Wall Street Journal
feature article--excerpts

A major (36-column-inch) feature article by WSJ staff reporter Daniel Michaels about Kirkham's Cobra connection in Poland appeared in the Wall Street Journal European Edition on 20 March 1997, and in the Journal's North American Edition on 28 March, 1997, titled

"The Hot Rod That Came In From The Cold"

A few excerpts for you from that article:

Thursday, 20 March 1997

For a Car That Flies, Try a Shelby Cobra from a MiG Factory
American handcrafts replicas in Polish aircraft complex,
stirring up rivals in U.S.

"See this?" David Kirkham yells over the roar of lathes and hammers. "This isn't automotive machining," he says, running a finger along the finely-honed metal. "These are aviation specifications. That's what you get building cars in an aircraft factory."

The car, the ultrafast Shelby 427 Cobra, is the stuff of auto legends. The factory, PZL-WSK Mielec SA, has its own history: During the Korean War, it turned out MiG-15 fighters for the communist north. Today the unlikely combination forms one of the stranger defense-industry conversions, mixing a pricey Western pastime with faded East Bloc military might.

Using elements from his own and friends' original Cobras, Dave Kirkham first commissioned the Mielec machinists to craft replica parts. Collectors, hungry for high-quality (replacement) equipment, heard about the project and snapped up everything Mr. Kirkham offered. Today his operation crafts some 700 of the Cobra's 1,500-plus components. Some even end up in cars from rival Shelby American, sourced through middlemen.

Mr. (Carroll) Shelby, now 74 years old, turned out fewer than 350 of the two-seaters between 1965 and 1969. His handcrafted Cobras paired a lightweight aluminum racecar body from Britain's AC Cars Ltd. with a massive eight-cylinder, 500-plus-horsepower engine from Ford Motor Co. It quickly became a sports-car icon, blending graceful styling with a top speed above 200 miles per hour--a bracing 320 kilometers per hour.

David Dralle, a 30-year Cobra race driver in California who now rebuilds engines for the Kirkhams' cars, says they're "identical to or better than the original." Having pushed one to 187 miles per hour (about 300 kilometers an hour), he says the Polish-built cars' progeny is appropriate: "It's like flying a MiG on the ground."



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(
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return me to Kirkham Motorsports home page

take me to the AutoWeek article 1 ("Polish Peace Dividend")

take me to the AutoWeek article 2 ("Poles Apart")

take me to the Wall Street Journal excerpts ("The Hot Rod That Came in from the Cold")