Taylor Swift's new video Blank Space has received a metric ton of praise, from its amazing cinematography to its pretty darn catchy tune. The video also featured a beautiful Shelby Cobra that for one reason or another, gets assaulted with a golf club. I sat down with Will Hough, the car's owner, and asked him about the experience.
Will Hough is a man of many talents. He was a professional bodybuilder and triathlete, trained with Navy SEALs, was once hit with an IED and not only fought his way out of conflict but fully recovered from his injuries, and now owns a NYC-based personal training company that caters to anyone from Wall Street executives to competitive professional athletes.
Tavarish: What kind of Cobra replica is it?
Will: It's a Backdraft Racing Cobra. I had the car built in South Africa six years ago, I placed the order in December of '07, it took six months for them to build the car and ship it to the country, and it arrived in June of '08. The guys who helped me design the Cobra, place the order, and get it built in South Africa were Jay Linke and Brian Linke of Vintage Motorsports in North Haven, Connecticut. Their expertise helped me decide on how I wanted the car built, how much horsepower it had, and what I wanted to use the car for. They had a heater installed for me so I could take the car out in the winter for a quick drive. They're the best when it comes to getting a Cobra built your way, designed and built by you – but powered by Vintage Motorsports. They really did an amazing job.
I've talked to so many different companies that just gave me the run-around. When I called up Vintage, they asked me what I wanted to do with the car, and I said "I want something with the power of a Ferrari, won't overheat on the New Jersey turnpike if I'm stuck in traffic for two hours, and something that I can pull outside of a cafe and no one else has it. They told me "Sterling gray, bold stripe, all yours".
Tavarish: Is it to the specifications of the original Shelby Cobra, or are there modifications?
Will: There are modifications done to it. It has a BMW E36 suspension with coilovers all the way around, a 2x4 tubular frame, a Roush Racing 402 R motor and has 3.56 gears in the rear - it's great, I've gotten it up to 160 miles per hour, 170 sometimes.
Tavarish: Wow, that's crazy. What made you get a Cobra in the first place?
Will: Believe it or not, I was working in Iraq as a contractor for the government back in '04, and one night I was watching the movie Bad Boys, and there was a scene where a guy came out of the back of a jet and got into a Cobra and I said "once I leave Iraq, I'm gonna buy myself a Cobra." And that's what I did. I searched around until I found the right manufacturers of the car, and I went with Backdraft Racing.
Tavarish: I know your car in particular has been involved in photo shoots and media, for example, with people like Norman Reedus (from The Walking Dead), how did you get involved with this project?
Will: There's a company called Cooper Classic Cars and I listed my car on their website. One thing led to another - I believe Taylor Swift was on the website and said "I want to use that car in my video", and that's how it started. With Norman Reedus, his agent told him "you need a car to simulate this whole James Bond era", because they had him wear a tuxedo, he agreed, and that was it.
Tavarish: Were you on set?
Will: Yes I was, I drove the car out there, it was a great time!
Tavarish: Do you know how they arranged the visual effects and CG for the shoot with the damage to your car? Some of that looked pretty realistic.
Will: Yeah, it shocked me because when I was there, it was all about her singing, chasing the boyfriend, with him laying halfway out of the car. So when the video came out, someone said to me: "Will, I can't believe Taylor Swift smashed your car like that!"
It didn't actually get smashed in the video at all, what happened was at the end of the video, she put her hand down and scratched up the front of the car. They paid $3200 to have the whole car repainted, because you can't blend in on fiberglass.
Tavarish: Well, I guess they were pretty accommodating and nice about it.
Will: They were, really nice about it.
Tavarish: Is your lifestyle as a Cobra owner anything like the one portrayed in the video?
Will: Haha, my lifestyle? No, I'm a pretty reserved guy. For me, it's all about sports cars, Italian bikes, keeping in shape, Formula 1, enjoying my son, things like that. Yeah, my life is nothing like that video.
Tavarish: If a crazy significant other took a golf club to your Cobra for real, what would you do?
Will: Uh, haha. Based on my military background of being a contractor and professional soldier in other countries – no comment. Well, I have a reputation for being a nice guy, and I don't think I'd really have a problem with it.
Tavarish: Thanks, Will!
Tavarish is the founder of APiDA Online and writes about buying and selling cool cars on the internet. He owns the world's cheapest Mercedes S-Class, a graffiti-bombed Lexus, and he's the only Jalopnik author that has never driven a Miata. He also has a real name that he didn't feel was journalist-y enough so he used a pen name and this was the best he could do.