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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.




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…

January Update (January 31, 2016)

I was not as productive as I thought I would be in January, perhaps because I lost two weekends to a family vacation (not complaining).

I completed the fuel line and brake lines.  (Perhaps in the next few weeks I will add fluids and see if it holds.)

I purchased tires.  I went with Nitto NT 555 G2.  These are the newer version of the NT 555.  Rears are 315/35/17.  Fronts are 245/45/17.  It was exciting to see them mounted.  I am very happy with how the rims look.  Maybe later I will consider stenciling the “Good Year” billboard lettering.

Tire 1Tires 2

I also purchased and installed a battery.

Battery 1

I am slowly moving forward with the electrical wiring harness connections.  I purchased heavy duty toggles for all functions from Ron Francis, and I am working up a switch panel.  I also purchased a few additional electronic components (clutch safety switch, battery cut-off switch, turn-signal delay box, etc.).


I worked on the cooling system, connecting the radiator hoses and overflow/expansion tank.

Coolant 1Coolant 2Coolant 3

And this week I am celebrating a birthday.  Check out the amazing cake my wife commissioned at a local bakery.  As much as I enjoyed eating it, I would rather be driving it.

Cake and GCake


December Update (December 29, 2015)

More good progress in December.  It may seem like I am jumping around a bit this month, because I am.  🙂

I replaced the FFR-supplied accelerator pedal with a Russ Thompson pedal (much sturdier, and cooler-looking) and installed the matching pads on the brake and clutch pedals.  Note the background – I applied Dynamat sound deadener/thermal barrier to the entire interior of the  passenger compartment.

IMG_5643Back to the sheet metal – I prepared and installed the side and rear walls in the trunk/hatch area.  First I installed aluminum access panels in the sides and rear so I will be able to reach the electrical connections when installing and removing the body.  The panels have nifty little quarter-turn locks.  Then I riveted the walls in place.  (As noted previously, the round holes are for stereo speakers.)

I installed the Hooker gasket and headers.  They look awesome.  (The side exhaust pipes will connect through the body to the headers.)

On to the brake lines.  Thanks to Mark Dougherty  (aka the Travelling Builder) for showing me the way on this.  As noted previously, I am running two brake fluid reservoirs so that the front and rear brake lines run independently (if one fails, hopefully the other does not).  First I installed a block-off plate in the pedal-box firewall with two connectors. Note the temporary rivets (clecos) holding it in place while I fit it.


Next I connected the reservoirs to the block-off plate, and then behind the firewall I connected the block-off plate to the brake master cylinders.

And then we ran the hard lines.  The front line runs from the master cylinder, to the driver side front, and then over to the passenger-side front.  The rear line runs from the master cylinder, through the transmission tunnel, and then splits to the rear brakes.  Some time soon I will fill the lines with fluid, bleed them for air bubbles and then find out whether my connections are any good!

I took the first step in installing the air-conditioner (made by Vintage Air)- mounting the evaporator unit behind the firewall and under the dash (before the dash is installed).  It is a very tight fit and I suspect that it will be very challenging to get all of the ducts and vents to fit under the dash.

On to the fuel lines.  FFR provides hard lines and pressure connectors.  However, I opted to use flexible braided PTFE fuel lines and connectors by Aeroquip.  First I installed a fuel filter (Fuel Labs).  Then I started the fuel lines.  The lines run as follows:  (1) from the fuel tank to the filter (not done yet, waiting for proper connectors), (2) from the filter, through the transmission tunnel to the engine, (3) from the engine to the fuel regulator (not done yet, waiting for proper connectors), and (4) from the regulator, back through the transmission tunnel and to the fuel tank.

I started the electrical.  FFR provides a very complete and well-labeled wiring harness made by Ron Francis.  I installed the fuse panel under the dash and laid out the harness.  Wires everywhere!!!  I started connecting the obvious ones.  I will start to tackle the others later.  The good news is that the wiring harness came with a separate manual that seems very thorough (much more so than the primary FFR manual).


I mounted the MSD Atomic electronic fuel injection module on the inside of the firewall.


On to the cooling system.  I started by mounting the fan on the radiator.

IMG_5608Next I mounted the radiator to the chassis.  Note the angle – one of the unique features of the Daytona Coupe is that the radiator vents up through a large cut-out in middle of the hood.IMG_5632IMG_5633 Mocking up the duct work. IMG_5635IMG_5637Now, duct work done, with weather stripping.


What’s up next?

  • final connections on the fuel lines
  • coolant system hoses and connections
  • emergency brake connections
  • bleed and test the brake lines
  • electrical connections (lots and lots)
  • a/c, heater
  • dash, gauges and switches
  • mount the seats
  • etc., etc. etc.

If I keep up a good pace, I should be able to start the engine and maybe even “go-kart” the car by February or March.

Happy New Year!