Unique Motorcars Homecoming 2000
8th Annual event
At Unique Motorcars’ production facility in Gadsden, Alabama, and at Talladega Grand Prix Raceway complex, Talladega, Alabama (USA)
by Sharon Marberry
above: 427 & 289FIA roadster replicas from all over the continent lined the front of the Unique Motorcars facility.
This is the eighth year for the Unique Motorcars annual open house and track day—and it just gets better each year. This has always been a family event, with something for everyone to do. This year a Poker Run was added for Thursday, turning this into a three-day event with Friday being Open House at the plant and Saturday Track Day at the Talladega Gran Prix Track. Since 1976, Unique Motorcars have been in the business of building Cobra* Replicas. They started in Arizona, but moved the business to Gadsden, Alabama (just an hour north of Birmingham) in 1981. In the past 25 years the company has produced somewhere around 950 cars. The company started as a family business with Jean and Jim Weaver and their sons, Alan, Maurice and Rick. Jean and her sons Alan and Maurice now manage the business. Jim retired several years ago and Rick went back to teaching. Now Jean handles the office and Alan and Maurice manage the shop.
Unique’s annual Homecoming was originally organized as a one-day ‘Thank You’ celebration for past customers, but over the years more things have been added to make this an interesting event for the whole family. People come in for Homecoming 2000 from as far away as New Hampshire, Texas, Florida, Connecticut and North Carolina. After the Thursday poker run most everyone went to the Top O’ The River restaurant for an evening of catfish and hushpuppies. Food, iced tea and bench racing seemed to be the order of the evening. For open house on Friday morning there were some 40 cars on display in front of the shop. The bright sun and the bright colors reflected off the chrome of the roll bars and trim. All 25,000 square-feet of the Unique facility was open to the public. There were parts and cars and projects open for viewing. This is a good opportunity to visit with Maurice and Alan and to see how these cars are assembled.
above left: Cars lined up on Friday for open house.
above right: A chassis w/engine on display.
Unique Motorcars is currently building a car for WCW wrestling champ Bill Goldberg. The engine is a dry sump, 454 c.i.d. Ford NASCAR built by Ernie Elliot. Power goes through a toploader four-speed. The engine is rated at 898 hp. All the cars use a custom front end that is fitted to the 2X4-inch ladder-type frame. Jaguar suspension is used in the rear. Unique Motorcars has its own fiberglass shop where the bodies and fiberglass interior parts are produced. In addition to the bodies, Unique also builds the complete chassis and many of the accessory parts as well.
Everyone gathers early Saturday morning for the 60-mile drive from the factory to the racetrack. There were several open seats and we quickly became part of the semi-official Unique Motorcars convoy (some of the cars went out on trailers and met us at the racetrack).
Last year the 1.4-mile Talladega Grand Prix Raceway was pretty rough, but this year the track has been repaved and made just a little bit longer by straightening out one of the corners. By the time we arrived at the track, the clouds had burned off and it was in the high 80s with humidity to match.
At Talladega track…
The annual group photo was the first order of the day, with everyone gathering on the high bank of one of the sweeping turns. The schedule called for practice laps in the morning with time trials scheduled for just after lunch. At the driver’s meeting there was some talk about the new track. The extra length offset the new pavement so the elapsed times were very close to last year’s and some of the cars with sticky tires were doing very well on the new pavement. Lunch was served a few minutes early when John Nafziger’s car suffered a blown engine and leaked oil on the track. So everyone took a break, had lunch and worked on their cars, while the track crews dried out the track. The Unique crew served delicious smoked pork sandwiches for the noon meal and provided cookies and soft drinks all day for everyone.
After lunch the track was dry and cars were soon lined up in the pits to start the time trials. Several of the cars suffered from the hot day and the faster track. Don Flower, Don Porter and Mike Sullivan all were out early due to blown engines. When Sullivan’s engine went, the car took a spectacular flying spin. “Well, yes, I flew through the air for about 25 feet, but the car didn’t suffer much damage, other that the engine is going to need some work,” he said. The afternoon went fast and the times between the cars were real close. But soon it was time for the shoot out and the three fastest times of the day were sent back out onto the track. They were: Joe Traut in his 351 powered car with the LeMans top, Tom Davis in a 427 and Sammy Campbell in his 427. And when the dust had cleared, it was time for the awards. Master of Ceremonies Maurice Weaver presented Linda Dunn with the award for the fastest Woman’s Time. Michele Lincoln, in a car she built herself, took the award for the fastest small-block. With a big grin, Sammy Campbell received the fastest big-block award. Twenty-eight-year-old Joe Traut almost needed three hands to carry all his awards. He received awards for Longest Tow (all the way from Sharon, Massachusetts), Fastest Medium-block and overall Fastest time. The LeMans top sure gives Joe’s Cobra* a different look. “This is a good day for us,” said Joe Traut. “We are using a crate 351 engine with 17,000 miles on it. The engine ran strong and we had the right combination with the wheels and tires.”
above: Saturday morning—a caravan to the track for time trials.
above: Joe Traut, above, in the red flyer with a LeMans top, was the quickest of the day.
above: Michele Lincoln at speed.
above: Linda Dunn turned the Fastest Time in Women’s Class.
above: Michele Lincoln took Fastest Time in the Small Block Class.
above: Joe Traut took awards for The Longest Tow, Fastest Medium Block and Fastest time Overall.
above: Sammy Campbell received the Fastest Big Block award.
above: lining up for tract time
above: Friday night BBQ dinner
230 East Broad Street
Gadsden, Alabama 35903
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