Unique Motorcars Homecoming 1999
7th Annual event
At Unique Motorcars’ production facility in Gadsden, Alabama, and at
Talladega Grand Prix Raceway complex, Talladega, Alabama (USA)
by Charles Edward
above: 427 & 289FIA roadster replicas from all over the continent lined
the front of the Unique Motorcars facility.
Unique Motorcars is well known for their high-quality Cobra replicas. They’re also well known for their annual “Homecoming” get-together. Jean Weaver and her sons, Alan and Maurice own and manage the business located in Gadsden, Alabama. They’ve been producing Cobra replicas since 1977. The shop, located on East Broad Street, is just one hour’s drive north of Birmingham.
Here are the movers & shakers of the Weaver family responsible for this fun-filled annual event. Jean Weaver flanked by her sons, Alan on your left and Maurice on your right.
Seven years ago the Weaver family organized Homecoming. It started out as a “thank you” celebration and a chance for owners to meet with the factory and discuss car building and do a little bench racing. Over the years it has grown into a two-day celebration with an open house, great food and a day at the track racing against the clock.
This year there were 40+ roadsters that made the annual trek to attend the weekends events. Some came from as far as New Hampshire, North Carolina, Texas and Florida.
Although Homecoming’s Open House doesn’t officially start until Friday morning, cars start arriving on Thursday evening with everyone meeting at the Top o’ The River restaurant for shrimp and catfish. Actually it’s a lot like old home week with everyone greeting old friends and making new ones.
During the open house the entire shop was on display with work-in-progress cars, and roadsters being made ready for shipment.
Another front suspension setup on display.
Unique is one of the very few companies that produce a 1963 LeMans-style hard top.
Friday-evening dinner in the park
The weather was splendid for the open-air dinner after the open house on Friday.
Friday morning the event officially starts with an open house during the day followed by dinner in the city park. The weather was very good with bright sunshine and 75° (F) weather. During the open house the entire shop area featured cars and parts on display and work-in-progress vehicles and kits being prepared for shipment. One section of the facility is the fiberglass shop. This is where handlaid bodies are created in both 427S/C and 289FIA molds.
During the open house, Maurice reflected upon the reasons why Unique Motorcars is doing so well when some of the other replica companies are having problems. “Our business is a small family operation,” He said. “We’re very concerned about quality. “Our cousin, Terry Harbin, does the fiberglass work for us. My brother Rick is a teacher. He had a small screen-printing business on the side, so we use him to do our shirts. Turnover in our shop is low. Our newest employee has been with us since 1994.”
On Saturday Homecoming starts early with the cars meeting at the factory and caravaning together for the one-hour drive to the Talladega Grand Prix Raceway, a 1.3-mile road course situated southeast of Gadsden.
Above: It’s off to the races. All the Unique roadsters departed from the factory early Saturday morning for the hour-long caravan to the track.
Above: Prior to getting started everyone assembled for a safety briefing and to get this great group photo.
Jim and Angie Brownlee brought their one-of-a-kind Unique Motorcars roadster. The car is powered by a Ford Taurus SHO engine with a Paxton supercharger. The engine is hooked up to a 5-speed transmission using a hand fabricated bellhousing.
Safety is always a concern, so before the day’s activities get underway there’s a drivers’ meeting and a safety briefing.
There were many interesting cars at the track. Terry Pendleton, former Third Baseman for the Atlanta Braves, was showing some fast times with his car. The engine is an Ernie Elliot-built hi-bred 351 NASCAR block, bored out to 454cid, transferring its power through a toploader 4-speed tranny.
Terry and Cathy Pendleton’s Unique 427S/C features an Ernie Elliot-built hi-bred 351 NASCAR block bored/stroked out to 454. Power gets transferred to the wheels through a toploader 4-speed and a Jag/Salisbury rear.
Jim Brownlee made a very respectable showing with his Taurus-powered Unique 289FIA. The Paxton supercharger didn’t hurt it any.
Cars were divided up into classes for the timed runs. During the big block timing runs John DiGuilio overcooked his 427 on the last corner before the main straightaway and slid across the grass making contact with the tire wall. DiGuilio was OK but the car suffered some broken fiberglass (see below).
“This is a good example of the quality of our cars,” said Maurice Weaver. “It won’t take us too long and we’ll have the car back on the track.”
By late afternoon, with only seconds separating the times, it was anybody’s guess as to who would walk away with the trophy for the fastest trip around the track.
Joe Traut receiving his marching orders from Nicole Nester, just prior to running his last qualifying lap.
Whatever Nicole said must’ve had a favorable effect. Joe came all the way from Sharon, Massachusetts and took home three awards: 1-Longest Tow; 2-Fastest Medium-Block, and Overall Fastest Time.
Anticipation was high at the end of the day while everyone waited for the scores to be announced and the awards presented.
above: Michele Lincoln, driving the Unique 427 roadster she built herself, receives the “Fastest Small-Block” award from Maurice Weaver.
Linda Dunn received the “Fastest Female” award.
Sammy Campbell was awarded the “Fastest Big-Block” award.
Soon everyone was loading up and getting ready for the long drive home. And already in garages across America cars are being prepared for next year’s event.
If you’d like to obtain more details about this exciting event or would like more information on Unique’s splendid lineup of 427S/C and 289FIA replicas, visit their website, or give them a call at one of the telephone numbers listed below:
230 East Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama 35903
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