It's not a real disease. Let's rather call it constraint or "inner must". It started 1982. But this fact became conscious to my mind much later.
1982 I bought my first Roadster. It was an Alfa Romeo Spider 2000, builded 1980 with colour "Ferrari Red". A dream had become true.
This should continue for six years. Six years, which where companioned by big sorrows caused by rust problems, occured unless of loving care, and a necessary new varnish. But no bitterness, it was the "topless fulfilment".
Now came the time to come back to my senses. I finished my polytechnical degree and inpatient I wanted to start my carreer. Stop childishness. A new black BMW should fix it. He did, because it was winter.
In the following years it became slowly, but increasingly certain to me that a real summer needs an real roadster. Finally it seemed not my nature to listen to reason. This time "it" should be something real, something conclusive like a marriage. After the certainty that I needed "it" the question was "what"? Sure, a BMW Z3 is a nice car, but my dreams had different names, like Morgan +8, Jaguar E Type or ... COBRA ?
When I'm really yearning for something all riscs and disadvantages are wiped away quite soon. Encouraged by the idea to own an oldie, a dreamcar, a genuine roadster with modern equipment I jumped head over into the adventure. I build a cit car - my choice was COBRA.
There were two exessive years which followed. Next to my job I was fully engaged in COBRA building. Daily I stayed about one or two hours in my garage. Saturday was sheduled full time and even on Sundays I seldom forgot the project. I'm still afraid to put together all hours for procurements, car transports, show visits and other means to organize parts. But it was fun.
At this point all thanks to my understanding wife Claudia. You can see her drive on some of the neat pics.
A kit car is not a car in parts you simply have to srew together. Most of the technical items needed to be designed om my own. Especially regarding the interior equipment, there were absolutely no ideas given. The car was mounted in a small standard size garage which provided oppressive narrowness. But fortunately I owned a small workshop where I could weld, flex and do all necessary metal work.
The building of my kit car can be divided into five steps:
1. The rolling chassis - chassis with axles, steering wheel, pedals, brake unit, tank.
2. The power unit - engine, gear box, cardan shaft.
3. The electric - followed by a first run without car body.
4. The body - lamination of the class-fibre body, paint.
5. The interior - I like it.
By the way before I start to describe the single phases just a note. I'm surely one of these long term builders with a total time of two years. A lot of this time was simply spended sitting in the garage, watching the car, dreaming of the final result.
You may smile, but this was relaxing and the best ideas occured in these moments calming down.
One principle was of highest priority. Never produce scrab. Scrab is lethal. Anything which is not fixed properly will disturb fun of running.
...and it runs... 21 years without problems.
The Rolling Chassis
August 93, the first partial consignment of my kit arrived. The rolling chassis so far was the frame with loose connected axles and steering wheel. The whole thing looked scrab-yard-style. Sure, all the used standard parts came from a scrab-yard.
This was absolutely not the look of "my" kit car. First anything was dismantled and cleaned by lots of solvant and mancraft. All wear parts were substituted and finanly I painted all units. The primed frame was also painted brilliant black.
After reassembly the whole thing locked different. Anything locked clean, fresh and brandnew. Three monthes were gone and I just started the real work.
First the internal place for the engine was finished. Thermo blocking material was layed out and covered by aluminium sheets of 0.08" thickness. After finding the perfect fit the sheets were polished. Next item was the breaking unit - only brand new parts were used. Brake and fuel hoses were let among the frame, fixed by enumerous holders. The stainless steel tank needed preparation. Special designed holders were built, the tank is positioned on shock damping rubbers.
Now it was time for the heating unit. Also here no compromise, a brand new heating system from a MINI was installed.
To talk about anything in detail goes much to far. An incredible bunch of details needed to be fixed. Fuel pump and -filter, preparations to connect the steering unit to the host pump, a bigger chapter were the pedals.
All surfaces for the final interior were designed with aluminium double walls. The space between was filled with noise damping material. The clean flat surfaces should later lighten the interior works. The noise level in the car today is perfect. The sound comes from the exhaust pipes and not through the body. That's the way it should be.
Meanwhile the whole design looked like a real car. Since the delivery of the rolling chassis eight monthes were gone. It was the beginning April of 1994.
The Power Unit
Even if a lot of COBRA friends turn up their noses, when somebody really installs a "limp FORD-3-litre" engine into a COBRA, a genuine outrage, I stay behind my decision. That car should be economical for long terms (Folks, I live in Germany), spare parts should be always available and even when I always die when Michael Schumacher is starting in the pole position, I myself rather enjoy cruising. Anyway that engine can compete with a lot cars and has a nice torque.
So, a V6-engine, 150 HP, 2.9 litre was urgently needed. I was not easy to find the right engine. Like alwys finally I was in luck. Somebody offered me a complete car, a perfect accident, nearly new and complete. All the spare parts would have been nice, but I had no place for a whole car and so I refused.
In the next phase I received a whole lot of offers. Exotic people with fine engines, just 250.000 miles and small defects only, oh Lord.
When I understood that I rested on a week foundation the guy with the complete car called again and offered to disassemble the engine and deliver it single with anything I needed.
Rescued! I purchased anything for a fixed price: engine, gear box, cardan shaft, generator, steering host pump, complete exhaust pipes, control unit and not finally the engine wiring. The parts were dismantled professionally and delivered free house.
The boys were members of a "Ford-CRANADA" motor club and fully enthusiastic. I loved them, it was a "win win" situation.
First I gave the engine a new look. This part shouldn't be underestimated. The engine's block and the gear box needed to be cleaned, affectionated I cleaned the gear box with a tender steel brush. The block was painted black then I got parts chromium plated. Properly spoken it was not my first intention to chrome so much, but I found advantages: it's enduring and easy to clean. Yes, easy to clean. Once a year I wash it with warm water and soap, that's it. It looks always like new.
The cast exhaust pipes on the block are a highlight - O.K. somehow I'm a maniac -. They are chemical nickel plated. This gives them a wounderfull metallic coulor which turns blue at high heat spots. Don't laugh, this hobby needs some kind of enthusiasm.
Finally I disassembled the cable devices of the coupling and substituted these by a mixed Mercedes/BMW hydraulic unit. The coupling really feels premium class style.
My little garage had two crucial advantages, a pit and a small hand crane. So I was enabled to position the engine with gear box hanging free in a rope supported by wodden logs. This made possible to adjust necessary holders and weld them to the frame.
To connect gear box with differential gear the cardanic shaft was shortened from 5.4 feet to 2.1 feet. It was important to balance the new design.
First car electrics were to be unusual for me, but their basics were easy to understand. I learned these from a textbook for car electricians.
The wiring tree of the engine, also delivered by the GRANADA guys, connects control unit with the engine's sensors.
Next to this I bought a 100% functional basic wiring tree for the car's electrics by MM-kit-cars.
The next item, completely my part, was the elctrics behind the panel. Anything here is directly fixed on the backside of the panel.
Detailed descriptions would lead to far. Just so much: the whole electric part was not easy for me, I spent days and weeks over it, but the result can be shown:
The whole wiring tree leads to a plug behind the panel. All cables are marked with enduring plastic labels. Any car electrician could easly work on the electrics without any plans. Sure, these are available, too.
The wiring onto a plug makes the disassembly of the panel easy possible within a few minutes.
So far it was a whole lot of work, but then ...
...the result made my blood boiling, adrenalin pure, an emotional climax. The six-cylinder started. Terrible noise was pumped through bare tubes. O.K. in reality it was just a frame with a chromed engine, but it felt like a COBRA. It had fire inside and i loved it.
Chassis and Paint
Painting started with a desaster although anything began quite positive without problems.
Summer 94 came to an end. It was sheduled now to laminate the body to the frame, then painting in winter, parallel I wanted to manufacture the interior, especially the panel. It looked that 95 should be the first driving season.
Here one hint: Add minimum 50% to your optimistic shedule, then you are positioned right. Maybe you read (or not - it's German) Bernd Boettchers experiences. Guaranteed there comes the time when it sticks.
The lamination of the body should not be my thing. That was clear from the beginning. For perfect fit I wanted an experienced professional to do it. I ordered it at Mario Malzkorn. A good decision. Mario's carrier transported the rolling chassis. With an unimportant delay I could accept the laminated body in Duesseldorf and take my baby back home.