They don't make MiG jet fighters here anymore!
Former MiG builders in Poland crank out Cobras even Shelby can love
By BOB GRITZINGER (autoweek)
Former cold warriors at Kirkham's plant in Poland are donating a similar 427 Roadster body to aid New York City.
When we last visited Utah’s Mormon-raised, Cobra-crazed Kirkham brothers, David and Thomas, they were beavering away in a former Eastern bloc defense factory in Poland, trying to build aeronautically engineered 427 Shelby Cobra replicas with the help of workers who used to turn out three Soviet MiG fighters per day.
Quite a bit has happened since then. With cooperation from the Polish government, Kirkham Motorsports’ production facility in Mielec, Poland, is humming along, staffed by former MiG builders, as well as retirees who are passing their Old World skills on to younger workers, including apprentices from the local high school. To date, Dave Kirkham reports, the company has produced some 250 cars, including 100 frames and bodies sold directly to Shelby American in the past year (ironic, considering Carroll Shelby originally doubted anyone would prefer buying a Cobra from “some guy who goes off to Poland” to build them).
The 40-employee factory in Poland builds the bodies and frames; another 10 workers at Kirkham Motorsports in Provo, Utah, finish machining of parts and assembly of cars. The com- pleted cars, sans engine and transmission, sell for $59,900. The car is also getting better, with lighter, stronger parts forged from aircraft-grade aluminum replacing a number of cast-steel components in the original Cobra.
“One of the miracles of [computer-aided design/computer-aided manufacturing] and computerized machinery is the ability to make just about anything out of a billet of aluminum,” says Kirkham.
Another miracle in this ever-thawing post-Cold War relationship comes during the upcoming New York auto show when a brushed-alumi-num Kirkham Motorsports 427 Roadster will be auction-ed to benefit the New York University Downtown Hospital. NYU Downtown Hospital is less than five blocks from the World Trade Center site. It provided care for many of the victims of the Sept. 11 attack, and continues to serve those engaged in clean-up efforts.
Workers at the Kirkham factory donated their labor, while an appeal on the Club Cobra website netted a substantial number of parts. David Kirkham donated his own 427 Ford engine to complete the package. The auction on eBay.com begins March 29 and ends April 7.
Meanwhile, the Kirkhams are gearing up to build a 289 street car, with smaller, easier-to-form fenders and a less-complicated frame and suspension than the 427. In addition, notes Kirkham, 289-cubic-inch engines are readily and inexpensively available, compared with what he calls the “wallet-busting 427 monster.” Kirkham says in four to six months the company will begin offering a 289 street kit at a “budget-friendly price.”
One last twist: Based on their track record of converting military plants to civilian production, the U.S. Depart-ment of Energy has asked the Kirkhams to take a shot at making Cobra parts in a nuclear weapons plant in Snezhinsk, Russia—the same Siberian city U2 pilot Gary Powers was trying to photograph when he was shot down and captured back in 1960.
Not bad for a couple of Cobra-crazed Mormons.
My first car was a 67 Mustang Coupe, 2nd one was a 67 Cougar XR-7, 3rd one was a 66 Mustang Coupe. Why did I get rid of these cars for ? I know why, because I'm stupid, stupid, stupid.
My next Ford.....