and ordering the intake system: Holley Systemax vs. Edelbrock Performer vs. Ford Motorsports GT40 or Cobra intake manifolds, plus decisions re Mass Air meter, Throttle Body (65 or 70 mm?), injectors (24 or 30 lb.?)

Located the parts for the IRS, bought em from a trusted guy in PA who supplied advice and parts for my first FFR. Also bought AutoMeter gauges from him, so the dash design is coming together. Got a trick steering shaft located, which includes all parts from the steering rack back to the steering wheel, and includes a turn signal mechanism and controller. Same guy is supplying an electronic cruise controller (don't laugh, your leg goes numb on LONG trips from holding the throttle in the same position for hours on end!)

This phase of the project is a little unnatural. My usual tendency is to mull decisions over a long time, and read up on information regarding parts or modifications before deciding what to do, then look all over for the best $ deal on the thing I decided to get, all in small increments. Now, I'm on a fixed deadline to get all the parts to build a car in one place, with very little time to mull over much of anything. I'm using a small group of knowledgeable trusted friends we call "the brain trust" to give me fast advice...and even then, their ideas and advice don't always match. You wanna get a brisk discussion going? Ask a group of 5.0 hotshots what's the best engine to build for autocross, street and occasional open track use...the opinions on the details are all over the map!

Today, front suspension and engine intake decisions, then order the parts. Tomorrow, I figure out the engine/tranny mounts, clutch, transmission, shifter, driveshaft details...everything from the engine back to the rear axle. Tuesday the kit arrives. Wednesday, I'll shoot for cooling system decisions. Then I'll figure out what's next. Will post more as it happens!
 

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NightHawkTypeS said:



Ouch craftsmen are ok tools for bumping around in the garage but if your serious about tools or use them for as living.. Snapon

Nothing worse then a failing torque wrench at 110lbs :mad:

yea, if you got an extra 200$ to spend on that torque wrench ;)
 

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StylinAccord said:
sorry to the hear about the lost of your car...atleast u have a new project car to work on!
im trying to get a 53 chevy truck...im planning to hot rod it! what tools are you going to get? Craftsman?


if you are serious about the truck let me know, i got a buddy w/ a 53 for sale. I just finished doing a 55 chevy suburban myself
 

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