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 B Production Sports Car Club of America 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!
Father Bill Carlson and his son Brian gave the Unique Motorcars 289 FIA Cobra replica a red white and blue paint job. Specifically, the red is PPG Tornado Red. The white is PPG Campanella White. The blue is PPG Royal Navy Blue Pearl. All three hues are right out of the 2003 Volkswagen Beetle array of available exterior paint colors.
Induction on the Ford 351W V-8 mill is a D C & O Racing 8-stack fuel injection system with an individual runner manifold from Verycoolparts.com.
Cobra bucket seats trimmed in black leather replicate what AC CARS LTD. and Shelby American used back in the ‘60s. Stewart-Warner gauges fill the dash.
A back splash for the Le Mans fuel filler makes this 289 FIA racecar look as though it could have been a survivor from Shelby American’s glory days of racing.
With such a curvaceous profile, it’s no small wonder that Cobra’s captured such a following from collectors, and they’ve become the most replicated sports car ever.
Don Beyers, of Ochelata, OK performed the finish bodywork on the fiberglass body, giving Gary Hagar, of The Hack Shack, in Rogers, AR a paint-ready canvas for Gary to lay down the scrumptious PPG two-stage, base coat, clear coat show winning paint job.
Trigo FIA Pin Drive wheels were utilized in the front and rear — 15×7 inches fore and 15×9 inches aft. They’re shod with Goodyear Eagle GTII radials, 235/60R15 in the front and 255/60R15 in the rear.
VEHICLE MANUFACTURER INFO
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: email@example.com
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
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
Roll Bar: Forward braced, chrome
Bumpers: Quick jacks by Unique
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
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
DRIVETRAIN INSTALLED IN VEHICLE
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
VEHICLE OWNER SECTION – LIST ALL ADDITIONS, MODIFICATIONS, AND UPGRADES FROM BASE KIT INCLUDED IN THE TESTED VEHICLE (please be specific about brands, models, sizes, etc.):
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