Spotted this sexbomb at the Colombo Car Show last weekend — and no, I don’t mean one of the show girls, though they weren’t too bad either. The Cobra caught my eye almost immediately, hidden away behind the usual junk of pimped up Subarus and Mazdas, its cockpit shrouded against the light drizzle outside the BMICH. It was obviously a Cobra, but a peek under the rain covers revealed a BMW logo embossed in the centre of the steering wheel. Clearly, this had been restored with some variations, or actually built from scratch.
The rain eventually eased and the covers came off, unveiling a tan interior. Out of the bonnet popped a Chevrolet V8 small-block engine. A Brit turned up a few minutes later and and told me it was in fact a RVD-283 Python, a replica of the legendary AC Cobra Mk II, the only one in Sri Lanka. His name was Vince Wright, and the Cobra had been built by his company, RV Dynamics, right here in Sri Lanka.
Wright switched on the V8, apologising for a noisy fan belt, and the deep bass growl rumbled through the twin side pipes. The Python rocked on its brakes like a leashed animal, straining to escape.
Vince Wright’s Python had begun life, once upon a time, as a ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air. Having once belonged to the US ambassador to Sri Lanka, it had eventually been abandoned, rusting and rotting away in the Mt Lavinia sea breeze for about five years. Wright salvaged and entirely rebuilt the Bel Air’s V8 and 2-speed auto box, and restored the chassis, which is all that remains of the original Chevy. Everything else was either scratch built or borrowed.
When US racing car driver Carol Shelby first began importing Cobras from British car maker AC, he replaced the original 2.6-liter Ford Zephyr straight-6 with a 4.2-liter Chevy V8. This was superseded in late model Mk I’s and in the Mk II by a 4.7-liter V8. So Vince Wright rebuilt the Bel Air’s engine to a 4.7-liter V8, adding a Crane Cams Fireball HI-6 performance electronic ignition and rev limiter, Ecolblok performance manifold and air filter, and a Demon 525 CFM 4 barrel carburetor with vacuum secondaries. To this was added new piston rings, cam, followers, timing gear, valves, Teflon valve seals, high-volume and pressure oil pump, new starter, remote oil filter, and oil cooler. The engine now gave 285-bhp and pulled 280-ftlbs of torque.
Sri Lanka’s Registrar of Motor Vehicles (RMV) won’t allow a scratch-built chassis, so Wright was forced to restore the Bel Air’s chassis and modify it to take the Cobra body. Pythons in the UK and India have their chassis built by RV Dynamics in Sri Lanka.
Since the car was being built to order, the customer requested that the Bel Air’s 2-speed auto box be retained, to keep costs down. Two-speed seems laughable at first, given the 4.7-liter V8’s torque and power, but American drag racers still use these boxes to save time in changing gears in their stupendously powerful cars. Normally, any suitable gearbox could be fitted, and RV Dynamics manufactures a range of bell housings, flywheels and other parts for specialist cars, and supplies adapter kits to some British kit car companies.
The Python’s power steering, rack, brakes, ABS and air-conditioning came off a BMW 5-series E34. The Cobra Mk II body is made of fibre, and was built by RV Dynamics under Wright’s strict supervision. Unlike the Mk II, which had leaf-spring suspension, the Python is fitted with the coilover shocks of the Mk III and the continuation cars authorized by Shelby — in this case, Uk32 position adjustable 2.25-in coilovers.
One of the myths that surround Carol Shelby and the Cobra is about the way the American racing driver-turned-salesman would demonstrate the car’s legendary acceleration to potential customers. It is said that when Shelby took the prospective buyer for a test spin, he would hold a fifty-dollar note against the front of the windscreen and tell the punter that if he could grab it within ten seconds, it was his. Shelby would then let go of the note and floor it. As the Cobra was released, the blast of the slipstream would pin the fifty dollars to the windscreen, while the incredible acceleration of the Cobra would keep the passenger pinned in his seat, unable to lean forward and grab the money. The RVD-283 Python weighs in at about 1,080-kg (almost 100-kg heavier than the original Mk II — possibly because of the Bel Air Chassis) but will do 0-100-kph in an eye-watering 3.5 seconds — two full seconds quicker than the original Cobra Mk II. Top speed comes in at around 220-kph. Yours for 3.5 million rupees.
And this is what this baby sounds like. Turn up the volume. On the A4 down from Bandarawela to Colombo: