FEATURED:// Fake snakes part 2 - AC Cobra replicas

Cobras always had and always will have massive appeal and therefor a massive following. With under 1000 produced the genuine articles are far beyond the every mans pocket. Dozens of manufacturers add a helping hand here and offer continuation Cobras for decent money. Nice  used ones can be found for around the 25K mark.

If you have'nt read part 1 of 'Fake Snakes': find it here »

RAM Cobra

Realm Engineering is in the Cobra business since the early 80s. Next to replica Jaguar XKSSs, C-, D- and E-types they offer the only Cobra continuation with Carroll Shelbys approval: the RAM.


ThunderRoad RAM Cobra @ Spa Six HoursHaving a Reynard design chassis, roadwise this big snake is more than on par compared to for example Gardner Douglas and SuperPerformance Cobras. In my view both GD and SP Cobras are jewels and in another league when it comes to finish. Especially when looking at the pricing they are aiming for the top end of the market. The RAM seems more driver focussed. Just driver focussed and therefor an excellent choice for the more demanding driver. More about the superb SuperPerformance products in the coming months.

Maiden voyage

It was a cold and very early Februari morning back in 2007 when I had my maiden voyage in a RAM, built by Thunder Road Team mechanic Wayne. I immediately fell for the unfinished and ratty look - loving it! - and the delightfull directness this car offered when on the move. From the first covered yards it was evident this snake breathes sportiness and it feels much more refined and therefor more comfortable than the DAX Cobra mentioned in last months episode. Maybe it’s just me loving hard core cars.

I asked a pack of crazy Dutch guys to join a herd of mad Brits for some Thunder in the Tunnels action. London was the place and at 7-something very early Wayne and I were rolling along following the Thames and on our way to Battersea Park to team up with what must’ve been a gang of 100 loud ones. ‘Our’ car was measured at only 106 and 108 Db - sidepipes - and amazingly it was one of the more silent types around. Along with screaming VXRs, wild Beemers, mad TVRs, Vipers, Corvettes, Lotus’ and the likes the RAM kept revs well below a mellow 5K. We could not care less as the out of this world and hand of God torque delivered by the mildly tuned Ford 460 CID eight banger - that’s 7.6 litres for you - mated to a four speed toploader - coming from a bus, which sounds reasonable considering the power it has to cope with - made necks snap and heads turned anyways. It goes without saying the matching soundbite was beyond category.

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A little while before waving at the Big Ben we got stuck in Tooleys Tunnel and were surrounded by too much Saturday night party zombies blocking our way, “don’t vomid in the car please!” We hardly made any progress for about 30 minutes which is not a thing the Cobra likes. The needle passed the scary 100 mark and we had to even turn off the V8 a few times to prevent things from going wrong. And that was not what we had in mind at all, so note two men talking bad language in a big roadster caught by Cobra racer Phil James:

Speaking of Phil, which brings us to a wet weekend in autumn: the Spa 6 hours 2006 event he had kindly invited me for. And the very first time I experienced real Cobras on the track. The differences with the continuations I knew could not be bigger. Here eye to eye with legendary cars like the ex-Roy Salvadori GPG 4C and the 644 CGT hardtop ex-Le Mans car (the 1963 entry together with 645 CGT, also still races today) makes one humble. Weber fed Gurney Weslake Ford put the vocal capacity of Yank iron in perspective. These cars rock and roll! Coming from the paddock area I naively passed the ‘press only’ signing and aimed my lens at Gods like Oli Bryant, Leo Voyazides and Simon Hadfield. And approacheable Gods . . . Bernard Peruch explained his small block to me, John Bendall gave me insights on his Bizzarinni 327 Competizione, Andrew Smith shared his T70Mk3 adventures and Alasdair McCaig . . . :cough: Sorry for the O/T but Spa is so very special. Did you see the video? Expect a few interviews later this year.

The original Cobras are miles away from todays replicas: their racing pedigree and non-blingness appeal to me, big time. Basic office, harnass, cage, knock off wheels, Webered Yank motor and twin rear exhaust 289 bodies show off rawness that seperates todays road legal cruisers from these historic hardcore track animals. I guess that’s why Waynes RAM is on my favourite car list: it has just that edge. More of that later.

At Spa Cheng Lim (who was a development engineer at RAM in the 80s) shared his 427 fake snake with entrepeneur Phil James. Both men are not afraid to use bucket loads of huge power: this Cobra hides a 630 brake horse power 6.6 litre Chevrolet big block thus racing in Barry Siddery Smiths British Saloon Car Challenge ‘everything goes’ formula. So there’s another side of the Cobra coin. BTW: the team never won untill 2008, but 2006 had the team on the podium for the first time.

 

Chasing the Cobra

The day before Barries Race the Cob was prepared. When I walked in to meet the team the newly fitted brakes had to be tested and Cheng had the beast fired up . . . ready for a fast road outing as the Thunder Road RAM has plates and is fully road legal! Errrr . . . Sidepipes the size of decent houwitzers blatted uneven claps of thunder as the baby engine - the real deal measures the full 7 litres - woke up to do some testing. Phil had the Lamborghini Espada ready and whizzed by with the left door swung open and asked me in for a Cobra chase. Yummie and let’s go, but how uneven where the odds. Having been in a Lamborghini Espada before I knew this 70s GT offers decent pace from its revvy 325 brake V12 unit. But with 500 kilos extra and short of 300 brake on the V8 soon the black monster vanished on its rush to the horizon. Phil revved the nuts of the 3.9 litres of Sant’Agata finest with me hanging out the window trying to capture something of Cheng. Our moment was him bedding in the brakes and almost coming to a halt every now and then which gave us the opportunity to catch up. After this 10 minutes Spa6 interlude three guys with big grins entered the paddock area. Mission accomplished. . .

Barries race

What can I say other than that the British Saloon Car Challenge is like anything I had ever seen before! The top 10 cars are virtially dragracers being 60s and 70s models packing monster engines barking heavy heavy monster sounds. The 50-something vehicles trying to follow - the back of the grid lapped after 3 laps of Spa ground - vary from Imp to TR4 and from C1 Corvette to prewar FN. ThumderRoad RAM Cobra @ Spa La SourceEverything goes indeed. Top 5 saw the RAM Cobra dicing with the 7 litre Beighton Tiger and Chris Scraggs fierce Aston V8, two uber-quick Morgans - Bryant won - and Eike Wellhausers amazing Lister Knobbly. Phil James found a slight drizzle in his favour and he briefly slipped to P1 . But only for a short moment as the two Mogs took advantage of the pace car situation and both finished in front of him. Still, both Cheng and Phil could not be more happy when they danced on the podium spraying Champagne all over the place. Not for the least because Cheng managed the fastest lap in an awesome 2:46!

 

Six Hours race

The day before in the weekends main course Six Hours Endurance Race Shaun Lynns GT40 took the win and Marc Devis brought in the first Cobra at a 24th position. The following years Cobras crept up with Bryants HEM6 being particulary succesfull although unable to win. Six Hours endurance competition becomes more and more serious and with more than a handfull of GT40s in the top of the grid equally thirsty Cobras would find it difficult to get their less slippery bodies past the Fords. For me it’s not about the wins but the sheer sight ‘n sound of a flock of 289 powered snakes thundering up Kemmel straight, negotiating Bus Stop or just coming in after a qualification run. Historic racing just needs big Cobras in their midst. I hope they keep on coming.

 

Lola factory visit

RAM Lola 460 engineOK, back to the RAM 460 Cob. Wayne hooked up at my request to join a Lola Factory Visit in spring 2008. Lola PR man Glyn Jones offered a private tour and peep in the Lola workshop, aerodynamics room, CAD works and the Carbon Fibre process. I could bring 10 friends and within minutes after my invitation mail the yeah-sayers replied willingly. Two of them being replica Cobra owners. A superb convoy picked me up from Luton Airport: the two Cobras, Porsche 944 Turbo, M3, TVR 350i and Cerbera to name a few. I jumped in Waynes car and enjoyed spirited 60 minutes drive to Huntingdon.

Compared to any Mk1 or 2 the Mk3 / 427 design is just that more spacious for us mortals and although this Cobra looks like a small car the seats are comfortable and legroom is ample. The turbulence behind the windscreen however is epic! Sitting in upright position all is very well untill speeds increase. On the A1 hairdo’s got seriously messy as did communication. Directing fellow Lola gang member Phil James from his traffic jam to join us was an SMS jobbie. No way I could use my phone any other way.

In the meantime Wayne was spotting lorries to get passed. Lifting his right foot to watch the companies name and listen to the old dark brown bangs from either sidepipe. “At night I have extra illumination.” Bloody hell how addictive is this. The car is not warp speed quick in the sense that the horizon approaches in a coulourfull motion blur. At any forward motion the 460s torque was always present and it pressed me firmly in the bucket seat. In a very relaxed way - apart from the wind that is - I could even call the RAM refined. Wayne raised an eyebrow when I told him . . .

Without any hint of urge and not just because of the lazy V8 I’d tick the ‘swift cruiser’ box when categorizing this Cobra. With well balanced cornering and an easy shift I realized a Cobra like this is an uber-TR6 really. Being old skool technology with want-to-cuddle appearance, beefy soundbite and eagerness for naughty illegalness. Mmmh, not everyone will agree. Most women seem to like the sexy lines and the masculine rawness of the V8 bark. Anyways: no other car has come close to these descriptions.

More Cobra beauty - click the thumbs
 

Finish

So how about a 3rd part let’s zoom in on a few Mk2 racers . . .

 

Words: Albert Mensinga, January 2011

Photography: Albert Mensinga and Phil James