For Warren Grant, the man in charge of a small but expert Cobra building business, it all started way back in 1991 when a loud Cobra breezed past his business premises in Pietermartizburg, KwaZulu-Natal. That adrenalin rush has pursued him for decades. His task, trying to build the world’s best all-round performing kit car is still an ongoing driver in his life. “To be truthful,” says Warren, “it would not be the end of the world if I did not build one more car, but perhaps that’s a bit of an understatement as there are two Cobra’s in build right now in the small Spitting Image factory next to the R59 highway in Randvaal.”
Key to getting the quality right is Jean Britz who is the how-it-all-gets-done-right-first-time in the areas of production. Customers can order a standard 380 Chevrolet plug-in power V8 or create the car they want with much more power if they want to. Build time is put at around four months per Cobra in gestation before it rolls out of the factory gates.
When it comes to development there is over 10 years on the chassis alone to eliminate bump steer and organise a multiplicity of suspension adjustments in the cars design.
The body of the Spitting image was sculptured in such a way as to improve aerodynamics, e.g. wider, lower and a more squat profile. This, without drastically changing the unmistakable silhouette and undying shape of the most “brute-i-ful” car ever made. The underside of the body, but for the diffuser is completely flat, with no chassis components or exhaust pipes protruding, even the exhaust is shrouded within the body. Ground clearance is only 140mm, resulting in a low centre of gravity, a prerequisite in the “handling” department. The wheel arches are radiused to suit the overall wheel diameter, giving a uniform gap between tyre and mudguard.
Deviating from the ‘original’ it was decided to make a chassis of a ‘triangulated backbone’ type, rather than the ‘ladder frame’ concept, as used by most replica manufacturers. This design offers more torsional stiffness, an important factor, for, no matter how good the suspension design, the moment the chassis ‘twists’ or deflects, the intended design is ‘out of the window’ (so to speak).
With computer aided software, the double ‘A’ arm suspension was ‘reverse engineered’ from predetermined ‘roll centres’ designed to give true, ‘modern’ sports car handling. Control arms and uprights are precision made from laser cut components and allow for infinite, minuscule adjustments in order to set the car up, e.g. Caster, Camber, Toe, etc., this can be achieved without removing a single nut or bolt. Bilstein shock absorbers are specially made for this car. Torsion bar diameter, length and distance to drop links are designed and made to serve the true purpose for which they are intended.
Over the full travel of the suspension, the ‘track’ change is only three mm and the negative amber gain from ride to height to full bump is progressive up to 2 degrees to compensate for ‘body roll’ during cornering keeping the full tread width of the tyres in contact with the road/track at all times.
The power steering rack is solid mounted and provision for the attachment of the tie rod ends to the uprights is made in such a way that the dreaded “bump steer” (common in most kit cars) is easily eliminated.
Cockpit and Interior
When seated in the car, the ‘seat of your pants’ (or so to speak) is just 150mm (6 inches) from the ground. If you are 6’4”, 110kg? No problem, with room to spare and what’s more one looks through the windshield, not over it, even though it’s raked 16-20° more than the norm, reducing ‘drag’ and lessening the buffeting, (common in all most open top sports cars). What’s more, no need to reverse the baseball cap at speeds exceeding 160 km/h!
About Spitting Image
Spitting Image was born out of the desire to create a ‘Retro” version of a Cobra, the most replicated car in the history of the automobile. Production, which, discontinued in 1967, since then a number of manufacturers have sprung up in replicating the car competing with each other in terms of ‘originality’, a word not found in our dictionary.
Having acquired a Jaguar based ‘kit’ in 1991, three years spent in the build, ending up with a beautiful car, so much so, it featured on one of our local television programmes (Drive Time). Naturally with the power of an American V8 in a relatively light car one would want to know what speed such a car would be capable of, without implying that replicas behave in such a manner but at 200 km/h it felt like an unguided missile.
This is when the seed was planted, for, had production continued beyond 1967, the Cobra most certainly would have evolved both in terms of aerodynamics and technology.