Car enthusiasts come in a wide variety. You have those lifers who hold on to one or two cars their entire lives and continually fine-tune their machines toward perfection. Then, you have those who build one, sell it, and build another. You also have folks like Ken Fuerstenhaefer, who move from vehicle to vehicle, not so much for the accomplishment of building it, but to experience something different each time he’s behind the wheel. His current ride is this Backdraft Racing RT3B roadster, which is a raw, open-air thrill ride that is quite different from what he’s had in the past.
A computer IT professional by day, Fuerstenhaefer has been into cars throughout his life. “I’ve had a little bit of everything over the years,” he explains. Fuerstenhaefer’s garage has been filled with a wide variety of machinery, including Chevrolet Novas, Ford Galaxies, an Impala Super Sport, and more recently, a 2017 Ford Mustang Shelby GT350 that was equipped with a supercharger. “I drove through a fence with it—cold tires and 800 horsepower do not mix,” Fuerstenhaefer says of the car’s demise. He keeps one of the pony’s front fenders hanging in his garage as a reminder.
For his next ride, Fuerstenhaefer ventured to the import side with a 2018 Subaru WRX STI, and after coming off of a Shelby with so much horsepower, the adrenaline junkie in him had the rally car upgraded to around 500 horsepower. While the Subaru was suitably upgraded for increased fun, it was perhaps the grip and safety of the car’s all-wheel-drive system that sent the Buda, Texas, resident looking for something a little less restrained.
“I’m good friends with the president of the Cobra club in the Austin area and have been toying around with the idea, but I specifically wanted a Cobra with a Coyote in it,” Fuerstenhaefer says of his desire to own one of the classic Cobra roadsters. “He ended up messaging me about this one, because a Cobra owner bought a Porsche 911 and was looking to part with it.”
The car in question is the Backdraft Racing RT3B roadster you see here. Based out of South Africa, Backdraft Racing builds its component replica cars there and ships them to dealers worldwide to be finished or delivered to its customers. Backdraft also has its own showroom and dealership in Boynton Beach, Florida, which is the largest dealership in the United States.
Fuerstenhaefer’s RT3B was commissioned several years ago, and he is now the fourth owner of the car after purchasing it from Jesse Ornelas. A hot rodder at heart, Fuerstenhaefer has only owned the Cobra for five months and has already torn it apart to personalize it. “Nothing is ever good enough,” he explains. “It looks like a Batmobile right now, so I’m doing some things to change it up and add some contrast.”
Apart from the gorgeous Tuxedo Black paint with Jet Black racing stripes, the RT3B model is fitted from the factory with much of its brightwork blacked out for a more understated, if not serious look. Just as well, the car’s previous owner had made his own changes to the car, giving it more of a road-racer appearance and equipping it with track-oriented hardware.
While many might be familiar with the domestic-based replicas that utilize Fox Mustang suspension and drivelines, Backdraft Racing offers what might be considered a higher-end build that utilizes BMW 3-series E36 front and rear suspension components and braking system. The car was then equipped with Ford’s modern 5.0-liter dual-overhead cam engine.
The Gen-1 Coyote powerplant was upgraded with a Boss 302 intake manifold and a quartet of COMP Cams Stage 2 NSR camshafts. Electronic engine control comes by way of a Ford Performance Control Pack, which is a plug-and-play, ready-to-run EFI system that readily accepts aftermarket tuning, as well. Fuerstenhafer estimates horsepower to be in the low-400s at the rear wheels, which is more than enough to accelerate its 2,400-pound chassis with haste. The exhaust system is quite simple for any Cobra replica, with tubular headers dumping into the classic, and perhaps obligatory, side pipes.
Backing the potent engine is a TREMEC TKO five-speed transmission with a Centerforce clutch, and Fuerstenhaefer actuates gear changes with a Hurst shifter. Out back is a 3.71:1 rear gear ratio to get the car moving quickly and to rev the Coyote quickly into its high-RPM powerband.
As previously mentioned, Ornelas made numerous changes to the car himself, including adding a power rack-and-pinion steering system, AP Racing four-piston front brakes to work with the BMW two-piston calipers in the back, and he also added the Backdraft front splitter, as well as a Nitrous Outlet progressive nitrous system for when he needed a little extra get-up-and-go.
One look at the car and this ride sure looks plenty mean and ready for the track. However, Fuerstenhaefer has decided on a different aesthetic that leans more toward the street.
Fuerstenhaefer has ordered a set of brightly finished, Forgeline Motorsports three-piece wheels to replace the Backdraft wheels currently on the car. Sizes for the hoops come in at 18×9 inches up front and a girthy 18×11 at the back, and they are wrapped in sticky Toyo Proxes R888 tires.
Fuerstenhaefer has also purchased Backdraft Racing’s upgraded suspension kit that includes Eibach coil springs and Bilstein shocks, to improve the already great ride of the independently-suspended machine. Though the car was originally ordered as a B model decked out with black trim, Fuerstenhaefer is in the process of powdercoating the side gill vents and other parts to a silver finish, and further changes are being made to the inside of the car, as well.
As the original Shelby AC Cobras were designed to be svelte, simple race cars, there isn’t much to the interior, so using high-quality materials and finishes can have a big impact, especially considering how very close the occupants are to everything inside. Fuerstenhaefer is overhauling the open-aired cockpit, with the seats and door panels being recovered in Alcantara leather, and a new carbon-fiber dash is being fitted with new instruments to complete the few, but impactful interior upgrades. And beneath those finished surfaces, Fuerstenhaefer has spent time cleaning up the wiring and re-looming it all for a tidy appearance.
Though he hasn’t had the easiest of time acquiring parts for his Cobra’s renovation, the majority of the parts have been ordered and his vision is close to completion. Fuerstenhaefer has breathed new life into this project, reigniting the flame for enthusiasts to enjoy it from afar, and designing a new experience to enjoy it from behind the wheel.