Finish Line! (February 8, 2017)

Hello Friends! Long time no talk.  I last updated this blog before Thanksgiving (2+ months ago) when I brought the Coupe back from the painter.  Since then, I was able to get it all back together and complete, and I ran the gauntlet of getting it registered and legal in Pennsylvania.  So as of today I am proud to share that my replica 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe is complete, legal, legit and roadworthy.  (Too bad the weather forecast for Eastern Pennsylvania is 6-8 inches of snow for tomorrow!)  Now lets go back in time…

Once I got the Coupe back from paint and in my garage at Thanksgiving, I was able to re-assemble the parts I previously removed for paint, mainly the lights and misc exterior pieces.  I worked hard to not scratch the paint.  Easy does it…  One slip of the screwdriver and – ouch!  I also applied the sponsor decals (because who doesn’t like stickers?).


In mid-December I trailered the car out to Mark Dougherty’s garage in Hershey and we put in a full weekend.  With his knowledge and assistance we were able to complete the heating/AC system lines, the wheel wells, the carpeting, the Russ Thompson pontoon covers, and lots of other misc bits.  I also came to the realization that the period-correct bullet-style side view mirrors were completely useless.  Several people had warned me, but I had to find out for myself.  Mark had an extra set of Hyabusa motorcycle side view mirrors.  Not period-correct, but I can actually see something!

I trailered the Coupe East on the PA Turnpike back to Bucks County through some snow.  The Coupe got messy, but it was fun cleaning it up.

Getting the Coupe legal was daunting, but ultimately worked out fine.  First, I made an appointment and trailered the Coupe to a special Pennsylvania state inspection site qualified to inspect reconstructed vehicles, specialty cars (like this one), etc.  The inspector spent about one hour looking her over, under, in and out. Safety inspection only, no exhaust emissions test required.   He filled out his forms.  He reviewed 4 photos of the Coupe (front, back and both sides as required for submission to the state) and initialed them.  I paid a fee.  I was on my way. (I also had him charge the AC system while I was there.)

Next I went to a auto tag place.  They reviewed my stack of paperwork including a certificate of origin from FFR, a thick stack of receipts for parts, photos, the inspection form, etc.  They calculated what taxes I might owe (for any components or parts not previously taxed), and they completed several forms.  I cut several checks, and off the package went to Harrisburg (state capital) for processing.

Two weeks later I received an envelope from Harrisburg with a title and vehicle identification number (VIN).  Interestingly the state used the FFR chassis serial number as my VIN.  I was hoping the title would say “’65 Shelby,” but no such luck.  It says 2017, Special Construction, Coupe.  Whatever.  At least its legal…  🙂

Several days later, the auto-tag place called to say that they had my new license plate.

With the title (and insurance) now in hand, I drove the coupe back to the inspection center and got the inspection sticker for the windshield – the final piece of the puzzle.

I left the inspection site with my sticker. Despite a winter storm forecast fee following day, it was a mild and sunny day, so…  I took the long way home. 🙂   It was great driving the Coupe on the road.  It is low, stiff, and loud, and I love it. In a 30 minute period I had collected 5 horn honks and 3 thumbs up from fellow motorists.

I still needed to calibrate the speedometer by driving the Coupe for exactly 2 miles.  So I entered the ramp to I-95, pulled to the shoulder at a mile marker, triggered the calibration setting, drove exactly 2 miles, hit the button again, and with that the speedo was set and the Coupe was complete.

There are still things to do, things to tighten, tweak, improve, tune, etc.  But she is done.  Now I just wait for Spring and some longer drives.  I joined the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) so I can try the autocross events soon.  Stay tuned.

That car looks great and is a blast to drive.  But more than that, I feel a great sense of accomplishment.  I am very proud.  FFR’s tagline is “Built, not bought.”  And I get it.  I learned so much, and I truly enjoyed the journey, even the frustrating parts.

One question hangs at the back of my mind.  It has been haunting me for a while, even well before I finished.  What will I do when the car is done?  What is my next project?  I don’t know.  Maybe another car?  Not sure.  There is no hurry.  I will enjoy this for a while.


Back from the Paint Shop! (November 2016)

I left the coupe with Ron Randall at Metal-Morphous in Connecticut on June 25.  It has been a very long four and a half months, but I am extremely happy with the results.  Ron and his crew did an amazing job aligning the doors and hood, sanding, sealing, and painting.  Here are just a few of the photos that Ron sent to me through the process, as well as some photos of my bring her home.

Body off the chassis and application of gelcoat.  Note the louvres I obtained for the side vents.


Base coat of “Wimbledon White” applied.


Tape over what will become the rally stripes.


First coat of “Guardsman Blue”.


Remove the tape, reveal the stripes, apply clear coat for shine..


Polish, clear coat, polish, clear coat, and repeat many times for an even deeper shine.


Re-assemble body, doors and hood.


In addition to body and paint, I asked Ron to install the headliner material for me (before putting the body back on the chassis), as well as the side windows (“side curtains”) because that went hand-in-hand with the final fitting of the doors.  I also had his guy install the windshield and gasket for me.


I arrive to pick up the coupe and I am ecstatic.  We go over the car.  Hard to see in these pics, but the hood scoops and rear spoiler are attached via metal screws.  Some guys prefer to use fiberglass to blend these pieces seamlessly into the shape of the body, but I prefer the screws for that “old school” feel and look.  (The original coupes were hammered out of metal and rivets.)  I ask Ron and Pedro to apply the race numbers for me.  (I will apply the sponsor decals later.  They are smaller and easier to handle.)


At a rest stop in Connecticut.


What it looks like when a 1965 Shelby Daytona Coupe tailgates you all the way from Connecticut to Pennsylvania.


And finally at home.




Body Work (July 31 2016)

At the time of my last update I had just dropped off the Coupe at Metal Morphous (MM) in Connecticut.  Since then MM has provided me with weekly updates, and I was able to stop by last week while travelling in that vicinity.  MM is being very deliberate and methodical.  When sanding down the “seams”, they are careful to discover any air (or gas) pockets that may have developed in the original fiberglass mold process. MM advises that such pockets are typical, but that if you paint without filling them, they will later reveal themselves as defects in the paint job.  1 air bub2 air bub

MM is filling the air pockets, but that requires re-glassing, time for curing, re-sand, wash, repeat, etc.

I was pleased to see how MM was able to significantly improve the fitting of the doors and hood.  The lines/gaps are looking great.

In the meantime, I prepped the remaining metal parts (door sills, wheel wells/splash guards, etc.) by cleaning and coating with Sharkhide.  I also found someone to bind the edges of the carpet that will sit on the hatch floor area (so I can flip it up for access, without it fraying).

I also took the opportunity to re-do the floor of my garage.  I used Racedeck brand garage floor tiles.  I designed a checkered pattern with a blue outline for each bay.  The whole tiles go down fairly easy, snapping together.  The partial tiles take a little time to measure and cut, but overall a fairly easy project (and not much more expensive than the high end garage floor paints if you do the proper acid-wash etching first).

10 Race Deck

I hope to see primer and paint on the Coupe in August, and have her back in the garage for final assembly some time in September.


Off to Paint (June 25, 2016)

Work in May and June has been geared towards getting the car ready to go to the body/paint shop.  There will still be work to do after the paint (re-assemble all exterior pieces, prep and install firewall extensions, wheel wells, door sills, carpeting, etc.).  However, getting the car to paint is a major milestone.

I completed the metal duct work in front of the radiator.  FFR provided no guidance regarding how to fit these pieces.  I may want to add a fan shroud later to maximize air flow through the radiator.1 radiator metal2 radiator metal

With the hood up, engine is looking splendid.  Sounds great too.

I set the rear hatch glass in place.  My son Zach helped adjust the u-bolt to catch the lock handle.  The FFR manual says to bolt the struts to a chassis tube.  But that is difficult because at this stage the tube is hidden under the fiberglass body and the metal sides of the hatch.

I fitted the headlight covers.  The plexi provided is over-sized and I spent an entire day gently grinding down the edges to make the fit as nice as possible.  Here the covers are fitted with clecos.  I will have to remove them before paint.

I removed the body (which required removing the side pipes, and seats) so I could do a few more things:  added weather-stripping where the body sits on the chassis, added Dynamat sound barrier to the ceiling (to be covered by the headliner), and completed the metal around the pedal box.  I cut a large hole on the top panel for future access to the pedals, brake cylinders, throttle cable, clutch cable, etc. and I created a panel cover door.  The firewall extension metal will overlap the access door, but I plan to install the firewall extensions with screws to make that removable also. 12 ftbx metal

While the body was off I took apart the dash, removing all gauges and switches, in order to prep the dash pieces for powder-coating..  11.1 dash11 dash

I took the dash pieces to Bonehead Performance in Warrington, PA and selected a flat black wrinkle coating. Here is the dash and switch panel re-assembled after powder-coating.  17 dash

I also took the side-pipes to Bonehead Performance and had them ceramic coated in a silver paint.  The traditional Coupe look is white for the pipes, but I went with silver as a matter of personal choice.

Mark Dougherty (The Travelling Builder) spent a day with me.  We connected the fuel filler neck to the Le Mans gas cap.  FFR provides a metal pipe from the tank which is too long.  I removed it from the fuel tank and we cut it down with the angle grinder.  Then we tossed the straight piece of fuel hose provided by FFR and used a 45 degree one instead.  (Thanks to a post on the forum suggesting the 45 degree hose.)  We also worked through 50% of the A/C system and hoses.  Still more to do there.  One last look at the Coupe before I take it apart for paint.  side-18 drive

Finally, I loaded the coupe on a Uhaul trailer and pulled it to Metal Morphous in North Haven CT.  Here is the Coupe riding my tail.  19 mirror

Ron at MM will do the final fitting of the body, hood and doors, prep and paint (going with the traditional Guardsman Blue with white rally stripes and gumballs),  and will install the spoiler and scoops.  I also asked Ron to install the headliner after paint and before he puts the body back on.  That should save me some pain.

20 at MM

Once Ron has the body and hood off for prep and paint, I may try to bring the chassis back to PA so I can finish off the A/C system, and do a few other things (i.e. install the carpeting, add padding to the roll cage, etc.)  If so, I will have to make another trip to bring the chassis back to him when he is ready to re-install the painted body pieces.

In the meantime, I have some A/C fitting to order, and I need to get some sections of the carpet bound.  I am also using the opportunity to upgrade my garage floor to Racedeck tiles.  Until next update, peace out, or drop the mic, or something trendy.





March Update (April 3, 2016)

Great progress in March!

First, I got the drive shaft safety loop welded to the frame.

1 Drv Shft SL

I wired the dash gauges and switches. I created new side mounts for the dash. And I was able to get a trophy shop to engrave the panel for my switches.

2 Dash 12 Dash 2

2 Dash 5I like how the dash is shaping up.  I have one AC vent to the left of the steering wheel, one vent coming from the side of the driver side foot box, and another vent in the passenger side foot box.  I decided to mount the heater/AC controls on the side of the center console panel so it is out of sight.  (There is a rectangular hole in the side of the switch panel, hidden by the steering wheel in the photo above.)   After going back and forth about how to finish the dash and center console, I think I am going to have them powder coated in flat black.  Stay tuned.

I was able to get all of the basic electrical in place, including weatherpack connecters for all of the lights and switches, power to the electric e-brake and wipers, and wired a Ron Francis turn signal module to allow for auto shut off after turning.

The weather broke and Mark Dougherty came by to help me get the fiberglass body parts rough fitted and the headers/sidepipes sorted. First we flipped the main body over and removed material underneath the backend to allow it to fit over the gas tank.

The body went on easily, but we noted that it sat a little low on the passenger side.  So we sorted that.

Here is a shot of from the front of the car with the body on.

3 Body 6

Before mounting the nose/hood we trimmed about one inch across the back end because FFR intentionally makes the nose too long.  We attached the hinges/brackets with temporary screws (they are ultimately held in place by the fog light bolts), and we installed the side latches.

4 Nose 4

Now with bolts holding the nose in place (and a very fancy 2×4 as a hood support until I get to the hydraulic struts). We did some sanding and got the nose to close with the gaps pretty decent for now.

4 Nose 5

For the doors, I started with the frames, hinges and striker, getting the mechanism to work reasonably well before adding the door skins.

Then, having cut holes in the fiberglass doors, mounted the doors on the frame.  We fiddled and fussed with the hinge bolts for what seemed like a long time to get the doors to and gaps as close as possible.  We also sanded around the edges and the hinge openings where the frame seemed to be rubbing.  Then I tightened the bolts (to lock in the position) and removed the doors to install the handle/release  mechanisms.  Note that I also took the opportunity to line the inside of the doors with Dynamat heat/sound barrier.  I am not sure how effective it will be, but it added a little heft and thud to the otherwise lightweight door, so I liked  it.

5 Door 45 Door 55 Door 6

Now that the body was on, I could try to fit the sidepipes.  The headers seemed to match up well with the body hole on the driver side.  But the angle from the headers to the sidepipes was off, so we cut the headers and welded to make the turn.

6 Side pipe 16 Side pipe 26 Side pipe 3

The headers on the passenger side did not match the body hole at all.  So we had to make the opening bigger.  But we also had to cut and weld the headers to make it work.

6 Side pipe 46 Side pipe 56 Side pipe 6

With the body on, and all primary wiring and such done, I decided to put the rear hatch floor in place, and then added the access doors (for easy access to the fuel tank, pump, filter, etc.). It will ultimately have carpeting over it, but it looks cool in the meantime.

7 Hatch Floor 17 Hatch Floor 2

At this point the car was covered with fiberglass dust inside and out.  So I put on the tires, rolled it outside and used my leaf blower to blow it out.  My neighbors probably think I am insane.  But it worked well.  And it was a great opportunity to step back and see the body parts on and take some photos.

8 Roll Out 18 Roll Out 28 Roll Out 3

Although there are still many things to do to finish off the chassis and electrical, I wanted to start on all of the body fittings – things like lights, mirrors, windows, etc. that require making holes in the fiberglass body.  The goal is to make all of those holes now so I can then remove it all and send the body pieces off to the paint shop ready to go.  (The re-install all of those fittings without having to take a drill to the new paint.)

I went to work on the rear lights.  The rear brake and turn signals go through the fiberglass and the steel frame so they also function as anchors for the body.  I also added one reverse light on the driver side (FFR does not provide that, I sourced it from Finishline Accessories.).  I installed the license plate mount and light and threw on an old license plate to see how it looked.  Electrical connections were made easily because of my access panels and also having pre-wired the ends with weatherpack connecters.

9 Rear Lts 19 Rear Lts 29 Rear Lts 3

On to the front lights.  I started with the front markers and turn signals.10 Front Lts 1

I moved on to the fog lights.  As mentioned, the fog lights serve as anchors for the nose hinges.10 Front Lts 2

Then I mounted the headlights.  The cut outs were not big enough so I had to widen the holes. 10 Front Lts 310 Front Lts 4

Next I will turn to the headlight covers (plexi glass covers that have to be fitted and screwed on), the side windows, the side mirrors, the gas tank filler cap, etc.

Until next month, best wishes!


February Update (February 28, 2016)

The major milestone this month was the first start of the engine.  More on that below. But first:

Continuing with electrical work, I completed the battery cables:  ground cables from battery to chassis, from engine block to chassis, etc., and I ran the positive battery cable to the starter, adding a battery cut-off solenoid in between.

Mark Dougherty came by for a day and helped complete a few steps including cutting into the clutch pedal to accommodate full motion swing.  It is common knowledge that the chassis built by FFR does not allow for full motion of the clutch pedal they supply.  Not sure why they have not acknowledged or addressed that.   Some people cut the clutch pedal.  Others cut and weld the chassis.  While Mark was here, he also cut and welded the oxygen sensor into the header pipe.    The man has tools and will travel.

With the fuel lines previously completed, the fuel injection connected and now enough of the electrical connected, we decided to try to start the engine.  First I a few gallons of gas and 8 quarts of oil.  When we tuned the key half-way and heard the fuel pump start (good news!), fuel poured from several of my flex fuel line connections (bad news!).  Doh!  Mark helped re-do my botched connections and we were ready to try again.  And everything worked perfectly.  The engine sound is thunderous.  My wife said the house shook.   Of course, the sidepipes are not installed yet, so the sound will change.   Here is a link to the video.  If you don’t have good speakers, use ear buds to get the full effect.

The next major milestone to aim for is the “go-kart” – driving the car before the body is mounted.  Lots to do before I am ready for that.

Just after adding 8 quarts of oil, we remembered that we had not installed the oil temperature plug in the oil pan.  So after that initial engine start, I had to drain all of the oil, add the temperature plug, and then return the oil.  Live and learn.

I test fit the side pipes.  The openings are not wide enough to accept the header pipes.  I took the side pipes to a Midas muffler shop where they had a special hydraulic machine that inserted in the side pipe and spread it open.  They will still need to be cut and bent to accommodate he positioning and angle.

Moving forward with the dash:  FFR supplied a one-piece L-shaped piece of aluminum for the dash comprising the vertical part where the gauges go and the horizontal part that meets the windshield.  Following the popular advice of others who have gone before me, I opted to cut the dash in half, saving the original top with a slight edge that will overlay the front, and cutting a new front vertical piece.  After rough-cutting the holes for the gauges and filing them out, I test fit the gauges.  Note the A/C vent to the left.. Dash Gauges

Here is the back (absent all of the wiring connections which is on the list of things to do in March).

Dash gauges backThen I placed the dash in place with temporary clecos to test fit (and admire).

Dash test fitI also drilled out holes for the toggle switches and lights I will add to the center console aluminum.  The holes match the holes in the Ron Francis switch panel that will overlay it. (In the meantime, I handed off the switch panel to a trophy shop to have the switch functions engraved.

Ctr Con drilled

I removed the dash and drilled additional holes for the ignition key, electric  emergency brake button and headlight switch and placed the dash again to admire.

Dash test fit 3

I had intended to cover the dash with a carbon fiber vinyl covering by 3M, but I was not satisfied with a test piece and I am concerned that it will not be hardy enough.  It seemed to scratch easily.  I can imagine my terrified passengers digging their fingernails into that dash and ruining it, so I will have to explore other options.  Maybe I will have the dash powder-coated.   Stay tuned.

I installed mounting brackets on the Kirky racing seats.  This required drilling holes in the sides and bolting the brackets on.  The brackets have a series of holes, so I can try different settings for maximum comfort.  I am choosing not to use sliding seat tracks because of the added complication and resulting loss of headroom.  I will mount the driver seat in a position that fits me best, and I will mount the passenger seat as back as possible to accommodate the most legroom.


I cut holes in the foot box for the A/C and heat vents.

I purchased a driveshaft safety loop from Forte.  I will clean it up and paint it before installing.

Drv shaft sfty loop

I added transmission fluid and re-sealed the transmission.

I still need to add cooling fluid to the cooling system (and fix any leaks).  Same for the brake fluid and differential fluid.  I will also need to the get the frontt suspension alignment done, but I think it is close enough for a go-kart run if I can get to that point.  Maybe over the spring break…