The Art Of Billet – Larry Ellison’s Aluminum Cobra

As the co-founder and CEO of one of the largest hardware/software companies in the world, Oracle’s Larry Ellison is a man that doesn’t want for much. He is currently listed as the third-wealthiest American citizen and ranks in the top six richest men in the world. In fact, his garage collection contains some of the finest automobiles in the world: he rotates between a Bentley GT, Ferrari Superamerica, McLaren F1, Bugatti Veyron, and others.

Ellison’s passion for automobiles led him to David Kirkham of Kirkham Motorsports, and the two became fast friends. A subsequent simple phone call led to the creation of the wonderfully-handcrafted and engineered Cobra you see here. According to Kirkham, Ellison asked what his dream car was, and the wheels started turning. We took the time to go through this entire build gallery on the Kirkham Motorsports website, and it was well worth the two-hour investment.

Left: The entire billet chassis laid out on the floor. All chassis components are doweled and a bolt is inserted through the dowel before final tightening. Center: The tunnel and belly pan act like an airplane chassis - the stress from the frame is moved to the outer skins to help stiffen the chassis. Right: The body rests on a 3/4-inch aluminum tube structure that is custom-built to the attachment points on the tub.

First and foremost, did you notice the billet frame? Yes, the entire frame of the car is built from various billet substructures, beautifully-engineered and crafted in-house and assembled with stainless hardware. That’s the hallmark of a no-cost-too-great build. The team at Kirkham Motorsports built a prototype car first to spec out all of the individual pieces, from the rockers to the control arms to the floorpan. As you go through each section of the build gallery, pay close attention to the machining detail – it’s just staggering.

Left: The suspension relies on horizontally-mounted triple-adjustable Penske shocks to control unwanted suspension movement. Center: The Tremec TKO transmission is a tight fit in the Billet Cobra's passenger compartment. Right: A custom hydraulic clutch slave assembly needed to be fabricated for the car.

The body of this car was crafted in a former airplane factory in Poland, using panel-beating methods that date back hundreds of years, by craftsmen trained by David Kirkham. All of the handmade panels are then gas-welded to form the complete body before the seams are hand-filed smooth. Care must be taken during the welding process to keep the panels as straight as possible as they are susceptible to warping. Final fitment of the body takes places in the Kirkham Motorsports facility here in the United States.

The 482 cubic inch engine uses a Shelby aluminum-block, forged rotating assembly, and a set of Edelbrock aluminum heads and was bolted together by the engine wizards at Keith Craft Racing. The engine uses a hydraulic-roller camshaft in the interest of streetability, but still manages to dyno 643 horsepower and 600 foot-pounds of torque, which gives the lightweight roadster a power-to-weight ratio better than that of Ellison’s beloved Veyron. All of that power transfers through a Tremec TKO600 transmission to the 3.42:1 independent rearend.

Left: Check out the finished push rod and rocker assembly. The rocker pivots on bearings at all three connection points for smooth operation. Center: The engine in this car is set within two inches of the firewall for better weight distribution. Care had to be taken during the engineering process to make sure all of the components would still fit within their assigned area. Right: The rear suspension uses custom-built CV axles were designed with the help of an F1 engineer. The car wears billet control arms at all positions.

Although there are 23 chapters in the build book, we only have enough space to detail some of the stunning engineering work here. Click on over to Kirkham’s website to check out the full build. We have been to a lot of car shows, and we have seen a lot of stunning machines. But for true one-off custom fabrication, this build takes the cake. And the candles, and the tablecloth too.

About the author

Jason Reiss

Jason draws on over 15 years of experience in the automotive publishing industry, and collaborates with many of the industry's movers and shakers to create compelling technical articles and high-quality race coverage.
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