On the Road

   Posted by: kdavis

After a long build and tedious registration process, and still a lot more work to do with the interior and body work to come, I’m finally able to drive the car. What an awesome experience! I can’t wait to spend some time driving around Montana in the mountains with it!

The blog will probably go stale for a little while as I spend the summer doing yard work and driving the car instead of working on it, but I will be getting the alignment settled in and also plan to get it on the dyno for some fine tuning, so I’ll post back on that.






Registering Kit Car in Montana

   Posted by: kdavis

So, after 8 weeks of waiting, and about 100 emails and phone calls, I finally have my registration in place, and I’m waiting on the arrival of my plates. The local county office rep of the DOJ (dmv) was completely wrong in telling me that I had to send my paperwork to the state directly, which cost me 2 months of drive time.

If you happen to get the same information from your local office, you will need to be your own advocate and insist that you know what you’re talking about, ask to see a supervisor and explain it again. Be careful in saying “custom vehicle,” that is apparently where I went wrong. It is a “vehicle assembled from kit” and you are designating is as a custom vehicle for the purpose of getting a single plate exemption. That should help.

I thought I’d post some information here on the blog to help future builders in Montana for registering a kit car like this, or others.

Step 1

Go to the DOJ website and download the following forms: MV20 (VIN Inspection Form); MV1 (Application for Title); and MV121 (Fact Sheet).

Step 2

Call your local law enforcement office and request that an officer come by to do a Stage 1 Inspection (they will come to your house or where the car is. I live outside of city limits, so in my case, it was the local Sheriff’s office. The dispatcher, nor the officer actually knew what he was supposed to do, so I explained it to him. Basically, they need to look at the certificate of origin, and verify that the serial/chassis number matches what’s on the car. They fill out the form MV20 and sign it verifying that they match. According to the DMV, a stage 2 inspection isn’t necessary because you’re not trying to re-title a salvaged car, so only the stage 1 is needed. I made it clear that only a portion of the rear end, the motor and transmission were used from the donor (and not even complete), so you’re really just building a car from parts, not retitling the original donor. Obviously, if no donor is used, then this doesn’t apply.

Step 3

Complete your MV121. I chose Custom Vehicle vs. Kit Vehicle so that I can run without the front plate. It probably qualifies for either. I’m also not going to use this as my daily driver (weather in Montana wouldn’t permit anyway), so the non-general transportation thing does apply. The local office had some computer issues getting the single plate thing to go through, so I will have to make one more trip down there to sort that out, or I’ll end up just putting that paperwork in the car in case I get stopped. MT law requires 2 plates, and it’s a $200 fine, but it doesn’t seem to be a big issue.

Take ALL of your paperwork (including the MCO/COO, donor title, etc.) and go to your local Vehicle Registration Office, and they can issue the title and plates. In Montana, they will title it as a 1965 Shelby Cobra, even though it’s a replica, which only really means that in this state, since it’s titled as more than 11 years old, you are able to get a permanent registration completed (you pay 3.5 years worth of tag fees and it’s tagged for life). I also got a personalized plate for mine, which may or may not be part of the process for you. The personal plate fees are also done permanently in the same way as the normal plate. This means that once you have your plates and title, you don’t ever have to go through this process again with this car.

They issued a temp tag for me, so I can drive it like any other car. The cost for registration and plates was about $200.

Current Copies of the Forms:


Title Manual



Body On, Final Wiring, Mini Graduation

   Posted by: kdavis

Man, it’s been a busy few weeks since my last blog entry. I’ve been so busy building and having fun, I didn’t stop to do an update. I also took a trip to Oklahoma to run in the Memorial Marathon, so that was a non-build weekend.

New Horns:

After my wife said something like “that horn would be perfect for my car,” I wasted no time going to amazon and picking out some new horns for the roadster. The other one was very cheap, but was way too european for me, and wimpy. I ended up with some PIAA dual-tone horns. They were pretty inexpensive, easy to mount, and I like the two different tones. You can pick up a set here:

PIAA 85110 115db 400HZ + 500HZ Sports Horn

Here’s a very brief video of the horn sound:

Body On:

Thanks to one of my side kicks, my 12 year old daughter Kenzie, the lift, some ceiling hooks and ropes, we were able to get the body on without much trouble. I was glad that I hadn’t done any paint or body work, as I can see how easy it would be to do some damage. I’ve already said this, but I won’t be doing any paint and body work this summer, I’ll be digging deep into that over the long Winter instead.

For now, I did a quick bit of black primer over the seams, and since I didn’t grind down into the seams at all, it should have no affect at all long term, it’ll just sand/grind out when I do the final prep on the body. I am also electing to not install the remaining aluminum under-body trim pieces for now.

We also managed to get the brakes re-bled, which made for a much needed improvement in braking…amazing what real hydraulic pressure will do!


SDC13593.JPG SDC13591.JPG SDC13589.JPG

Final Wiring:

Prior to putting the body on, I mounted all of the headlights, running lights, and brake lights. Once the body was on, I was able to get the final bit of wiring completed and get all of those systems wired and mounted in place. I did have an issue with one of the brake light sets, the bulb fitting has a bit of a short, and won’t seat correctly, which is causing one of the bulb filaments to not work. I emailed FFR, and they are generously sending me a new one, so that will have to be rewired when it arrives. I also wired up the license plate lights, but I decided to tie wrap my door switches for now until final fitting later.


Roll Bars:

Installing the roll bars is a bit of a challenge, especially since I have 2 of them. I found that leaving the passenger side mount slightly loose (I had to loosen it) helps to get the proper rear leg alignment. The most challenging part of the roll bars was actually drilling the hole (s) for the rear leg on the passenger side. My body came pre-drilled, which some people complain about, but even with a little clean up, it’s way better than measuring and cutting all of those yourself. The way I did my rear leg was to mount the hoop in it’s final position, then use a 2″ OD pipe I had (part of a hitch bike rack actually) to attach it to the hoop, then run it down and mark the entry location. This worked pretty well, and just left a little clean up and some adjustment in the rear leg mount itself to get a perfect fit. I have Mike Everson’s roll bar grommets which are large and make for a very forgiving setup to cover the over drilling.

I’m really glad I decided to go with the FFR stainless bars that I got on sale, they make a big difference in the look of the car. One trick I found for mounting the bars is to use ratcheting nylon straps (protect the chrome with cardboard) to cinch in the 2 legs of the hoop. Both of mine were pushing “out” and were really hard to get over the mounting brackets. I found that I could pull them together with the straps, and along with a little 3in1 oil, they went on with relative ease.

Hood and Trunk Mounting, Hinges:

The parts need some work to get to fit correctly, but I was pleasantly surprised with my hood, it fits pretty well right out of the “box.” The trunk lid fits like crap, but I think this is pretty common. For the short term, they’ll both work well enough, even though the trunk lid isn’t exactly pretty in it’s current state.

I am using Breeze’s hidden trunk mounts, and after discovering and correcting that we mounted the arms on top of the 3/4″ trunk support instead of on the horizontal face (ie: we mismounted them by 90 degrees), they went in pretty easily. For now, I actually just drilled and riveted the lid side mounts, which doesn’t look very pretty, but it’ll do for now. I’m going to be wiring in a linear actuator back there, and I still have a bit of fitting, so I wasn’t in a hurry to break out the HSRF yet. The mounts are sweet though, and will make for a cleaner more “oem” look to the car than the usual outer brackets. I was wishing that I hadn’t been in such a hurry to sell my brackets a while ago, that would have been a way faster short term solution.

The hood hinges are a pain, mainly because they come in about 1000 parts, and it’s very easy to put everything in the wrong configuration. The hinges themselves are a bit of a modern marvel the way they are a down and in or up and out movement. I didn’t have any instructions with mine, so I turned to the ffcars.com forum once again for help, and found some great pictures showing how they go together. Even so, I had to assemble mine like 4 times before I got it right, including taking them apart after I had them right in the first place. Lots of guys talked about switching out the button head screws with carriage bolts, but I didn’t find this necessary. It was a bit of a pain getting those in with the body on (I would put that part of the hinges in before the body and F panels if I had it to do over again,) but they work so far.

Here’s the thread with the info, and I’ll add the pics below (not my pics) in case they get deleted at some point. Forum Thread


hoodhinge3.JPG hoodhinge2.JPG SDC13590.JPG
You can see in this pic, that the bolts are in “up and down” instead of through the front/back configuration. I fixed this after the body was on, but it required me to cut the bolts to do it. Oops.


If you read any posts at all on the forum, this step will likely scare the heck out of you, and convince you to go ahead and call FFR and order a new windshield. The glass on these cars wasn’t really designed for them, and that, along with a bunch of other issues have caused an alarmingly large number of them to crack in short order. I managed to find an old build school video that showed some key issues to avoid, however, the most important of which I found to be: 1) use a shorty screw driver to prevent over-manning the screws, and 2) do a test fit on each screw and grind them down so they aren’t too long. Thanks to those tips, I managed to at least get the frame assembled without breaking the glass, and as far as I can tell, none of the screws are touching the glass. I took the mk3build site advice and set my windshield at 53 degrees in case I go with a soft top later. The only other issue I ran into, other than just not having much room to get the bolt in, was that my driver’s side foot box interfered with getting that bracket in place. I had to “massage” it out of the way for now, and I’ll fix it better once the body is back off.


Mini Graduation:

After the windshield install, I proceeded to put in the mirrors, trim plates, hood latches, trunk latches, etc., and it was ready to roll. I took some runs up and down the road a bit, which was simply awesome fun, and the next day called the local sherriff’s department for my Certificate of Origin inspection. In Montana, the process is very confusing, but actually simple to accomplish. Funnily enough, the deputy didn’t really know what he was supposed to do, but he verified my COO number matched the chassis number, and since he didn’t have any forms, he just wrote a note on the back of my application for title. I have yet to make the trip down to the DMV (will do tomorrow at the time of this writing), so we’ll see how that all turns out.

I’m still considering this a little mini graduation, though. Once it’s registered and tagged, I’ll head over to the dyno and get it all dialed in, and I also need to do a bit more work on the ride height and alignment. It’s riding/driving very well with it’s currently eye-balled alignment, and I really am glad I decided to go with the manual 15:1 steering box, it works great.

So, more updates on the registration soon…


IMG_5699.JPG IMG_5697.JPG

Wiring, Dash Install, Aluminum

   Posted by: kdavis

Despite spending a lot of time over the last couple of weekends working on vehicles distinctly NOT the roadster, looking back, I did actually get a fair amount accomplished. I had to spend time doing brakes and some other items on the hot wife’s Beetle, and spend most of Saturday last weekend working on the Suburban (new K&N, exhaust manifold gaskets, plugs, wires, tire rotation).

Dash Install and Holy Crap Bar:

With the rest of the dash wiring installed and tested, I went ahead and finished up getting the dash installed so that I could get the heater ducts finished up. Since the dash won’t actually be finished in terms of install until the body is on, this isn’t a final step, but will allow for gokarting when the time comes.

As you can see in the pics, I also finished up my Holy Crap bar. There are lots of names for this, but it’s for the passenger to hold onto, and it’s appropriately named “holy crap bar.” Since it can see a good bit of stress, it was important for me to get it very secure, yet be able to adjust it’s position for final dash and body fitting. I fabricated a mounting system to allow for that, then drilled the holes in the dash for it. The dash position is static, but the part that mounts to the secure assembly is adjustable up and down (not a lot of side to side movement anyway with the steering column in place.)

Some of this was already detailed in an earlier post, but here are some more pics. It’s attached to the 3/4″ dash hoop, and is pretty stout. I ended up having a bit more of a gap between the dash and the frame, though, so I added a couple of 1/4″ nylon spacers to make up for that so I didn’t bend the aluminum dash.






Alarm LED:

I was able to get my alarm red led installed a couple of weekends ago, and so I thought I’d give the how-to on that as well. I wired it up, but since it’s going into the tranny tunnel cover now (just in front of the keys), I won’t do final install until that’s ready to go in. It did work very well though.

For those that might want to do a similar thing, here’s what I did.

Found the blinking LED here: http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=170477135292&ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT

I used an extra housing I had from my del city order, but you can also buy them from del city or from parts express.

You don’t really have to, but I used a relay for this, just so I could make it easy to switch between the key ON and key OFF status.

Here’s how I wired it, using a standard 12v relay and socket (parts express too). I’m just going to give the wire colors, but you can look up the relay positions if you want.

Red – Battery – always hot
Blue – + side (red wire) of the LED
White – Ground
Black – Keyed 12v (ignition source)
Yellow – Not used

Obviously, the black wire (-) of the led is to ground.

That way, the light blinks when the key is off, but goes out when you start the motor or if the key is on.

I had read that there was some concern about the battery drain from the LED, but the draw on this one is 20mA. I left it running for a couple hours, and no drain at all was perceivable on my meter from the battery. I’m sure if you didn’t start it for months, it would have some draw, but in that case, you should have a battery tender on it anyway.

Interior Aluminum:

After a really cool mini-event of actually driving the car out of the shop, and then backing into the other bay, it was time to continue work on the interior aluminum. This is one of the last big steps in getting to go-kart status.

I was able to get the driver’s floor, passenger’s floor, and the bulkhead pieces all drilled, siliconed, and riveted in. Thank GOD for Mike’s air riveter…I can’t imagine trying to do all of those rivets by hand. I was glad that I ended up buying the double-ended 1/8″ drill bits from harbor freight, but wish they were a little longer. Every time I use my drill, I am reminded that I will NEVER buy another chuckless drill, they are worthless for small bits, and end up having to retighten the chuck all the time.

I was also able to get the rear bulkhead access hole cut out, which will allow a little pocket for “stuff” behind the seats, but also will serve as a location for some small speakers in the corners that will fire across from side to side to get some sound. I just drilled a few holes, then cleco’d the panel in place, marked there the frame pieces sat, and cut the hole. I added a 1/2″ to the measurement on the lower cut, which turned out great since the bolt heads on the 3-link retrofit kit make the trunk floor there sit up to almost that level. It was a pretty good fit. I’ll add a “wall” that will sit 10-12″ behind the opening.

One note worth mentioning. When I placed the bulkhead piece in place, I noticed that the holes for the seat belt routing didn’t line up right. I took a closer look and realized the cross bar was actually not even or straight across, so it stuck up about 1/4″ on the passenger side. I ended up “massaging” it with a dead blow rubberized hammer, and it fits great now.

I’m really enjoying the aluminum fabrication stuff, and just thinking through the problem solving aspect of the build. One issue I was having is the location where I want to mount the 10″ subwoofers. I want to use the rear cross as part of the mounting system, which meant that the floor was about 3/4″ too high. Relatively easily solution, I just need to make some “boxes” that will sit into the floor so that the subs will be able to be “submerged” slightly in the floor. After checking clearance on the 3-link banana bracket, I decided 2″ depth was a good size. I also checked and marked for floor supports to see how much room I had from front to back (bulkhead to trunk). I ended up with a box size of 5″ x 13.5″. I was able to get the first one marked and cut, but have not bent it yet. I misfigured the first time, but luckily I remembered to fix it before I cut. I had allowed for the 1″ lips for the bends on top, but forgot to allow for 2″ of drop. I believe I ended up with an 11×19.5 piece.

I wish I had gone with a bigger metal bending brake, this piece is about 1/4″ too big to fit, so I’ll have to bend it using some other methods.








Wishy Washy:

My buddy Mike says I’m wishy-washy on color, and he’s probably right, evidenced by all the posts on this blog about color choice. I have now, however, made some actual commitment-based steps on color. I ordered some paint to do some test shooting. I have “decided” that I really like the black cars with silver stripes. I’ve always loved black, and this was actually the very first color choice, even before the Orange was a factor. I like how it looks like it actually wants to eat children. ;-> This is a backdraft car that I’m using as my sort of template. I’m going to take the hood off the Mustang donor and prep and tape it for stripes and color like I would the real car. I ordered some black and metallic silver paint and the necessary supplies.


Along those same lines, I’m planning on getting the body down off the ceiling in the next couple of weeks so I can get started on the body work. Some of the steps require some cure time, so doing it a little at a time along with other parts of the build should prove an efficient use of time.

Until next time…

Welcome to the New Blog!

   Posted by: kdavis

We’ve been doing a bunch of new blogs and application development, and we’ve moved everything over to self-hosted WordPress blog sites instead of blogger, so I decided to move my Roadster blog over as well, and update the design.

Hope you like it. To follow the blog and get updates on the build, use the subscribe button on the bottom left menu under “site information.”


And…away we go again!

   Posted by: kdavis

Wow, March 28 was my last blog entry…what a terribly busy Summer/Fall I had! I guess when you decided to do an entire landscape redo mostly alone, drop an 8000 pound skidsteer into the pool, rebuild the pool, then build a couple of decks, patios, etc., it takes some time.

But…I’m working my way back into the shop, and I’m thinking about all kinds of aspects of the build. In particular, even though I still have a ton of work to do with the paint and body, I’m still trying to nail down my color choice. I had decided fully to go Silver, but now, I am rethinking that. The primary reason is that although I love the silver cars, they are less “in your face” than some of the brighter colors. It’s a super-car, more or less, it’s supposed to be in your face right? Still thinking about orange, but maybe a true orange instead of pearl, white stripes. Then there’s yellow, green, and an old standby, black…

So, this week, I’ve been working on cleaning up the welds on my side pipes, so that I can get them sent off to the coater in Portland, and Mike M can help get them back to me.

It’ll take me a week to figure out what my wiring is doing, I should have mapped it better. I did somewhat, but didn’t take all of the time to diagram my custom circuits. I’ll need to do that.

I’m also thinking about using linear actuators for the trunk and hood, just because I think it would be cool, despite being not only a little “ghetto” and totally not original to the time period. But, using those will help keep hands off the paint when opening the trunk and hood. I can also use a different setup for the latches then, perhaps borrowing an old “caddie” power latch or something.

Here we go!

An Adjustment in Priorities, Focus, and Timeline

   Posted by: kdavis

A beautiful 2-week family vacation in Grand Cayman will do a lot to add some perspective to your life, and cause you to look at what’s currently going on. Add to that the beginning of Holy week today (Palm Sunday,) and I personally began to think through my life priorities, how I’m organizing them, what I’m doing with my time, and what brings me joy. It became apparent that over the last few months, I began to lose a bit of focus on the ultimate goal with the Roadster project…and frankly, with life…it’s the JOURNEY.

Heck, if I just wanted a fast car that sounds awesome that I could drive this summer, it’s a heck of a lot easier to just go buy one. BUT I DON’T WANT TO BUY ONE! I WANT TO BUILD ONE! It’s the building that is the fun.

With this all in mind, I’ve taken a good hard look at my timeline, and my goals for the car. I’m taking a bit of a step back, and making plans to really enjoy the build. I’ll likely be driving it for years and years, God willing, so what’s a few months.

As I tripped over a bunch of stuff I’d been trying to ignore in the shop, I was glad that I could take the time to move it, organize it, and begin to clean up the shop I’ve been neglecting.

So, for the time being, more focus on God, family, and just taking my time. I want to spend some time reorganizing and cleaning the shop, fix my front doors on the shop (they stick), and get Michelle’s project organized and stored (she’s taking a bit of a break as well.) After that, I’ll finish up the wiring and interior. It remains to be seen whether I just keep moving forward and do paint and body. Summer’s warmer temperatures are better than fighting cold and paying to heat the shop, so that’s an option. Plus, doing the sanding outside instead of inside the shop will make clean up WAYYYY easier.

More updates to come, but probably even slower than before!

She’s a Roller!

   Posted by: kdavis

Pretty exciting weekend for me, despite the fact that I didn’t get much done…that time of year.

But…my last remaining parts for the brakes (bulkhead fittings) came on Friday, so I was able to get the brake system finished and bled. I also got my last bolt for my 3-link, so that’s all torqued in and ready to go.

That means…the wheels and tires are on, and she’s a roller! I dropped the lift, and rolled her back and forth a few times, and checked the brakes (they work).

I also cut and connected the fuel filler neck that’s in more or less a temp state until the body goes on.

So…the battle wages on, and it’s FUN!

Build Update

   Posted by: kdavis

Man, it’s been almost a month since I’ve done an update. It’s been pretty busy around here. Making some progress here on the build, but it’s been a little slow.

It seems like with every step, I spend a couple of hours researching, clarifying, and modifying the build step.

What I’ve been working on:


I have the engine about 90% completed. I installed the intake manifold, carb, distributor (temporarily), coil, water pump, and alternator (complete with Mike Everson’s bracket.) I need some parts to finish things up, then I’ll be able to get it all assembled and ready to put in the car.


Test Fit with Headers:

I was able to put the engine in the car and put the 4 into 4 headers on so I could verify my passenger foot box modification. I was pretty pleased with the results. With just measurements to build from, I managed to fit it with about 3/4″ of clearance to spare.


Front End:

Some of the parts were already assembled, and I had already painted the rotors and put the brakes on. Michelle and I got the steering rack installed (we installed and uninstalled it 3 times to get it right.)

After spending hours and hours learning about SAI, bump steer, caster, camber, toe-in, toe-out, etc., I finally felt like I could put all of the components together for the front end. My steering rack is an 18:1 manual rack from Mike Forte, and I also got my solid offset bushings and my bump steer kit from him.

Bump Steer Kit and Offset Bushings:

There are many different configurations for installing the bump steer kit. The tie-rod ends can be installed on top of or below the spindle, and you have a varying number of spacers. As a starting point, I used the “parallel to the LCA” configuration, and ended up with my tie-rod ends on bottom of the spindle arms with one spacer on top. I also added a washer for protection on the bolt head. To get the right angle and to get the rack centered, I put the bushings so that the rack was as high as possible. I also used the bump steer kit to pull the wheels in so they are marginally in pre-alignment location.

Once I’m ready to align, I’ll end up measuring bump steer throughout the top to bottom of the wheel stroke, and adjust as needed.


Rear End:

I had my 3.55’s put in locally since I didn’t have all of the tools needed to complete it. I figure it was $300 well spent, as it was all ready for me to prepare the rear end for installation.

The first step was to replace the old axle seals. Getting them out was a bit of a challenge, but a carefully placed hammer (claw end) worked well to pop them out. Getting the new ones in was even more challenging as they are pressure fit. I placed them in the housing, tapped them with the hammer, and used a pulley I found that was the right size to pound the new seal in place. A little touch up spray paint, and I was ready for the axles.

After this, I removed the rear cover, removed the pinion shaft bolt and pinion, and put both axles into the shafts. The original owner didn’t give me the c-clips to hold the axles in, but I had picked up a set (they sell them in 4’s for some reason) from Ford. You basically just push the axles in all the way, put the clips on, and pull the axles back out to seat the clips in place. Pinion shaft and retaining bolt back in, then I used some rtv to seal the rear cover and gasket, and torqued the bolts down.

One thing that didn’t go well was getting the drain plug out for the rear end. You just use a socket extension since it’s a 3/8″ square plug. Someone in the past had really put that thing in well, so I managed to bend my extension a little. Nothing the grinder can’t fix. Unfortunately, it was my long extension, which I don’t have 10 of like I do the short ones.


I’m now ready to get the rear end installed in the car. Michelle and I will likely work on this tomorrow night for date night!

Holding Pattern to Continue

   Posted by: kdavis

Well, over the last couple of weeks, I’ve really started to realize just how much work getting the shop done is going to be. Even with having Rick (my buddy) do pretty much all of the exterior work (framing to siding), there’s still a huge amount of work inside to be done, from wiring to drywall, tape and texture, painting, finish electrical, and then just the shear task of moving everything out there and getting it organized. Plus, I have to build a bunch of work benches, shelves and cabinets too.

So, it seems the Cobra will be relegated to the backseat so to speak until end of summer, I’d guess. I’ll be posting updates to the shop build here for a while instead, for those folks that might be interested.

So far, we’ve poured the concrete (we did all of this ourselves), the walls are up, and the trusses are set. Rick is doing some of the little detailed things today, including the overhangs, fascia, and building out the front “porch” overhang. If he gets enough done, he and I will start sheathing later today, and it’ll be finished up tomorrow. The goal is to have the roof done this week (shingles and all) as it’s going to be a bit cooler.

Some pics:


Concrete Forms
Concrete Pouring
Concrete Pouring II