2005 KIRKHAM Cobra 427 'Side-Oiler'View vehicle description
In 1962, Texan chicken farmer and Le Mans winning driver Caroll Shelby took the elegant AC Ace chassis married it to an American V8 and created a legend: the AC Cobra.
Its bored out 260ci Ford V8’s 264bhp propelled AC’s pretty little roadster into an entirely different performance league; European handling and raw Yank power for the win-win.
The engine was quickly enlarged to 289ci but by 1963, and with the Cobra losing its racing edge, changes were afoot. For the Mark II, in came the FE 390ci unit, but this was but a brief dalliance. The Mark III quickly followed with a stronger 4-inch chassis and coil spring suspension replacing the early car’s antediluvian set-up.
Biggest news? A truly monstrous 7-litre unit now replaced the 4.7-litre engine. Say hello to the 427! Bodywork went on a steroid course, coming out all together more aggressive, and performance went truly ballistic: 425bhp meant a 164mph top speed, but you could have even more in the competition models.
It looked incredible and went like the clappers but it was also one hell of an effective racer, and nabbed the World GT title in its debut year. All this cemented the legend of the Cobra.
Of course anything so desirable will always have attention lavished on it, and so it is that the Cobra has become perhaps the most copied car on the planet.
Replicas abound from £20k glass-fibre efforts sporting all manner of power plants (Rover, Chevy, etc) through to well-respected, boot-room copy efforts by companies like Hawk Cars.
At the top of the replica tree sits US-based, engineering-focussed company Kirkham Motorsports. Founded in 1994, proprietor David Kirkham took the manufacturing process to Poland and a company that used to construct MIG fighter jets. The net result was an FIA correct, hand-rolled alloy body built to the absolute highest of standards.
Today, over 800 replica 427 and 289 Cobras later, the outputs of this well-respected Cobra manufacturer are still heavily sought after.
There are replicas and then there are Kirkhams.
Chassis number EL1594 is a Kirkham Motorsports Shelby Cobra in Mauritius Blue (ICI 287) with black hide that’s powered by a ferocious all-alloy ‘side-oiler’ 427/482 ci Ford V8, built by renowned US engine builder Keith Craft. Headline figure? How does 581bhp sound? That astounding big-block, power plant bears the engine number 51F1594.
It’s fitted to a correct Ford ‘Top-Loader’ close-ration, four-speed manual gearbox. Further components consist of polished stainless-steel side pipes, a 42-gallon fuel tank, racing quick jacks, a Kirkham Motorsports alloy radiator tank, Wilwood calipers with ventilated discs all round.
The project was started in 2005 and finished in 2010/11. “It has only covered 622 miles from new,” says the vendor. “It has been with my client since completion and has sat in his heated garage in Barnsley for the last ten years. I collected it, had it recommissioned and drove it to have a fresh MOT test carried out a few weeks ago – blimey, it’s very lively indeed.”
That final assertion could very well be the mother of all understatements…
The vendor adds: "his car was bought from the Kirkham UK sole distributor, Hawk Cars Ltd. You can see many invoices from Hawk showing work done on it in the past." Apparently his accounts dept. are trawling through old archives to try and find the original bill of sale however, if they don't find it he'll speak to Hawk owner Gerry Hawkridge - who's a personal friend - and get a letter to certify that this is an original Kirkham car.
There’s no doubt that the whole thing is utterly fabulous. The Kirkham is the next best thing to a real one. And when they are built with superb attention to detail as here, they are probably better. It. Is. Top. End.
It sailed through the MOT and has a fresh ticket that runs until the 21st of January 2022. The Cobra is registered as a 1951 AC Convertible and therefore valid for the historic vehicle taxation class.
On the Outside
Cobra racing stripes, tick. Riveted bonnet scoop, tick. Halibrand ‘Knock-Off’ alloy wheels, tick. Single roll-over bar, tick. Epic twin stainless steel side-exit exhaust pipes, tick. Quick jack racing bumpers, tick. 427 Cobra badging, tick. The overall effect? Boom!
There’s no doubt that the shape of this car is iconic. Some prefer the svelte, dainty even, lines of an original 289 but if blatant, rather than latent, aggression is your thing then it can only be the big-boy 427 that ticks all your boxes.
Only perhaps a Ferrari 250 GTO or Porsche 911 RS 2.7 could give the Cobra’s rear end, with its hugely muscular haunches yet delicate rear lights, a run for its money in the icon stakes. It is stunning in the flesh.
The hand-rolled and beaten Kirkham alloy body is widely acknowledged to be one of, if not, the finest of Cobra replicas. As such it’s exquisitely crafted, with panel perfect shut lines.
Paintwork still presents as new but 250ml of Mauritius Blue base coat was purchased during its recent recommissioning used to touch in a very small number of scratched areas gained during storage. The only minor flaw we can find is a small crack in the paint just behind offside front windscreen mounting point – call it patina. The white stripes are painted (not vinyl) to the same high quality.
The car (including the underside) had a full and thorough clean and the bellhousing and oil dipstick were painted medium Ford Blue. It’s fitted with Lucas PL headlamps.
We’d change the number plate (which it currently wears in its grill like a convict) for a bonnet-mounted sticker, to give it a more seamless and even sportier look – that’s purely a question of personal preference, though.
On the Inside
Less is more in the world of Cobra interiors. Even many of the highly regarded MkIV Cobras gained all manner of adornments; with a number resembling TVR cabins. While other reps have huge transmission tunnels that dominate the central areas…
That’s not the case here. Instead you get period perfection and simplicity. A clean dashboard dominated by chrome-rimmed Smiths dials and an elegant AC steering leather steering wheel.
That’s further complemented by leather bucket seats and a pair of black Willans harnesses. Desirable adjustable seat tracks are fitted, so there’s room for manoeuvre in terms who can drive this beast.
The interior was trimmed by Will Trim of Bradford and it’s been completed to a high standard. There’s also a black adjustable tonneau cover. The boot is alloy lined and up front the immaculate engine bay is dominated by the big V8 and its wild octuplet of intake trumpets.
After completing negligible mileage since completion, on the 7th of January 2021 the Cobra underwent a thorough going over: a fresh Yuasa 90 AH 700 A battery has replaced the old one; the old fuel was drained from the fuel tank; a non-starting issue was traced to an electrical problem in the wiring loom and rectified; the coolant replaced; a hole in the header tank soldered up; and a number of pipes and clips replaced. In addition, new NGK BKR6E spark plugs were fitted.
As such it now starts absolutely on the button. Our video below demonstrates not just the overall finish and quality of the car, but the garrulous noise those intake pipes make at tickover and the ominously thunderous noise elicited by the side-exit pipes.
We’ve had the pleasure of taking it for several spins and can quite confidently state: ‘oof!’ That lively cackle builds to a truly devilish cacophony – there can’t be many better ways to burn hydrocarbons. The suspension is tight and all round Wilwood ventilated brakes, sharp – oh, and it’ll happily set off car alarms at will as you blast past.
As befits the mileage, it’s pretty darn immaculate underneath too. See the detail engine bay and underneath photos to see that not only was high spec componentry purchased, it was also diligently fitted and has since been kept perfectly, ready for an adventure. There’s no doubt that the next owner is going to struggle staying out of their garage, as this car has a truly magnetic pull.
Although this car is obviously a replica, in order to be as authentic as possible the vendor has copied ideas from many others and used the plate from an old 1951 AC on display, showing the corresponding chassis/engine numbers.
The factory serial number of this car is KC05ESRC0440. The different letters/numbers break down as:
05- Year of production 2005
E- month of production may
S-frame material mild steel
0440- number of car
Gerry Hawkridge, owner of Kirkham UK sole distributor Hawk Cars UK, bought this vehicle on 21st July 2005.
A lovely big history folder accompanies the Cobra and within it you’ll find a range of pictures from the car’s (and engine’s) build. There’s also a 16-point instruction list from Keith Craft Inc of Arkadelphia, Arkansas, detailing final engine assembly work and several pages of analysis of the then 3/4 -built car from Terrapin Services of Harrogate, North Yorkshire, in 2007.
Invoices abound, including unsurprisingly quite a few from that other renowned constructor of Cobra replicas Hawk Motors. We haven’t totalled them but interested bidders can flick through at their leisure to see all that’s gone into the building and completion of this magnificent big beast.
You’ll also find a Cobra 427 Chassis Instruction Book and Owners Handbook, as well as a Kirkham Workshop Manual, an Engine Control Unit Operation Manual and Rocker Arm Installation Instructions. To show the thoroughness of the build, included is a CD to allow any future owner to alter the engine calibration to their personal fancy.
From performance and capability perspectives the Dyno Dynamics dynamometer print out showing peak power measured at 581bhp is of key interest. Also included is the invoice for the car’s recent collection and recommissioning.
Please visit the documents section of the gallery of this listing where you will find photos of the paperwork to support our claim that this car has been built to the very highest of standards.
What We Think
This is one iconic mother of a car. Toss in that epic powerplant, a truly muscular, high-quality body and those wild stainless-steel side-exit exhaust pipes and it’s an adolescent’s sports car dream come true. In fact, sorry kids, elbows at the ready, adults coming through.
If you’re a fan of the AC Cobra then you’ll know that prices are just as epic as the performance on tap; Carol Shelby’s own 427 just sold for a gargantuan $5.94 million at January’s Mecum auction in Kissimmee, Florida.
Okay so that was the exception, but even original examples of the real thing (be it 289 or 427) start at the mid-to-high hundred thousand pounds. It’s no wonder then that replicas abound and of them, Kirkham Motorsports’ reputation is second-to-none.
They don’t come cheap though – today, you’d be looking at upwards of £140k-£150k to complete a Kirkham project. Even then, it likely wouldn’t have an engine as special as this example’s custom-built $25,000 Keith Craft unit.
Nab this car for our £95,000 lower estimate and it’ll verge on daylight robbery; hell, even at the top estimate of £135,000 it still offers good value for money and instant, blood-curdling (in a good way, of course), phenomenal high-performance high-jinks.
Hell yeah – roll on summer!
Inspection is always encouraged (within Govt. guidelines of course), and this particular car is located with us at The Market HQ near Abingdon; to arrange an appointment please use the Contact Seller button at the top of the listing. Feel free to ask any questions or make observations in the comments section below, or try our ‘Frequently Asked Questions’.
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Additionally, please note that most of the videos on our site have been recorded using simple cameras which often result in 'average' sound quality; in particular, engines and exhausts notes can sound a little different to how they are in reality.
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