Oracle CEO Larry Ellison commissioned the fabricators at Kirkham Motorsports to build the ultimate, cost-is-no-object roadster. After years of labor, they've completed the all-billet aluminum Cobra. Click "more" to see them build one of the most spectacular custom cars ever.
Don't let the beautifully polished but familiar Cobra body fool you. There's about as much original Cobra beneath that skin as there is in a Fiat Panda. And yet, even with the eye-searing polished body, we might as well still call it a sleeper as the car beneath is so far out there, the only way to appreciate it is by seeing the build images. Thankfully there are almost two hundred to go through.
The only constraint Ellison placed on the team at Kirkham was there much be no changes to the overall body shape, everything else was fair game. So they set out by building the car digitally first, using CAD and finite element analysis to design the highest possible performance vehicle underneath the body's packaging constraints. The result is a 100% machined billet aluminum frame, SLA suspension with inboard springs and dampers, and a hand formed all-aluminum body mirror finished body. The combination of old-world craftsmanship and computer era precision is unspeakably beautiful.
But why aluminum? They could have just as easily built it from carbon fiber and kevlar or a tube frame? We'll let them explain:
A solid block of aluminum demands to be carved into something useful, something beautiful. Though a simple block of aluminum will suffice to make a seemingly insignificant bracket, what would happen if that bracket were given to an engineer to make it lighter, stronger? What would happen if that engineer then exercised strict weight discipline to make it even lighter still-say, to the extreme? What would happen if we then gave the engineered bracket to an artist who could transform harsh engineering edges into a graceful genesis of beauty? The world has never seen a billet chassis.
And the genius only begins there. This car's frame isn't in fact welded, that would change the physical properties of the heat treated aluminum. Instead the chassis is pinned together with high strength bolts and dowel guides, just like a connecting rod or a cylinder head. Utterly brilliant.
Each part is in itself a work of art, mechanical parts machined from a solid block of aluminum which regularly required 90% of the original material to be removed. The body is a masterwork as much as the chassis. Hand formed, and fitted, stretched over a hand built support frame, it's the essence of ultimate coachwork. Looking through the pictures you see the team of skilled craftsman carefully honing the aluminum into shape, not settling for anything but perfection. There is no body filler or primer or paint to hide even the slightest of flaws, the perfect body is on display, a testament to the hands that worked it.
Amusingly, the entire process was carefully documented and collected in a book, but not just any book. The documentation of such a car should have a certain craftsmanship to it as well, cue 35 lbs of aluminum billet being machined into book form, the back covered in leather and presented to the owner along with the car.
While it's available in extremely limited supply, the $4,500 price will keep most away. Thankfully, all of the content contained inside is available for free in a series of 23 PDFs at the Kirkham website. We'd encourage everyone to pull it down and give it a good read, just to see how unskilled you really are. (Thanks for the tip Fletch Lives)