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False Start & Strong Finish – a Unique 289FIA Cobra Replica

Established in 1977, Unique Motorcars is the first Cobra replica manufacturer in the United States. Brothers Maurice and Alan Weaver handle the business of creating and building these fabulous re-creations of the Cobra 427SC and the Cobra 289FIA roadster. A couple years ago Unique added a spectacular 1936 Ford cabriolet replica to their mix of beautiful kit cars. Now, street rod aficionados and vintage sports car fans can build the machine of their dreams, so long as they’re big blue oval followers.

Father Bill Carlson and son Brian Carlson, of Rogers, AR had long envisioned re-creating a Shelby American legend, the car that helped the Ford Motor Company and Carroll Shelby conquer Ferrari in the FIA World Championship in 1965 – none other than a 289FIA replica. Yes, it’s well known that the six Type 65 Daytona Coupes that Shelby American engineer and designer Peter Brock penned were what gave the Ford backed Shelby American Racing team the aerodynamic edge on the large road courses in Europe. But, those 289FIA roadsters were what dominated on the shorter circuits in the U.S. at the start of the ’65 season.
The 289FIA roadsters with race provenance are the very same original Shelby Cobras that garner so much money on the rare occasions that they go up for auction or private sale. Very wealthy car collectors are the only people who can afford the original 289FIAs. For this reason and for the fact that Bill and Brian could build the exact car they wished to have together, father and son began the process of researching the various available 289 Cobra kits on the market in the early 2000s. While doing their research, they found out about a website that was a forum for all Cobra lovers, including the builders of Cobra replicas. They discovered that a Unique Motorcars 289FIA project that was unfinished was available for sale and for less money than what a new kit would cost. The car in question was the fourth 289FIA kit that Unique Motorcars had ever manufactured and was first sold in 1992. Only a few things on the kit had been completed before it had languished under a tarp in the original owner’s garage for 11 years. What’s more, the original owner had written some untrue things about the kit on the forum to the extent that the car had attained legendary status on www.ClubCobra.com.

Not being afraid of a challenge and wanting to secure a quality kit at a discount, Bill and Brian bit the bullet and bought the long-languishing Unique 289FIA and began the painstaking process of its manufacture. Engine and transmission modifications, altering the front suspension, hand fabricating an aluminum walled engine bay, the fastidious father-son Carlson team accomplished all of these changes and more. They did so much to the mechanicals of the car, it’s very technologically advanced, which is saying quite a bit considering how rudimentary original ’60s Cobras are. Some of the features include an Accel Gen 7 Digital Fuel Injection management system for the fuel and ignition and a Baumann Engineering transmission control which adroitly handles the Ford 4R70W electronic four-speed overdrive automatic transmission. Future plans include a Twist Machine paddle shifting system. From start to finish B&B Carlson spent a total of four and a half years making their Unique Motorcars 289FIA a uniquely Carlson 289FIA. At the 2008 Unique Motorcars Homecoming Event in Gadsden, Alabama, Unique Motorcars owners voted the Carlson’s 289FIA the Best 289 at the show. Bill and Brian Carlson took the roadster from a long-languishing false start to a first class finish, which we robustly applaud here at Redline Review. Their Unique 289FIA is the sort of machine we’d love to build ourselves. Congratulations Carlson’s on a job exceptionally well done!




Name: Unique Motorcars

Address, City, State, Zip: 230 E. Broad St, Gadsden, AL 35903

Website Address: www.uniquemotorcars.com

Phone Number: (256) 546-3708

Email Address: info@uniquemotorcars.com

OWNER INFO (if not manufacturer owned vehicle)

Name: Brian and Bill Carlson

City, State: Rogers, AR


Year and type/model: 1964 Unique Motorcars 289FIA replica


Price of Kit: $16,000 – Purchased used from 2nd owner

Total Price as Tested: $40,000

Manufacturer Estimate of Hours to Build/Complete Vehicle: thousands of hours on this car!


Year and type/model: None

MANUFACTURER SECTION – LIST ALL COMPONENTS INCLUDED IN BASE KIT: Base kit was manufactured in 1991, MSO documented in 1992. Original buyer purchased the bare minimum kit, which was the rolling chassis, body, headers and exhaust, fuel tank, wiring with lights, windshield, and rollbar. All other components that came with the car were provided by original owner, most of which were replaced by us.

Frame: Unique Motorcars 2″ x 4″ rectangular tube

Wheelbase: 90″

Rear End: Jaguar with Dana 44 third member, Auburn limited Slip, 3.31:1 – Rebuilt by Mid-South Gear in Knoxville, TN

Rear Suspension: Jaguar IRS with Carrera coil over shocks; 3/4″ sway bar custom bent by Addco

Rear Brakes: Jaguar inboard discs

Front Suspension: MGB based Hoyle Engineering tubular A-arm IFS with GAZ adjustable shocks; 3/4″ sway bar

Front Brakes: Wilwood Dynalite 4-piston calipers custom machined to accept the MGB spindle

Steering: MGB rack and pinion with Borgeson polished U-joints

Front Wheel: Pin drive Trigo FIA, 15″ x 7″

Rear Wheel: Pin drive Trigo FIA, 15″ x 9″

Front Tire: Goodyear Eagle GTII, 235/60R15

Rear Tire: Goodyear Eagle GTII, 255/60R15

Manufacturer: Unique Motorcars, Gadsden, AL

Paint Included: No

Paint Brand/Type: PPG base/clear – 2003 Volkswagen Beetle colors (Royal Navy Blue Pearl; Campanella White; Tornado Red)

Windshield/Glass: OEM Chrome over Brass

Top: None

Roll Bar: Forward braced, chrome

Bumpers: Quick jacks by Unique

Grille: None

Lights: Lucas

Mirrors: Raydot

Emblems and Trim: Finish Line

Fuel System: Accel Fuel pump and micro filter; custom-made bracket to fit above rear trailing arms

Fuel Tank: Unique Motorcars, Gadsden, AL

Body Work: Don Bevers, Ochelata, OK

Painter: Gary Hagar, The Hack Shack, Rogers, AR

Gauges: Stewart-Warner

Wiring: Unique harness modified by owner to incorporate Accel DFI (~80 wires) and Baumann Engineering transmission control (~20 wires)

Steering Wheel: 14″ Le Carra Mk IV Elegante

Seating: OEM Cobra Seats with sprung seat bases

Upholstery: Owner

Engine Brand: Ford

Engine Type: 351 Windsor

Crankshaft: OEM Ford 351W, Deburred and balanced

Pistons: Speed Pro 9.1:1

Water Pump: Edelbrock Performer

Radiator – Griffin aluminum; custom with driver side inlet; Aluminum Harrison overflow tank

Alternator: PA Performance 100 amp

Heads: World Castings Roush 200; Deburred, port matched, and swirl polished

Induction: D C & O Racing 8-stack fuel injection with individual runner manifold from VeryCoolParts.com

Ignition: Accel Dual Sync; Accel 8mm wires

Engine Management: Accel DFI Gen 7 ECU controlling both fuel and ignition

Headers: Unique Motorcars 1-5/8″ headers

Exhaust: FIA side pipes with 3″ mufflers

Transmission: Ford 4R70W; Edge lockup torque converter 2700 stall

Transmission Management: Baumann Engineering

Driveshaft: 3″ by Larry’s Driveshaft Service, Lowell, AR

Shifter: Lokar AOD with custom linkage by owner to enable authentic shifter placement on tunnel

Battery: Optima Red Top

Brackets: March pulleys and alternator bracket


Car was a basket case that sat outside for ~11 years under a tarp. It was advertised for sale on many Cobra sites for years. Vehicle was sound, but a complete mess when purchased. The Carlson’s completely disassembled this vehicle – chassis, suspension, engine, transmission – Bill and Brian Carlson rebuilt everything.

Front suspension converted from stock MGB to Hoyle Engineering MGB based tubular coil over setup. This is the first (and one of the very few) Unique cars to use this suspension.
MGB spindles machined to accept Wilwood hubs and 11″ vented rotors from an aftermarket kit for a ’67 Camaro; owner fabricated mounting brackets for Wilwood Dynalite calipers. To the best of our knowledge this is a one-off modification as well.
Transmission valve body modified with high performance shift kit; integration of Baumann Engineering aftermarket transmission control
Chassis updated to current Unique specs with 4130 chromoly seat pans, drive shaft relief, trailing arm suspension conversion, and rear sway bar
Rear suspension arms and half-shafts narrowed ~4″ to accommodate Trigo pin-drive wheels
Hand formed aluminum panels on foot boxes, inner fenders, and in grille opening
Plumbed transmission cooler in place of original oil cooler
One-off custom machined Harrison Tank / Oil filter mount in engine bay
Polished stainless steel radiator lines designed by owner – radiator inlet/outlet is reverse from all other Unique cars for authenticity and ease of access
Designed and fabricated throttle and transmission linkages
Significant body work including rear fender flares cut out and reshaped to replicate original FIA flares; rolled cowl and door edges; FIA hood scoop details; smoothed underside of trunk lid and hood; reshaped trunk and hood returns to replicate original aluminum car
Designed and fabricated a new radiator mount to accommodate the sway bar and increase ground clearance
Hand fabricated FIA splash guard around fuel filler
Hand built lower door frames integrated into chassis
Removable cowl brace

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