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Big boys build a toy: Roadster, a Shelby Cobra replica

ST. PETERSBURG — For the past six months, strangers and neighbors alike have been stopping by the Cook home.

Cliff Cook, 74, said several people stop by every day to ask about the Factory Five Roadster he started building in June with his son and grandson. The Roadster, a replica of the classic Shelby Cobra, came in a 25-box kit from Massachusetts.

It has a Ford 302 small-block engine that was taken out of a 1989 Mustang GT. Rick Cook, 46, Cliff's son, restored five Mustangs, including the 1965 Mustang that Rick's son Zac, 17, drives. Rick's experience, along with both his and Cliff's background in mechanical engineering, helped the family get the car running in record time. Cliff said the first time they managed to drive it around the block was July 24.

"He's always been a shade tree mechanic," Rick said of his father, who built the car's dashboard and added his own creative touches like a hot air vent. Rick did the wiring and Zac helped after school.

The original Shelby, dating back to the 1960s, is a car prized by collectors and can sell for more than $1 million. Jason Lavigne, a salesman at Factory Five, says there are only 300 or so left. Even the kit cars can be worth $35,000 to $50,000, he said. The kits retail for $19,900, according to the company's website. They sell about 500 a year.

Cliff Cook said he wouldn't take less than $100,000 for his. It cost him another several thousand for the delivery and paint job, not to mention the emotional attachment the family now has to it.

Rick said Cliff wanted to be involved with every aspect of building the Roadster, which has been his dream for 20 years. He even found a way to be involved when he sent the body to a painter.

"You hand over the part that everyone sees the most," Rick said. "Short of actually squirting the paint, he was involved."

Cliff Cook said he researched the car color with his wife, Gloria, 74. They chose "inferno red crystal pearl."

Gloria was not always able to be so involved. Two months after her husband decided to take on the Roadster after seeing it at a rally in Tampa, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Cliff helped her with daily tasks like walking and eating while working on the car in his spare time. Gloria said she does not know how Cliff survived working in the garage during the summer heat with only two fans.

He said his favorite Bible verse helped him through the past six months.

"Commit thy way unto the Lord, trust in him and he shall bring it to pass," he gestured toward the Roadster. "And he brought it to pass."

Cliff Cook plans to take the 400-horsepower Roadster to car shows or just around town for a ride.

Although he said he is not a boastful person, he seems proud of the family project.

"I'm proud that my family has that same pride."

Big boys build a toy: Roadster, a Shelby Cobra replica 12/25/10 [Last modified: Saturday, December 25, 2010 3:31am]
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