Continuation vs Replica
The word “replica” is often viewed as something negative. You might instantly think of replica watches or replica designer handbags, which are made through slave labor and sold in the black market, to be worn by your favorite Instagram influencers. When I heard that “R”-word used to describe a car, more specifically a Shelby Cobra, I was initially turned off by the idea. A replica of a special vintage race car built by one of the most legendary names in motorsport history? – It seemed blasphemous to me.
Cars and Coffee
One day at a ‘Cars and Coffee’ event, I stumbled upon an entire club of these replica Cobras and quickly realized that this wasn’t a small group of owners. Intrigued by how passionate the group seemed, I began to ask one of the owners a few questions about the cars and he was happy to show me everything I wanted to know and more. He mentioned that this car had been made by a company called Superformance, which was located within just a few miles from the ‘Cars and Coffee’. He then pointed out a beautiful GT40 replica that had also been made by them and said that they also were in the business of making other types of replica cars.
Hillbank/Superperformance Irvine, California
Fast-forward a few years and Superformance invited AlphaLuxe to come check out the facilities and test drive one of the cars. I was the lucky guy to get picked for this mission and I was curious to know what these cars drove like. Over the years since I first heard of the brand, the idea of a replica Cobra grew on me. People that I saw driving one always had a huge smile and you could always see their personalities were reflected on by the specification of each individual car. The ownership experience seemed to be somewhat similar to a Porsche, in that regard.
During our visit to Hillbank/Superformance headquarters, Doug showed us their rather impressive showroom full of Cobras, Daytona Brock Coupes, GT40, Corvette Grand Sports, Caterhams, and many other unique cars. It quickly became clear that these weren’t just guys trying to sell cars, but they were real car guys at their core. We were shown the different options that you could get on your Superformance build as well as the differences between their “MK3” cars and a “CSX” car.
If you’re familiar with Shelby Cobras, you may have heard the term “CSX chassis” before. These cars are actual continuation cars built by Superformance for Shelby with legitimate Shelby VINS.
The car that I drove was a CSX6000 series 427 S/C.
Shelby Cobra CSX6000
The thought of driving a car that was designed purely for going fast during a time where traction control and other driver’s aids didn’t exist seemed like great fun. This Cobra had period-correct 15” wheels with Goodyear billboard tires straight out of the 1960s, which made the experience even better than I could have imagined. The 427 cubic inch Shelby motor putting out over 500 horsepower and loads of torque in a car that weighed around 2500 pounds was a great formula for ‘brown pants’.
Now, things were starting to seem intimidating, especially when you consider that this vehicle is priced at $160,000. Even getting in and out of the car has an intimidation factor since you risk burning your leg on the extremely hot side pipe exhaust. Luckily, there is a specific method to getting in and out of the car to avoid such burns, as I learned before the car was even moved.
Even though this Cobra was built only a few years ago, it felt like I was driving something from the 60s, but just safer. Knowing that the car hadn’t been assembled decades ago made the car feel more secure, at least in my mind. I think if I was driving an actual ’65 car, I wouldn’t have felt confident enough to ‘push it’, in any way. Keep in mind this car had a clutch heavy enough to give me a proper leg workout, a brake pedal that only worked when standing on it with 90 to 100% of your leg strength, no power steering, and a lap belt.
Speaking of the pedals, they are floor-hinged, not centered to your seating position, extremely close together, and there is no dead pedal. The heat from the exhaust headers and transmission tunnel begin to cook your feet after about 10 minutes of driving. Now imagine having size 14 shoes and driving it – Yes, it actually is possible – just difficult.
Once I drove the Cobra around for a bit, I actually found that I got used to all of the quirks and even found the pedal situation fun until I got stuck in traffic. When people talk about Italian supercars being “A-to-A cars,” they have no clue what that really means. Now, although I feel that the Cobra is the ultimate “A-to-A” vehicle, it is actually somewhat practical in about one or two ways. The trunk is big enough to stuff a few bags in for a small road trip as long as your destination has a garage. I wouldn’t mind a small road trip in the car, but I would highly suggest keeping tabs on how many miles you travel as the gas gauge is almost non-functional. This isn’t a problem with this specific car that I drove, but a part of literally any CSX Cobra.
Now that all of the interesting characteristics/harsh reality of the car are exposed, let me tell you that none of that actually matters. It doesn’t actually matter because it is the most fun I have ever had in any car, ever. I got more smiles and thumbs up from bystanders than in any other car I have been in. It felt like I was some kind of superhero. There are faster cars out there, but you don’t buy a car designed in the 1960s to be the fastest guy on the road. The 500 horsepower feels like 700 in any other car, and you really have to work to put it on the ground unlike any other car I have driven before. That is a big part of what makes the drive so satisfying. You know that everything you do with the car is purely based on your driving ability and not on the car’s capability.
There have been zero to 60 mph tests on Cobras, but I don’t think they mean anything. I think the VBOX probably would have read “Oh shit” instead of an actual time. This would explain why they all say “approximately 3.5 secs”. The scariest part about accelerating in the car is that the front end will get extremely light if you go fast enough, which means you better know when to lift and brake before you get to the next corner. Even on the wide-open highway I stood cruising at about 80mph after doing one pull and feeling the chassis start to subtly squirm even though the wheel was holding still. This just makes you respect what you are driving and brings you back to reality.
The 427″ big-block in the Cobra might just have enough torque to rotate the earth the opposite way, so you must be responsible while driving not to disrupt the rest of the world! I cannot say enough about the constant voice in my head that kept saying during the whole drive: “careful with the throttle… keep that wheel pointed straight… both hands on the wheel…”. It wasn’t fear as much as it was sanity. You might belong in an asylum if you are planning to hop in a 427″ Cobra and plant your foot through all 5 gears. With that being said, keeping your foot on the throttle will only last so long, but your smile will last a lot longer. In fact, I’m not entirely sure if my cheeks hurt from the sunburn or from smiling so much. On a side note, all Cobras should come with a monthly supply of sunscreen!
Steering this car is an arm workout in a parking lot but delightful on the road when at speed. The wooden wheel allows you to feel absolutely everything that the tires transmit, which can give somewhat strange sensations due to the high profile tires. Gradually driving faster through the canyons and taking my time to get used to the way the car reacted in different situations was so rewarding. I had almost forgotten what it was like to get in a car and earn your confidence rather than go 7/10ths with ease before the tires are even properly warmed. Perhaps the feeling of being close to potential danger because I was so exposed to the elements made me very aware and cautious, yet comfortable with the drive all at the same time.
Once I shut the driver side door and heard that satisfying sound one last time, it was hard to give the keys back. So hard that I began to wonder if I could, somehow, manage to purchase one. I was informed that Superformance offers up to 10 years’ financing on all of their cars. I wouldn’t recommend such long term financing to anyone, but I have certainly spent money in worse ways. These cars hold value, so maybe it isn’t the worst thing you can do with your money.
VIDEO: AlphaLuxe Drives Shelby Cobra CSX
Overall, I have to say that the CSX-series Cobra is by far the purest/rawest driving experience that you can buy new. Even though the car was a full-blown continuation car and not a replica, I must say that I approve of their methods of producing cars because they are seemingly closer to the real deal than just any kit car that you can find on the market. This is because their builds are properly licensed by the original manufacturers. I enjoyed the visit and hope to return to Hillbank/Superformance in Irvine soon, to explore some of the other builds that they offer!
Michael Gallardo found interest in cars at around 6 years old. Going to the drag strip to watch NHRA races and riding in his Dad’s VW Beetle were the earliest memories that he can credit his passion to. A year after high school, Michael bought his first car, a 1986 Porsche 944. Ever since then, he has been switching it up and trying to experience all of the cars that he possibly can. Interests include watching Formula 1, going to the shooting range, collecting watches, trying new places to eat, and an occasional round of golf.