1-page sidebar article from AutoWeek magazine, 11 March 1996, page 4:

Polish peace dividend...
Former MiG factory now builds Cobra clones

So maybe when Nikita Khrushchev said, "We will bury you," he really meant, "We will build your Cobras."

A factory in Poland that formerly assembled Soviet MiG fighter jets, and now builds fighters and cargo planes for the Polish Air Force, also has something else rolling off the assembly line: Cobra clones.

Strange but true. Even stranger is the fact that the story begins not in Poland, but in Provo, Utah, home of Kirkham Engineering. The principals, David and Thomas Kirkham, are experienced Cobra restorers. They are currently in the middle of a complete restoration of one of their rare Cobra USRRC small-block race roadsters. The Kirkham's 427 Street Cobra (CSX #3104) restoration is almost complete, and enough genuine parts were available to partially assemble a third.

During restoration work, the Kirkhams found a considerable amount of hardware readily attainable--some good, some not, and most of it overpriced. What they really needed was an accurate body and frame, as well as key suspension components. If they had those, they could construct something approaching the real thing--or at least a clone of the real thing.

What the Kirkhams ended up using was a sort of "reverse engineering." They constructed an extremely thorough computer model of the original 427, using CSX #3104 as a guide. To obtain the correct body shape and dimensions, they digitized the body and built the computer model from the cyber-ground up, including the frame (with a "birdcage" for mounting the aluminum skin), forgings, suspension components, brake hardware and differential.

To transfer the model from virtual reality to reality, the Kirkhams needed a technologically advanced, quality-conscious facility. Enter the Polish. The Kirkhams are less than forthcoming about how they actually connected with the Polish plant, but here's a clue: One of the brothers is a former U.S. Air Force engineer; their father is a retired colonel.

In the end, the Polish factory was a perfect choice. It's computer-literate, has Soviet fighter aircraft technology and skilled labor. It also has excess capacity since the crumbling of the Iron Curtain., not to mention a hunger for dollars.

The fruits of the Polish workers' labor is already borne--the photo here shows a Cobra shell in Provo, just off the train, and fresh from Poland. A pallet Cobra, as shown, can be had for $22,000. If you want it complete (minus the engine, transmission and paint)--meaning the suspension, wiring, fuel tank, differential, gauges, seats, upholstery, everything--expect to pay under $50,000. Or about one-tenth the price of the continuation Cobras Carroll Shelby is building with the help of inmates at a Nevada prison. And these are assembled with the high-tech computer imaging and arc welding.

The Kirkhams add that they're in the process of developing tooling in Poland to do 427 cylinder blocks there, so engines can be installed before the car is shipped to the United States.

We suspect this is merely the tip of an iceberg, and that you'll be hearing more about this venture as it unfolds."--Wayne Scraba



For more product information and prices, contact us at:

Kirkham Motorsports
2575 West, 1680 North
Provo, Utah 84601 U.S.A.
(
801) 377-8224 voice line
or email us at
sales@KM427.com

Please mention that you found us at our Cobra Country web site!

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Kirkham Engineering is not connected to holders of these trademarks.

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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")