Jim Smart
November 1, 2007
Photos By: Mark Houlahan

If ever there was a guy who has lived his dream, it's racing legend Carroll Shelby. It was during the Great Depression when his dream emerged as a germinating seed on the Texas prairie: to go racing and build the world's fastest sports car. Shelby sure got his dream-racing Aston-Martins and winning Le Mans in 1959.

Long about the same time, John Tojeiro of England was building a sports car known as the AC Ace, powered by a Bristol 2.0L six-cylinder engine. When Bristol announced it would stop making this engine, Tojeiro had a serious dilemma. He investigated a variety of engines without success.

Thousands of miles across the Atlantic and North American continent, Shelby had a challenge of his own-how to produce a sports car and what to power it with. When he learned the Ace was about to be chloroformed, he got on the horn to General Motors, seeking small-block Chevrolet V-8s to power what would be known as the Cobra. Because Chevrolet already had a sports car in its Corvette, no one at GM was buying. GM would ultimately regret this decision.

Shelby decided to darken the door of then Ford Division General Manager Lee Iacocca with the same idea he proposed to Chevrolet, only this time, it was Ford's new small-block Fairlane V-8. Because Iacocca was seeking a hot performance image for the Ford Division, he jumped on the idea and welcomed Shelby. Tall, lean, and good-looking, Shelby was just what Iacocca was looking for at the time; he had just the kind of suds to take Ford places it had never been before.

Ford provided Shelby with a 260ci small-block V-8 for the prototype Cobra being built in Los Angeles. There would be thousands of others to follow, in displacements as high as 427 ci sporting legendary performance that would take Shelby back to Le Mans as a world-class car builder.

This is a Jack Roush 427IR with eight-barrel fuel injection. Ready to go are 560 horses along with 550 lb-ft of torque, all from a ready-made, high-performance crate engine you can trust. You've got to love the retro ceramic-coated bananas.

When Shelby went racing with his Cobras, they were light, fast, and handled like no other sports car at the time. Where they suffered was aerodynamics-those open-air cockpits created all kinds of air-disturbance issues that adversely affected high-speed performance. Shelby watched what Chevrolet did with its slippery Corvette Stingray coupes and decided to use the same approach with his Cobras. His Cobra roadster became the legendary Daytona Coupe, which beat Corvette by four seconds its first time out with Shelby at the wheel. The following year (1964) Shelby's Daytona Coupes would achieve world dominance over both Chevrolet and Ferrari.

In a world of fiberglass and aluminum Cobra replicas, it's challenging to define the difference between what Shelby built 40 years ago and what reputable car builders like Superformance bring us today. Shelby's Cobras were aluminum-skinned; most replicas are fiberglass or composite. It's a jungle out there because not every replica is a good one.

Superformance brings us a ready-made, well-built composite-body, tubular, double A-arm chassis Cobra sports car that transcends Shelby's magnificent work four decades ago. Superformance takes Shelby's Cobra concept to the next level, with Shelby licensing to back it up, resulting in a round-tube, space-frame design that gives these cars an authentic look. Engineering began with Jim Price, late Ford chassis engineer Bob Negsted, and Roush chassis engineer Dan Bamford. Wes Schultz performed finite element analysis. These gentlemen collectively developed one of the best independent automobile chassis in the world by taking Shelby's approach from four decades ago and going one better. Negsted had the good fortune of working with Shelby long ago, bringing his expertise to Superformance before he passed away a few years ago.

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Negsted, Bamford, and Shultz developed a fully independent suspension for the Superformance chassis. It closely resembles Negsted's and Klaus Arning's work from the '60s-an unusual A-arm design that still works well today. When you mix in Bilstein and H&R coilover shock technology coupled with refined power rack-and-pinion steering, you have an unbeatable system that makes a Superformance SPF Coupe handle like it's on rails. Stopping grunt comes from power-assisted Australian PBR disc brakes. Cast-alloy 18-inch wheels and Nitto tires present an all-business FIA persona.

Shelby's own Pete Brock shaped the Daytona Coupe body into a perfect aero form. It's a super-slippery, lightweight composite body that penetrates the atmosphere with a minimum of drag. There are no bumpers to disturb the slipstream: Everything about the darn thing is aero, including the mirrors.

Although it's easy to call the Superformance SPF Coupe a kit car, it's really not because it arrives at your door as a rolling, painted, ready-to-complete automobile-just install your favorite wheels and powertrain.

This is all Jim Weigle of West Virginia had to do when he ordered his SPF Coupe from Olthoff Racing in North Carolina. Weigle's passion for this '64 Superformance SPF Coupe can't be underestimated-he lives and breathes fast cars. In his stable are other fast rides: a '98 Dodge Viper GTS-R, a '64 Fairlane Thunderbolt, the first Factory Competition 289 Cobra, a '64 Fairlane 427 restomod, a CAV GT-40 MkI replica, a '70 Shelby GT350 replica, an '05 Mustang GT with a 427 SOHC engine swap, and an '07 Ford GT Supercar in Tungsten Silver [I wonder if Mr. Weigle will adopt me-Ed.].

The SPF Coupe has all the creature comforts of a modern sports car, with the authenticity of 1964.

The heart and soul of Weigle's Superformance Coupe is Jack Roush's own 427IR Windsor block V-8. Because Roush has a natural bend for {{{Ford}}} power, he knew how to package this custom-built crate engine. Imagine a turnkey crate engine from one of the greatest names in Ford history. We're talking 560 hp, nearly 550 lb-ft of torque, 10.25:1 compression that performs on pump gas, a Ford Racing E303 hydraulic-roller camshaft, a stack injection system, and more. Behind the Roush 427 is a Tremec T56 six-speed designed for traffic, road racing, and the open highway. Power meets the road at a BTR Hydratrack differential sporting 3.46 gears.

Inside, the SPF Coupe closely resembles the high-end Daytona Coupes Shelby built a long time ago. Stewart-Warner instrumentation has been chosen for authenticity and accuracy, with rich leather appointments for comfort. Wrap-around bucket seats yield unbeatable support and comfort. A heated, tinted, and shatterproof windshield provides aircraft-caliber safety and visibility.

Weigle says he didn't buy this car with budget in mind, but it didn't set him back that mucheither. This is an affordable, ready-to-run sports car the average Joe Six-Pack can buy, finish, and enjoy. "This car has the exclusivity of an Enzo Ferrari without the cost," Weigle says. "It's a grand touring supercar capable of 200 mph.

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The Details
'64 Superformance SPF Coupe

Owner: Jim Weigle, Parkersburg, WV

Engine
Jack Roush 427IR
Dart four-bolt main block
4.125-inch bore
4.000-inch stroke
560 hp
540 lb-ft of torque
Forged-steel 4340 crankshaft
Forged-steel H-beam connecting rods
Wiseco forged pistons with plasma-moly rings
E303 hydraulic-roller camshaft
Individual-stack fuel injection
2.080/1.600-inch valves in aluminum heads
Extruded aluminum 1.6:1 roller-rocker arms
MSD Ignition

Transmission
Tremec T56 six-speed

Rearend
BTR/Dana Hydratrac differential
3.46 gears

Exhaust
Custom ceramic-coated, equal-length headers
Superformance-built sidepipes

Suspension
Front: Unequal A-arm, Bilstein shocks, H&R coilover springs, rack-and-pinion steering
Rear: Independent, Bilstein shocks, H&R coilover springs

Brakes
Front: PBR, 12.8x1.25-inch disc, two-piston caliper
Rear: PBR, 12x1-inch disc, single-piston caliper

Wheels
Front: Superformance cast-alloy, 18x8-inch
Rear: Superformance cast-alloy, 18x10-inch

Tires
Front: Nitto NT555, P255/45ZR18
Rear: Nitto NT555, P285/45ZR18

Interior
Leather and Alcantra bucket seats, short-throw shifter, Stewart-Warner instrumentation, full heat and A/C system

Exterior
Superformance composite body in black, heated windshield, custom ceramic-coated exhaust

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